Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cleaning during the Most Expensive Election Ever

Jones and Steinberg Clean Car Windows to Clean Up Sacramento
Proposition 89 Would Bring Clean Money Into Politics

Sacramento - Assemblymember Dave Jones and Democratic candidate for State Senate Darrell Steinberg rolled up their sleeves to clean car windows today at a local gas station, to dramatize the need for clean elections in Proposition 89. Along with a local “Squeegee Brigade” and representatives from Common Cause, League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club, Jones and Steinberg cleaned car windows for free today at a local gas station to dramatize the need for clean government in California. The groups and politicians support Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act on the California ballot this November 7th.

Participants educated gas station customers and the public on Proposition 89 and its importance to cleaning up California politics and the significance of the initiative.

“The $2 million push from an out of state developer behind the Maloof arena tax is the local poster child for what we face statewide,” said Assemblymember Dave Jones (D- Sacramento). “We need to inject clean money into politics so that elections can be about ideas instead of who has the most cash,” continued Jones.

“Prop 89 would clean up the Sacramento legislature,” said Trudy Schafer of League of Women Voters of California, who also cleaned car windows. “With this election being the most expensive in history, Proposition 89 is the only measure on the November ballot that could restore voter confidence in the system.”

“To get clean air and clean water, we have to clean up our political system,” said Bill Magavern of Sierra Club California.

If passed by California voters on November 7th, Proposition 89 would establish a voluntary “Clean Money” system for full public financing of election campaigns modeled upon successful programs already in place in Arizona and Maine and recently adopted by Connecticut. It is designed to level the election playing field, open up the ballot to more good candidates, and stop political corruption by making elected officials accountable to voters, not big money donors.

For more information on Proposition 89:

www.89Now.org
www.Yeson89.org
www.Latinosfor89.org

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New Analysis of Election Cash

What the Incumbents & Power Brokers In Sacramento Don’t Want You To Know About Prop 89

California—In the wake of a $2.5 million contribution by Sacramento developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos to the Democratic Party, and a day before the deadline for filing campaign contributions, a new report released today by the California Clean Money Campaign provides new details and analysis to show the depth of how money dictates politics in California. The report, entitled “Money Dominates California Elections and Incumbents Dominate Money: The Problem and the Proposition 89 Solution” is based on an analysis of campaign finance filings from the Political Reform Division of the California Secretary of State’s Office for state races between 2002 and 2004. It documents the dominant effect of spending on races in California, the huge disparities in spending between incumbents and challengers, and how the public financing provided to qualified candidates in Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, would level the playing field for challengers by drastically reducing those disparities.

“The Tsakopoulos $2.5 million dollar sham issue ad against Schwarzenegger is a blatant attempt by one multimillionaire to skirt contribution limits to get his favorite candidate elected,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of the California Clean Money Action Fund. “This is exactly the type of outrageous campaign environment that Proposition 89 is designed to change.”

Under Proposition 89, so-called sham issue ads would be considered a contribution on behalf candidates they intend to help, so Tsakopoulos’ contribution would be considered a contribution on behalf of Democratic candidate for Governor Phil Angelides and would be subject to strict limits.

Major findings and accompanying color graphs include:

  • The candidate spending the most money wins 95% of the time-- the analysis shows that the candidate who spent the most won over 95% of the time in all California state elections from 2002-2004, including Assembly, State Senate, and statewide races.
  • Even the frequent open seat primaries created by term limits are largely uncompetitive in campaign funding. The report says, “Spending levels weren’t usually even close. The second highest spender managed to come within 20% of the highest spender's expenditures in competitive open-seat races a total of only 12% of the time.”. The candidate who spent the most won 93% of all open-seat races and 81% of all contested open-seat races.
  • Incumbents outspent their challengers by over 4-1 overall. Incumbents nearly always spend the most money  in primaries 100% of the time, in general elections 97% of the time.
  • Prop 89 could make gubernatorial races more competitive and could reduce the cost of the elections depending on candidates’ choices. An analysis of the last governor’s race in 2002 shows that incumbent Democrat Governor Gray Davis outspent Republican challenger Bill Simon by almost 2 to 1 and won the election. If either candidate voluntarily qualified for and accepted public financing of elections, they would have been provided enough extra funds to match their opponent. If Gray Davis or both candidates had “run clean” (as they say in other states that have public financing of elections) it could have reduced the over all money in the gubernatorial election by 25 to 35 million dollars and made incumbent challenger Bill Simon competitive with Gray Davis.
  • Prop 89 would level the playing field—The report concludes that by injecting public money into California’s electoral system, challengers would be able to run competitively and more open seat primaries would be competitive. This would reduce the power of incumbency and provide more of a chance for voters to express their displeasure with current affairs.

“The voters out there may wonder why their choices are so constrained on November 7th ,” said Trent Lange, author of the report and Vice President of the California Clean Money Campaign. “Our analysis shows that special interest money is the main determinant of election outcome, regardless of how districts are cut. By injecting clean public money into the system, Prop 89 would lead to more competitive races in the vast majority of cases, especially when incumbents are involved, and that would lead to more voter choice.”

If passed by California voters on November 7th, Proposition 89 would establish a voluntary “Clean Money” system for full public financing of election campaigns modeled upon successful programs already in place in Arizona and Maine and recently adopted by Connecticut. It is designed to level the election playing field, open up the ballot to more good candidates, and stop political corruption by making elected officials accountable to voters, not big money donors.

Copies of the report and power point should be downloadable from the homepage www.caclean.org soon.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Youtube Movie Release

FTCR: Special Interests in Action: The Movie; Prop 89 Group Goes Undercover in Capitol, Films Lobbyist Frenzy

A YouTube video released today by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights offers rare narrated footage of special-interest lobbyists and their easy access to California lawmakers ( http://www.channel89.org/bigmoneybuys/ ). The 3-minute handheld video, taken during the final frenzied days of lawmaking in Sacramento late last month, features Armani-suited lobbyists passing through "The Gate" inside the state Capitol to speak with lawmakers. At the same time, a shirt-sleeved ordinary citizen cools his heels in the hallway with a stopwatch running.

Footage of political fund-raisers occurring across the street from the Capitol is also included.

"These images show who matters and who doesn't in Sacramento, how ordinary voters are left in the cold by a system that demands incessant fund-raising and big checks for lawmakers to stay in public office," said Jamie Court, president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan FTCR. Passage of Proposition 89 on the November ballot, offering public financing of elections and strict limits on special interest campaign contributions, would put power back with the voters, said FTCR.

The video, produced and edited by FTCR staff, offers a concise interpretation of what's going on with the expensively clothed people being called to confer with their chosen lawmakers on their chosen topics. "After watching this video, no average person could believe lawmakers' protests that lobbyists and their clients get no special favors," said Court. "Prop 89 will make lawmaking about big ideas, not big money." For more on Proposition 89, see http://www.yeson89.org

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

$1,741,838,790

Big Donors Wrote $1.7 Billion in "Major Check" Campaign Contributions Last Five Years

Survey Cites Which Donors Spent the Most,
Where Individual Counties Rank

More than $1.7 billion in big checks of $5,000 or more have been written to influence California elections the past five years, according to a new analysis of state data compiled by proponents of Proposition 89 that would reduce the influence of special interest donors and level the playing field in elections.

Based on an analysis of campaign finance filings through the Political Reform Division of the California Secretary of State’s Office, the data documents both the tilt toward wealthy donors in California politics – the average check in the group was $33,000 – and the rapid escalation of political spending in the state – more than two-thirds of the biggest donations were made in the past three years.

The survey compiles 52,686 checks of $5,000 or more from January, 2001 through May 20, 2006, the latest date for which the full data set was available. The report was compiled by the California Nurses Association, the sponsors of Prop. 89.

Major findings include:
  • A total of $1,741,838,790 was contributed to all statewide candidates and initiatives. The data set includes some checks written by big donors to initiative political action committees from which money was re-routed in separate checks to initiative campaigns. The list is headed by a $14.25 million contribution by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade association representing big drug companies, in the 2005 special election. The top 20 includes tribes, other drug companies, the California Teachers Association Issues PAC, and gubernatorial candidates Steve Westly and William Simon.
  • Sacramento County, home of the so-called “Third House” or the state’s lobbying industry, topped all other counties as a source of political contributions, accounting for 25% of all $5,000-plus donations the past five years. The survey includes the top five donors for every county.
  • About 16% of large political contributions to California campaigns came from outside the state, led by the District of Columbia, source of $83.4 million in political donations the past five years.
CNA noted that the spending has continued at breakneck pace since the full data set was available. For example, recent checks in the Prop. 86 and 87 campaigns by Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Chevron, Aera Energy, and producer Stephen Bing, would have qualified for the top 20, and spending in the governor’s race and other contests would push the contribution total well past $1.8 billion.

“Every day the wide chasm between wealthy donors and ordinary Californians in the political process becomes more glaring,” said CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. “The biggest contributors dominate the system, and reap the benefits with legislation, vetoes, regulations, and other public policies from politicians who are dependent on the interests who write the largest checks.”

DeMoro emphasized the public consequences of the tilt of big money in the political system. “California families pay the price every day in higher gas prices, utility bills, and health care costs, inadequate funding for our schools, and weaker environmental protections. Only through Prop. 89 can we put an end to this legalized bribery, level the playing field in our elections, and make our politicians accountable to regular voters.”

Proposition 89 would change the face of California politics with tougher limits on contributions to candidates, political committees, and initiative campaigns, and thus end the dependence of candidates on contributions from those writing the biggest checks.

The initiative would also provide voluntary public financing for candidates who reject special interest fundraising, enabling regular Californians to run for office and win, even if they are not connected to special interest donors and lobbyists. It contains tough penalties for candidates who break the law, including jail time and removal from office. It is based on a successful system now in place in Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut.

Endorsers of Prop. 89 include the League of Women Voters of California, the Sierra Club, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, California Common Cause, the California Clean Money Campaign, Latino National Congress, Sen. Barbara Boxer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

All information in the Contribution Database is from the California Secretary of State, Political Reform Division. With information on all contributions made. The database shows all the checks written.

The Contribution Database is based on Form F460 Schedules A (Monetary Contributions Received) and C (Non-Monetary Contributions Received). All contributions received by a committee must be reported on these forms. The CNA analysis includes all contributions of $5,000 and higher.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Barbara Boxer

Sen. Barbara Boxer Endorses Proposition 89

OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer today announced her endorsement of Proposition 89, the initiative to reduce political corruption and the influence of special interests, and create a level playing field for California elections.

"I've always believed that big special interest money in politics creates a system in which people lose faith in their government. Proposition 89 addresses this problem head-on. I urge a yes vote on Proposition 89," said Boxer.

"We are proud to welcome the support of Sen. Boxer for this historic effort to reform our dysfunctional political system and ensure that the voices of regular Californians will be heard over the corrupting influence of the big insurance, oil, tobacco, drug companies and other entrenched interests and lobbyists," said Deborah Burger, RN, president of the California Nurses Association, the sponsors of the initiative.

Proposition 89 sets tough limits on how much corporations, unions or individuals can give to candidates, and bars contributions to candidates by lobbyists and government contractors.

It supports candidates who reject private fundraising with a set limit of public funds, paid for not by individuals but by a small 0.2% increase in the corporate tax rate. If politicians or lobbyists break the law, they can be fined, removed from office, or jailed.

Boxer joins a broad array of campaign finance reform and community organizations and leaders in supporting Prop. 89.

Endorsers include the League of Women Voters of California, the Sierra Club, California Common Cause, California Clean Money Campaign, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Congress of California Seniors, and the Latino National Congreso.

Individual endorsers include U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and State Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic candidate for Governor.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Insurance Industry Fights Reform

Insurance Industry Gives 56% of Dollars Against Campaign Finance Overhaul Prop 89;
Insurance Reform Prop 103 Author Comments

Santa Monica, CA -- The multi-billion dollar insurance industry is the primary source of funds against Proposition 89, the the initiative that will stop political corruption, a sign that "insurers fear losing the political dominance that comes from spending millions to buy politicians and corrupt the initiative process," according to consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield, author of insurance reform Proposition 103.

Insurers have spent $25 million on lobbyists, campaign contributions and gifts to lawmakers since 2003. The industry gave 56% -- $601,015 -- of the $1 million donated to the No on Prop 89 PAC to-date.

Rosenfield notes that insurers were finally forced this year to implement a key provision of Proposition 103 that requires insurers to base premiums primarily upon driving safety record rather than zip code. Insurance companies quietly threatened the Insurance Commissioner with a $2.4 million attack campaign if he proceeded to enforce the law. When he refused to bow to the industry's demand, insurers made good on their threat.

Proposition 89 would limit contributions to single independent expenditure committees to $1,000, and would limit independent expenditures by any one source to $7,500 per year. A state legislative committee convened a hearing today to examine such expenditures, one of the largest sources of political spending in California.

The industry has spent millions to successfully thwart reform of insurance premiums and claims practices in the legislature, in large part thanks to the millions they doled out to lawmakers.

"Insurers are leading the campaign against Prop 89 because they fear losing their ability to buy the Insurance Commissioner and the California Legislature, where they have long been able to stop reform of their claims and pricing practices," said Rosenfield. "Prop 89 stops the political corruption that currently blocks so many needed reforms from gaining support in Sacramento, and would put an end to the extortionist tactics used by the insurance industry to try to blackmail elected officials like the Insurance Commissioner into abandoning consumers."

Millions of dollars of insurance company donations to politicians have accompanied a string of anti-consumer votes in the State Capitol in recent years. Assembly Insurance Committee chairman Juan Vargas, for example, has received at least $315,000 in campaign contributions from insurance interests. His committee has blocked desperately needed homeowner protections in the wake of Southern California wildfires, approved legislation allowing auto insurance surcharges on low-income drivers, and passed a measure that would have blocked landmark rules lowering rates for good drivers throughout the state.

Former Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush was elected by the insurance industry and proceeded to do the industry's bidding until he was forced to resign for accepting industry money in lieu of penalties for violations of state law. The money went to a slush fund he controlled.

"Insurers know that their political donations buy them extraordinary power to crush consumer protection bills. Prop 89 would relieve lawmakers of their dependence on industry cash and that scares insurance executives," said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Insurance industry money to the No On 89 PAC was contributed by: Mercury Insurance, California's 3rd largest auto insurer, and its CEO George Joseph; State Farm Insurance, California's largest auto insurer; Zenith, the largest private workers compensation insurer in the state; Farmers Insurance, the state¿s 2nd largest auto and homeowners insurance company; IBA (Insurance Brokers and Agents) West; The Doctors Company, 21st Century, and Fireman's Fund.

Prop 89 Would End Pay to Play Politics-As-Usual
Under Prop. 89, insurance companies, HMOs, and all other donors, including unions, individuals, and other businesses, would be limited to contributions of no more than $500 to Assembly or Senate candidates and $1,000 to candidates for statewide office. Donations to political parties for support of candidates and ballot measures are limited to $7,500 annually.

Prop. 89 also provides for public grants for candidates who reject private fundraising, bans contributions to candidates from lobbyists and government contractors, and sets tough penalties for violators, up to jail time and removal from office.

Zenith, Mercury, and other corporate donors would also be restricted to contributing only $10,000 of customer money from their general treasuries to ballot measures. Corporate PACs could continue to contribute as much as they wish on initiative campaigns.

Insurance Industry Campaign Contributions Thwart Consumer Protections
Further examples of how the insurance industry benefits financially from its huge campaign contributions include:

- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger received $105,000 from the American Insurance Association the day he vetoed a bill that would have required insurance companies, not Medi-Cal, to pay medical costs for uninsured drivers who are injured in an accident caused by an insured driver. Schwarzenegger has taken $2.9 million from the industry since 2003.

- Mercury Insurance won the passage of an illegal surcharge on motorists who had been previously uninsured. Mercury Insurance distributed more than $1 million to state lawmakers in the two years leading up to enactment of the bill; Governor Gray Davis received $175,000 from Mercury after signing the bill.

- Mercury's CEO George Joseph gave $500,000 to the GOP after the majority Democrats blocked a bill that would have amended Proposition 103 to allow insurers to charge drivers more based on where they live.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sierra Club Supports Proposition 89

SIERRA CLUB ENDORSES PROP 89
Leading Environmental Group Sees Clean Politics as Essential to Clean Environment


PRESS RELEASE from Clean Money Now - Yes on 89
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SAN LOUIS OBISPO –At a semi-annual weekend conference, Sierra Club California endorsed Proposition 89, an initiative on the November ballot that will enact a broad system of public financing of political campaigns for all statewide offices. The endorsement gives a vital boost to the initiative supported by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and California Clean Money Campaign, and sponsored by the California Nurses Association.

“If you want clean air and clean water, you need clean elections,” said Bill Magavern, senior advocate for Sierra Club California. “Proposition 89 will eliminate the corrupting influence of donors who want to weaken environmental laws by shifting power back to the voters who overwhelmingly support measures to ensure a healthy, safe, and clean environment,” continued Magavern.

“We are thrilled to have the Sierra Club’s endorsement,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of California Clean Money Action Fund, one of the organizations pushing Proposition 89. “The people of California know that the Sierra Club is looking out for their right to a clean and healthy environment.”

If passed by California voters on November 7th, Proposition 89 would establish a voluntary “Clean Money” system for full public funding of election campaigns modeled upon successful programs already in place in Arizona and Maine and recently adopted by Connecticut. It is designed to level the election playing field, open up the ballot to more good candidates, and stop political corruption by making elected officials accountable to voters, not big money donors.

(Stop Political Corruption, Yes on 89, for more information on Proposition 89: www.89Now.org)

For more information about Sierra Club California: www.SierraClubCalifornia.org

Thursday, September 07, 2006

National Latino Congreso Endorses Public Campaign Financing

LOS ANGELES – By a unanimous vote the delegates of the National Latino Congreso endorsed a resolution specifically calling for public financing of election campaigns in California. In so doing, the Congreso sets the stage for millions of California Latinos to embrace Proposition 89, an initiative on the November ballot which would enact a broad system of public financing of political campaigns for all statewide offices.

The Congreso, which continues on through Saturday, marks the first comprehensive gathering of Latino leaders, organizations and elected officials since 1977. Over 2000 delegates from all across the country are expected to participate. The goal of the Congreso is to establish a long- term Latino agenda and action plan.

"The Clean Elections program in Arizona has greatly strengthened the Latino voice in the political process. It has opened the doors of democracy to allow more Latinos to run for office and has increased Latino voter turnout," said Rep. Steven Gallardo (D-Phoenix), an Arizona state legislator who has been elected to office with traditional private campaign financing and under the Arizona clean public money system.

"With a Clean Money system, each community plays a dominant role in choosing who will represent them in Sacramento. Prop. 89 will allow Latino communities to choose their leaders without a veto from wealthier communities who dole out campaign contributions," said Felipe Agredano, outreach coordinator for the California Clean Money Campaign, an organization which promotes a system of public financing of elections in California.

"Prop. 89 will allow Latino districts to more directly focus on the needs of Latinos because the people dictate the decisions, not corporate or special interests," continued Agredano.

If passed by California voters on November 7th, Proposition 89 would establish a voluntary "Clean Money" system for full public funding of election campaigns modeled upon successful programs already in place in Arizona and Maine and recently adopted by Connecticut. It is designed to level the election playing field, open up the ballot to more good candidates, and stop political corruption by making elected officials accountable to voters, not big money donors.

The National Latino Congreso is convened by a number of organizations including the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), and the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI).

For more information on Proposition 89: www.89Now.org
For more information about the National Latino Congreso: http://latinocongreso.org

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cruz Bustamante for Proposition 89

BUSTAMANTE ENDORSES PROP. 89 FOR CLEAN MONEY AND FAIR ELECTIONS
Lt. Governor says Prop. 89 will help lead to survival of a fair, robust and healthy government

SACRAMENTO—Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante today endorsed Proposition 89, the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2006, and urged voters to help defeat the special interest groups and lobbyists that have corrupted California's electoral system by voting Yes on Prop. 89 in this November's statewide election.

"California voters have lost faith in the electoral process. They understand the crisis of corruption in Sacramento, and want to do something to change it," said Bustamante. "A publicly funded electoral system would help make politicians more accountable."

Bustamante has spent his career fighting as an advocate for California voters. He actively supported Prop. 103 in 1988 despite large-scale opposition by insurance companies; he faced off with oil companies when he fought to eliminate offshore drilling projects; and he stood up to big tobacco, pushing California to join the historic multi-state lawsuit that settled in 1998.

Bustamante opposed efforts by auto insurers this year to sponsor a political attack campaign against current Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi for refusing to postpone his reform agenda.

"I have returned all campaign contributions from the insurance industry, and will not accept their campaign donations in my bid for Insurance Commissioner," said Bustamante. "Bad actors use our electoral system to pollute the efforts of good public servants like John Garamendi. I will not stand for it any longer. Prop. 89 is a good start in fixing the problem. I hope voters send a clear message to big donors by passing Prop. 89," said Bustamante."

Bustamante said he hopes voters recognize the value of Prop. 89 in bringing transparency to the inherent advantages enjoyed by billionaires seeking political office.

"Ambitious billionaires weaken our electoral system when they engage in unlimited campaign spending," said Bustamante. "Voters should be able to decide elections based on the best ideas, not who has the most money to spend.

Prop. 89 levels the playing field and makes elections fairer and more competitive by creating a Clean Money public financing system like those in other states. The initiative protects free speech and has been proven in the courts to be effective and constitutional.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

National Latino Congreso and Proposition 89

WHAT: The National Latino Congreso will vote on resolution to support Proposition 89, the initiative to enact Clean Money (full public funding of election campaigns) on the November 7th ballot California ballot. National experts on Clean Money and Proposition 89 will be speaking at the Congreso and available for interviews.

WHEN: Between 10am and noon, Wednesday, September 6, 2006

WHERE:
National Latino Congreso
Los Angeles Downtown Sheraton
711 South Hope Street
Los Angeles, California 90017

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Price Gourging Lives On

A Sudden Death in Sacramento;
Atty. General's Anti-Gouging Bill, Opposed by Oil Companies, Killed Unexpectedly At Final Step

Santa Monica, CA -- A measure proposed by California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer that would have made it possible to prove -- and prevent -- price gouging by oil refiners in California was universally expected to pass the California Legislature this session. Suddenly, in the final hours of the legislative session, a final Assembly vote that would have sent AB457 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature was canceled by the bill's cosponsor, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

The measure had a powerful opponent: oil companies. And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to whom oil and energy companies have given more than $3 million, had not supported the measure.

The last-minute loss of a baby-step bill to protect Californians from predatory pricing would not have happened under the rules of Proposition 89, the Clean Elections Initiative, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

"The measure would curb the power of large corporate lobbies through both contribution limits and voluntary funding for political candidates who prefer to spend their time talking with voters rather than begging for large contributions," said FTCR Research Director Judy Dugan.

Lockyer's staff indicated to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights that Nuñez had concluded that there were no longer 41 certain votes -- the number required for passage -- for the measure, and not enough time to corral the wobblers.

The bill would have allowed the declaration of a state of emergency and with it the ability to aggressively investigate price gouging, not just in times of natural disaster but also in times of "abnormal market disruption," which could apply to a sudden price spike that has no readily apparent cause. Such as the soaring gasoline prices that hit California motorists this spring, peaking at $3.38 for a gallon of regular.

The measure also would have allowed such investigations at the wholesale as well as retail level, which would have covered the state's oil refiners.

The definition of "abnormal price disruption" had been weakened by amendment to appease the oil lobby, which supporters thought at least guaranteed it passage in the full Legislature.

AB457 now joins the nearly one dozen bills killed or stalled by the oil lobby in this legislative session. "I cannot believe how many legislators don't have the courage to stand up to them," said Assemblyman Johan Klehs to the San Francisco Chronicle July 14. See http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/nw/?postId=6565 for that story.

What many legislators do believe is that the oil industry's record profits provide unlimited funds for influencing politics. Chevron, for example, spent $1.2 million in California political contributions in 2005 and $1.7 million in 2004, an election year. This year, Chevron has already spent $6.5 million on political contributions, including several million to defeat Proposition 87, the Clean Energy Initiative, on the November ballot. Proposition 87, by funding development of alternative fuels and vehicles, would reduce the political influence of Chevron and other oil companies by reducing the state's dependence on fossil fuels.

"The only preventive for the demise of decent public policy bills like AB457 is to pass Proposition 89 on the November ballot," said Dugan. "Proposition 89 would also shut down the power of large industries and their lobbies to kill any legislation that causes them the slightest irritation." Proposition 89, added FTCR, would also curb such industries' spending for and against ballot measures. For more details, see www.yeson89.org.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stop the Pledge Loophole Used to Dodge Disclosure

Consumer Group Calls For End To Contribution Pledge Loophole Allowing Lawmakers to Conceal Donations At Crucial Moment
Lobbyists and Special Interests Promise Contribution Before Session Ends, But Don't Pay -- And Pols Don't Disclose -- Until After Session Ends

Santa Monica, CA -- The state's political ethics watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), should close a loophole that allows politicians to conceal contributions from special interests and lobbyists in the final days of the legislative session, when the fate of hundreds of bills is on the line, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today. The Orange County Register reports today that at least 14 lawmakers have held fundraisers yet reported no donations after August 9, 2006 when contributions to politicians were required to be disclosed within one day. Rather than writing checks to the politician hosting the fundraiser, the donors instead pledge to contribute later, exploiting an FPPC loophole that exempts such pledges from disclosure.

"Allowing politicians to conceal donations from special interests while deciding the fate of more than 1,500 proposed laws is convenient for lobbyists and lawmakers alike," wrote Douglas Heller and Judy Dugan of the nonpartisan, nonprofit FTCR in a letter to the FPPC today. "But it leaves the public in the dark about one of the most despicable and corrupting traditions in Sacramento: fundraising while legislating."

The letter can be downloaded at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/FPPC083006.pdf.

The consumer group, which is supporting Proposition 89 on the November ballot to stop political corruption, asked the FPPC to rewrite its regulations to remove the exemption that creates the contribution pledge loophole. FTCR said that allowing the lobbyists and special interests to make undisclosed pledges to politicians adds a new layer of potential corruption in the Capitol.

"The lobbyist is dangling money in front of a lawmaker while withholding the contribution until after the key legislative decisions are made. At the same time, the public knows nothing of this pressure to vote a certain way. The pledge loophole makes the conflict inherent in fundraising while legislating even more pernicious," concluded FTCR.

FTCR has protested the extraordinary number of fundraisers occurring in the final weeks of August this year. At http://www.Channel89.org the group is presenting video reports from Sacramento about the fundraising blitz and the efforts by politicians and special interests to hide their fundraising activities from public scrutiny.

AT&T not happy with all legislators

AT&T Shuns Four in Assembly
What did Jackie Goldberg, Simon Salinas, Joe Nation and Jay LaSuer ever do to AT&T? Every other Assemblymember got a campaign contribution this legislative session from the phone giant that steamrolled through the Capitol this year with a bill to deregulate the cable tv/video services industry. But these four Assemblymembers got nothing. All told, AT&T donated to 76 of the 80 Assemblymembers who will vote on their bill by week’s end. Surprise, surprise the bill passed with a 77-0 vote when the Assembly first debated it earlier this year.

AT&T covered its bases on the Senate as well, passing out cash to every Senator except Torlakson, Scott, Kuehl and Escutia in 2005-2006. AT&T did make sure to keep Senator Escutia, chair of the Senate Utilities Committee, in the loop, spending $1200 to send her and her family to a Lakers game. The main, and possibly only, thing that these politicians seem to have in common is that they are all termed out and do not have political committees for AT&T to donate to (except for La Suer — boy did he miss a memo).

With at least 113 of 120 lawmakers getting cash or gifts from AT&T, and Governor Schwarzenegger sitting with more than a quarter million from AT&T (and its corporate partner SBC), there’s no chance Californians will get a real debate on the issue in these final days of the Legislature or when the Gov sits down for the bill signing ceremony. Add to the individual donations a couple of hundred grand from AT&T to the Democratic and Republican parties over the past two years and it’s easy to understand why this bill has not found a single opponent in either house.

Maybe, just to give the regular Californians who actually pay for cable a shot at a fair hearing, the 113 politicians with dirty money in their pockets should sit this vote out and let the other seven decide the fate of the bill. The only other option is to pass Prop 89 so that lawmakers could come to this decision with a clear mind and a clean pocket.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why California has worse flood protection than NOLA

With the Katrina anniversary, there has been lots of talk about what government needs to do to protect citizens from another disaster. The other day, California Assemblymember John Laird told the Capitol Weekly, "We have less flood protection than they had in New Orleans. Sacramento is really not protected and the thousands of people who live here are at risk." But this wasn't a story about the anniversary, this was a report on how flood protection in California died a suspicious death in the legislature:

This week, just as Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata put on hold an eight-bill package of flood-protection legislation, one of his political committees received a $500,000 donation from the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), one of the package's biggest opponents.

The donation is the single largest that a Perata committee has received since he became Senate leader in 2004.

In response, the California Majority Report noted, "As is the case with many policy areas that the legislature deals with, especially this time of year, eyebrows were raised about the timing of all of this." In addition being a policy disaster that risks lives, these scandals harm people's faith in government, decreasing participation in a vicious cycle that gives even more power to the special interests who run Sacramento.

In May, the Public Policy Institute of California polled on the issue (May 14-21, 2000 adult residents, +/- 2% MOE):

Do you think that campaign contributions are currently having a good effect or a bad effect on the public policy decisions made by state elected officials in Sacramento, or are campaign contributions making no difference?"

Good Effect12%
Bad Effect56%

The big money that controls Sacramento is so excessive, that it is easy to see why the polls show people realize how it is harming policy. If you check out yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, you'll see an editorial blasting the "nasty moves" that special interests used to kill flood control. It is easy to see why people who pay attention are disgusted by the way Sacramento operates like an auction.

Special Interests Killing Universal Health Care Legislation

Yesterday, the California Assembly passed historic Universal Health Care legislation. This bill would save $8 billion a year and at the same time provide insurance for 6 million Californians. Sounds too good to be true? Well here comes the but...

Insurers have spent $3.7 million in campaign contributions in California since 2005. Governor Schwarzenegger, who alone has received $765,000 from health insurers, has said he will veto the bill.

The big money has a proven ability to stop sound policy, and so California will waste $8 billion a year so that 6 million less people will have health insurance.

Special Interests New Deregulation

Public safety and health care aren't the only areas where big money dominates in Sacramento. While lawmakers are holding dozens of fundraisers as they wrap up the legislative session, AT&T lobbyists are hitting the jackpot:

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave AT&T and smaller Verizon permission to raise telephone rates at will, even as a telecommunications deregulation bill -- a bonanza for AT&T and a bane to consumers -- sped toward passage in the state Senate, jammed with last-minute amendments. [...]

AT&T, while publicly billing the deregulation as beneficial competition in the video market, has not promised any rate reductions or other specific consumer benefits. It has poured nearly $18 million into lobbying efforts over the last few months, and $500,000 into direct political contributions during this election cycle, noted FTCR. That does not include contribution pledges made during legislators' mad dash of fund-raising during the last three weeks of the legislative session, which ends next Thursday. These contributions will not be known until after the hundreds of measures still coming to a vote are passed or killed.

Yes, it sounds exactly like what went on during electrical deregulation, but as with flood protection, government can't learn from past mistakes when special interests are running the show.

Solution: Proposition 89

Proposition 89 is the Clean Money and Fair Elections initiative that California will vote on this November. Put on the ballot by the California Nurses Association of anti-Arnold fame, the proposal addresses that systematic problems that are holding back good policy on a wide array of issues. Here are the details of Proposition 89.

Strict contribution and expenditure limits
Prop. 89 ends the fundraising madness with constitutional limits so regular voters aren't drowned out by big money.
* Proposition 89 bans contributions from lobbyists and state contractors
* Proposition 89 limits contributions from corporations, unions, and individuals to state candidates
* Proposition 89 limits corporation donations to initiatives to $10,000

Clean Money public financing of political campaigns
Prop. 89 levels the playing field so new candidates can win on their ideas, not
because of the money they raise.
* With Proposition 89, candidates who agree to spending limits and to take no private contributions qualify for public funding
* Under Proposition 89, $5 contributions from voters required to prove viability
* With Proposition 89, lean candidates receive enough to run competitive campaigns. They can't raise money beyond public funds

Tough disclosure and enforcement for politicians
Prop. 89 stops candidates from hiding behind negative ads and punishes politicians who violate the law.
* Proposition 89 makes wealthy self-funded candidates disclose the amount of personal funds they will spend
* Under Proposition 89, publicly financed candidates must engage in debates
* Proposition 89 imposes mandatory jail time and provides for removal from office of candidates who break the law.

The Challenge

Of course, the special interests who dominate Sacramento are spending at least as much money to stop Proposition 89 as they spend for each issue where they want to dominate the debate. While we won't have as much money as the opposition, what we do have is a great initiative, a reality-based argument, lots of supporters, and trusted organizations like the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, California Nurses, the Consumer Federation of California and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights all aggressively and creatively working to pass the initiative.

We would also like to have your support. We have started a campaign blog to keep supporters up-to-date and would appreciate it if supporters would sign up for email updates. Thanks for reading all the way down.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Insurance Industry Big Money Fighting Proposition 89

Insurance Industry Accounts for 59% of Anti-89 Money;
$400,000+ From Insurers That Have Mastered Pay-to-Play in Capitol; Prop 89 Will Stop Political Corruption, End Special Interest Dominance
Santa Monica, CA -- California's multi-billion dollar insurance industry, among the most prolific political donors in the state, has become the lead financier of the campaign against Proposition 89, the campaign reform initiative that will stop political corruption. $415,000 of the $700,000 donated to the No on 89 PAC to date comes directly from the insurance industry, including:

* $200,000 from California's 3rd largest auto insurer, Mercury Insurance, and its CEO George Joseph;
* $100,000 from Zenith, the largest private workers compensation insurer in California; and
* $50,000 from Farmers, the state's 2nd largest auto and homeowners insurance company.
* Other insurance contributors against Prop 89 include IBA (Insurance Brokers and Agents) West, The Doctors Company and Fireman's Fund.

Driving insurers' donations, according to consumer advocates, is fear of another Proposition 103-style revolt against the status quo. In 1988 voters enacted Prop 103, placing strong limits on insurance company profiteering with Prop 103. This month Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi put an end to the 17 year battle over the last unenforced provision of Prop 103 when he required auto insurers to rewrite their pricing system to base premiums on a motorists' record rather than their ZIP code. As companies begin to comply, they are announcing, as State Farm did last week, massive savings for customers.

"With Prop 103, insurers lost the right to gouge consumers; now they may the lose their ability to buy the Legislature, where insurers have long been able to stop further reform of their claims and pricing practices," said Harvey Rosenfield, the author of Proposition 103. "In 1988, Prop 103 gave the voters a chance to protect themselves when corrupt politicians refused to reform the insurance industry. Prop 89 stops the political corruption that currently blocks so many needed reforms from gaining traction in Sacramento."

"We pay enormous premiums for inadequate insurance protections, we have seven million people without health coverage, soaring chronic asthma rates as Californians breathe the nation's most polluted air, insufficient funding for our schools, and some of the highest gas and electric rates in the nation," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, which is leading the drive to pass Prop 89. "The present system works for the insurance companies and the other big donors, it just doesn't work for the rest of us."

Supporters of Prop 89 said insurers are leading this campaign because they fear what would happen if lawmakers were freed from the pay-to-play politics that dominates Sacramento today. According to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, millions of dollars of insurance company donations to politicians, particularly those in key committees, have driven a string of anti-consumer votes in the State Capitol in recent years.

Assembly Insurance Committee chairman Juan Vargas, for example, has received at least $315,000 in campaign contributions from insurance interests. In recent years, his committee has blocked desperately needed homeowner protections in the wake of Southern California wildfires and has passed legislation allowing auto insurance surcharges on low-income drivers. This year, the committee passed a measure, AB 2840, that would have blocked Insurance Commissioner Garamendi's landmark rules lowering rates for good drivers throughout the state.

"For years the insurance industry has held a death-grip on the State Legislature, using the Assembly Insurance Committee as its boneyard," said Douglas Heller, Executive Director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "Insurers know that their political donations buy them extraordinary power right at the key bottleneck for consumer protection bills. Prop 89 would relieve lawmakers of their dependence on industry cash and that scares insurance executives."

Insurers spent "$25 million on lobbyists, campaign contributions and perks"
An example of how the insurance industry benefits financially from its huge campaign contributions was vividly cited by the Los Angeles Times in a February 27, 2006 article.

Following disastrous Southern California wildfires, lawmakers proposed six bills that would have made it harder for insurers to cancel insurance or raise rates, reduced paperwork homeowners needed to collect claims, and required insurers to provide consumers with more information about policy choices.

These provisions, hotly challenged by the insurance industry, died in the Assembly Insurance Committee whose members, Democrats and Republicans alike, had received more than $1 million in insurance industry money just in 2003-2004. Overall, the Times reported, "insurers have spent $25 million on lobbyists, campaign contributions and perks for lawmakers" since 2003.

Schwarzenegger Received $105,000 From Insurers on Day of Veto
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is another major beneficiary of insurance industry largesse, and responded with vetoes and other policies rewarding them. Among his insurance donors, Zenith has contributed over $244,000 to Schwarzenegger, Mercury just over $200,000 (see Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is another major beneficiary of insurance industry largesse, and responded with vetoes and other policies rewarding them. Among his insurance donors, Zenith has contributed over $244,000 to Schwarzenegger, Mercury just over $200,000 (see www.arnoldwatch.org).

Insurers were rewarded on October 7, 2005, when Schwarzenegger vetoed SB399, a bill that would have required insurance companies, not Medi-Cal, to pay medical costs for uninsured drivers who are injured in an accident caused by an insured driver, saving taxpayers $225 million a year. On the same day that Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 399, the American Insurance Association gave Schwarzenegger $105,000.

Mercury Insurance Donated Widely, Won Passage of Illegal Premium Surcharge
In 2003, California lawmakers and Governor Gray Davis signed legislation allowing insurance companies to surcharge motorists who had been previously uninsured. Consumer advocates and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi opposed the proposal as an illegal amendment to voter approved Proposition 103 and arguing that it would raise premiums on many low income drivers. The sponsor of that law, authored by Senator Don Perata, was Mercury Insurance, which distributed more than $1 million to state lawmakers in the two years leading up to enactment of the bill. After signing the bill, Governor Gray Davis received $175,000 in contributions from Mercury. Read more at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/insurance/fs/?postId=1737. In 2005, a California Court of Appeal struck down the law as an illegal amendment to Proposition 103.

Mercury Insurance CEO Gave $500,000 to GOP After Dems Blocked Anti-Consumer Bill
Mercury's CEO George Joseph has long been a major donor in California politics, with his donations being made in close proximity to policy decisions by lawmakers. Soon after then Senate Pro-Tem Bill Lockyer blocked Mercury sponsored legislation to amend Proposition 103 in order to allow insurers to base auto premiums on a driver's ZIP code rather than their driving record, Joseph wrote a $500,000 check to the California Republican Party.

Prop 89 Would End Pay to Play Politics-As-Usual
Under Prop. 89, insurance companies, HMOs, and all other donors, including unions, individuals, and other businesses, would be limited to contributions of no more than $500 to Assembly or Senate candidates and $1,000 to candidates for statewide office. Donations to political parties for support of candidates and ballot measures are limited to $7,500 annually.

Prop. 89 also provides for public grants for candidates who reject private fundraising, bans contributions to candidates from lobbyists and government contractors, and sets tough penalties for violators, up to jail time and removal from office.

"Elections could be decided by what's in the best interest of voters and public policy, not what's good for the wealthiest donors," noted DeMoro.

Zenith, Mercury, and other corporate donors would also be restricted to contributing only $10,000 of customer money from their general treasuries to ballot measures. Corporate PACs could continue to contribute as much as they wish on initiative campaigns.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Proposition 89 Gaining Support

California's two major good government organizations, the League of Women Voters of California and California Common Cause, joined a growing coalition of community-based organizations by endorsing Proposition 89.

"The League and Common Cause have actively worked to support reasonable measures including contribution limits, limits on campaign spending, partial public financing of campaigns, and better disclosure of the financing of campaigns," said Jackie Jacobberger, President of the League of Women Voters of California. "But the real solution to the runaway spending that has made California's elections a competition of money, not ideas, is public funding -- the Clean Money approach."

Proposition 89 mandates strict contribution limits, creates public financing of political campaigns and forces tough disclosure and enforcement for politicians.

"We face a serious problem with voter apathy and disgust over elections where there are no new ideas or faces," noted Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause. "A Clean Money system levels the playing field for more qualified candidates with diverse points of view and backgrounds to run."

The "Clean Money" system of public financing of elections is similar to those already adopted in Maine and Arizona, where the system has lowered overall campaign spending, freed candidates from fundraising, increased turnout, and encouraged more qualified people to run including women and minorities.

"These states have proven that Clean Money elections are constitutional and they work," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "Californians are tired of pay-to-play politics and negative ad wars. Proposition 89 would go a long way toward giving citizens a louder voice and a more responsive government."

In addition, Proposition 89 has gained the support of the Consumer Federation of California.

"All too often, consumer protection legislation is defeated in Sacramento by politicians who are beholden to the big business interests that bankroll their electoral campaigns," CFC's Executive Director Richard Holober stated. "Proposition 89 would help reduce the influence of corporate campaign contributions on elected officials. It will help to decrease the use of the ballot initiative as a vehicle for big business to enact legislation, and help restore the initiative to its original purpose as an expression of the people's will."

Daily updates on the initiative campaign's progress can be found at the Proposition 89 Blog.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Four Leading Seniors Organizations Endorse Prop. 89

Adding their voices to the growing list of individuals and organizations calling for an end to pay-to-play politics, four of California's top senior advocate organizations formally endorsed Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act.

The California Alliance for Retired Americans, the Congress of California Seniors, the Gray Panthers of California, and the Senior Action Network have all recently endorsed the initiative designed to establish a voluntary "Clean Money" system for full public funding of election campaigns modeled upon successful programs already in place in Arizona and Maine and recently adopted by Connecticut. Proposition 89 additionally would tighten existing campaign finance limits and disclosure requirements.

"We are old enough to see how politics has changed as the influence of money has increased. Huge campaign contributions have become political bribery and sparked political corruption. We, the citizens, are not just losing our voice, we are losing our Democracy," declared Mary Magill of the Gray Panther's Sacramento chapter. "Proposition 89 offers us hope that we can clean up the corruption in Sacramento and make sure our government works for voters, not for donors."

Hank Lacayo, president of the Congress of California Seniors proclaimed, "As consumers who often live on fixed incomes, seniors battle special interests and big corporations every day to get fair laws to protect consumers. We support Proposition 89 because it will eliminate the corrosive affect of big special interest donations and help level the legislative playing field."

Susan Lerner, executive director of the California Clean Money Action Fund, one of the main organizations supporting the initiative added, "Seniors have had enough. Like the rest of Californians, they are tired of all the scandals involving money in politics. We look forward to working with these four strong groups to pass Prop. 89 to ensure we have fair elections and an accountable government."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Batman Fights for Clean Campaigning

Bat Signal Shines Light on Schwarzenegger Fundraiser, Alerts Public to Political Corruption
Batman made a cameo appearance last night for California’s political reform initiative, Proposition 89. While Arnold Schwarzenegger was inside raising funds from special interests in exchange for policies that benefit those vested interests at the expense of everyday Californians, Batman arrived outside—and projected his 40-foot high logo on the outside of the building where Schwarzenegger was having his event.

“When politicians like Schwarzenegger sell access to events, it's the people of California who pay the real price. Patients today can't afford healthcare, schools fail our students, and oil companies foul our environment. That's why we're here shining the 89 logo on this fundraiser--to let the people of California know there's hope for change in our broken political system.,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association, the proponents of Prop. 89.

During his time in office, Schwarzenegger has become a national symbol of the need for campaign finance reform. Despite promising to clean up Sacramento, he has broken all records for political fundraising, and in return has offered Big Oil, Big Drug, Big Insurance and other corporations unprecedented influence over government policy. Prop. 89 sets tough limits on contributions from corporations, unions and individuals and bans contributions to candidates by lobbyists and state contractors. It establishes public financing for candidates who reject private money, and contains tough penalties for candidates who break the law, including jail time and removal from office.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Proposition 89

1) Strict contribution and expenditure limits
Prop 89 ends the fundraising madness with constitutional limits so regular voters aren’t drowned out by big money.
* Bans contributions from lobbyists and state contractors
* Limits contributions from corporations, unions, and individuals to state candidates
* Limits corporation donations to initiatives to $10,000

2) Clean Money public financing of political campaigns

Prop 89 levels the playing field so new candidates can win on their ideas, not because of the money they raise.
* Candidates who agree to spending limits and to take no private contributions qualify for public funding
* $5 contributions from voters required to prove viability
* Clean candidates receive enough to run competitive campaigns. They can't raise money beyond public funds

3) Tough disclosure and enforcement for politicians
Prop 89 stops candidates from hiding behind negative ads and punishes politicians who violate the law.
* Makes wealthy self-funded candidates disclose the amount of personal funds they will spend
* Publicly financed candidates must engage in debates
* Imposes mandatory jail time and provides for removal from office of candidates who break the law.