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Proposition 89: hope for democracy

Original post made by Nancy Neff on Oct 23, 2006

I am proud that Palo Alto City Council has endorsed Proposition 89, the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act. This comprehensive package of election campaign finance reform is possibly the most important initiative that has ever come before California voters.

Under our current campaign finance system, our purchases of gasoline, pharmaceuticals, insurance, and so on provide profits to companies that can then donate to candidates and ballot initiatives without our permission. (At least union members can opt out of political contributions!) Then we pay again when corporate donations result in industry friendly decisions -- $3.3 billion a year in tax loopholes alone. As a result, the share of California's general fund that comes from corporate taxes has fallen from 15% in 1980 to only 11% today.

Proposition 89 takes 20 cents per $100 of profit from "C" (usually large) corporations to create a Clean Money Fund. In a court-tested system proven to work in Arizona and Maine, qualified candidates may use the fund to run for office taking no private money. Once elected, they are accountable only to the voters. If they are outspent or if independent expenditures are used against them, matching funds make them competitive. The matching funds serve as a deterrent to excessive private spending.

Proposition 89 has closed many campaign finance loopholes with new limits on contributions to candidates from individuals, corporations, unions, and committees. It also limits contributions from corporate treasuries to ballot initiatives. This levels the playing field, since both corporations and unions remain free to spend from PACs.

Our city council is in good company: League of Women Voters, AARP, Ira Ruskin, and over 300 other organizations and political leaders support Proposition 89. If it passes, we have the hope of leaving our children an intact democracy.


Comments (5)

Posted by SG, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 24, 2006 at 8:32 am

I agree with Nancy. Proposition 89 will help mend the current campaign finance rules that benefit major campaign contributors at the expense of ordinary citizens. Prop 89 will also expand the pool of candidates for office and allow elected officials to respond to the will of their constituents, not just the special interest groups who have helped elect them.


Posted by taylor, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2006 at 12:27 pm

Can either of you name a campaign finance reform that has worked? We've voted for campaign finance reform measures many times in the past and every one of them had loopholes designed to benefit the politicians who put the measure on the ballot. This one is no different.



Here's what Prop. 89 will do, if approved:



• Takes tax funds that could be used on our schools and classrooms and puts them into the hands of political consultants, who will spend them on junk mail. Yeah, I call that a reform!



• Raises taxes on all small businesses. Odds are that one of you two might work for a small business or own one. This measure takes money out of your pocket and gives it to people who make those stomach-turning negative ads on TV.



• It won't stop wealthy candidates, and that's what you guys hate, right? Some billionaire like Al Checci, Ross Perot or Richard Blum (Dianne Feinstein's husband) buying a political office. Whoops, I didn't mean to put Blum on that list. Oh well, what Prop. 89 says is that if a self-financed candidate runs, the opponent will be given an equal amount to what the rich guy is spending -- up to $200 million. To put $200 million, that's enough money to run PAUSD for 18-20 months.



Prop. 89 doesn't level the playing field. It loots the public treasury, giving money to political consultants (Republican ones too) while putting small businesses, labor and non-profits at a disadvantage in campaigns.



If you really favor free speech, vote NO on 89


Posted by kurt, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2006 at 12:32 pm

When were union members given the right to opt out of political contributions, as Nancy Neff claimed above?


Posted by Nancy Neff, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2006 at 3:22 pm

I agree that we have not yet had successful campaign finance reform in California. Does that mean we should give up?

Proposition 89 is on the ballot precisely beacuse it is a true reform. The core of it was in AB 583, which passed the Assembly but not the Senate, but if passed would have been weaker than Proposition 89 which contains tough penalties including jail time for breaking the law.

Clean Money public financing has been working in Maine and Arizona for three election cycles. More candidates every year--over half in 2004--use the system, and are able to spend their time talking to voters and doing their jobs instead of raising money. In Arizona the number of races won by the candidate who spent the most money went from 79% in 1998 down to 2% in 2002. You can learn more by watching "The Road to Clean Elections" at www.89now.org.

As far as small businesses go, many of them are either not incorporated, are "S" corps, or are not turning a profit. Prop 89 will increase their voice in government, because they can't compete with the millions spent by large corporations.

As Dan Walters pointed out in a column on Monday, political donations are an excellent investment for industry. They will be an excellent investment for voters too. At a cost of a fraction of a percent of the budget, we can regain control of the other 99% of the budget.

Public financing addresses the issue of wealthy candidates in the only way allowed by the Supreme Court: by providing funds to the publicly funded candidate. Matching funds (up to five times the baseline, or four times for governor) are triggered if he/she is outspent by the privately funded candidate. Matching funds are also provided if independent expenditures are made against the Clean Money candidate and serve to put brakes on spending. Whenever both or all candidates in a race are using the Clean Money fund, spending is limited to the baseline amount only.

Proposition 89 attempts to address every existing loophole that can legally be addressed. If it turns out to need tweaking, there is a provision for that too. Please vote yes on 89.


Posted by Nancy Neff, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2006 at 10:51 am


The right of union members to opt out of political contributions has been affirmed in a number of Supreme Court decisions relating to the National Labor Relations Act. Check with your union for the procedure.


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