South Bay Residents Say Yes to Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act

* Assembly Members Jim Beall, Jr., Joe Coto, Paul Fong, Ira Ruskin, Sally Lieber (ret.), Fred Keeley (ret.) and San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon join state and local leaders to support Proposition 15, California Fair Elections Act on June Ballot

By Press Release

San Jose - On the heels of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited corporate expenditures in elections, Assembly Members Jim Beall, Jr. (D-San Jose), Joe Coto (D-San Jose ), Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City), Sally Lieber (ret.) and Fred Keely (ret.), and community leaders came together today to educate the South Bay community about Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, a ballot proposition which would get elected officials out of the fundraising game and focused on solving California's problems.

San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon joined the California state and local South Bay leaders in a forum at the First Unitarian Church of San Jose. "Candidates are forced to spend much too much time fundraising under our current electoral system. Campaigns are unfortunately expensive enterprises," said Assembly Member Jim Beall, Jr. "When California passes a fair elections system on the June ballot, elected officials will be able to focus on doing the work they were elected to do." 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.

"We can all agree that the influence of special interest money means ordinary Americans don't have a voice in the debate," said Senator Loni Hancock. "By passing Proposition 15, we can begin to break the connection between political donations and public policy."

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 Napolitano 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.

"Please join me in voting 'Yes' for Proposition 15," said Assembly Member Joe Coto. "The passage of Proposition 15 in June will make sure that candidates can focus on solving California's problems and not on fundraising."

"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."

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