Thursday, August 17, 2006

Props to FTCR for Prop 89 Creativity

California voters who want to clean up the mess in Sacramento are facing an uphill task in passing Proposition 89 - the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act. The big money, special interests who dominate the current system are planning a massive campaign against Prop. 89 and it is going to take creativity and a lot of hard work to pass Prop 89.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights deserves serious credit this week for highlighting the obscene financial shakedown of lobbyist contributions that occurs in Sacramento when lawmakers are finalizing bills.

On Tuesday, FTCR President Jamie Court had a powerful Op-Ed column in the LA Times on the August fundraising 'orgy':

Today is the height of the dollar derby, with at least 20 fundraisers scheduled. It almost makes you feel sorry for the special-interest groups. "For the month of August, we don't see our family," a lobbyist told the Capitol Weekly. "Under the current system, they have to ask, and we have to contribute."

Despite politicians' protestations that campaign contributions do not influence them, big money makes a big difference in the legislative frenzy. Is it any coincidence that big-money lobbies win and consumers lose? [...]

This could be the last August for the cash dash. Proposition 89 on the November ballot would establish public financing of campaigns, paid for with a tiny increase -- 0.2% -- in the corporate profits tax. So candidates who kick the fundraising habit would not have to prostitute themselves for private financing. Few politicians would opt out of accepting public money if their publicly funded opponents could match them dollar for dollar.

The same special interests and lobbyists nibbling, sipping and twisting arms this week will be putting up big money to stop Proposition 89. Their ads will rev up fake outrage that any tax would pay for politicians' campaigns. What they won't mention is how the price of our gasoline, healthcare, housing and telephone bills is a lot higher when lobbyists do the paying.
But FTCR didn't stop with there. Yesterday, they sponsored a Dash for Cash contest, brought their camcorders, and uploaded the video on Youtube.

The Ventura County Star reported:
All across town, it's Christmas in August for Sacramento restaurants, hotels, social clubs and caterers. The end of the legislative session is approaching, and lawmakers are literally working overtime to raise campaign money — at breakfast before work, during their lunch break, or over dinner after the day's final committee meeting has been gaveled to a close.

Wednesday may have set an unofficial record: 22 fundraisers in a single day. One lobbyist, checking his appointment book, advised that the record could fall next week.
Who was documenting everything?
To call attention to all the money-changing, Heller's group staged a guerilla-style protest Wednesday, dispatching unwelcome guests to each of the 22 events. It was a bipartisan day for passing the hat: 13 Democrats and 9 Republicans held events.

Volunteers sought free admission, and the one who successfully crashed the most events would win dinner and pair of tickets to a Sacramento Kings basketball game. Double points were awarded if a volunteer could get the elected official to pose for a picture.

In addition, camera crews for the group's online video site,, filmed and attempted to interview lobbyists as they came and went.

The foundation is promoting Proposition 89 on the Nov. 7 ballot, an initiative sponsored by the California Nurses Association that would create a system of voluntary public financing for campaigns for state offices. Under its terms, candidates who agreed to foreswear private contributions could qualify for public financing of their campaigns by first raising a threshold number of $5 contributions to prove their earnestness.
Proposition 89 will clean up the system:
Proponents argue that candidates and elected officials, if freed from the constant demands of fundraising, would be able to devote their time to meeting with constituents and taking care of public business.

"If Proposition 89 passes, we won't have the Dash for Cash in August," Heller said. "Instead, we'll have a race for the best ideas."
You can see the video at