After Supreme Court Rules Elections Open to Highest Bidder, Bay Area Residents Kick-Off Campaign for Proposition 15

By Press Release

State Senators Liz Figueroa (ret.), Loni Hancock, and Leland Yee
Assemblymembers Jerry Hill, Ira Ruskin, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson and Sally Lieber (ret.), San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon,
Michael Lighty from the Californian Nurses Association,
Richard Holober from the Consumer Federation of California,
and journalist Robert Gammon
join community leaders to support the
Campaign for Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act

Oakland, San Mateo - State Senators Liz Figueroa (ret.) and Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) and Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) and Assemblymembers Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda) and Sally Lieber (ret.) and community leaders came together today to educate the Bay-area community about Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, a ballot proposition which would open up the political process for people of color and candidates who are not wealthy or don't know wealthy donors.

Joining Senators Figueroa and Hancock and Assemblymembers Skinner and Swanson in a forum at the Oakland City Hall were Michael Lighty from the Californian Nurses Association and journalist Robert Gammon. San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon and Consumer Federation of California Executive Director Richard Holober joined Senator Yee and Assemblymembers Hill, Lieber and Ruskin at a second event at the St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in San Mateo.

"We can all agree that the influence of special interest money means ordinary Americans don't have a voice in our democracy," said Senator Loni Hancock. "By passing the California Fair Elections Act, we can begin to break the connection between political donations and public policy."

Since 2000, over $1 billion has been raised by California politicians, buying special interests unprecedented access but shutting out the rest of us. That's why polls show nearly three out of four voters want to change the way elections in California are financed.

"Under a fair elections system, elected officials truly represent voters, not campaign donors," said Trent Lange, chairman of the California Fair Elections Campaign. "Public financing has freed elected officials across the country to pass bi-partisan, groundbreaking legislation that is only possible when our leaders do not fear retribution from powerful special interests."

For example, fair elections can help solve California's health care problems. "The California Fair Elections initiative will help lay the foundation for real reform of healthcare in our state," said Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy for the California Nurses Association. "Nurses know that eliminating the campaign contributions from the deep-pocket special interests - the HMO's, drug companies and the insurance industry- that overwhelm our elections is essential to guaranteeing healthcare to all Californians."

Authored by Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, the California Fair Elections Act would establish a voluntary pilot project for California's Secretary of State races in 2014 and 2018. Candidates would qualify for public financing if they agree to strict spending prohibitions and raise a large number of $5 contributions from Californians. The pilot program would be funded primarily by fees on lobbyists, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers, with no taxpayer dollars going to candidates.

A version of the California Fair Elections Act is already in place in seven states and two cities. Nearly 400 candidates were elected using only fair elections funding in their 2008 campaigns, and the programs enjoy popular support across party lines. National surveys show that two out of three voters support public financing.

When these financial barriers are eliminated, as they have been in Arizona and Maine, more women and people of color are allowed to run for office. In Arizona, Former Governor Janet Nepolitano was elected under the fair elections system and the number of Latino and Native American candidates running for office nearly tripled in the first year that the system went fully into effect, from 13 in 2000 to 37 in 2002.

Voters are ready for elections that money can't buy. In an October 2009 survey, likely June 2010 voters supported the California Fair Elections Act by a nearly 3-1 margin. Support held strong across all political parties and geographic regions of California with support of 65% among Latinos, 65% among Democrats, 65% among independents, and 59% among Republicans.

"California voters know that the state will be able to solve its problems and grow stronger when our elections are fairly won, not bought," said Richard Holober, the executive director of the Consumer Federation of California. "The California Fair Elections Act is based on the simple notion that elected officials should be accountable to the voters, not donors and special interests."

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