WineCamp wrap

A quick break from directly campaign related news…
Jen and I went to a campout event, WineCamp Calaveras, this past weekend. This was a lightly structured “unconference” that you can read more about here, but the basic gist is that you get a group of people together for a weekend, feed them, and let them make up their own agenda for what they want to talk about. In this case, an enormous quantity of really spectacular wine was involved, too. There are tons of pictures tagged on flickr. Click for more…

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Corporate Donors Continue Attacking Progressive Candidates while hiding behind front groups

While most Californians spent this past Memorial Day weekend with family and reflecting on those who have given their lives in the service of our country, our biggest polluters and profiteers were at it again….dumping enormous amounts of money into campaigns to defeat more progressive candidates in several key state senate districts.
We’ve previously exposed these huge corporate players from behind such Orwellian titles as “Californians for Civil Justice Reform”—which is funded primarily by oil, tobacco, development, pharmaceuticals and financial interests, “Californians for Progress and Education” comprised primarily of real estate and development money, in addition to insurance and medical industries, and “Californians for Jobs and a Prosperous Economy” (the anti-consumer people plus the Association of Motor Car Dealers)–to name some of the larger groups injecting Democratic races with money from big oil, tobacco and other disfavored industries.
In deciding who represent progressive values and will fight for them in public office, we’ve provided you with the latest updates on who is spending big money, and where it’s going:

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Big money rolling in to hot races

We’ve been watching the enormous amount of money being spent by big tobacco, oil and pharmaceutical companies, who have been pulling out all the stops to influence the outcome of the heavily contested California State Senate campaigns we’re highlighting on our Speak Out California’s Primary Voter Guide.
We’ve been talking about the need to get corporate money out of the campaign process to ensure that our elected officials are beholden to the people and not corporate special interests. As proud progressives, we expect our system of government to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” But in modern-day election battles, in order to make that happen, it’s extremely important to keep following the money – who is supporting which candidate and with what money?
The Sacramento Bee over the last few days has done its best to expose who these groups really are. Their coverage is excellent and worth reading.

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Independent Expenditures: How corporations hide the ball

We’ve been talking regularly about the ever-expanding role of money in politics and elections specifically. There is no question that the system needs reform so that legislators and political leaders get back to the job of governing on behalf of the people, not the big corporations who have bought out Washington D.C. (ala Jack Abramoff, et. al.) and have been insinuating themselves into the California process as well.
These big business groups have no interest in protecting the public; their only interest is in expanding their profits. They are even so bold as to say so. So why do we tolerate this kind of greedy exploitation of our people and our planet?

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The Launch of our 2006 Primary Voter Guide

We’re very pleased to provide you, the voters of California, with important information for Election Day, June 6, 2006. As that date is fast approaching, you will be voting to help decide the direction our state will take. Our Speak Out California Voter Guide for the 2006 Primary Elections is here…
http://speakoutca.org/now/2006primary.php
The guide is designed to provide you with easy access to the best progressive input available for each candidate for statewide (Constitutional) offices and a select number of the hotly-contested State Senate district races which we are highlighting because they pit acknowledged or avowed big corporate-backed Democrats against more progressive Democrats.

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Temporary Setback for AB 2097

AB 2097 was put on Suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill will have a second hearing on Wednesday May 24th where its fate will be determined by the Chair of the committee, Assemblymember Judy Chu. Send a letter to the Appropriations Committee now!
This crucial piece of legislation will require that all technical details, including the computer source code (written by software programmers) of computerized vote tabulating systems by publicly disclosed by June 30, 2007. Read more about AB 2097.

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Tax debate: Angelides response

Angelides’ campaign spokesperson Dan Newman provided us with this response to the previous post…

Westly’s ads are false. The truth is: 99% of Californians would not see any change in their taxes under the Angelides plan. Angelides will roll back a portion of George Bush’s tax cuts for millionaires and close unjust corporate tax loopholes in order to fully fund schools and balance the budget. Steve Westly supports Schwarzenegger’s tuition and fee increases, and supports the Republican tax breaks for multinational corporations like Exxon Mobil. The bottom line: Steve Westly supports taxing the middle class, but is willing to let his fellow gazillionaires off the hook.

Mr Westly’s campaign has been contacted, we’ll run their response if they choose to provide one. Hope this is helpful! Also we’re putting the finishing touches on the voter guide, it should be up later today.

Foundations II: substantial freedom

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man.”
   -Thomas Jefferson

One of the most destructive legacies of the conservative movement is the diminishing they have inflicted on the concept of freedom. This seems counterintuitive, perhaps, but all the relentless yammering that emanates from conservatives about freedom is perhaps a signal of their weakness on this issue, one of fundamental and historical importance to the American project.
Since the beginning of the conservative movement, the conservative conception of freedom has been intimately and intrinsically tied up with property rights, almost to the point of excluding anything else. This goes back all the way to Russell Kirk: “…conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked” is one of his ten principles, and the only mention of freedom throughout his ten conservatives principles.
One of the obvious attributes of the idea of freedom that this misses is its incredible breadth. True freedom goes far, far beyond just the connection to property, or stuff. The connection between stuff and true freedom is even tenuous since we don’t just own our stuff, our stuff owns us as well. Who is more free: the apostle who owns nothing and lives in an intentional community, or the typical American, surrounded by the amazing output of our consumer economy, but saddled with levels of debt not seen since feudal Europe?
There may be no answer to this question, but conservative thought would have us believe the answer is definitely the latter…

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The tax debate

Steve Westly’s recent television ads have accused Phil Angelides of proposing tax increases on working families. As progressives, we care deeply about this issue. Doing something about the middle class squeeze happening in this state is a top priority, but given that taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society, not some kind of punishment. So Westly’s “taxes are a last resort” message seems like too broad of a brush. The real question: “who pays?”
According to the CBPP, unbelievably, California still has a regressive tax system. Despite a mildly progressive income tax, lower and middle class families pay a larger percentage of their budget than the rich. 70% of Californians support fixing this. A progressive tax system would have a host of benefits: it would result in less money going towards housing and stock bubbles and would give us less public squalor while preserving plenty of private affluence. And it’s the right thing to do: the idea of tax levels being set according to ability to pay goes back to the founding of our country.
So let’s try an experiment. The Angelides campaign has chosen not to respond to this misleading ad on their website, so we thought we’d give them a chance to do so here. In the interest of fairness we’ll let the Westly camp respond to that, and then give Angelides a rebuttal if they want it. We’ll run these posts over the next few days and see how it goes.

Our kids, our legislature and the liquor lobby

If you aren’t angry or frustrated enough with the blatant role money plays in influencing the legislative process in Washington, D.C., you’ll find plenty to be unhappy about in the way the liquor industry is trying to kill a bill right here in California that will help protect our kids from being enticed into drinking alcohol disguised as innocent beverages.
This is the saga of ALCOPOP, a drink that mimics lemonade, soda pop and popular fruity energy drinks.The hitch is that ALCOPOPS are laced with distilled spirits. They are specifically designed to lure underage drinkers into developing a drinking habit. They sport monikers like “Mike’s Hard Lemonade”, Smirnoff Ice”, “Jack Daniels Original Hard Cola”, and “Bacardi Silver”.

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