Marin Voice: Proposition 15 takes us a step toward fair campaigning
MOST PEOPLE are well aware of - and sickened by - the increasingly excessive amount of money candidates for public office feel forced to raise from private donors, who are too often, at least at the state and national level, special interests seeking to curry favor with their donations.
Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act on the June 8 ballot, is an important first step toward changing that in California by getting politicians out of the fundraising game.
Proposition 15 would establish a pilot program for publicly financed elections for the California Secretary of State's office in 2014 and 2018, based on the systems that have been working in Maine and Arizona for 10 years.
Secretary of State candidates who want to receive public funds would have to get 7,500 registered voters to give them $5 contributions and signatures. Once they've qualified, candidates receive enough public funds to run competitive campaigns ($1 million for the primary, and $1.3 million for the general election), but are prohibited from raising or spending money beyond their limited public funds.
Such candidates are freed from the odious task of having to raise money (contrary to popular belief, most candidates hate having to raise money). Most importantly, the public wins by feeling that their candidates and officeholders are beholden only to them, rather than to the special interests that usually do the primary funding of major campaigns.
Proposition 15 pays for itself, primarily through raising the registration fees on lobbyists, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers to $350 a year. No taxpayer dollars will go to candidates. Currently, lobbyists only pay $12.50 per year in California, one of the lowest rates in the country.
Nearly 400 candidates from different backgrounds have been elected with this system in eight states and two cities - new people with new ideas from all walks of life, including more women and candidates from diverse backgrounds.
The opposition worries about "taxpayer money" going to candidates. But Fair Elections rules will save taxpayer money because big-money special interests will no longer be in control. As one example, lobbyists stopped Connecticut from expanding its bottle recycling bill for a decade, but that changed when 81 percent of Connecticut's legislature was elected with Fair Elections rules in 2008. A new recycling bill generated almost $17 million in additional revenue annually for the state.
Recent polls in California show that strong majorities from both parties favor this measure, but we all have to get out and vote. To that end, there will be a campaign kickoff rally for Proposition 15 on May 2 from 2-4 p.m. at the San Rafael City Council Chambers at 1400 Fifth Ave., featuring state Sen. Mark Leno, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Supervisor Susan Adams and myself.
Please attend, learn more about this important measure, and help out the campaign. You can find out more and register at www.YesOnProp15.org.
Elections should be won, not bought, which is why some say that public financing of campaigns is "the reform that makes all other reforms possible."
San Rafael City Councilman Greg Brockbank is the former chair of the Marin Working Group of the California Clean Money Campaign.
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