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Wanna Make a Difference in CA Politics? Are You a Millionare? Oh.

February 12, 2010

It was already obvious that California’s politics run on money but recent events provide examples that are worth laying side-by-side to show how pervasive money is:

  • The current governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a millionare, who spent tens of millions of dollars to get elected.
  • Two of the current candidates for governor, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, are millionaires who have already spent millions of dollars and may spend more than $100 million dollars to get themselves elected.
  • Former candidate for governor Tom Campbell changed his campaign to the CA Senate race, in part because he couldn’t raise enough money to compete with Poizner and Whitman.
  • Of the five propositions on the June ballot – propositions being one of the mechanisms put in place during the Progressive Era to give California citizens the power to check a corrupt government – two came from the people as opposed to being referred from the Legislature. Both of those initiatives (Props. 16 and 17) are, in fact, funded by moneyed interests.
  • Repair California, the group promoting a citizen-led constitutional convention, recently suspended their campaign due to lack of money. Although Repair California was supported chiefly by the business federation Bay Area Council, their aims were citizen empowerment, which makes their demise a victory for special interests.
  • Even more ridiculously, Repair California’s efforts may have been impeded by the signature-gathering lobby, which allegedly colluded against the organization. As ridiculous as it may sound, the California electoral system has created a special interest that is invested in that system solely because of their ability to make money off it and is using their power to protect the system against legitimate reform.

The fact that it takes $50 million to run for governor and $5+ million to qualify and pass a ballot initiative, and the fact that campaigns are even described in that matter (X dollars equates with a result), should be a wake-up call to Californians who believe that money shouldn’t equate to political power. There is, however, one bright spot in the upcoming year: if passed, Prop. 15 on the June ballot will provide public funding  for Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018. It would a step in the right direction.

Update: In the LA Times, New America Foundation fellow Joe Mathews writes about the technology startup Verafirma, which recently submitted an electronic signature for an electoral petition to the San Mateo County clerk’s office. The question of whether an electronic signature is valid will now likely be argued in court. If the signature is allowed, it will make signature gathering must less costly, potentially breaking the signature-gathering firms’ current stranglehold mentioned above, which would be a good thing. On the other side of the coin, however, making signature gathering cheaper could also result in a flood of ballot measures, exacerbating California’s current problems with direct democracy.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 4:13 pm

    With the level of money involved, politics really has become a waste of time. Why invest all one’s energy and attention in a jerkoff circle for the super rich? Nothing will come of this, if you know what I mean. Politics has become rhetorical grafitti in a grey landscape of misery created by global capitalism, the real master that the Governator and the rest serve. California may be a little bit ahead in this sense, but not by much.
    ToG

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