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.