Thursday, January 06, 2005

A statement on public financing of elections

“If you want the special interests out of government…you have to take the special interests out of the government…” – Assemblywoman Loni Hancock

Today, I want to more formally share with you my plans for improving the system of elections in California.

This year, I will introduce the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act to create a system of public financing of elections similar to systems in place in Maine and Arizona. The idea is simple. This legislation allows any candidate who raises a substantial number of small contributions from the people residing in their district and agrees to not accept additional money from any special interest, to receive full public financing of their campaigns.

Over the last two decades we have seen the escalating influence of money and special interests in campaigns shift the focus from spending time with the voters to spending to time at fundraising events. At the same time, with the astronomical rise of money and the influence of special interests in campaigns, we have seen public opinion of government and confidence in elected officials plummet. We have also seen voter anger and distrust fueled by a perception that "everything in Sacramento is for sale".

My legislation provides the most comprehensive and common sense solution to the influence of money and special interests in politics. Simply put, public financing of elections provides for a better democracy, by stripping out the factors that weigh it down.

The publicly financed systems in Maine and Arizona have seen bi-partisan support and have been overwhelming favored by the people of those states. Evaluations of these Clean Money public financing systems have proven that voter turnout has increased, less money is spent in campaigns and, most importantly, public trust and faith in government has flourished.

We have to have serious discussion about the influence of money and special interests in our election process. At a time when we are making budget decisions that will shape the future of every human being in our state, we cannot afford the distortion and pressures of constant political fundraising.

The idea is simple. The bill is simple. Ultimately, if we truly want a government by and for the people, our campaigns have to be paid by the people.

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