Back Proposition 89, Foil Special Interests

By Deborah Burger

IS your voice being heard in Sacramento? Do you believe our political system is working for you?

Over the past five years, big-money donors have written more than $1.7 billion in checks of more than $5,000 to influence politicians and buy elections in California. The average check was $33,000 - far beyond the pocketbook of regular citizens.

For their millions, the big interests are able to elect politicians who owe them favors, and they get them. It's a transactional system of legalized corruption and it happens every day in Sacramento.

Everywhere you look, the rest of us pay the price. Higher charges at the pump, inflated HMO premiums, contaminated food, rising chronic asthma rates from unhealthy air, shoddy products, unrepaired schools and crowded highways. Higher taxes for you while deep-pocket campaign donors get big tax breaks and loopholes. Politicians unable or unwilling to make the critical decisions we need for fear of offending the biggest campaign contributors.

In August alone, special interests contributed $3.5 million to current legislators and Senate and Assembly candidates. For example, real estate and construction interests spent heavily to block proposed restrictions on building in floodplains. Oil companies contributed to choke off bills targeting price gouging and air pollution.

Southern Californians are especially affected. When you drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic, pollutants seep into your car, making the air you breathe inside up to 10 times more fouled than typical city air. If you live, work or go to school near freeways or other high-traffic roads, studies show a much greater risk for cancer and decreased lung function. Yet millions are spent by the polluters to kill bills to reduce emissions and produce more fuel-efficient cars.

Proposition 89 can put an end to this disgrace, and make the politicians more accountable to the voters than to their deep-pocket donors.

The proposition sets new limits on all contributions to candidates or committees that try to influence candidate elections. It bans contributions from lobbyists and government contractors to candidates, and limits money donations to initiative campaigns.

Further, Proposition 89 creates a level playing field so regular Californians can run for office even if they are not well-connected to special interests or lobbyists. It provides a set amount of public funds to qualified candidates who reject private money. And if politicians or lobbyists break the law, they can be fined, thrown out of office or put in jail.

Proposition 89 is based on a system now in place and working well in Arizona, Maine and other cities and states, where it has produced more choices for voters, more competitive elections, lowered overall election costs, and reduced the power of the biggest money interests.

As a newspaper headline in an article on the end of the latest legislative session put it, "Checks Roll in as Laws Flow Out." Are Californians fed up with this system? Those who hold the reins in Sacramento today are banking we're not.

Insurance companies - who have put up 40 percent of the funds against Proposition 89 - oil giants, big developers, utilities and other entrenched interests are spending heavily to defeat Proposition 89. Voters have a chance to send them - and the politicians - a clear message on Nov. 7.

Deborah Burger, RN, is president of the California Nurses Association, the primary sponsor of the Yes on 89 campaign,

See the article on Los Angeles Daily News website

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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