Campaign Finance Reform Measure To Appear On California June 8, 2010 Ballot

* Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Historic Public Financing of Election Campaigns Pilot Project

By Julie Rajan, Commentary

In what Center for Governmental Studies' President Bob Stern termed "the biggest political upset of the year in California", AB 583, the California Fair Elections Act (Hancock, D-Oakland), has now been signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger after having passed through the legislature on August 30th. A measure providing for "Fair Elections" public financing of campaigns for the office of Secretary of State as a pilot project will now appear on the June 8, 2010 ballot. Even one of the Assembly opponents of the bill had called its passage a "historic moment" in California.

After nearly $400 million was spent by candidates in California alone in the 2006 election, most observers thought it was highly unlikely that a public financing bill that would start to end the dominance of special interest campaign contributors would ever get passed and signed in Sacramento. But thousands of California voters who contacted their legislators and the efforts of AB 583 author Assemblymember Loni Hancock and Senate and Assembly leaders got it to the Governor's desk.

Governor Schwarzenegger made the problem of money in politics one of the focuses of his recall election campaign. As he said in a campaign commercial then, "Special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento. Here's how it works. The money comes in. The favors go out. The people lose."

As the sponsor of this bill, we've always felt that Governor Schwarzenegger was likely to sign AB 583. He identified how much of a corrupting influence special interest money has on politics, and the California Fair Elections Act gave him an historic opportunity to start ending that influence by changing the way we finance election campaigns.

AB 583 would establish a pilot project for voluntary full public financing system for Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018 if it is passed by a vote of the people on the June 2010 ballot. It is modeled after systems that have been working in Arizona and Maine for eight years and recently adopted by Connecticut and other localities.

"We applaud the Governor for signing this landmark Fair Elections bill," said Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California. "Consumers are the losers when big money donors dominate our elections. The Secretary of State's office is the ideal public financing pilot project because it is the office that guards the integrity of the electoral system. AB 583 makes sure that Secretary of State candidates have the option to use Fair Elections funding instead of raising campaign contributions from private sources who might try to influence them."

"AB 583 passed through the legislature thanks to the leadership of co-author Senate President pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), floor jockey Senate President pro Tem-elect Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), and Clean Money supporters Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and former Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles)", said Trent Lange, the President of our California Clean Money Campaign. "The Governor's signature shows that there is now bipartisan support in California for bringing Fair Elections public financing systems to California and exploring whether it can work as well here as it does in other states."

Former Assemblymember Keith Richman (R-Granada Hills) said: "There is bipartisan concern about the corrupting influence of money in politics. "The California Fair Elections Act is a historic opportunity for California to lead the nation in reform of the problem of special interest money in politics by showing that candidates who must compete for millions of votes can use Fair Elections funding to run for office on a level playing field without spending any private money."

Author Assemblymember Hancock, who shepherded the bill during the two years of the just ended session, said: "It's been a long and hard road. But I am thrilled that the California Fair Elections Act will now be appearing on the June 2010 ballot, giving the people the opportunity to vote for a reform that is a critical step in helping restore the voters' confidence in government."

AB 583 has been supported by a wide range of organizations, from good government groups like the League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause, and CalPIRG to groups representing diverse Californian interests such as Sierra Club California, Consumer Federation of California, Equal Justice Society, California Nurses Association, California Teamsters, and Gray Panthers California.

Now it's on to 2010 and passage of this ballot proposition.




Julie Rajan is Executive Director of the California Clean Money Campaign. Most recently, she served as the Social Policy Director on the board of the League of Women Voters of California where her portfolio covered a wide range of issues from children and family legislation, housing, health care, mental health and juvenile justice, to education from pre-kindergarten to community colleges and universities.


See the article on California Progress Report website



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