This article by Frank Russo got me pretty depressed about the state of California politics.
There’s something amiss in the state of Sacramento-and it has something to do with the state’s banking and lending institutions and the stacking of committees that deal with them with legislators that are either weak kneed or just a bit overfriendly with the industry that they should be protecting us from.
What else is new?
Well, this afternoon, the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, and Insurance, Chaired by Senator Michael Machado of Stockton, will be hearing two bills that have been gutted down behind a closed door process such that today’s public proceedings on them may amount to little more than a sham […]
It’s difficult enough to get bills passed through the Assembly Banking Committee and the Assembly floor when going up against the behemoth banking industry which has a lot of spare change to throw around in legislative races and many high paid lobbyists scurrying about the Capitol.
It looks like AB 69 by Assemblymember Ted Lieu, originally a great bill, has been amended since it left the Assembly-and before today’s hearing-such that the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to protecting homeownership and family wealth by working to eliminate abusive financial practices, initially listed in support, has withdrawn that position.
Read the whole thing. The bottom line is that in this recent primary election special interest groups spent nearly $10 million, and a good bulk of them were business interests who are now playing inside Democratic primaries in traditionally liberal areas to sell low-information voters a bill of goods. This doesn’t always work, but it works just enough to frustrate progress in Sacramento.
Lesson 3: The business lobby can influence Democratic politics, even in a largely minority district.
Former Assemblyman Rod Wright, a moderate, defeated liberal Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally — reversing the pattern of leftist victories — in a South Los Angeles Senate district after business donors invested roughly $1 million in Wright’s campaign.
“Business has tended to stay out of black politics,” says Sragow, who advises the business lobby. “But some black politicians ask, ‘Why? We’re always out looking for economic development in our districts.’
“The business community has decided it can’t get a Republican Legislature, so it will play in districts where there’s a Democratic candidate it can work with.”
A major Democratic strategist has all but said that Don Perata shepherded along the candidacy of Rod Wright, and actually put it in terms that come very close to illegal coordination (note “a flurry of record spending by closely-aligned IE groups focusing all of their attention and ammo in one, concerted direction.”)
This is the game. IE’s are increasingly the only way to reach the electorate, as the low-dollar revolution has pretty much not reached the Golden State. So the Chamber of Commerce and industry groups fill the pockets of the politicians who, once elected, feel obligated to repay them. The US Constitution allows the right for anyone to petition their government for redress of grievances; outlawing lobbyists or the ability of merchants to consult their politicians is not tenable. What is tenable is to either create a parallel public financing system by employing the residents of the state to pay attention to local politics enough to fund progressive-minded candidates, or to bring clean money to California, where it’s arguably needed more than anywhere else, and end the pernicious influence of special interests in state elections. Otherwise, you get a steady parade of mortgage relief bills that offer no relief.