Restoration of Democracy in California and Populism of Hiram Johnson to Be Central Themes of Angelides Campaign

By Frank D. Russo

Three years to the day that Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared at the Sacramento Railroad Museum to launch his campaign for Governor in the recall election of 2003, Phil Angelides spoke at the very same spot about something very basic--restoring democracy to California.

With a detailed four point plan, “Restoring the Public Trust,†and his support of ballot propositions on the November ballot and specific bills pending in the legislature, there was substance that goes beyond the usual sound bites and back and forth biting comments that one sees in most campaigns and press accounts these days. There were, as is to be expected, blistering attacks on the Governor for failing to live up to his promises of three years ago, but there was a lot more.

Angelides campaign aides indicate that reform of state government will be a constant theme in his campaign through the November election as well as how they fit in with state policies and legislation in other areas. This is the reform that makes all other reforms possible.

Yesterday’s event was full of symbolismâ€"the giant railroad trains were the backdrop for what he had to say, harkening back to the days when the railroad barons controlled the state of California, leading to the great progressive movement around the turn of the century. Hiram Johnson, the great progressive governor from a century ago, who freed this state in a courageous battle against the powerful railroads and brought us much of the democracy we know today, including the initiative, referendum, and the recall itself, was feted. Angelides joked that he wanted to be the first Sacramentan since Hiram Johnson to be elected to the governorship.

Angelides was flanked by two of the biggest reformers in the state legislature, Assemblymember Loni Hancock and State Senator Debra Bowen, who is running for Secretary of State. Hancock introduced AB 583, the “Clean Money†bill which was vetted by Assembly committees and passed the Assembly only to be stalled in the Senate Elections Committee. Bowen is a coauthor of AB 583 and a strong supporter of campaign finance reform. The provisions of Proposition 89, the Clean Money ballot measure, were largely lifted from AB 583. Angelides announced his strong support for Prop 89 last week and is continuing to campaign in favor of it, a position in sharp contrast to Governor Schwarzenegger, who has made critical remarks about public financing of elections, but has not taken a formal position on it and has had nothing good to say about it.

Loni Hancock introduced Angelides, but used the remarks Anrold Schwarzenegger made three years ago to set the stage:
“No one said it better than Arnold Schwarzeneggerâ€"“The money comes in, the favors go out. The people lose.†The difference is Phil Angelides doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He has the courage to embrace the solutions and he will be a great governor for the people of California.â€

Angelides then unveiled his plan, saying:
"Three years ago Arnold Schwarzenegger stood here, at the State Railroad Museum and, invoking the name of Hiram Johnson, the reformer who broke the railroad stranglehold on California, promised to bring sweeping political reform to Sacramento. But even after last year’s $50 million special election debacle, Governor Schwarzenegger continues to break that promise. As Governor, I will clean up state government and make it work for California’s hard-working families.

Hiram Johnson would be rolling in his grave if he saw the Schwarzenegger administration. I am here today, not to talk about it, but to lay out a very specific plan to clean up politics and government in Sacramento."

Angelides plan involves the following, in addition to his support of the Clean Money Propostion 89 and redistricting reform:
Toughening lobbying rules including:
• Expanded disclosure of lobbying spending.
• Required disclosure of "Astroturf" lobbying.
• Broadened lobbying registration and disclosure.

He pointed out that special interest groups deploy more than a thousand lobbyists, some of them located on Sacramento's own K Street just a block from the state Capitol, to influence government action in Sacramento - almost nine lobbyists for each member of the Legislature. In 2004 they spent $213 million on lobbying in Sacramento, an amount equal to the Legislature's entire budget. California’s rules regulating lobbying haven’t kept up with either this massive spending or the new special interest techniques for influencing decision-making.

Requiring disclosure of contributions that benefit the Governor including putting in place new rules requiring California’s Governor to disclose at least quarterly the source of all funds donated to pay for such purposes.

He noted that Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken millions of dollars--for personal lodging, personal promotion, events, expensive foreign junkets-- that he has refused to disclose. This bounty has flowed through at least a half dozen non-profit groups that, under current rules, are not required to report the identity of the contributors.

Enacting tougher penalties for conflicts violations and applying the same penalties to state office holders that apply to other public officials, including legislators, in California.

He stressed that California's Political Reform Act bars public officials from participating in making or influencing governmental decisions in which they have a financial interest. But, the current law includes a giant loophole for the state's constitutional officers, including the Governor: It exempts them from the penalties that apply to other officials who violate these conflict of interest provisions.

Barring outside pay for top officials. As governor, Angelides said he will insist that “everyone working in the Governor’s office have only one employer: the people of California.â€

He spoke of top officials in the Schwarzenegger’s administration, including his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, receiving paychecks financed with special interest contributions at the same time they are being paid full-time by the state to serve the public and its interests. He charged that Arnold Schwarzenegger set the example himself when he signed an $8 million contract to serve as an editor with a magazine and then delivered a veto of a bill regulating nutritional supplements, which benefited the magazine’s key advertisers.

In a lighter vein, he joked that "I won't be working for Chess magazine or Mensa magazine." Many of the bills Phil Angelides supports are pending in the legislature and will be voted on this month. We will detail the progress of these and their particular provisions as the legislature rushes towards adjournment on August 31.

Steve Blackledge, the Legislative Director for the California Public Interest Group (CALPIRG) was present at the railroad museum, and applauded Angelides for unveiling his plan for good government and urged the Governor and others to embrace it. CALPIRG has been fighting for many of the bills Angelides mentioned, and issued the following statement:

"Southern Pacific may no longer have a stranglehold on American politics, but powerful interests still do. Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks, insurers and others use large campaign contributions, loose ethics, and loads of lobbyists to get their way, even when it's not in the public's best interest.

With political corruption problems making daily headlines, voters want elected officials to remove the stench of politics as usual. They also need candidates to show how they'll clean up the underlying causes of that stench.

We applaud Treasurer Angelides for unveiling his platform on government reform. His platform of public funding for candidates, lobby reform, disclosure of who's paying for gifts and perks, enforceable penalties for constitutional officers who break the rules, and a ban on staffers moonlighting at other jobs while on the taxpayers dime is a good one. The only missing piece is a call for a fair redistricting process, and we urge him to support it. We also ask Governor Schwarzenegger to match Treasurer Angelides and unveil his platform for an honest government. “

Angelides called for a fair redistricting plan on Sunday and said he supports SCA 3 by Senator Lowenthal which is backed by a bipartisan coalition.

Senator Bowen, the Chair of the Senate Elections Committee, who also spoke in detail and answered questions regarding many of the legislative proposals, summed up a theme the Angelides campaign will be using from here to November: "This governor was elected on the promise to clean house and reject the influence of money in politics. But the voters got something very different.â€

This may be one of the main issues that voters will look to in deciding who to vote for. The Governor has a major event on redistricting reform today, and while there will be elements where both he and Angelides agree, there will be major differences indeed. We will report both the policy details and the political spin between now and November.

See the article on California Progress Report website

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