Taking Back Government from Special Interests
Proposition 89, the campaign reform measure on the November
ballot, presents voters with a golden opportunity to take
back government from the special interests and lobbyists
that currently run the show in Sacramento.
When Southern California homeowners sought relief from the
insurance nightmares caused by devastating wildfires, the
insurance industry used its financial clout in Sacramento
to bury the effort.
When Northern California lawmakers recently tried to pass
legislation to address the insufficient levee protection,
developers killed the bill with the help of a $500,000
campaign contribution to members of the right
Gaming tribes, who would exempt themselves from
California's laws, have spent tens of millions of dollars
to change those same laws. This year, their campaign
contributions paid off with five gaming compact proposals
that would have allowed them more slots than the biggest
casinos in Las Vegas.
Not even the opposition denies the problem: Campaign money
has conquered California government. Cash-rich gaming
tribes, a few big labor unions, and big corporate interests
such as oil companies, pharmaceutical companies and HMOs
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 issues
facing California's working families.
Crafted carefully by some of the foremost Constitution and
election law experts in California, Proposition 89 attacks
the problem head-on with strict new limits on political
contributions to candidates, parties, PACs and so-called
independent committees from corporations and unions alike.
Lobbyists and groups seeking business with the state would
be barred from making contributions.
The measure also offers limited public funds to qualifying
candidates (a concept known as â€œclean
moneyâ€) that want to serve their constituents
free from obligation to their biggest contributors. And
there is tough disclosure and enforcement to make sure all
the 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 for placing the demands of their wealthy
donors over the needs of their constituents. The
Legislature, whose normal dysfunctional gridlock is caused
in no small part by the conflicting demands of
well-financed competing special interests, could
In short, government in California could actually work
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 will
likely spend millions in their effort to derail reform.
Already, they are ramping up their self-serving propaganda
machine, focusing on the financing mechanism for the clean
money portion of the initiative (a 0.2 percent tax increase
on banks and corporations) or its constitutionality (the
U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recommended clean money
as a constitutional campaign reform). Unsurprisingly, the
alternative they offer to Proposition 89 sounds
suspiciously like the status quo. They trumpet disclosure,
even though California's current disclosure laws
â€" some of the very best in the country
â€" have done nothing to check the dominance of
special interest money in Sacramento.
The price tag on Proposition 89 â€" $200
million overall, predominantly from the wealthiest
corporations in the state â€" is a drop in the
bucket compared to what special interests make in tax
loopholes, sweetheart contracts and favorable legislation.
This is why they are willing to 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: Bringing an end to the
corrupt status quo will 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 you answer the latter, vote Yes on
Proposition 89 in November to take back our government from
the special interests and their lobbyists. If your answer
is the former, chances are you're part of the problem.
See the article on San Diego Union-Tribune website