Do as I say
Unregulated council adopts resolution against corporate spending in state and federal elections
By André Coleman 10/03/2013
The Pasadena City Council on Monday adopted a resolution calling on Congress to support a constitutional amendment by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) that would reverse a US Supreme Court decision deeming corporate donations a constitutionally protected form of free speech.
The council voted 6-2 to adopt the motion. Council members Terry Tornek and Gene Masuda abstained on the basis that the matter was not Pasadena business. Tornek instead called on the council to explore the possibility of implementing local term limits and local campaign spending.
“I am grateful for the interest and I am supportive of the resolution,” Tornek said. “I am going to abstain, because it is not what we should be devoting council and staff time to. Maybe we should devote time to term limits and our own campaign spending.”
In 2010, the High Court ruled that parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002 violated the First Amendment after a lower court ruled that the nonprofit group Citizens United could not air a movie about former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and advertise the film during television programs within 30 days of the Democratic primary.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court removed the ban on corporations and organizations using funds for direct advocacy. Since that time, the percentage of spending coming from groups that do not disclose their donors has risen from 1 percent to 47 percent and outside interest groups spent more on election season political advertising than party committees for the first time at least two decades by about $105 million, according to a staff report.
Schiff’s House Joint Resolution 31 would limit corporate spending, but so far there has been no movement on that bill.
Although the City Council’s resolution does not impact Congress, Councilwoman Margaret McAustin was quick to add that the council has weighed in against the expansion of the Long Beach (710) Freeway, even though the city’s opinion does not carry any legislative weight.
“This filters right down to us and we ought to understand how influential money can be even in our own elections,” McAustin said.
Locally, spending in campaigns has been on the rise in recent elections. Earlier this year, Board of Education candidate Ruben Hueso raised well over $30,000 from outside interests in a losing bid for the school board, including money from state Sen. Kevin DeLeon of Los Angeles, former Speaker the Assembly Fabio Nuñez of San Diego, and former Assemblyman and now state Sen. Ben Hueso, Ruben’s brother, also of San Diego.
On the City Council, Councilman Steve Madison spent $211,219 to defeat Carolyn Naber in 2011 and Councilman John Kennedy spent $137,734.
Madison and Kennedy both supported the resolution.