It passed overwhelmingly in Montana and Colorado, and now activists want Californians to speak on money in politics

November 3, 2016
Sarah D Wire

It’s not easy to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Congress can’t do it alone, and unless the court reverses itself, the only other avenue is changing the Constitution.

For national groups hoping to overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision that altered how much corporations can spend on politics, they know it’ll be a slow, state-by-state slog they hope passes through California when voters consider Proposition 59 on Tuesday.

They’re working to get measures like the proposition, which asks Californians whether they want their members of Congress to work on a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. It would have no binding power, and because it has no legal force, opponents say passing it is a waste of time.

Colorado and Montana, the two states where voters already have considered similar measures, passed their own voter instructions to Congress with about 75% of the vote. Every county in both states approved it.

“We honestly didn’t know what would happen. We were surprised when it passed a pretty conservative state with 75 percent of the vote,” California Common Cause spokesman Derek Cressman said of the Montana vote.

If Californians approve the measure, it will be an even louder statement, they say. Advocates have persuaded hundreds of city councils, and more than a dozen state legislatures, to pass resolutions pushing for a constitutional amendment. Washington voters have a similar measure before them.

It took years, a trip to the state Supreme Court and two runs through the Legislature before the measure aimed at overturning Citizens United got on the California ballot as Proposition 59.

“We need to make clear to our elected officials at the state and federal level … that their constituents want them to make this happen,” said Move to Amend Coalition National Director Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap.

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