Tuesday, May 17, 2010
Redwood ACLU Opposes Unconstitutional Campaign Finance Proposals
Arcata’s Committee on Democracy and Corporations continues to push extremist agenda
The Redwood Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announces today their complete and continued opposition to the campaign finance law amendments being pushed on the Arcata City Council this Wednesday by the Committee on Democracy and Corporations.
Specifically, the proposed changes, most of which are unchanged from a proposal first made in January and then hastily withdrawn, would ban any campaign contributions by all organizations to any candidate, initiative, referendum or recall campaign; impose limits on contributions (from any source) to support or oppose ballot initiatives, referenda and recall campaigns; ban any campaign contributions by minors; impose severe campaign spending limits; ban campaign loans; and severely limit the ability of the City Council to make inflation-adjusted changes to the candidate contribution limits approved by voter initiative over a decade ago.
“It’s regrettable that all this time and effort is being put into an ordinance that will not achieve its goal,” Redwood ACLU Treasurer Peter Martin said.
It is longstanding ACLU policy on the local, state and national level that political contributions, as well as political expenditures, are core constitutional activities affecting freedom of expression and freedom of association. While the Redwood ACLU does not oppose the current reasonable campaign contribution caps currently in place in Arcata, the chapter did oppose Measure T on constitutional grounds, concerns which were validated by Federal Judge Susan Illston in her ruling which completely invalidated Measure T.
“The California Corporations Code, Section 18, preempts the ability of any local government to define a person in a different way from state law,” Redwood ACLU Chair Greg Allen said. “These self same issues have already gone to federal court and resulted in a stipulated judgment that ended up costing the county of Humboldt over $100,000. Now the same people are trying the exact same type of scheme in Arcata.”
The courts have repeatedly ruled that extremely low contribution limits towards ballot initiatives are unconstitutional, and no such limits are in place in California, or in any city in California, or in any county in California. The courts have also found that banning organizations (even non-profit ones such as the ACLU) from making contributions to initiative campaigns is also unconstitutional.
“While at face value I can see why these people want to oppose the power of large campaign contributions, they’re not considering the implications of these actions,” Redwood ACLU Boardmember Steve Bridenbaugh said. “The answer lies in an equitable system of public financing of elections and unencumbered access to the public airwaves.”
“This ordinance is predestined to fail,” Redwood ACLU Secretary Parke Bostrom said. “It is nothing more than an attempt to generate publicity.”
The Redwood Chapter, ACLU represents over 850 ACLU members across Del Norte, Humboldt, Western Trinity and Northern Mendocino Counties. Their offices are located at 917 Third Street in Old Town Eureka. For more information, call the Redwood ACLU at (707) 442-4419 or visit redwoodaclu.blogspot.com.