Don’t expect Phil or Arnold to rush to endorse the clean-money initiative
Phil Angelides has said he supports public financing
of elections. Now he, and the rest of the California
Democratic Party, have a chance to put their mouth where
their money has been. The California Nurses Association,
working with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer
Rights, has formally qualified a clean-money ballot
initiative for the November election.
If voters approve it, Californiaâ€™s
system will be similar to that of Maine and Arizona, in
which candidates who refuse private contributions
â€" other than $5 seed-money donations
â€" will be provided full public funding for
their campaigns. Even better, revenue from the system would
come not from general funds, but rather from a slight
increase in the corporate tax. Further, the clean-money
system would provide candidates with funding to offset
so-called independent-expenditure campaigns. These are the
virtually unregulated spending spasms offered by outsiders
in support of a given candidate, like the Chamber of
Commerce bankrolling pro-Arnold campaigning and the wealthy
Tsakopoulos family underwriting
The ballot initiative has also won the endorsements of the
California Clean Money Campaign as well as the leading
national advocate of comprehensive campaign-finance reform,
Public Campaign. In other words, Californians finally have
within their reach the power to stick a cork in the gushing
pipeline of special-interest influence in state campaigns.
And the same voters who had to be dragged sedated and in
chains to cast a vote in the recent and totally
money-marinated primary enthusiastically snapped to life to
support the clean-money push. Initiative organizers say
they gathered the necessary 620,000 qualifying signatures
during just five weeks of solicitation â€" and
from across partisan lines.
So will Phil, whose campaign is already faltering and
scurrying behind the Governatorâ€™s, come
out and boldly endorse the clean-money initiative? Will the
Democratic Party machine that cranked out squads of phone
bankers and door knockers for Angelides in the primary now
put its muscle behind an initiative that will finally crimp
the role of Big Money in state politics? Will Democrats be
willing to support a measure that blocks the flow of both
corporate and union funding into the electoral system? Or,
better put, will Pope Benedict demand that his young
nephews have bar mitzvahs?
All of the above outcomes are equally likely. The
Democrats, as we know, bitch and moan about the lavish
amounts of cash that, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger can raise
from wealthy special interests. But
thatâ€™s only because they are jealous.
Democrats also have their own deep pools of
special-interest funding from Hollywood, the high-tech
industry and unions, or, in Angelidesâ€™
case, a more traditional base of developers. These sources
provide piles of cash, but usually not quite as much as
Republicans can stack up.
So while naive liberals might now be expecting Phil and the
party to throw their weight behind real campaign-finance
reform, itâ€™s more likely
theyâ€™re about to learn that there
really is no difference between the two parties on this
issue. The fight around the November clean-money initiative
promises to be a monumental battle between the entirety of
the political establishment on the one hand, and the CNA
and some consumer advocates on the other.
Weâ€™ve seen this sort of sordid
spectacle before, so why any shock? We saw Democrats gang
up with Republicans in the recent past to defeat an energy
re-regulation measure, as well as one for statewide
universal health care.
Here comes the really bad news. Some sources report
that the campaign against the initiative will be led by
Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman, the same woman who
engineered the $70 million union campaign â€"
known as the Alliance for a Better California
â€" last fall against
Arnoldâ€™s packet of ballot initiatives.
Apparently, this state would be a better place if we
didnâ€™t tamper with the current system,
which blatantly legalizes corruption. Say it
ainâ€™t so, Gale.
Kaufmanâ€™s office says
sheâ€™s on vacation for two weeks and
nobody else there could possibly know. Uh-huh.
Meanwhile, we learn, Governor Schwarzenegger last week had
a closed-door meeting on this same issue. (For the record,
the governorâ€™s people deny that such
meetings involved anyone outside the office, but hold open
the possibility that such a discussion occurred with staff
members.) The governor, apparently, is mulling over the
possibility of endorsing the initiative. I have to suppose
that, in the end, he wonâ€™t. But can you
imagine the scenario? Democrats and union consultants lined
up with the Chamber of Commerce to ensure the status quo
while Arnold sides with his old enemies in the nurses
union? Sounds like a movie to me.
See the article on LA Weekly website