Santa Monica and Clean Money
Santa Monica voters have the right to be able to "follow the money" in local elections. The Mirror's headline "Council Approves a Ballot Initiative to Toughen City's Campaign Contribution Law" may have misled readers as to the reason for my "no" vote. That headline has since been corrected in your online edition, but I'd like to set the record straight for your newsprint readers.
The initiative approved 4-1 by the Council amends campaign contribution law, but does not toughen it. In fact, proponents of the original law, as well as outside experts like the Center for Governmental Studies, insist it reduces protections that voters intended. This is why I was the only Councilmember to vote against that initiative.
I fully support coordinated and comprehensive campaign finance reform for Santa Monica. In late July, after months of work with organizations like our Commission on the Status of Women, the California Clean Money Campaign and the League of Women Voters, I made a motion to place on the ballot a measure calling for Santa Monica local elections to be run with "clean money," which is carefully monitored public financing of campaigns.
Not one of my colleagues would even second my clean money motion for discussion, despite a staff recommendation to place clean money on the ballot for voters to decide.
So did Santa Monica sidestep real reform by placing a decoy on the ballot? I hope voters aren't confused. Figuring out who pays to play in elections is confusing enough already.
The elephant no one wants to confront is "independent expenditures." These are huge sums spent by shadowy ad hoc committees who do their best not to reveal the source of their funding, or their true agenda, until it is too late for Santa Monica voters to evaluate the questionable credibility of their slick mailers. These are not the long-time grass-roots organizations like Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, who clearly label their campaign messages and make their platform and endorsement decisions in conventions open to the press and the public. The really big money in Santa Monica politics comes from a few private unidentified deep pockets, based on secretive back room decisions.
Real campaign finance reform for Santa Monica should include convening a voter task force and considering clean money, and donation restrictions, and independent expenditures. Such a holistic and integrated approach would truly empower Santa Monica voters.
The Council majority's refusal to let voters decide on clean money, instead placing on our ballot a measure that rolls back previous protections, is extremely disappointing. Santa Monica voters still have a good option in November, though.
Many of our local woes come from state laws that encourage overdevelopment and evictions. While we have absolutely superb local representation in Sacramento, other districts often are controlled by developer money. We have a chance on November 7th to change that.
Clean money for Santa Monica won't be on the ballot, but clean money for the state of California will be. Clean money already works well in other states, taking the "for sale" sign off the statehouse. Please study the issue and vote for Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2006.
Santa Monica City Councilmember