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Los Angeles Could be Months from Becoming Largest City to Beat Back Citizens United

The grassroots effort to overturn Citizens United — the infamous Right-wing driven law enshrining “corporate personhood” as an actual, laughable thing — is making its way through Los Angeles where voters may get to tackle a ballot initiative that could overturn the 2010 Supreme Court ruling. The L.A. City Council voted last Wednesday to draft a ballot initiative that would take on campaign finance and dark money spending in elections. It is likely to be on the May ballot as part of a full slate of game-changing votes including the Mayor’s race.

Spearheaded by the work of Common Cause and Move to Amend, such ballot initiatives have appeared in seven states and 300 cities. Los Angeles, though, would be the largest city to take on the issue thus far and the largest to have the decision voted on directly by the voters.

Congress members may respect the opinions of the city councils, but councilors are not their ‘boss,’” Derek Cressman, director of the Common Cause Campaign to Reverse Citizens United, told The Huffington Post. “Having voters directly instruct members of Congress, their ‘employees,’ carries a certain obligation to respect. … If members of Congress fail to follow the instructions of their constituents, they run the risk of getting fired.”

In the November 2012 elections, voters in 175 cities and the states of Colorado and Montana voted on initiatives that ask delegates to overturn Citizens United. All passed with bipartisan support.

“The results we’ve seen so far from these ballot measures have been beyond our hopes and expectations,” Cressman said. The ballot measures all passed, winning from 72 percent to 81 percent of the vote.

Even in the red state of Montana, where 55 percent of the presidential election vote went to Republican Mitt Romney, 75 percent voted for a constitutional amendment to overturn the court’s ruling.

Since 2010, 17 different bills have been introduced by members of Congress looking to pass a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. None, however, have made their way to the floor. Now, the issue is playing out by public vote which overturners hope will apply renewed pressure on politicians.

David Burke, a civil litigation attorney who has worked with the Money Out/Voters In Coalition in LA, told The Huffington Post that the L.A. vote is a crucial step but remains just one of many steps that must be taken.

Sometimes when a goal is far off, it seems nearly impossible to achieve, but you have to break down into certain things we can do. It’s not just about a ballot measure, but also about electing politicians who agree with us on these issues,” Burke said.

“It’s definitely not going to be easy, but if the nation could mobilize to ban alcohol and then reintroduce it, I think we can mobilize around something that’s this fundamental to our very democracy,” Burke said.


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