Thursday, 26 June 2014 00:00

California makes an official call for a U.S. Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United

Written by  California Disclose Act
California makes an official call for a U.S. Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United Barry Levine
On June 23rd the State Senate passed AJR 1, making California the second state in the union to officially call for an Article V constitutional convention for the sole purpose of passing a United States constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn Citizens United v. FEC and limit the corrupting influence of money in our electoral process.
After passing the State Assembly earlier this year 51 to 20, AJR 1 passed the State Senate 23 to 11 with thunderous applause from the gallery. Because it's a joint resolution, it takes effect immediately without the signature of Governor Brown.

The most common way to propose a U.S. constitutional amendment is by a 2/3 vote of Congress. But the U.S. Constitution also provides another way: A constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution can be called by 2/3 of the states. If 32 other states join California and Vermont, a convention will be triggered without any action from the U.S. Congress. In addition, Congress will not be able to prevent it.

"If our democratic system of representative government is to survive, the Supreme Court's deeply damaging campaign finance rulings must be overturned", said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. "By passing AJR 1, California shows Congress that if they don't act to put forward an amendment to say that money isn't speech, they won't be able to prevent the states from taking the matter into their own hands."

That's what AJR 1, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), does. AJR 1 makes California the second state to officially call for a constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution "for the sole purpose of proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would limit corporate personhood for purposes of campaign finance and political speech and would further declare that money does not constitute speech and may be legislatively limited."

AJR 1 passed after thousands of supporters from the California Clean Money Campaign, Wolf-PAC, Money Out Voters In Coalition, 99Rise, and others called their legislators. There was even a "March for Democracy" led by 99Rise that marched 480 miles over 37 days from Los Angeles to Sacramento. Passage of AJR 1 was their top demand.

Some people are concerned that a constitutional convention couldn't be limited to a specific purpose, as AJR 1 requires. But many constitutional law scholars think it can. Most importantly, an amendment must be ratified by 3/4 of the states, whether it was proposed by Congress or by an Article V convention. This makes the chances of a damaging amendment actually making it into the constitution exceedingly small.

"Passage of AJR 1 may mark a turning point in our nation's history," explained Lange. "Until now, the Supreme Court has made ruling after ruling empowering the wealthy to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns, and drown out the voice of regular people. There's no evidence that 2/3 of any Congress elected with this corruptive system would ever vote to change it. Now, if other states follow California and Vermont's lead, we have the hope of bringing sanity back to our democracy whether Congress acts or not."

Link to original article from California Disclose Act

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