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

* Assembly Members Bill Monning, John Laird (ret.), and Sally Lieber (ret.), Santa Cruz County Treasurer Fred Keeley, Santa Cruz City Council Members Tony Madrigal and Cynthia Matthews, and 4th District County Supervisor Jane Parker Support Proposition 15

By Press Release

Santa Cruz and Seaside - On the heels of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on corporate money's role in elections, Assembly Members Bill Monning (D-Carmel), John Laird (ret.) and Sally Lieber (ret.), Santa Cruz County Treasurer Fred Keeley (ret.), Santa Cruz City Council Members Tony Madrigal and Cynthia Mathews and 4th District County Supervisor Jane Parker came together with community leaders today to educate the Monterey 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.

"During the biggest political and budget crisis in modern California history, our elected officials should spend their time focusing on solving problems not seeking big campaign donations," said former Assemblymember John Laird. "I strongly support Proposition 15 because it would make California elections about ideas and solutions."

"During bill debates, lobbyists hand legislators their business cards with 'meet me in the hall for 10 seconds' written on the back, said Assembly Member Sally Lieber (the retired will be above so we can leave it at that.) "I don't know of any public policy argument that can be made in 10 seconds. Proposition 15 is a crucial first step toward taking public policy out of the hands of special interests and into the hands of voters."

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.

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.

"Sadly, financial barriers have kept many talented, financially-challenged candidates from running for elected office," said Santa Cruz County Treasurer Fred Keeley. "I support Proposition 15, because under a fair elections system, the political process would be open to candidates from any background who show a broad base of support."

"Proposition 15 represents an important opportunity to advance the cause of campaign finance reform in California," said Assemblyman Monning. "I am proud to be a supporter of this historic initiative."

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.

"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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