United Teachers Los Angeles Endorses Proposition 15

No to elections bought by special interests; Yes to elections by voters

By Anai Ibarra
Published on LatinoLA: May 25, 2010

United Teachers Los Angeles Endorses Proposition 15

Since 2000, over $1 billion has been raised by California politicians, buying special interests unprecedented access but shutting out the rest of us. That's why polls show nearly three out of four voters want to change the way elections in California are financed.

"Getting our electeds out of the fundraising game will let them focus on California's priorities, like schools and health care for our children," said A.J. Duffy, President of United Teachers Los Angeles. "That's why the UTLA decided to support Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act."

Our state and city budgets are broken because corporate and wealthy campaign donors receive tax breaks and giveaways. Meanwhile budget cuts that lead to slashed school spending have ranked California as number 45 in per pupil spending in the nation. A recent Public Policy Institute poll showed that 82 percent of Californians oppose reductions in K-12 schools to fix the budget deficit. When elected officials focus on voters priorities, schools will win, like they do in Maine. The fairly-elected Maine legislature made education a priority, increasing school spending enough to make Maine climb to 4th in the country in adjusted per-pupil expenditures.

"We can all agree that the influence of special interest money means ordinary Americans don't have a voice in the debate," said Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland). "By passing Proposition 15, we can begin to break the connection between political donations and public policy."

Authored by Senator Hancock and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, the California Fair Elections Act would establish a voluntary pilot project for California's Secretary of State races in 2014 and 2018. Candidates would qualify for public financing if they agree to strict spending prohibitions and raise a large number of $5 contributions from Californians. The pilot program would be funded primarily by fees on lobbyists, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers, with no taxpayer dollars going to candidates.

Prop 15 also removes the current ban on public financing of campaigns that stops counties and general law cities from being able to explore public financing of campaigns. Prop 15 would therefore allow any city or county to choose public financing without the state of California telling them what they can or cannot do. Prop 15 would also allow the pilot project to be expanded to other state offices if it's successful.

A version of the California Fair Elections Act is already in place in eight states and two cities. Nearly 400 candidates were elected using only fair elections funding in their 2008 campaigns, and the programs enjoy popular support across party lines. National surveys show that two out of three voters support public financing.

When financial barriers are eliminated, as they have been in Arizona and Maine, more women and people of color are allowed to run for office. In Arizona, Former Governor Janet Napolitano was elected under the fair elections system and the number of Latino and Native American candidates running for office nearly tripled in the first year that the system went fully into effect, from 13 in 2000 to 37 in 2002.

Voters are ready for elections that money can't buy. In an October 2009 survey, likely June 2010 voters supported the California Fair Elections Act by a nearly 3-1 margin. Support held strong across all political parties and geographic regions of California with support of 65% among Latinos, 65% among Democrats, 65% among independents, and 59% among Republicans.

"Under a fair elections system, elected officials truly represent voters, not campaign donors," said Trent Lange, chairman of the California Fair Elections Campaign. "Public financing has freed elected officials across the country to pass bi-partisan, groundbreaking legislation that is only possible when our leaders do not fear retribution from powerful special interests."

The United Teachers of Los Angeles join the California Labor Federation, the California Nurses Association, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Golden State Jobs Coalition, League of Women Voters of California, AARP, California Clean Money Campaign, California Common Cause, California Primary Care Association, Consumer Federation of California, the Sierra Club and hundreds of other groups and prominent individuals in endorsing Proposition 15.

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