Why California Needs Clean Money Campaign Finance Reform

By Bonnie Allen, Op-Ed

In 2002, the Prison Guards Union gave $1.1 million to Governor Gray Davis. During a time of slashed budgets, they got a 37% salary increase, at a cost of up to $518 million annually by 2007.

More recently, Governor Schwartzenegger vetoed a Canadian prescription drug import bill, substituting voluntary price reductions from drug companies. The Sacramento Bee (9/10/04) noted that drug makers pumped money into campaign accounts the governor controls and opposed the Canada-related bills.

As the governator himself said during his own campaign, "Special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento. Here's how it works. Money comes in, favors go out. The people lose."

The Clean Money alternative

The 2002 election was infamous for its miserable voter turnout-except in Arizona, where it was up 10 percent! The increase was no accident - In 2000, Arizona passed an initiative called Clean Money, Clean Elections, that allows statewide candidates to choose voluntary public campaign funding.

Not only did voter turnout increase; more seats were contested, and more women and people of color ran for office. Clean Money is now an option for all statewide offices in Arizona and Maine and some offices in Vermont, New Mexico and North Carolina. Participation cuts across party lines: in the 2004 election, 87% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans ran clean in Maine; in Arizona, it was 65% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans.

Clean Money elected officials spend their time doing their job rather than constantly chasing money.

As Arizona Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano said, "I could spend my time talking with voters, not with [big] contributors. We were able to ... campaign in a fundamentally different way." Once she was in office, she said, "lobbyists were not swarming around me" for payback. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 26, 2003) Here's how you run "clean"

* Collect a defined amount of signatures and $5 contributions to qualify, demonstrating grass roots support.

* Get public funds first for primary campaigns and then for general elections.

* If your Non-Clean opponent spends more than you? You get matching funds.

Clean Money is nonpartisan

Clean Money is an issue that unites the left and right. When corporations in Arizona tried to ditch Clean Money, Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano and Senator John McCain joined to defend it.

Mark Spitzer, Republican head of Arizona's powerful Corporation Commission and onetime vocal opponent of Clean Money, is a convert. He ran clean, not because he liked Clean Money, but because he hoped to neutralize the role of union money for his opponent. Freed from raising money, Spitzer campaigned in person, including at union halls, and ended up being endorsed by many unions. "I had no strings," he said. "It was a wonderful liberating experience to be able to deliberate just on the merits." (Ventura County Star, Mar. 24, 2004)

What opponents say

* "It costs too much." Total cost? Less than $5 per Californian per year, or 2 cents per day. Is government accountability worth a matinee movie ticket a year?

* "Fringe candidates will get taxpayer dollars." It hasn't been a problem in Arizona or Maine. Signature and $5 thresholds assure broad public support.

* "It suppresses free speech." Completely voluntary, and thus constitutional, it actually increases free speech because it allows the rest of us to be heard.

What you can do

The California Clean Money Campaign (CCMC) is educating voters-so we can raise the 5 million votes to pass an initiative. CCMC also supports Clean Money legislation locally and statewide. You can help:

* Learn more. Come to our North Bay Working Group meetings to plan strategy, local activities and lobbying visits. Visit the CCMC web site, www.caclean.org, for Clean Money information, dates and locations of meetings. Or call 763-2544 for information.

* Write letters to the editor and your state representatives.

* Have CCMC members speak to your group and show a compelling short video about Clean Money successes.

Name your favorite issue. Reform will not happen until we get big money out of politics. That's why we call Clean Money "the reform that will make all other reforms possible."

(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.)

   Become a Clean Money Member