June 2010 Election Day: Corporations vs. Democracy

There is a very clear theme to today’s election: will corporations take over California’s politics, or will the voters stand up in defense of their democracy?

This theme appears again and again and again in races across the state, from the governor’s race on down to the ballot propositions and state legislative races. Corporations and the CEOs that used to run them are convinced that their money will be enough to sway voters to give those corporations and CEOs much more power over our wallets and our elections. A massively underfunded, but broadly-based progressive coalition is fighting back, and in some of the key races, the outcome is far from clear.

We can see the stark contrast emerging in both the Senate and governor’s races. Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, the likely Republican nominees for Senate and governor, are both former CEOs of large Silicon Valley corporations. Both are extreme right-wingers who believe that government’s job is to help corporations dominate our economy by crowding out new innovations and competition, avoid their tax burdens, and undermine our regulatory protections.

But that battle won’t be decided until November. Today, there are some key battles over corporate power that will be decided, primarily regarding the statewide ballot propositions.

Proposition 15 must pass. As I wrote earlier this spring, it allows for the expansion of clean money in California, repealing a ban on public financing and setting up a test case for the Secretary of State race in 2014.

Corporate capture of government through unlimited donations is largely responsible for the economic and political problems we face. The only way to get out of that is to restore financial power over politicians to the people. We already pay their salaries. Why not have the state pay for their campaigns – especially when in this case, the money actually comes from lobbyists and not taxpayers?

California’s political and economic crisis will not end until we have kicked corporate money out of our elections. Prop 15 is the necessary first step toward that broader recovery and reform.

Prop 15 is also a clear reaction against Propositions 16 and 17. Put on the ballot and funded by PG&E and Mercury Insurance, respectively, these propositions make use of outright deception in order to undermine our democracy (in the case of Prop 16, requiring a 2/3 vote for the public to create their own power systems) or undermine our consumer protection laws (in the case of Prop 17, enabling auto insurers to get around Prop 103 and charge customers much higher premiums for a lapse in coverage). If these pass, then many other corporations will take note, and start funding their own propositions to undermine our democracy and our laws so they can make more money at our expense.

But that’s not all. Prop 14 would change the way our primary elections work, sending the top two candidates on to the general election ballot in the fall regardless of party. Not only would this shut out smaller parties, it would in many places extend a party primary into the general election – mostly Democratic races. In these “November primaries” there will likely be a progressive candidate and a corporate-funded candidate, and the thinking goes that the corporate-funded Democrat will get Republican votes and defeat the progressive, shifting the Democratic Party to the right and making it more subservient to corporate power.

You can read more about those propositions at the Courage Campaign and CREDO Action voter guide, which you can also receive on your mobile phone by texting VOTECA to 30644. (Note: I work as the Public Policy Director for the Courage Campaign.)

On the topic of Prop 14, some of the key Democratic primary races revolve around the same corporate vs. progressive divide. In AD-28, which includes the Salinas Valley, Watsonville, Gilroy and Hollister, the very progressive mayor of Watsonville Luis Alejo, backed by labor unions and the CDP’s endorsed candidate, is facing a barrage of negative attacks from Janet Barnes, moderate Democrat on the Salinas City Council. Barnes is backed by big agriculture and EdVoice, Steve Poizner’s old outfit, which dislikes Alejo because he will stand up for the teachers that EdVoice hates. I support Alejo in this race and hope he wins.

A similar split is happening in AD-53, with Betsy Butler racking up progressive endorsements (EQCA, CNA, etc) but facing a bunch of negative ads from big business, including insurance companies, on behalf of James Lau.

And of course, the crowded Attorney General field in the Democratic primary sees a similar split as well. Kamala Harris, the progressive DA for San Francisco, has faced a challenge from conservative Democrat Chris Kelly, who has spent $10 million of his own money on the race.

There are some other interesting primary races in both parties – the AD-35 Democratic battle between Susan Jordan and Das Williams (I’m neutral here, but it’s hard to understand why Williams made the foolish decision to back the Tranquillon Ridge deal); the Lt. Governor’s race for both parties (will Newsom win in the end? Can Sam Aanestad pull off the upset over Abel Maldonado?); and other races on down the line.

Calitics will have full coverage tonight. Hope you’ll be joining us for the liveblog!

8 thoughts on “June 2010 Election Day: Corporations vs. Democracy”

  1. those guys must have insanely deep pockets to throw money around like that.

  2.   with Lau as the corporaDem and Butler as the more grassroots candidate. Butler has the endorsement of SoCal Americans for Democratic Action and SCADA tends to run fairly leftwing for ADA chapters. I don’t live in the district but I think you have this backwards.

  3.  Both are extreme right-wingers…

    A new keyboard, you owe me one.  

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