We need clean money to clean up politics and our arteries

With the mad dash to end the legislative session in three weeks, the legislature is making no bones about the fact that the money players had better step up with campaign cash before then. No doubt about it—with a record number of political fundraising events scheduled this month, the message is clear: It’s time to pay up if you want any consideration for bills blasting through the legislative process and onto the Governor’s desk for signature or veto.
Of course, the number one culprit in all this is our Governor. He has taken political pay-to-play to a new and embarassing level. With hundreds of millions of dollars already spent by him or on his behalf by big corporate special interest and equal amounts yet to be sucked in by his well-honed and shameless vacuum-cleaner approach to policy-making, this Governor has given new meaning to the word “reform” which he has misapplied to virtually all of his self-dealing, ethics-devoid behavior while playing the role of Governor for the past three years.
But at this time of year, to see the legislature following so blatantly in Schwarzenegger’s footsteps is truly the rallying call for passage of Proposition 89- the Clean Money Initiative. As I write this entry, there are more than 20 fundraisers scheduled today—equal parts Republican and Democrat. The folks in Sacramento count about 75 of these “fundraisers” scheduled during August. These stand-up, finger-food and mediocre wine fests permeate the numerous eating establishments around the Capitol, (usually within walking distance of each other so lobbyists can run between several of them scheduled at the same time). In the second and final year of a legislative session, this type of open and unabashed pandering has become unconscionable, even by political standards. Is it any wonder the public doesn’t trust, like or care about Sacramento’s politicians? Whether campaign contributions do or do not actually influence the course of legislation, they create such a bleak perception about just what is and isn’t important ( special-interests yes, public interests, no) that the battle for public confidence is lost, regardless.

If we want to regain the belief and confidence that democracy is for the people, and not the highest bidder, then we must work to ensure the passage of Prop 89 in November. Since the status quo on both sides want to keep the money machine as the key factor in policy-making, rather than the interests of the people, unlimited resources will be spent to misrepresent just what Prop 89 will and won’t do. Watch out for buzzwords like,”tax-increase,” “the First Amendment” and “driving business from the state”.
These are the sound-bites the Bushies and Arnold’s folks have misapplied freely but effectively, to lead us right off the economic and environmental cliff both statewide and nationally. They are bogus phrases, dishonest and simply wrong. With their big corporate machines and unlimited financial resources, they will spend whatever it takes to misinform, mislead and downright lie about this critically important effort to bring integrity back into the political process.
What Prop 89 will do, is clean up the corporate scandals that so far have hooked in crooks from Abramoff to Duke Cunningham. Getting rid of these tactics will ensure that contributions by big business won’t kill important health care reforms that allow for greater access to quality care and reasonably priced prescription drugs, which is the reason why the Initiative is sponsored by the California Nurses Association.
Prop. 89 will create a more responsible and responsive government that develops and implements public policy based upon the public good, not the big corporate interests who operate solely on profit and greed- like the oil industry which has gotten away with increasing the price of gasoline and their profits to unconscionable levels.
Prop. 98 will focus on making everyone pay their fair share in taxes and take responsibility for their actions, and that includes multi-billion dollar companies that don’t pay state income taxes or have any legal obligations to reduce or clean up the environmental and social mess their policies and practices create.
If the just-released and very controversial report on price-gouging is even partially accurate, and the oil industry hasn’t broken any laws against price-fixing and collusion, the question becomes, what kinds of rinky-dink laws do we have that allows this kind of clear market manipulation to be legal in the first place? Why haven’t we cracked down on this behavior?
The answer, of course, lies in following the campaign money, whether it is money to bring or fight initiative campaigns or elect candidates like Governor Schwarzenegger who has yet to claim that a corporation or its dollars should be responsible for anything beyond its own corporate bottom-line. As long as money can buy votes and policy, or as long as that is the public perception , we are in danger of losing the democracy we claim is so important to the rest of the world that we’ve let our young men and women go half-way across the world and die in its name.
If we really care about democracy and the will of the people, the time to start moving back in that direction begins with the passage of Prop 89. Let’s stop the wholesale and unabashed dash for cash. If our politicians have become too blinded by its power, then the people need to step in with real reform and take the power back.
Simply put, we need to pass Proposition 89, the Clean Money Initiative to do that.
Our elected officials should be spending these final weeks of session on policy and the public good. Cocktails and canapes can wait. There is far too much at stake and besides, there are just so many ways to make shrimp rolls and chicken fingers. But so long as money continues to be the “mother’s milk of politics”, they’ll serve up those artery-clogging delights. Let’s lower the financial cholesterol of our politicians and put them on a lean and policy-driven diet. Let’s start by rallying around Prop. 89—all our health will be better for it.