Yes on Proposition 15: Elections Should be Won, Not Bought

by Anjuli Kronheim, Common Cause, The South Los Angeles Report

Are you outraged by the amount of money in politics and the recent Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on federal campaigns?

Since 2000, over $1 billion has been raised by California politicians. All this fundraising buys access for the special interests, but shuts out the rest of us.

That’s why California’s government is broken. We have many serious problems to fix in California, from our schools to our budget to our health care system. But rather than solving California’s problems, politicians are busy raising money for their campaigns. We need to get politicians out of the fundraising game so they will focus on our priorities.

Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, changes the way we finance election campaigns, starting with a voluntary pilot project to provide limited public financing for Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018. The Secretary of State is the referee of our elections, so it’s especially important that she or he be the person with the best ideas and experience, not the most money.

Prop 15 is tough:

‘ Candidates who agree to use public funds 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 the limited funds.

‘ 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.

Prop 15 pays for itself, primarily through registration fees on lobbyists, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers. No taxpayer dollars are used for Prop 15, despite its oppositions’ misleading claims to the contrary. Currently lobbyists only pay $12.50 per year in California, one of the lowest rates in the country.

We know that 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.

Fair Elections save taxpayers money. As one example, lobbyists stopped Connecticut from expanding its bottle recycling bill for a decade, but that changed when 81 percent of Connecticut’s legislature was elected with Fair Elections in 2008. A new recycling bill generated almost $17 million in additional revenue annually for the state, more than paying for the entire Fair Elections system with that one bill.

Prop 15 is endorsed by 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. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stop Big Money’s control of Sacramento by allowing California to eventually expand public financing to all offices — starting with the crucial Secretary of State.