Wednesday, August 16, 2006

'Dash for Cash' Contest

With things so disgusting in Sacramento, it is good to know that citizens are getting creative, keeping a sense of humor, and working to expose the true nature of why California's political system is broken:

As politicians host a "Dash for Cash" with a record number of political fundraisers in the final weeks of the legislative session, a consumer group announced that it will award a pair of Sacramento Kings tickets to the average citizen who gets into the most fundraisers without paying.

With 22 fundraising events scheduled for Wednesday - during the height of the legislature's policy debate and while 1,700 bills are still under consideration - the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is highlighting the pay-to-play politics that still dominate Sacramento three years after the historic recall election in which voters called for an end to politics as usual.

The group chose Kings tickets as the prize because high-priced tickets to sporting events are often given to lawmakers by lobbyists in hopes of influencing their decision making on public issues.

Contestants will be filmed, reality TV-style, as they try to sweet-talk or guilt their way into as many political fundraisers as possible Wednesday and over the final two weeks of legislative activity to win the "Crashing the Dash for Cash" contest held by the nonprofit, nonpartisan FTCR. The group supports the November campaign reform measure Proposition 89, which will clamp down on out-of-control fundraising and lobbyist influence and create a voluntary public financing program to end dirty money in California politics.

"While big oil and drug company lobbyists are wining and dining politicians, average Californians cannot afford high gas prices or their medications - let alone attend these events to get equal time in front of lawmakers," said Douglas Heller, executive director of the foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "Only by passing Prop 89 this November can Californians remove the corrupting influence of cash register politics that pits the public interest against political greed."

The Channel89.org film crew will follow contestants and post video of these and other fundraising events online. Channel 89, available to the public 24 hours a day beginning today, will put a face on big money politics by exposing the well-heeled lobbyists as they attend political fundraisers.

"Channel89.org will give the public a lobbyist-eye view of the mad dash for political cash and how big money buys special access," said Heller.

The "Crashing the Dash for Cash" contest will continue until the evening of Aug. 31, the last day of the 2006 legislative session. Anyone interested in participating should go to http://www.Channel89.org for a list of upcoming fundraisers. Those interested in playing should bring a digital camera to fundraisers with them to prove they got into the event. Double points will be awarded to those players who have their picture taken with the legislator or candidate that is raising the money. Questions, and photographs with contestants' name and phone numbers, should be sent to: Prop89CashDash@consumerwatchdog.org

A summary of Proposition 89's main provisions:

-- Public funding for candidates who agree not to take private money for their campaigns. To qualify for the funds, candidates must collect a set number of $5 contributions.

-- Participating candidates may receive additional matching funds of up to five times the original amount of funding to compete equally with independent expenditures, or expenditures by wealthy and other privately funded opponents.

-- Contribution limits that apply across the board to corporations, unions, and individuals: no more than $500 per election cycle to individual legislative candidates, $1,000 for statewide offices, $1,000 to so-called independent expenditure committees, $7,500 to political parties and aggregate total limits of $15,000 per year per donor to all candidates and committees that seek to influence the election of candidates.

-- A ban on contributions to candidates by lobbyists and state contractors.

-- Corporate treasury donations capped at $10,000 per ballot measure. Additional contributions from both unions and corporations on initiatives must be made through political action committees.

-- Funding generated by a 0.2 percent increase in the corporation tax rate from 8.84 percent to 9.04 percent - a figure lower than it was from 1980 to 1996.

-- Extensive public disclosure requirements and strong enforcement provisions, including removing those who cheat the system from office.

More info here.