A month after it set a policy on how it would take positions on matters outside the city’s jurisdiction, the Napa City Council has taken a symbolic position on a federal court case.
Last week, the council voted 4-1 to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. The ruling, issued in 2010 by the Supreme Court, found that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as individuals, the city said.
“I do not believe corporations are people or should be treated as individual people under the law,” Councilwoman Juliana Inman said. “If we could draft a corporation to go to war, I might feel a little differently.”
In July, a group of residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, asking the council to issue a resolution in support of overturning the ruling that they said allows corporations to spend unlimited funds on political campaigns. Last week, three spoke urging the council to back the movement.
“We see Citizens United as an enormous threat to our democratic process by allowing corporations and donors to try to buy elections through unlimited funding,” said Conchita Marusich. “Though Napa has not yet been touched by corporations, we see a clear and present danger to Napa through this flood of money.”
Marusich and others said there have been instances when small-town elections have been bought by corporations and they believe Napa is at risk of falling victim to the same.
Councilman Peter Mott said while he is “generally hesitant” to take action on matters that don’t immediately impact Napa, he saw donations made in the most recent election by people who are involved in so-called super political action committees (super PACs) and sees the possibility that their influence could one day be an issue for Napa.
After hearing public comments on the issue for the second time, four of the five council members decided the issue of “corporate personhood” is a Napa issue, requiring only majority support to back a position on the matter, per the council’s new policy on taking positions on non-Napa-centric issues.
Councilman Jim Krider dissented without comment, and was the lone dissenter when it came to supporting the reversal of the ruling.
The rest of the council voted to support a constitutional amendment overturning the case.
“As a candidate, I wouldn’t want somebody independently spending money, interpreting messages I would want to send to the electorate,” Mayor Jill Techel said.
The city’s move follows that of California, which adopted AJR22, also supporting a constitutional amendment overturning the case. More than 20 local jurisdictions have also voiced their support through similar symbolic resolutions.