Prop. 89 gives voters a chance to take back government

By Deborah Burger

Big special interests are steadily increasing their control of California politics. The rest of us pay the price.

Californians pay roller-coaster prices for gasoline, usually 20 to 50 cents higher than the national average because refineries are able to block effective price competition. Oil and gas companies have piped in more than $40 million in political contributions since 2002, and every bill this year that might have helped counter the vicious gasoline price cycle was killed or stalled.

Our classrooms remain overcrowded and inadequately supplied while at least $3.3 billion in corporate tax loopholes annually divert money that should be used to improve our schools and other infrastructure.

Cable TV viewers can expect higher prices, poorer customer service and unequal access to cable after phone companies spent $20 million to persuade legislators to lift regulation of the cable TV market with no protections for consumers.

Chronic asthma rates, linked to polluted air, are rising. Yet, bills to reduce diesel emissions at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports were vetoed due to heavy opposition by the polluters and the sellers of cheap imported goods.

Thousands of Southern California homeowners who lost everything in wildfires are burned again by insurance companies who raise rates, cancel insurance, or delay claims with burdensome paperwork. Bills to help homeowners died a quiet death in the Assembly Insurance Committee this year after insurers showered committee members with campaign cash and gifts.

Californians are fed up with this system of corruption, and rightly so. Proposition 89, however, is the way for California voters to take back their government.

Voters understand that their voices will otherwise continue to be drowned out by the special-interest contributors who write the checks that keep getting bigger every year. They know that politicians are too often unable or unwilling to act as they should for fear of offending the big-money donors.

From 2001 through May 2006, more than $1.7 billion in checks of $5,000 or more were written to influence elections and legislation. The average check was $33,000, far beyond the reach of average Californians. Who do you think has the ear of the politicians?

With Proposition 89 on the November ballot, voters can strike back and restore some balance and fairness in our political system.

Here's what it does: Restricts what corporations, unions, or individuals can contribute to candidates and all committees that seek to influence the election of candidates. Limits corporations from spending more than $10,000 on initiatives (consider the $25 million Chevron alone has spent on Proposition 87). Bars contributions from lobbyists and state contractors.

Public funds are offered to qualified candidates who want to serve their constituents free from obligation to private donors. If politicians or lobbyists break the law, they can be fined, thrown out of office or put in jail.

Not surprisingly, the opposition to Proposition 89 is being bankrolled by big insurance, oil and drug companies and other corporate giants across the state and nation. They will spend and say whatever they think it takes to protect their stranglehold over our government. What they most fear is the fairer elections that Proposition 89 would create â€" a level playing field in which a broader, more diverse array of candidates could run for office and win, even if they are not wealthy and in the pocket of the big donors. And legislators who no longer have to spend most of their time dialing for dollars would be accountable to the people, not the big special interests.

Proposition 89 has the support of good government groups that have worked for years for effective political reform and other trusted community organizations, including the League of Women Voters, AARP, Common Cause, California Nurses Association, the Sierra Club and scores more.

There is a solution to the creeping rule by lobbyists and the big money donors in Sacramento â€" a yes vote on Proposition 89.

See the article on Ventura County Star website

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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