Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PRESS RELEASE: Redwood ACLU Opposes Unconstitutional Campaign Finance Proposals

Tuesday, January 19, 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 opposition to the campaign finance law amendments being proposed to the Arcata City Council by the Committee on Democracy and Corporations.

Specifically, the proposed changes would seek to criminalize any campaign contributions by corporations, impose limits on contributions (from any source) to support or oppose ballot initiatives, referenda and recall campaigns, criminalize any campaign contributions by minors, criminalize campaign loans (except for those necessary for filing fees) 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 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 summary judgment that ended up costing the county of Humboldt over $100,000. Now this proposal attempts 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.

“While at face value I can see why it would appeal to people who wish to oppose the power of large campaign contributions, they’re not considering the implications of these actions,” Redwood ACLU Boardmember and Arcata resident Steve Bridenbaugh said. “The answer to the campaign finance dilemma does not lie in proposals like these, but rather in an equitable system of public financing of elections and unencumbered access to the public airwaves.”

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.

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