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A P.O.S. sneaks into law

Over the last few days, we've spend a lot of time talking about the great bills that were signed, and those that were vetoed. But because of the Dem-tilt to the Legislature we rarely get real stinkers passing and heading to the Governor's desk.  Well, congratulations Legislators, you let a real stinker move.  So, without further ado, I give you the freshly minted California law formerly known as AB 1430 (Leg. Analysts's Summary): (Bill info here)

Existing law provides that, for the purposes of contribution limits imposed by the Political Reform Act of 1974, payments for communications to an organization's members, employees, shareholders, or their family members, to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure are not contributions or expenditures if not made for general public advertisements, such as broadcasting, billboards, or newspaper ads. However, existing law requires that payments by a political party for communications to registered party members that would otherwise qualify as contributions or expenditures be reported in accordance with provisions governing the filing of periodic campaign reports, and governing the filing of reports online or electronically with the Secretary of State. 


Existing law provides that the Political Reform Act does not nullify contribution limitations or prohibitions of any local jurisdiction that apply to elections for local elective office, except the limitations and prohibitions may not conflict with these provisions regulating payments for communications. 


This bill would provide that certain restrictions and limitations by a local jurisdiction on payments for a member communication, as defined, would conflict with these provisions and would be prohibited..

So, basically, this would effectively neuter local campaign finance law.  It's a little blurry about that, but once you think about it for a while, you realize that's what it does. It allows you to fundraise for some organization and then funnel money around in such a way as to create a loophole on local legislation that would blow away any rules.

I would like to be able to say that at least some Dems put up a fight on this, but ultimately, few did.  It passed the Assembly unanimously, and only 9 senators (Alquist, Florez, Kuehl, Lowenthal, Migden, Scott, Simitian, Steinberg, and Yee) voted against it. In defense of the Assembly folks, this bill was passed under the nose of the Common Cause, etc type of groups with no objection raised.  As for the Senators? No such excuse can be made, Clean Money Campaign blasted the bill before the Senate vote, yet 16 Dem Senators voted for it.  And then, of course, Arnold signed it. Hooray for democracy!

WSJ’s John Fund is wondering about that Schwarzenegger legacy

Never one to miss a bandwagon, John Fund decries California's apportionment process for legislative districts. It seems he's still under the impression that Schwarzenegger is a visionary leader, but he just needs to make that one final move to prove his goodness:

The ability to vote out incumbents has proved to be far more effective than selectively enforced “ethics” rules. If gerrymandering is allowed to become more sophisticated, voters and defenders of good government will have to become more tenacious in fighting it. It’s time for Mr. Schwarzenegger to decide whose side he is on–that of the Sacramento power brokers he railed against when he won the historic 2003 recall election, or the people who will be increasingly disenfranchised if gerrymandering isn’t brought under control.(WSJ 10.15.07)

Some more funny Fundisms over the flip.

Here’s a classic one, seriously I almost fell out of my chair:

It was after that election that Mr. Schwarzenegger proposed a measure to have districts drawn by a commission made up of former judges, whose work would be approved by the voters. He put it on a 2005 special election ballot as part of his “Reform California” agenda. But he ran an unfocused campaign that was outmatched by his public employee union opponents, and all of his ideas were defeated.

His unfocused campaign? Really? Or perhaps the ideas were dumb. Just plain bad ideas. Prop 77 didn’t actually reform anything, it was a mid-decade Tom Delay style redistricting. It used old maps to redraw lines by people who were totally unaccountable to anybody whatsoever.  Well, the maps were subjected to votes that would complicate the system by making YOU (yes, you!) the gerrymanderer! Yay!

John Fund is buying into the GOP myth circa 2003 of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Perhaps he should have talked to his right-wing brethren here in California that now see him as selling out the right and who practically booed him offstage at the Republican convention. The mythical Arnold is gone, never to be seen again. Now we merely have a man who is trying to find a base, any base, of support for his initiatives.  And right now, he’s not finding it.

Perhaps that’s because of all of his great ideas.

The hits on Nunez get cheeky

(see my comment below, George Skelton also offered his take on this today. – promoted by David Dayen)

Well, the meat of the Fabian Nunez expense story having been already milled down to a fine pulp, it's the columnists turn to take a whack at the Assembly Speaker. And whack away they do. In the Sacramento Bee, Steve Wiegand provides 4 “defenses” of the Speaker. By defense, he actually means snarky little comments “It's not like he's taking the money from special interests that stand to benefit from his support on legislation they are pushing. Oh, wait.”

It's almost like Wiegand wishes he was a blogger. Oh, wait.

In the LA Times, Steve Lopez comes up with such one-liners as “This guy needs his own American Express commercial.” Oh, snap, no you didn't! But what could be far more hurtful for the Speaker doesn't come from the mind of either columnist, but rather from UNITE-HERE's political director, Jack Gibbons:

I thought he was someone who carried the fundamental principles of rights for workers in his heart and soul, and clearly the guy's been completely enamored with this jet-set lifestyle that he's picked up in his years in the Legislature.”

And from a union bus driver, Miriam Collingwood:

“It upsets me to find out he's spending this kind of money, and I can't understand how he can do this,” she said. “We work hard for our money and support our causes, not just by donations but time and effort on campaigns. So it's really upsetting for me to put my trust in someone like that.”

Now, I doubt that anything Speaker Nunez did is illegal, or even all that rare. This line of attack was pushed by the term limits folks, meant as a salvo across the bow for those who would dare to challenge their precious term limits.  But, it seems to me that the term limits have failed miserably. If they are using this little episode to illustrate how we need term limits to fight corruption, it seems some strained logic at best given that we have these ridiculously restrictive limits now.

The term limits folks just went at the wrong cog. They went after people, they should have gone after the money. If anything, this situation screams out for public financing of campaigns. Money is an equal opportunity corrupting force, and that's not likely to change until we remove the money from politics.