AUBURN, AL- The debate over Citizens United continues to shift toward local action with St. Petersburg entering the fray with a historic vote.
A 6-2 majority voted to restrict the amount an individual can contribute to a PAC that will spend in local elections to $5,000. Accompanying the measure is a stronger requirement for disclosure to ensure the new law will be applied.
City attorneys were opponents of the effort, saying that the new law violates First Amendment protections as outlined in Citizens United. Both sides of the argument believe this could get taken to the Supreme Court. St. Petersburg lawmakers made the vote with full knowledge that it could cost the city millions in legal fees.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, mayoral politics played a role in the debate. Both candidates for the office have raised seven figures, shattering previous records, and outside groups supporting them are funded by checks of tens of thousands of dollars.
The St. Petersburg battle, which some cast as a proxy war for national groups focused on Citizens United, featured usual rhetoric, with proponents calling the money spent in elections “obscene.”
Should the law wind its way through the legal system and be upheld, we could be looking at an odd system unless there are additional provisions of Citizens United struck down. Without further rulings, we may be looking at a system where countless PACs are set up, and wealthy donors simply making a maximum contribution to each.
Given the fact that this local action could have a significant effect on the national debate, we will continue to track this issue.
What do you think? Do you believe that this is something lawmakers in St. Petersburg gshould have supported? Do you think the best way to challenge the current system, including Citizens United, is through local reform? Or do you believe cultivating a national debate is best? Join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/takebackorg/.