San Jose now turning its guns on First Amendment

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I don’t know if the San Jose city government is officially the most authoritarian body in the country, but they’re definitely making a run for first place. The California city is already taking aim at legal gun owners through its ordinances requiring them to purchase insurance and pay an annual fee for exercising their right to keep and bear arms, and now the city council appears poised to approve a new ordinance targeting the First Amendment as well.

On Tuesday afternoon the San Jose City Council voted 9-1 — with Councilmember Dev Davis dissenting and Councilmember Maya Esparza absent — to bring back a proposed law that would require corporations to certify they aren’t influenced by foreign interests before making contributions to campaigns or independent expenditure committees.

San Jose’s push to limit foreign influence in its own local elections follows similar decisions in Seattle and St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2020, the Seattle City Council enacted its restrictions after Amazon spent $1 million on a council candidate through a political action committee associated with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

“In my mind, election integrity and where the money flows from and how it flows into the city elections and such, that to me is at the very core of our democracy,” Councilmember Sergio Jimenez said.

I’m all in favor of election integrity, but this ordinance ain’t it. Under this proposal, even U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies that have a presence in San Jose could be barred from participating in local elections because the city would consider them to be “influenced by foreign interests.”
There’s also some glaring hypocrisy on display on the part of the San Jose City Council. Dev Davis, who was the only council member to vote against the proposal, pointed out to her colleagues that while they’re supposedly trying to crack down on foreign influence in local elections, they’re also floating a plan to let non-citizens, including those in this country illegally, to actually cast a vote in those very same elections.
“We have real issues like homelessness, trash on our streets, lack of enough police officers, especially in traffic enforcement as many know I have a real problem with,” she said. “I just think we should not be passing questionable and questionably constitutional issues like frankly the gun ordinance or this proposed action.”
San Jose is already facing two law suits over the constitutionality of requiring gun-owning residents to purchase insurance for their weapons and pay a fee that would help cover the cost of gun violence in the city.
Davis doesn’t have many allies on the council joining her in opposition, but there is one city official in her corner. Ironically, while San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo had no qualms about imposing his new gun control ordinances even though he knew it would lead to litigation, he’s apparently gun shy when it comes to the proposed election interference ordinance.

Mayor Sam Liccardo worries the proposed campaign finance reforms could bring a slew of new first amendment lawsuits against the city.

“My concern is that we’re passing a law that would essentially create a blanket preclusion and that’s a great opportunity for some litigant to come after us and run us around with a lot of litigation,” he said.

Liccardo’s right to be worried about the prospect of litigation, but I don’t know why that would be a deal breaker for him given his lackadaisical attitude about similar lawsuits filed against his anti-gun initiatives. Maybe it’s because the city doesn’t have any big law firms offering to step up and defend the city’s attack on the First Amendment, as we’ve seen with his gun control ordinances?

Whatever his reasoning, Liccardo’s hypocrisy is also on full display here, and his professed concern for the First Amendment while targeting city residents who are exercising their Second Amendment rights is laughable. At this point, I’m not convinced that the San Jose city government truly values any of our civil rights. How long before they decide to take a stab at the Third Amendment and require residents to start quartering troops in their homes?