Yes on 89: Give regular voters a stronger voice

By Ned Wigglesworth

Fed up with the role campaign contributions play in politics? Does it feel as if the Legislature represents special interests instead of its constituents? Wonder why California government can't get its act together to address our crumbling levees, underperforming schools or skyrocketing health costs? Proposition 89 offers voters a golden opportunity to take back government from the special interests and lobbyists and stop political corruption in the Capitol. Not even the opposition denies the problem: Campaign money has conquered California government. Cash-rich gaming tribes, a few big labor unions, developers and big corporate interests such as oil and pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to elect their favored candidates and push their political agendas, all at the expense of the consumers, small-business owners and middle-class families of California. In return for their investment, these special interests get tax breaks, sweetheart contracts and favorable legislation worth billions of dollars. Meanwhile, nothing is done to limit skyrocketing health insurance costs, to improve the quality of our schools or to help solve the other challenges facing California. Crafted carefully by some of the foremost constitution and election-law experts in California, Proposition 89 would attack the problem head-on with strict new limits on political contributions to candidates, parties and so-called independent committees operated by corporations, unions, gaming tribes and trial lawyers alike. Lobbyists and state contractors would be barred from making contributions. The measure also would offer limited public funds to qualifying candidates who want to serve their constituents free from obligation to private donors. And there is tough disclosure and enforcement language to make sure participants play by the rules. The result of the measure would be incredibly positive for all but a handful of the biggest political spenders in California. Regular people would have a bigger voice in the decisions and priorities of state government. Candidates would be judged on the strength of their ideas, not the size of their campaign accounts. Elected officials could be held accountable when placing the demands of their wealthy donors over the needs of their constituents. In short, government in California could actually work again, which is why the League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause and the California Clean Money Campaign all have endorsed the measure. The list of Proposition 89 opponents reads like a Who's Who of special interests in California. Insurance companies, developers, lobbyists and the biggest labor union in the state have ganged up to defeat the measure. They likely will spend millions in their effort to derail reform. The price tag on Proposition 89's publicly funded elections would be $200 million overall funded by a 0.2 percent corporate tax increase that would fall primarily on the wealthiest corporations in the state. This is a drop in the bucket compared to what special interests make in tax loopholes, sweetheart contracts and favorable legislation. That is why they spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year in lobbying and other political spending. From the cost-benefit perspective of the average voter, this one's a no-brainer: Ending the corrupt status quo would save taxpayers money. In the end, Proposition 89 boils down to this: Should special interests own the Legislature or should the people of California? If your answer is the people of California, vote Yes on Proposition 89.

See the article on Sacramento Bee website

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