Elections Should Be Won, Not Bought

Are you outraged by the amount of money in politics and the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns?

Since 2000, over $1 billion dollars has been raised by California politicians. And corporations outspend unions by up to a 26-1 margin.  All this fundraising buys access for the special interests, but shuts out working people and regular voters.

That's why California's government is broken.  We have serious problems to fix: our schools, budget, and health care system.  Rather than solving California’s problems, politicians are busy raising money for their campaigns.  We need to get politicians out of the fundraising game and focused on our priorities.

Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, changes the way we finance election campaigns, starting with a voluntary pilot project to provide limited public financing for Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018.  The Secretary of State referees our elections, so it's important that s/he has the best ideas and experience, not the most money.

Prop 15 is tough:

  • Candidates who agree to use public funds must prove they have substantial support by gathering signatures and $5 contributions from 7,500 registered voters.
  • Participating candidates are banned from raising or spending money beyond the limited funds.
  • Spending limits and reporting requirements are strictly enforced.  Candidates can only spend on legitimate expenses. Violators would face fines, possible jail time, and prohibitions from running for office in the future.

Prop 15 removes the current ban on public financed campaigns. If the program is successful, the pilot project could be expanded to any office in California.  It also would allow cities and counties to choose public financing.

Prop 15 is paid primarily through a reasonable $350 registration fee on lobbyists and their employers.  Currently lobbyists only pay $12.50 per year in California, one of the lowest rates in the country.

Fair Elections work.  Nearly 400 candidates from different backgrounds have been elected with this system in eight states and two cities— new people with new ideas from all walks of life.  Working people win with Fair Elections financing, because voters and volunteers are the currency of elections instead of big money.
Fair Elections frees up union dollars for organizing and other union activities. In Arizona, union money that formerly went to direct candidate contributions is now being spent on organizing efforts, GOTV, and other activities that directly benefit the union and its rank and file, including defending against bad corporate initiatives.

Fair Elections save taxpayers money.  As one example, lobbyists stopped Connecticut from expanding its bottle recycling bill for a decade, but that changed when 81% of Connecticut's legislature was elected with Fair Elections in 2008. A new recycling bill generated almost $17 million in additional revenue annually for the state, more than paying for the entire Fair Elections system with that one bill.

Prop 15 is endorsed by the California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Golden State Jobs Coalition, League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause, AARP, California Church Impact, Consumer Federation of California, Sierra Club, and nearly 400 other leaders and organizations.  

It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stop Big Money's control of Sacramento — starting with the crucial Secretary of State. But to win, the Prop 15 campaign needs your help with phone banking. For more information or to help, click here.


This post is the first in a weekly series of blog posts on the June Primary election ballot initiatives. Check back next week for another installment.