Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham resigned his office and plead guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for influencing defense contract legislation; money-raising scandals involve San Diego Councilmembers Ralph Inzunza and Michael Zucchet; Jack Abramoff admits to conspiracy to bribe public officials; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his opponents spend over $270 million in last year’s special election; special interest money permeates our entire political system -- and the people who elect us have noticed!
A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that voters have lost faith in their elected officials. Sixty four percent of California’s likely voters believe that campaign contributions have had a negative effect on public policy decisions made in Sacramento - another 78% say that “the state government is run by a few big interests rather than the benefit of all the people.”
There is a better way.
In Arizona, those same feelings led to a voter revolt. In 1998, Arizona adopted a “Clean Money” system that allows candidates to run for office without taking a single dime of special interest money. Today, Clean Money is used equally by both Democratic and Republican candidates and has the support of reformers ranging from Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to Republican US Senator John McCain. In a public service announcement Senator McCain declared, “Clean Elections works well to overcome the influence of special interests. It gives Arizonans the power to create good government.”
California now has a historic opportunity to enact a similar reform. Assembly Bill 583, approved by the State Assembly this week, will allow California’s candidates the option of “running Clean.” Freed from endless fundraising, candidates would be able to spend their time talking to voters and focusing on the needs and concerns of the people in their district rather than the contributors to their campaign.
The Clean Money system in Arizona has withstood nine court challenges – it has been upheld to be constitutional. The Clean Money system does not prevent millionaire candidates from running or forbid independent expenditures. Instead, the Clean Money system provides a dollar-for-dollar match to a Clean Money candidate faced with an independent expenditure campaign against them or a millionaire candidate who spends their own money. Matching funds provide a substantial disincentive for independent expenditures to be used at all, or for millionaire candidates to be recruited by the established political parties.
Clean Money opens the door for more politically diverse candidates to run for office. Since Arizona voters adopted Clean Money, the number of candidates in all races has gone up. Many of them say they would never run if Clean Money were not a choice for them. They want to work for the people… not spend their time dialing for dollars.
The success of Arizona’s Clean Money system and its continued support by the citizens of Arizona and both Democrat and Republican candidates speak to what is possible for restoring trust in government at the state level. In California civic organizations such as Common Cause and the League of Woman Voters have joined together to support AB 583 and to enact the Clean Money system to California.
We know the system works because it has already worked for eight years in Arizona. We know the need is great because we see the evidence of corruption and the loss of faith in our democracy.
Ultimately, this is about building the infrastructure of democracy. California needs a Clean Money system to restore the people’s faith in government.
To find out more about Clean Money or AB 583, visit CaClean.org or call 916-319-2014.