Elections Should Be Won, Not Bought

Yes on Proposition 15: The California Fair Elections Act

By Anai Ibarra
Published on LatinoLA: June 7, 2010

Elections Should Be Won, Not Bought

The outrageous amounts of money in politics and the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns is the 21st century's version of the poll tax.

Since 2000, over $1 billion dollars has been raised by California politicians. All this fundraising buys access for the special interests, but shuts out the rest of us. That's why California's government is broken. Prop 15 is the first step to get politicians out of the fundraising game so they will focus on state priorities ÔÇô like immigration reform, education, jobs, and healthcare. Fair Elections systems allow officials to more directly focus community needs not corporations or special interests.

Proposition 15 changes the way we finance election campaigns, starting with a voluntary pilot project to provide limited public financing for Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018. The Secretary of State referees our elections, so it's especially important that s/he has the best ideas and experience, not the most money. Prop 15 makes it possible for anyone who can show broad public support to run for office. If you can gather signatures and $5 contributions from 7,500 registered voters, then you can qualify for funding.

"Under a fair elections system, candidates from any background who show a broad base of support can run for office," said Assemblymember Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate). "Running for office takes dreams, hard work and money. Sadly, financial barriers have kept many people of color and people from disadvantaged communities from serving in elected office. Passing Proposition 15 would open the political process to candidates of all backgrounds."

Prop 15 gives small donors as much power as large donors, because each individual can only give $5 to help their chosen candidate qualify. Additionally, it allows the voters in a community to choose their leaders without a veto or approval from wealthier communities, where campaign money traditionally has been raised.

"Running for office has become prohibitively expensive over the last fifteen years," says Maria Teresa Kumar, Executive Director of Voto Latino. "Initiatives such as Prop 15 are an important step towards making public office more accessible to the average citizen, and making the California legislature more demographically and socio-economically representative of the state itself."

Fair elections work. In eight states and two cities, nearly 400 candidates--new people, with new ideas, of varied backgrounds--have been elected under fair elections systems. In Arizona and Maine, it has resulted in more people of color to run for office.

Prop 15 pays for itself, primarily through a reasonable $350 per year registration fees on lobbyists and their employers that is similar to what lobbyist pay in other states. No taxpayer dollars are used for Prop 15, despite its oppositions' misleading claims to the contrary. Currently lobbyists only pay $12.50 per year in California, one of the lowest rates in the country and less than a fishing license for a day.

The other main component of Prop 15 is that it removes the current ban on public financed campaigns. If the program is successful, the pilot project could be expanded to other offices in California.

Fair Elections programs enjoy popular support across party lines. National surveys show that two out of three voters support public financing, including 71% among Latinos, 69% among Democrats, 64% among Independents, and 64% among Republicans.

California's Prop 15 is endorsed by the League of Women Voters of California, the California Nurses Association, the California Labor Federation, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Golden State Jobs Coalition, California Common Cause, AARP, California Church Impact, Consumer Federation of California, Sierra Club, the William C. Vel?ízquez Institute, Delores Huerta, and over 400 other leaders and organizations.

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