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.