PAC It Out: St. Pete’s Effort to Curb Outside Spending in Local Races

Jeffrey Clements Posted by Jeffrey Clements.

Jeffrey Clements is a cofounder and general counsel of Free Speech for People, a national, nonpartisan campaign to oppose corporate personhood and pass the People’s Rights Amendment.


Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Rae Claire Johnson and Darden Rice are interviewed in a new piece on the proposed St.

Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Rae Claire Johnson and Darden Rice are interviewed in a new piece on the proposed St. Petersburg ordinance, posted to Tampa Bay: Creative Loafing, a news and culture blog.

 

While some cities have responded to Citizens United either by passing symbolic resolutions opposing it or, as Tallahassee did, moving to publicly funded city campaigns, no other city has gone this route yet.

“This may be the first one that is focused specifically on Super PACs,” Torres-Spelliscy said.

If enacted, the ordinance could draw a legal challenge, and Johnson is raising money to cover the cost of defending the ordinance in court. The fight could make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and whatever gets decided there could set nationwide precedent — and reverse some of the more controversial aspects of Citizens United (which the Court needs an actual case to do).

“The Supreme Court can’t just change its mind,” Torres-Spelliscy said. “It needs a case in which it can articulate what it’s doing and why it’s doing it. And so a challenge to some of these new ordinances would be an opportunity for the Court to revisit its thinking in Citizens United.”

Of course, what happens in November would have a profound impact on how that shakes out, given the ongoing vacancy on the bench in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. A President Clinton nominee would likely look very different from a President Trump nominee.

“Who knows? We could get Scalia’s intellectual doppelganger, and I think if that’s the case then a lot of these efforts are doomed, at least in the short term,” Torres-Spelliscy said.

Regardless of what happens in November, the proposal could at very least impact the course of local elections.

“We have lost our democracy and we need to fight to get it back, and local elections…are the only place that have not been totally corrupted yet,” Johnson said.

The discussion will continue in the coming months.

To read the full blog, click here.

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