Reduce Big Business Control of Sacramento

by Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California

Tired of seeing consumer protection laws crushed under a ton of corporate campaign contributions?

Big phone companies gave
Sacramento politicians over $20 million since 2000. Result: every
effort to protect cell phone customers from deceptive marketing and
early termination fees died in the State Assembly.

Banks, credit card companies and other financial
interests gave $8.8 million to state politicians in an 18 month period,
and buried legislation to protect our financial privacy.

Chevron alone gave $3 million in California political contributions since 2004, and stopped a proposed state windfall oil profits tax.

Health industry related interests,
including HMO’s, drug companies, and insurers, have given the Governor
and his political causes more than $4 million since he first ran for
office. Last year, he vetoed legislation that would have established
affordable universal health care.

These are examples of a bigger problem ‘ domination of Sacramento by corporate interests who fund politicians of both parties.

The California Solution: AB 583 – The "Clean Money’ Bill
CFC supports public financing of elections to reduce the corrosive
influence of big business campaign dollars. This year, we are actively
supporting AB 583 – the gold standard in campaign finance reform.

UPDATE! On June 6th, AB 583 (Hancock) passed the Assembly by a vote of 45 to 34!

If enacted, Assemblymember Loni Hancock’s campaign finance reform bill,
in its amended form, would serve as a pilot program and allow
California voters and candidates to see how a Clean Money system would
actually work in the 2010 races for Governor, Insurance Commissioner,
and one open Assembly and Senate seat.

In those races, candidates who
demonstrate a broad base of support would be provided with matching
public funds, making it possible to run for office without having to be
privately wealthy or to constantly have to ask for big business
campaign donations. If their opponent opts for private fundraising, publicly
financed candidates would receive extra funds to match dollar for

Candidates could run on their ideas, not on how much money they
can raise ‘ finally freed from their dependency on contributions from
big business interests.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration, and if successful
there, on to the Governor’s desk, where its fate is still uncertain. We
will keep you updated as to its progress!
States that have adopted ‘clean money’ elections have seen lower
overall campaign spending, more time for candidates to listen to their
constituents rather than ‘dial for dollars’, increased voter turnout,
and more qualified and diverse (both economically and ethnically)
candidates running for office.

‘Clean Money’ Campaigns Work

This is a system that’s proven to work. Clean Elections has
been in place in Arizona since 2000 and has already reshaped the
state’s politics. Nine out of 11 statewide officials in Arizona –
including the Governor – ran and won "clean" by accepting public
financing. And fully 59% of Arizona’s house and senate members won
office as ‘clean money’ candidates.

Maine, with four ‘clean money’ election cycles under its belt,
now has a state senate in which 83% of its members were elected with
clean money and a state house with 84% of its members having run clean.
In Maine’s legislative elections last year, 72% of Republicans chose
public financing, as did 92% of Democrats, 64% of Greens, and 38% of

In the 65 legislative races that pitted clean candidates
against ones funded by private interests, the clean candidates won 58%
of the seats.
The corrosive influence of big-money touches and taints every
issue consumers’ care about — health care, pollution, privacy, and
many more. By enacting AB 583, we can begin to cut the ties between
politicians and the corporate interests who fund their campaigns.