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ELECTION BRIEFS: Prop 59 - Overturning Citizens United

"Day 36/366.....I Voted," by Flickr user Denise Cross Photography. Used under CC BY 2.0. Cropped and overlaid with text.


Proposition 59 is about overturning Citizens United. This measure would direct California’s elected officials to try to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed corporations and other organizations to spend without restriction on political campaigns. It's the ruling that said “corporations are people.” If you see nothing wrong with that ruling, then you'll vote no on 59. But if you think the Citizens United ruling was a bad idea, then you'll want to know more about this proposition.

The idea for Prop 59 bounced around the state legislature for a while before getting turned over to us voters. There’s a definite pattern to who supports it: lots of Democrats, unions, and Bernie Sanders, among others. And who’s against Prop 59? Pretty much every Republican in the State Assembly. But while the big political parties are pretty clear on this one, the big newspapers in the state are split: the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle don’t like Citizens United, so they say why not do what you can to get rid of it; the LA Times says it’s a waste of time, so vote no.

And there’s one other thing to know: there’s almost no money invested in Prop 59. Just 15 thousand dollars on the yes side, and nothing on the no. Even though many people think the Citizens United ruling drew billions of corporate dollars into U.S. politics, people with money to spend don’t seem to care about Prop 59.

So how to vote? Well it depends on how one feels about advisory ballot measures that may be more symbolic than substantive. Then again, if California tells its elected officials to try to overturn Citizens United, it could be a strong statement from the nation’s most populous state.

Citizen respondents to KALW's elections call-out contributed to this piece. It's part of our community reporting project.


Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.