Clean Money Helps Elections
FRIENDS AND family alike could not understand why clean
money election reform in California was first on my New
Year's resolution list this year. But then again they
couldn't understand why my nurse colleagues and I spent so
much of last year chasing down Arnold Schwarzenegger on his
mega fund-raising circuit that resulted in more than $76
million in contributions.
And apparently the governor hasn't learned from his special
According to press reports, Schwarzenegger plans to raise
$120 million for his re-election campaign, which would
So why are nurses, some who even voted for the governor, so
The governor's attempt to eliminate safe RN-to-patient
ratios was the first blow. It came after the heavy lobbying
from one of his big donors, the California hospital
But the governor just represents the excess of the problem
-- "it's the system (stupid)."
Those nurse petitioners you see out in public want to
interrupt this money for political favors pipeline, and
curtail the lobbying scandals that have been on the front
pages every day.
Our clean money and fair elections initiative would provide
for public financing for candidates who reject private
money and sharply limit contributions to candidates and
committees. It also would ban contributions by lobbyists
and state contractors and provide extensive public
disclosure on campaign financial activity.
To fully appreciate the "nurse connection" to clean money
elections it is imperative to understand one's motivation
for entering the nursing profession.
When I made the life-altering decision to become a
registered nurse, I was bursting at the seams with good
intentions, believing I was entering a noble profession,
practicing in a "nonpartisan" environment, the hospital,
where my patients needs came first. Nursing education
reinforces the belief that patient needs are paramount. In
fact it is state law that requires RNs to be the patient's
As direct-care nurses working in today's managed-care
hospitals we see the fallout every day from the political
influence of HMOs and drug companies meaning more uninsured
people showing up in our hospital emergency rooms and more
patients unable to pay for prescribed medications.
We cannot take care of our patients in the way they
deserve, the way we were taught, the way the law requires
until we loosen the grip of big corporate interests.
We are reminded every time we see the unnecessary and
costly complications that arise from children with asthma
admitted to the hospital because they couldn't afford to
refill their inhaler or the diabetic who loses kidney
function and must spend the rest of his or her life on
Unfortunately, these are the norm. Only a major overhaul of
our health care delivery system with a single standard of
care and universal access for everyone will put the bedside
registered nurse in a position where patient care is
optimized not compromised.
But that can't happen until we reform election funding.
And so my nurse colleagues are taking to the streets once
again, this time to qualify a clean money initiative for
this November's ballot.
We already know it works. Maine, Arizona and Connecticut
have created public financing of their elections and voter
participation has increased, the winning candidates include
more women and minorities, the influence of the lobbyists
has waned, and major programs have been adopted, in Maine
and Arizona, to make prescription drugs more
Clean money elections in California is the first step to
cleaning up the health and welfare of the residents of this
And that's why the nurses, who see a short step from
advocating for our patients at the bedside to promoting the
public interest, have stepped up to the plate.
Phillips is a registered nurse who lives and works in
See the article on Contra Costa Times website