the republic logo

Anti-tax group challenges Democrat-backed advisory ballot measure on campaign spending


SACRAMENTO, California — An anti-tax group sued state officials Tuesday in an effort to block an advisory ballot measure that seeks to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections.

The lawsuit by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association comes a week after Gov. Jerry Brown let SB 1272 become law without his signature.

The bill by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, puts a nonbinding measure on the November ballot asking voters if they want a federal constitutional amendment to restrict corporate campaign giving opened up by the court's 2010 Citizens United campaign finance decision.

The lawsuit filed in the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento argues that such advisory measures are not a proper use of the ballot.

"This is simply an effort to put a public opinion poll on the ballot in front of California voters," said Jon Coupal, the association's president.

The bill passed over Republicans' opposition. Even Brown, a Democrat, criticized the bill as having "no legal effect whatsoever," while saying he disagrees with the high court's decision. The only way to overturn the decision is for Congress to convene a constitutional convention, Brown said, a step that the Legislature called for in a separate joint resolution.

The lawsuit names the Legislature and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the state's chief elections official, who has placed the measure on the ballot as Proposition 49.

Bowen spokeswoman Nicole Winger said the secretary is named only in her administrative capacity and remains neutral in lawsuits that seek to remove measures from the state ballot. Bowen wants a ruling before state voter information guides go to print on Aug. 11, Winger said.

The court will decide if it will consider the challenge or rule in time to affect the fall election. Coupal said two of his group's previous legal appeals on different topics resulted in favorable rulings, but the decisions came too late to have any practical effect.

Lieu called the lawsuit "a desperate move" and predicted that the measure will have wide support among voters.

"The Legislature represents the people. We absolutely have the right to give the people a way to voice their opinion at the ballot box," he said.

The California Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that citizens cannot place advisory questions on the ballot, but it did not address whether the Legislature could refer such nonbinding measures.

"At this point, it's probably best viewed as a civics lesson," said Will Shuck, a spokesman for Assembly Democrats. "The legislative branch passed it, the executive branch allowed it to go on the ballot and now we are likely to hear from the judicial branch."

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

All comments are moderated before posting. Your email address must be verified with Disqus in order for your comment to appear.
View our commenting guidelines and FAQ's here.

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.

We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)


Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.