U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United Ruling Cost S.F. $290,000

Categories: Law & Order
They're not using real money to elect pliant candidates, are they?
The U.S. Supreme Court's crappy Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate funding of independent political advertising, just cost San Francisco $290,000.

That Supreme Court's 2010 ruling, it turns out, affected the outcome of a 2007 San Francisco case that the City Attorney's Office today proposed to settle for $290,000. A motion to approve the payment, which will presumably cover attorneys fees for the Committee on Jobs Candidate Advocacy Fund, was scheduled to be considered at today's Rules Committee hearing.

From there it should be forwarded to the full Board of Supervisors.

The Committee on Jobs fund in 2007 sued to strike down a local ordinance limiting expenditures by local political committees. At the heart of the case was the issue of whether independent committees are able to corrupt candidates by getting quid pro quo payback in exchange for helping winning office.

According to Tara Malloy, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, the Citizens United ruling established as a matter of law that independent expenditures don't lead to corruption, and that therefore there's no reason to limit them.

The Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus brief in support of San Francisco's position that our spending limits were legal. After Citizens United, however, it seemed improbable that our local law would stand.

"It was made much, much worse after the decision by the Supreme Court," Malloy said.

Ironically, the Committee on Jobs Candidate Advocacy Fund case itself makes a mockery of the Supreme Court majority's belief that independent committees can't, by their very nature, seek favors. 

Year after year the Committee on Jobs Candidate Advocacy Fund's contributors have been corporations such as PG&E and Chevron. And year after year the fund has supported candidates willing to implement policies favoring donor companies' bottom lines.

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Sean Parnell
Sean Parnell

You've very badly misunderstood Citizens United.

The Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) that independent expenditures cannot be limited because they are not corrupting. All Citizens United did was say that the government cannot exclude the speech of incorporated entities (or unions).

Also, the Supreme Court never said independent committees, or anyone else for that matter, can't seek "favors." One of the great things about our form of government is that we all get to seek "favors" from government, if by that we simply mean policies that we prefer. That includes not just those seeking "good" policies that you like, but those who have different perspectives and interests and seek "bad" policies.

Sean ParnellPresidentCenter for Competitive Politicshttp://www.campaignfreedom.org

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