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Resolution On Citizens United Case Forwarded To City Council

San Diego City Council
Kevan Barsky
San Diego City Council

A resolution in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United campaign finance case was passed today by a downsized San Diego City Council Rules Committee.

The resolution -- passed on a 3-0 vote -- was crafted in response to a 2010 high court decision holding that political spending by corporations and unions is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. The ruling led to the creation of so-called Super PACS that funneled huge sums of money into this year's elections.

A dozen state legislatures have called for an amendment to overturn the ruling, including California, said Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who introduced the resolution which states that the right of free speech "applies to people, not corporations." She did not mention unions in her text.


Emerald wrote that "the Citizens United case directly impacts state and local efforts to control the influence of corporate money in their own elections," and that the "ruling and its far-reaching effects represent serious and direct threats to our democracy."

The resolution asks council members to formally register their opposition to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and calls upon Congress to send to states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling.

The item, backed by Emerald and Councilmen Todd Gloria and Tony Young, will go before the full City Council for formal adoption at a later date. The Republican members of the committee, Kevin Faulconer and Lorie Zapf, were absent.

Emerald said she felt optimistic about the effort to amend the constitution.

"I feel as though we are on the way to doing something about this assault on democracy," Emerald said. With more state legislatures coming on board, "the ball is going to start rolling faster," she said.


Gloria said that even if the constitution is not amended, at least the nation's eighth-largest city would be on the record in saying corporations are not people.

"In our nation's history, we have only amended the constitution 27 times," Gloria said. "But if there were a thing we should be amending it for, this would seem to be one to me."

The corporations that spent money on political campaigns this year didn't get a great return on their investment, he said.

Emerald said the proposal to "restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people" is backed by a dozen organizations, including California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the San Diego chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. She also listed support from nine Democratic legislators and San Diego Mayor-elect Bob Filner.