Vote Yes on Proposition 15

by Tobi Dragert , Pasadena Weekly

If we not all outraged by the amount of money in politics, and the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns that adds fuel to the fire, then we’re not paying attention.

Since 1910, California has tried 14 different ways to curtail the influence of the billions raised and spent by California politicians, with no real success. Voters are bombarded with negative ads and misinformation from all directions, but no substance. And candidates often seem more focused on pleasing the big money donors than serving the public.

California’s government is broken. Politicians now have no choice but to spend about a third of their time raising money for the next campaign. On Tuesday, we can change that. When they choose public funding, candidates will be able to use all of their time to communicate with constituents. They’ll no longer need to play the fundraising game.  And when they’re elected, they’ll focus on our priorities, instead of meetings with lobbyists.

Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, is a pilot project that will provide public financing for secretary of state candidates in 2014 and 2018. The secretary of state referees our elections, so it’s especially important that she or he is free to act entirely independent of donation concerns for the next election.

Proposition 15 is tough:
‘    Candidates for secretary of state who want public funds must prove they have substantial support by gathering signatures and $5 contributions from 7,500 registered voters.

‘    Participating candidates are not allowed to raise, accept, or spend money beyond the public funds allocated.

‘    Spending limits and reporting requirements are strictly enforced. Candidates can only spend on legitimate expenses. Violators would face fines, possible jail time, and prohibitions from running for office in the future. Spending limits cannot be mandated on candidates who do not qualify and agree to use public funding.

Proposition 15 calls for registration fees to be increased from the unbelievable current $12.50 to $350 per year on lobbyists, lobbying firms and lobbyist employers to fund candidates for secretary of state. No taxpayer dollars will be used, despite opponents’ misleading claims to the contrary. 

Most importantly, Proposition 15 removes the current ban on public financed campaigns, so that if the pilot project is successful, public funding can be expanded to any office in California. Cities and counties could also choose public financing. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stop Big Money’s control of Sacramento and our cities.

Fair Elections can save taxpayers money by doing away with favors and loopholes. In Connecticut, for example, lobbyists blocked expansion of its bottle recycling bill for a decade. But that changed when in 2008, 81 percent of the state Legislature was elected with Fair Elections. They passed a new recycling bill which generated almost $17 million in additional annual revenue for the state, more than paying for the entire Fair Elections system. 

Proposition 15 is endorsed by myriad organizations, including the League of Women Voters of California, the California Nurses Association, California Common Cause, AARP, AFSCME, California Church Impact, Consumer Federation of California, the California Labor Federation, Sierra Club and nearly 400 other leaders and organizations. 

We know Fair Elections work.  Nearly 400 candidates from different backgrounds have been elected with this system in eight states and two cities’ new people with new ideas from all walks of life, not the same old career politicians.  Because they never take campaign contributions, they speak their mind and work for the people, not the special interests.