Yes on 15: Elections should be won, not bought

By Janis R. Hirohoma, Commentary

California elections are awash in money. Our elected officials spend too much time on fundraisers and not enough time doing their jobs. We need to get politicians out of the fundraising game to focus on California's priorities.

Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, would make major changes in how we finance election campaigns, starting with a pilot project to provide limited public financing for secretary of state candidates in 2014 and 2018. The secretary of state referees our elections, so it's crucial that they have the best ideas and experience, not the most money.

Prop. 15 is tough:

-- Candidates would have to prove substantial support by gathering signatures and $5 contributions from 7,500 registered voters.

-- Participating candidates would be banned from raising or spending beyond set amounts.

-- Candidates could spend only on legitimate expenses and could not hire family members. It would place strict new limits on fundraising for separate accounts.

-- Violators would face fines, jail time and prohibitions from running for office.

Prop. 15 would remove California's ban on public financing so the pilot project could be expanded to any office in California, allowing cities and counties to have public financing if they choose.

Lobbyists opposing Prop. 15 claim it would raise taxes or take money from the general fund. That's not true. It would pay for itself through voluntary contributions and registration fees on lobbyists, lobbying firms and lobbyists' employers. Currently, lobbyists pay only $12.50 per year, less than a day's fishing license costs.

Lobbyists and their employers oppose Prop. 15 because they don't want to lose their access that leads to special favors - favors that have driven the state budget into never-ending deficits and are costing us billions.

Supporters of Prop. 15 represent a broad spectrum of Californians who want to fix our broken political system. We are joined by the California Nurses Association, California Common Cause, the California Clean Money Campaign, AARP and more than 400 other leaders and organizations.

Fair elections work. Nearly 400 candidates from different backgrounds have been elected with this system in eight states and two cities - new people with new ideas, not the same old career politicians.

Prop. 15 is the beginning of the end for big money in California. It will stop the dominance of wealthy candidates and donors, so politicians are accountable to their constituents, not their contributors.

Vote "yes" on 15. Go to

Janis R. Hirohama is president of the League of Women Voters of California.

This article appeared on page E - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle

See the article on San Francisco Chronicle website

(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