Various Groups Back Campaign Finance Reform
SACRAMENTO -- Separate Los Angeles city and statewide
efforts to establish a "clean-money" system of taxpayer
financing for political campaigns advanced Tuesday, with
advocates hoping to reduce the influence of special
interests in political races., The California Nurses
Association said it expects this month to turn in more than
the 373,816 signatures required to place a measure on the
November ballot that would establish a public-financing
system for state campaigns. Advocates said they believe
clean money can clear the way for universal health care and
other reforms that have been opposed by well-funded
lobbying groups. They also see it as an equalizer that
would give underfunded groups and committees a better
chance of being heard in Sacramento.
"After my first year in the Legislature, I realized you can
do a lot of good, little things around the edges ... but
for the big reforms, there is too much money in play and
(there is) not the ability to get it done," said
Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who has authored a
clean-money bill pending in the Legislature.
Hancock's bill, which is similar to the nurse initiative,
has passed the Assembly and will be heard in the Senate
More than 800 nurses rallied Tuesday at the Capitol to
support their own ballot measure and Hancock's bill. The
nurses association is promoting its measure because it is
skeptical the Legislature will pass Hancock's bill. The
nurse measure also is considered to be stronger.
The California Nurses Association has not been known as a
big contributor of political donations in California
politics, but in the past several years it has been
energetically working to block Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
after being angered by his efforts to circumvent
state-mandated nurse-patient staffing ratios. Nurses say
they believe public financing will further stymie the
governor, who has been a prolific fundraiser from corporate
interests since taking office.
They are also pushing for universal health care and said
they would like to limit the power of the insurance and
hospital industries to block those efforts through
The plan is opposed by a number of taxpayer and business
groups, and most Republican lawmakers voted against the
bill last month.
Opponents argue taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for
campaigns -- particularly at a time when the state is still
facing a serious budget deficit -- and taxes should not be
increased to pay for it.
"I don't know that there's a clamor out there for public
financing," said Assemblywoman Audra Strickland,
R-Moorpark. "Especially when public financing, to the
extent its advocates propose, would mean funding education
less, fewer firefighters, fewer police on the streets, cuts
in transportation -- all of those things I think most
people consider more important."
Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill or
A key difference between the two plans is the nurse measure
applies to initiative campaigns. It also lowers the maximum
amounts individuals and corporations can contribute to
candidates who are not seeking public financing.
The nurse plan also spells out a specific funding source --
a corporate tax increase. Hancock said she would like to
find a similar dedicated source so the funds do not come
out of other state programs.
Under the nurse plan, taxes on corporations would be
increased by 0.2 percent, generating at least $200 million
to pay for the campaigns of candidates who volunteer to
The requirements and funds involved vary among offices, but
for an Assembly seat, for example, major party candidates
have to collect a signature and $5 in contributions each
from 750 people to participate in the system.
The candidates would then be eligible for a minimum of
$250,000 in the primary and $400,000 in the general
election. If an opposing candidate does not participate in
the system and is raising more in contributions, the
clean-money candidate is eligible for amounts to match the
opponent, up to five times the minimum.
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