At first blush, some would think that Prop 32, the Special Exemptions Act, would be a step in the right direction. That it would somehow reform our broken campaign finance system.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the Special Exemptions Act ends up making the system worse, and more biased against working Californians. It leaves open huge loopholes for Billionaires to spend in SuperPACs and Independent Expenditures(IEs), while stifling the voice of labor and working Californians. It's an unbalanced and unfair measure that would just increase the power of the undisclosed and poorly regulated SuperPACs and IEs and their tea party allies in California.
How do we know the tea party loves the Special Exemptions Act? Well, how about the San Diego GOP's very special invitation to a rally for the Act in San Diego a day after they plan how they can smash and burn Obamacare?
STOP SPECIAL INTEREST MONEY BRIEFING… Come learn about this CRITICAL statewide ballot measure in November to ban corporate and union contributions to state legislators to level the playing field and empower taxpayers. (SD GOP)
Except that the measure does nothing of the sort. Corporate money would simply move to IEs and SuperPACs. And that doesn't even start the discussion of all the exemptions put into the measure to protect their friends. Are you formed as an LLC? You get an exemption! LLP? You get an exemption! Hedge Fund? You get an exemption! It's almost like the authors of the Act consulted Oprah Winfrey on gift giving.
With the growing power of SuperPACs and IEs, it becomes increasingly easy for corporations to contribute in non-traditional ways that simply aren't possible for regular Californians. A group of your friends aren't likely to get together to donate $10 million to a candidate supporting SuperPAC as Sheldon Adelson did a few weeks ago. More locally, a contribution of $100,000 can turn a legislative race on its head. And in several races this year in California, Independent Expenditures spent far more than that.
The Special Exemptions Act does nothing about this so-called outside spending, just facilitates it through new and ever more anonymous routes. And these SuperPACs and IEs are finding new ways to hide the true source of their money. Just last week, the New York Times reported how “non-profit” corporations are being used to hide corporate money.
Two years after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision opened the door for corporate spending on elections, relatively little money has flowed from company treasuries into “super PACs,” which can accept unlimited contributions but must also disclose donors. Instead, there is growing evidence that large corporations are trying to influence campaigns by donating money to tax-exempt organizations that can spend millions of dollars without being subject to the disclosure requirements that apply to candidates, parties and PACs.
It probably won't surprise you too much to learn that the Tea Party has some affinity for these “non-profit” organizations. In fact, Freedomworks, one of the biggest Tea Party funders, is just such a group. It is not required to disclose their donors, and yet they use this money to finance SuperPAC campaigns across the country. Nothing in the Special Exemptions Act does anything about even these disclosure issues, yet these groups stand to become more powerful under the Act.
The campaign behind the Special Exemptions Act likes to talk about how they are going to change California's political finance scheme. Yet real reformers are opposing the measure. Don't let your friends get fooled by their slick positioning, the Special Exemptions Act will take California and our campaign finance system in exactly the wrong direction. In the direction favored by the Tea Party and their supporters.
In other words, Prop 32 is wrong for California.
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