Clean Money Author Speaks Out on Prop 89

By Assemblymember Loni Hancock

Editor -- As a leader of the legislative effort to bring "clean money'' elections to California, I was deeply disappointed by The Chronicle's opposition to Proposition 89. While opposing the initiative, the editorial indicated support for my legislation, Assembly Bill 583. Ironically, the core provisions in Proposition 89 are nearly identical to those in AB583, which died in the state Senate earlier this year. I introduced the clean money legislation because I believe the only way to return California's government to the people is to have legislators accountable only to the people they represent.

The Chronicle editorial objected to the section of Proposition 89 that reduces direct corporate contributions to initiatives -- a provision that was not in AB583. This section limits corporate contributions to initiatives to $10,000 directly from corporate coffers. However, corporations could do exactly what unions do now -- set up a political action committee. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, right now 22 states prohibit corporations from contributing to candidates from their corporate treasuries. Most of these states allow corporations to sponsor and solicit funds for a political action committee, but not contribute corporate funds to the PAC, require contributions from officers or employees, or increase officers' or employees' salaries so they may contribute to the PAC.

In upholding these laws, the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged that state laws grant corporations special advantages saying, ''These state-created advantages such as limited liability, perpetual life and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets, not only allow corporations to play a dominant role in the nation's economy, but also permit them to use resources amassed in the economic marketplace to obtain an unfair advantage in the political marketplace."

The list of opponents to Proposition 89 reads like a who's who list of the politically influential. The insurance industry, HMOs, oil companies, utility companies and banking corporations have already spent over $2 million opposing Proposition 89. The groups that support Proposition 89 range from the Sierra Club and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) to the California League of Women Voters -- probably the most passionate advocates for "a level playing field" for ideas and equal access to legislators for all people. These organizations simply don't have the ability to "pay to play" at the corporate level. Their voices are in danger of being drowned out by corporate influence.

I urge your support for Proposition 89.

Assemblywoman LONI HANCOCK

See the article on San Francisco Chronicle website

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