Another View: Things to know about Proposition 59 – Campaign finance limits

By: Randi Swisley
-A +A

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of columns by Randi Swisley, president of the Placer County League of Women Voters, exploring measures on the November ballot.


Proposition 59 asks voters if they want elected officials to use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal constitution overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

Until six years ago, federal law limited donations that corporations and labor unions could make in federal elections. In 2010, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that independent expenditures to political campaigns by corporations and labor unions are protected as “free speech” under the First Amendment. This ruling applies to federal, state and local governments. As a result there is now no limit or regulation on how much money corporations and unions can give as campaign contributions.

In order to amend the constitution, congress may propose amendments or call a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing amendments. In order for a proposed amendment to take effect, it must be ratified by the legislatures of ¾ of the states in our country. The California Legislature previously asked Congress to propose an amendment to reverse the effects of Citizens United, or call a constitutional convention for the same purpose.

A YES vote on Prop 59 means you want to instruct California’s elected officials to use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment or amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would reverse the effects of Citizens United, allowing government to impose more limits and regulation on political campaign contributions and spending. A YES vote means you want to ensure individuals are able to express political views but that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as people. This is an “advisory measure” only, meaning it has no legal effect, and does not require action by Congress or the California Legislature.

A NO vote on Prop 59 means you want no changes to the removal of campaign finance limits in the Citizens United decision.

If Prop 59 passes, there would be no direct costs to state or local governments.

As of September 14, $78,000 was donated to support Prop 59 and no money was recorded to oppose it. Donations to support Prop 59 are from NextGen California Committee, Jeffrey Clements, Holly Mosher, John Watson and the California Democratic Party.

People who support Prop 59 say corporations and billionaires should not be allowed to continue to buy elections.

People who oppose Prop 59 say instead of amending the constitution, we should work to require the disclosure of political contributions.