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Californians might weigh in on Citizens United

An East Bay Assemblyman wants Californians to vote on whether the state’s congressional delegation should push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow new limits on political contributions and spending.

Bob WieckowskiAB 644 by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, calls for a November 2014 ballot measure in which voters could instruct members of Congress to work toward an amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. Wieckowski last year authored a successful resolution expressing the Legislature’s support for such an amendment.

“Now it’s time to let all Californians have their voices heard,” he said in a news release Thursday. “This is an issue people feel passionately about because they know the campaign finance system is skewed against the interests of the working poor and middle class.”

Common Cause, a nonprofit group that advocates for open, honest and accountable government, is sponsoring the bill.

“Giving every Californian a chance to declare that money isn’t free speech is exactly the sort of high-profile step that is required if we are serious about reversing the Supreme Court,” said Derek Cressman, director of Common Cause’s campaign to reverse Citizens United. “Voter instruction measures such as this have spurred previous constitutional amendments.”

CREDO, a progressive mobile phone company with more than three million activist members nationwide including more than 500,000 members in California, supports the bill as well.

“California would be the biggest state yet to throw its support behind a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said CREDO political director Becky Bond. “Corporate money in politics is literally destroying our democracy and CREDO will help organize millions of Californians help us take back our elections.”

Similar grassroots ballot measures were approved in November by voters in Montana and Colorado, as well as in San Francisco and Richmond. Los Angeles last month approved a voter instruction measure that will appear on the city’s May 2013 ballot.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.