Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 22, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM UPDATE....I thought I had some modestly encouraging news for Californians this morning, but then I got this email about the campaign finance legislation that I wrote about earlier today:

I work for one of the Democrats in the State Assembly who voted for Loni Hancock's bill. It's true that many Republicans hate it the idea of their tax dollars helping elect a pro-choice candidate makes them sick but the sad truth is that many Democrats dislike it too. The only reason Ms. Hancock's legislation passed is because it was essentially gutted, turned into no more than intent language. In its current form it does nothing, and my guess is it never will.

Why would so many Dems be against this idea? Deep pocket interests have a lot to do with it. Liberal Dems listen to unions, tribes, and consumer attorneys, while moderates (who hold more sway than most Californians think) kowtow to insurance, big corporate, and chambers of commerce. All these groups have a good thing going, and are scared that "clean money" could screw it up.

Sigh. If there are any California policy wonks out there who can shed some more light on this, comments are open.

Kevin Drum 5:27 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

Because the Clean Money system allocates money in California, it has to go before the voters and be approved on the ballot to pass, regardless of what the legislature does. Thus, changing it to "intent language," as I understand it, helps it get through the legislature and onto the ballot where it has to wind up anyway. The only hitch, I think, is that this means that Gov Schwarzenegger now needs to sign it.

I agree, though, that it can be difficult to get incumbents of either party to so dramatically change a system in which they are the current winners. It takes a large view and a commitment to real reform to support this.

Posted by: thump on February 22, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

I must not be a liberal or a moderate Dem, because none of those groups has any sway with me.

For the people, by the people - let's go!

Posted by: craigie on February 22, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

If only there was an initiative process in California and a way to communicate with tens of thousands of individuals that are interested in good government in the state.

Posted by: toast on February 22, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

I think a fair number of politicians - for all their grumbling about the time they spend fundraising - rather like the current system. You get to spend a lot of time hustling wealthy businessmen, corporations, and organizations, and do favors for them - which you can cash in afterwards in the form of a nice cushy job or clients for your business or a leg-up for your just-graduated-college kid or whatever. It wouldn't surprise me if most pols in the California Leg, since it is term-limited, were largely interested in building contacts and banking favors for their post-politics careers. If full pblic financing passes, that system goes away, and then what's the point of being in the Leg?

Posted by: FMguru on February 22, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK
Because the Clean Money system allocates money in California, it has to go before the voters and be approved on the ballot to pass, regardless of what the legislature does. Thus, changing it to "intent language," as I understand it, helps it get through the legislature and onto the ballot where it has to wind up anyway.

Money can be allocated without a ballot measure.

Intent language, as that is usually used, does not get anything onto the ballot -- a specific measure must be proposed for the legislature to put something on the ballot. I suppose an intent measure with no substance could be put on the ballot, but it wouldn't do anything if it passed.

I think this whole thing, though, illustrates the problems with duopoly and why we need an effective multiparty democracy -- at the very least at the state level. There are lots of people that would support it, but not the majority in either party, and not the kind of people who generally put up the huge money needed for a ballot measure to succeed. But with more viable parties, I suspect that further reforms like this would get more public exposure and more political pressure.

Of course, the reforms necessary to create a multiparty system are pretty big themselves, and face just as big of barriers to get passed the existing duopoly.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK
It wouldn't surprise me if most pols in the California Leg, since it is term-limited, were largely interested in building contacts and banking favors for their post-politics careers.

Well, quite a few are busy working out a rotation of term-limited positions that will take them a lifetime to work through, but yeah, that's probably a big factor too. Term limits have lots of perverse results, that's for sure.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Like I said who cares about fixing the current system of legalized bribery. Only members of the middle class, working class, and those in poverty suffer under the current system. The rest (the rich, powerful and influential) prosper. They get the best government money can buy.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 22, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Although the State may be passing on the idea right now. It has taken flight (and passed) in the City and County of San Francisco. The idea, like many things in California, will need to gestate a bit in the Bay Area (along with instant run-off voting) before it moves to the state level. God bless the Bay Area for always being the guinea pig on this stuff.

Posted by: DC1974 on February 22, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, I got it wrong. The reasonn it has to go to the ballot is because of Prop 73, which, in a small add-on (the prop was mainly about something else) said that you can't spend public money in political campaigns. Thus, another ballot measure is required to overturn this part of Prop 73.

Apparently, the "display purposes only" language in the bill was put in at the request of someone on the Appropriations Committee. It was agreed to because of the looming end-of-January deadline for the bill to get to the assembly floor. This language has already been removed from the Senate version, which is again a "real bill", and will have to be signed by the Governor before going to the ballot.

I found out these details by calling the toll-free number of the California Clean Money Campaign. Read up more and, if you support Clean Money elections, sign up as a member.

Posted by: thump on February 22, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, the first stop in the Senate is the Elections Committee, chaired by Clean Money co-author Debra Bowen, who is, in general, very pro-democracy, pro-government transparancy. I heard her speak recently, and she's amazing. Currently running for Secretary of State.

Posted by: thump on February 22, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Thump's got the right idea. The original bill would have required a 2/3 vote in both houses, not to mention the gov's signature. It was amended to require ballot approval, which dropped it to a simple majority. That's good, because it never had a chance at 2/3.

Another advantage to putting it on the ballot is that it becomes harder for Arnold to veto; he's used the "let the people decide" line too much.

Of course, if it makes the ballot, expect to see the campaign against it break all records for spending.

And if it doesn't make the ballot, California Clean Money will have an initiative.

Posted by: Jonathan Lundell on February 22, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Thankfully, with Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts on the Court, there is a reasonable likelihood that all campaign finance laws which limit the ability of people to contribute to the politicians of their choice will be tossed into the trashbin of history.

Tell the honest truth: Are politics any "cleaner" now than they were before all of these campaign finance laws were passed? That may be subjective, but it is an undeniable fact that Congressmen and Senators spend far more time begging for money now than they used to. Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with "campaign finance reform." Gee, you think?

Posted by: DBL on February 22, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

DBL, the clean money proposal in CA, like the one in operation in AZ, is very, very different from any "campaign reform" we've had at the federal level.

In particular, it doesn't restrict money-speech, but it gives candidates the ability to run without it.

Posted by: Jonathan Lundell on February 22, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

DBL: "Thankfully, with Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts on the Court, there is a reasonable likelihood that all campaign finance laws which limit the ability of people to contribute to the politicians of their choice will be tossed into the trashbin of history."

As Jonathan Lundell said above, voluntary public financing (by virtue of its voluntary nature) does not restrict, limit, or regulate the speech of any candidate who chooses to opt out. It's fully constitutional, and has been ruled as such by the courts.

"Tell the honest truth: Are politics any "cleaner" now than they were before all of these campaign finance laws were passed?"

Overall? No. In locations where (voluntary) full public financing has been enacted? Arguably, yes. In Arizona and Maine, recent polls show that the voters there prefer the clean elections system, and feel that their elected leaders are more responsive to the voters than previous.

Any other questions?

To learn more, please visit www.caclean.org

Patrick Meighan
Venice, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on February 22, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Although the State may be passing on the idea right now. It has taken flight (and passed) in the City and County of San Francisco. The idea, like many things in California, will need to gestate a bit in the Bay Area (along with instant run-off voting) before it moves to the state level. God bless the Bay Area for always being the guinea pig on this stuff."

Amen, and boy hardy. Recent polls in San Francisco show the voters there much prefer their new instant runoff voting system to the old, traditional system.

IRV allows you to rank your preferences, eliminating the "spoiler" dilemma. IRV in Florida would've averted the Nader/Gore fiasco, and would've changed our nation's history.

To learn more, and to help bring IRV to your state or locality, visit:

www.fairvote.org

Patrick Meighan
Venice, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on February 22, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

Voters may have the warm fuzzies but AZ incumbents still won 96% of time in the last general election (only 2 that ran lost).
And like most reforms, "clean" campaigns come with a host of rules and regulations that raise the bar on anyone trying to challenge the two major parties. I've attached the link to AZ's "clean" candidate guide - it runs to 99 pages and contains all sorts of minutiae such as whether the $5 contributions can be raised during the general or exploratory phases, mandatory training for staff, reporting periods, use of credit cards, number and mixture of colors of Gerber daisies in campaign headquarters, etc. More than enough petty crap to sink some well intentioned maverick who's pissed off the political power structure. And who decides violations of the law? The political appointees at the clean elections commission, reviewing complaints filed by "any person" (read: connected hacks with a vested interest in caring about this stuff), wielding virtually unreviewable administrative discretion.
If you want to ensure that politics never ever changes, keep advocating reform like this.

http://www.azcleanelections.gov/ccecweb/ccecays/docs/2006ParticipatingCandidateGuide.pdf

Posted by: scouser on February 22, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to digress, but what's on the ballot may be academic if the Diebold voting machines just approved by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson are used.

Millions of voters in as many as 21 counties will be voting this year on machines that can be hacked to alter election results.

Even though an evaluation by University of California-Berkeley computer experts concluded that hackers can easily change election results on them, thousands of Diebold machines will be in place for the June primary election.

McPherson said in December he would not certify Diebold machines until a test was done by an independent federal laboratory, but moved up his timetable when the lab delayed. He then asked help from Berkeley computer scientists and their 38-page report came in on Valentine's Day.

"We found a number of security vulnerabilities" said that study, whose authors include some of America's most determined critics of electronic voting. "We determined that anyone who has access to a memory cardand can (modify its contents)can indeed modify the election results from that machine in a number of ways."

Posted by: DevilDog on February 23, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

There is no simpler way to send a message from the people, than VOID-- Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy-- on election day, every election day, vote out all irresponsible incumbents. We, the people have the ultimate decision on whether a candidate wins office or not, and by voting out corrupt politicians, we will enjoy public servants who will have the best interest of their state or nation at heart. If you want more info. on this very simple message, go to http://voidnow.org.

Posted by: David Weller on February 23, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

about asbestos cancer and prostate cancer,asbestos Cancer also called malignant prostate Cancer
mesothelioma is a disease in which
asbestos cancer (malignant) cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura) or abdomen (the peritoneum). It is a rare form of cancer. Most people with malignant
mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos.

Posted by: er on February 23, 2006 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

about asbestos cancer and prostate cancer,asbestos Cancer also called malignant prostate Cancer
mesothelioma is a disease in which
asbestos cancer (malignant) cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura) or abdomen (the peritoneum). It is a rare form of cancer. Most people with malignant
mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos.

Posted by: funny on February 23, 2006 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

"Voters may have the warm fuzzies but AZ incumbents still won 96% of time in the last general election (only 2 that ran lost).
And like most reforms, "clean" campaigns come with a host of rules and regulations that raise the bar on anyone trying to challenge the two major parties..."

The stated purpose of full public financing is not to root out incumbents. Nor is the stated purpose of public financing to streamline the elections process, nor is it necessarily to encourage third-party participation. These may all be good goals, and there are other reforms intended to adress at least some of them (for example, proportional registration and ranked choice voting... to learn more and to support these worthy reforms, please visit www.fairvote.org).

But the stated purpose of voluntary full public financing is simply to provide a constitutional, legal way to eliminate the need for electoral candidates to rely on large campaign contributions in order to run for office. It is hoped that a reduced reliance on large donors (on the part of our elected officials) will reduce the influence of large donors in our halls of power, and will--hopefully--therefore raise the influence of average voters in our halls of power.

That's all any full public financing system can hope to accomplish, not more or less. But, truthfully, that's alot.

Patrick Meighan
Venice, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on February 23, 2006 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

"But the stated purpose of voluntary full public financing is simply to provide a constitutional, legal way to eliminate the need for electoral candidates to rely on large campaign contributions in order to run for office. It is hoped that a reduced reliance on large donors (on the part of our elected officials) will reduce the influence of large donors in our halls of power, and will--hopefully--therefore raise the influence of average voters in our halls of power."

Arizona and Maine have had these laws for about 6 years. Surely there's proof by now that "clean" politicians vote differently. I've seen a study from the Goldwater Institute saying no but we all know they're just a spin tank, right? So where's the evidence that all this hope is not in vain?
And what's to prevent those horrible special interests from serving as bundlers of $5 contributions and in effect provide large contributions? Or the government agency from trying to regulate how candidates get their message across? Both are now happening to various degrees in Arizona.
Just another reform measure of all sizzle and no steak.

Posted by: scouser on February 23, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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