Lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a November ballot measure asking voters about the growing role of undisclosed donors in political campaign. If Gov. Jerry Brown approves, the measure would ask voters on Nov. 8 whether California’s elected officials should work to overturn the controversial 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the controversial Citizens United case. “This is about trying to get the system under control,” said state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), the author of the legislation. The Citizens United ruling in favor of a conservative nonprofit group opened the door to unlimited spending by corporations and unions in federal candidate campaigns. Much of that spending is done by nonprofit organizations that, under IRS rules, do not have to disclose their donors.
The measure specifically asks California voters if state lawmakers should use “all of their constitutional authority” to overturn the Citizens United ruling. In general, that would likely mean an amendment to the U.S. Constitution proposed by Congress and ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states. That would give it long odds of having any practical meaning.
Democrats in the Legislature have been trying to get the advisory measure in front of California voters since 2014. The original attempt was challenged in court by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. as being outside of the legislative power to place propositions on the statewide ballot. In January, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of lawmakers but also said they would have to start from scratch with a new proposal.