(Editor’s Note: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a lawsuit to remove the measure discussed below from the ballot.
More on the HJTA lawsuit can be found here.)
Worried about turnout in November, Democrats have placed an advisory measure on the fall ballot to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allows unlimited independent expenditures by corporations and labor unions in political campaigns. In permitting the measure to go to the November ballot, Gov Jerry Brown said Citizens United “was wrongly decided and grossly underestimated the corrupting influence of unchecked money on our democratic institutions.”
This is a statement that belongs in the same category as Claude Rains’s “shock” over gambling at Rick’s bar in Casablanca. California has exactly the same political funding system that the Supreme Court endorsed for the nation in Citizens United. No politician has benefited longer from “unchecked money” in his 44 year political career campaigns than Gov. Brown. In fact, his candidacy was largely saved in the summer of 2010 by massive independent expenditures by his teacher union allies when he was in danger of being swamped by millionaire GOP candidate Meg Whitman.
Unlimited corporate and union spending in campaigns has been legal in California for more than a century, and one can argue that all the Supreme Court did was extend California law to the rest of the country. In 1974, in his first campaign for governor, Brown championed the Political Reform Act (written by his own staff.) But he made no effort to limit
corporate or union expenditures – how could he; he has had to depend on the kindness of labor unions throughout his entire career; he is not going to limit their ability to help him. And now he is “shocked, shocked” to find that there is a corrupting influence of big money in politics.
The November advisory measure was sponsored by State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), now a candidate for Congress, who in announcing the measure said: “It’s time we send a strong message to Congress that corporations and billionaires must not be allowed to decide our elections.” Oh, and is this the same Ted Lieu that shows 37 corporate and labor union PACs among his campaign contributors, and 1,104 individual contributions from attorneys and wealthy individuals? I am afraid it is.
But the real Claude Rains prize for 2014 goes to the Democrats in the legislature who passed Lieu’s measure with the usual speeches about how bad unlimited political money is. These are the same folks who in 2000 placed on the ballot Proposition 34, now the basis law for campaign spending in California, and carefully made sure there would be no limits in California on corporate and union independent expenditures. We saw their handiwork in just one legislative primary in June pitting two Democrats against each other in the San Francisco Bay Area where nearly $4 million was spent via independent expenditures. If Sen. Lieu wanted to sponsor something useful he would introduce a bill to repeal Proposition 34, which of course he is not about to do.
When it comes to hypocrisy on campaign spending, you can’t go wrong just rounding up the usual suspects.
Originally published in California Morning Report.