The California Fair Elections Act, on the ballot as Prop 15, has been getting some serious momentum of late. Which is fitting, since it is one of the necessary first steps for breaking corporate power in this state. Yesterday the San Jose Mercury News came out in support of Prop 15:
Proposition 15, the initiative on the June ballot to publicly finance the 2014 and 2018 campaigns for secretary of state, won’t eliminate the influence of money in politics. It’s a small step in the right direction, however – and if it’s successful, it could lead to much-needed broader campaign finance reform. Vote yes….
Proposition 15 is a pilot project that attempts to remove the corrupting influence of money in one race. Given that the secretary of state oversees elections, it’s a good place to start.
Democratic and Republican candidates would have to show broad support by collecting 7,500 $5 contributions. In return, they’d get at least $1 million for the primary and $1.3 million for the general election. And they could receive up to $4 million for the primary and $5.2 million for the general to match a candidate who declines public financing and its limits – think Meg Whitman – or for counterattacks against independent groups.
This obviously isn’t a full public financing system, but it’s a good place to start. While it’s unclear whether institutional resistance to public financing will wither away if Prop 15 passes and is a success in the 2014 Secretary of State race, it would show that the public is indeed willing to support this and give fuel to efforts to create a full statewide public financing system.
Assemblymember Bill Monning (AD-27, Monterey-Santa Cruz) elaborated on the case for Prop 15 in his own op-ed:
Since the 2000 election, campaign contributions to California candidates have exceeded $1 billion! The spectrum of contributors spans the range of businesses, unions, environmental groups, and others who have an interest in California laws and regulations.
At the federal level, the top 13 private health insurance companies contributed over $23 million to congressional candidates in the last nine months of 2009. These contributions were received during the most important health care debate in the nation’s recent history. In California, the American Health Insurance Plans’ members have contributed more than $280 million to candidates since 2000.
As the new chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Monning understands well the impact of these contributions, and makes a strong case as to why we need public financing in order to accomplish progressive goals such as universal health care.
It’s also appropriate that this is going onto the June ballot, where two other propositions – Props 16 and 17 – are nothing more than efforts by a single corporation to pick the pockets of Californians. Prop 15 is the only progressive measure on the June ballot, and deserves strong support from Californians.