Vote yes on Proposition 15

by Trent Lange, California Clean Money Campaign, The Desert Sun

We have many serious problems to fix in California ‘ schools, budget, health care system ‘ but our elected officials spend too much time raising money and not enough time doing what they are elected to do. We need to get politicians out of the fundraising game and focused on our priorities.

Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, changes the way we finance campaigns, with a voluntary pilot project to provide limited public financing for secretary of state candidates in 2014 and 2018. The secretary of state referees our elections, so it’s important that those who hold the office have the best ideas and experience, not the most money.

Proposition 15 is tough:

To use public funds, candidates must prove they have substantial support by gathering signatures and $5 contributions from 7,500 registered voters.

Participating candidates are banned from raising or spending money beyond set limits.

Spending limits on legitimate expenses and reporting requirements are strictly enforced. Violators would face fines, jail time, and prohibition from running for future office.

Proposition 15 removes the current ban on public financed campaigns. If the program is successful, the pilot project could be expanded to any office in California. It also would allow cities and counties to choose public financing.

Proposition 15 pays for itself through voluntary contributions and a $350 per year registration fee on lobbyists and their employers that can withstand a constitutional challenge. Lobbyists now pay $12.50 per year in California, less than a daily fishing license.

The opposition tries scare tactics and the politics of no to mislead the public. Proposition 15 does not raise taxes, and imposes strict new limits on fundraising for separate accounts. If the program is successful, then legislators will have to find other revenues sources to expand. But that’s easy. Taxpayers actually save money under tried-and-true fair elections systems.

Efforts in Connecticut to expand their bottle recycling bill had been killed for a decade because of campaign contributions by bottling companies. But in 2008, Connecticut elected 81 percent of its legislature with fair elections, which promptly expanded the bill, generating $17 million in annual revenue. North Carolina’s insurance commissioner, who was elected with Fair Elections in 2008, reversed a 9.4 percent insurance rate increase, froze rates for two years, and forced insurance companies to return $50 million to overcharged ratepayers.

So, don’t believe the opposition. Their true fear is that the politicians won’t be held hostage to big money anymore.

Supporters of Proposition 15, on the other hand, represent a broad spectrum of regular Californians who want to fix our broken political system. The League of Women Voters of California, California Nurses Association, California Common Cause, AARP, California Church Impact, Consumer Federation of California, Sierra Club, and more than 400 other leaders and organizations endorse Proposition 15. A recent poll shows that voters support Proposition 15 on a 3-1 margin.

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 fair elections candidates never take campaign contributions, they speak their mind and work for the people, not the special interests.