Wither campaign finance reform in California?

Burning question: Is campaign finance dead in CA, or should we revisit that issue? Why do you think that Prop 89 was defeated by such a wide margin? Was it simply because our side of the Great Divide was vastly outspent? Because of the way it was drafted? Because of the low turnout and lack of competitive races to get people excited about the election? Or….?

Buying Democracy

With the final results and races just being called, given the huge absentee ballots cast on or near election day, the jury is still out on the actual data and just what can be accurately gleaned from it. Voter turnout wasn’t as bad as initially thought but just who voted and did what is still up for speculation.
Of course, there are some things we do know: Arnold kicked Phil mightily (that’s what you can do with hundreds of millions of big donor bucks, your opponent too involved in the minutae of his campaign, and the press just loving you to death…), Bush got a real “wuppin” (but you wouldn’t know it by his ignoring the clear message from the people and his arrogant attempt to continue his now well-debunked failed right-wing revolution) and NONE of the state’s legislative seats have changed parties (official as of yesterday— almost two WEEKS after the election!)
So what does this all mean? The pundits have been having a field day—today’s spin keys on Schwarzenegger getting 39 % of the Latino vote, for example; but McClintock got only 23% (which, given his harsh and almost racist discussion of immigration is 23% more than one would have expected). What to make of this?
Are Latinos turning Republican or did they, like the rest of California’s voters fall to the hype and warm and fuzzy remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger by his brilliant and well-financed Bush campaign team?
Millions were spent on various state legislative races, none of which resulted in an upset (defined as the district changing party affiliation) Well……..that’s actually a stunning fact given that around the country voters booted out a number of Republican incumbents or candidates in otherwise “safe” republican districts—including one here in California with Richard Pombo, no friend of fish or fowl, getting a well-deserved boot. Redistricting seems to be the lynchpin on this one. But no changes here in California—no additional Democrats in the legislature. All the seats securely designated to belong to one party or the other. Any bets we see a redistricting measure that will make the state legislature more competitive in the future?

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Who will buy the LA Times?

California’s largest newspaper, the LA Times, is up for grabs. Progressives have a huge stake in the goings-on at the Times, where the the current owner, the conservative Chicago-based Tribune empire, plans severe cuts among some of the nation’s premier political and public policy reporters. The Tribune has already axed courageous and highly respected editor Dean Baquet, who refused to be a party to the bloodbath. Not coincidentally, they did the dastardly deed while the election story dominated the news, or it would have been Page One statewide. As it is, the story is still making headlines nationally.
Several billionaires are bidding for the LA Times, among them Eli Broad and Ron Burkle (who may be ticked at the Times because they exposed his agenda of getting a special bill passed to keep certain public court filings secret–at a time when he was involved in a messy divorce where his assets were a major issue. Such a measure was widely perceived as disadvantaging women.) Of course, one has to suspect their motives may be less about preserving journalistic integrity than meddling with the news to impose their slant.
Question: Is it productive to cancel your subscription to the LA Times in protest? Or does that simply play into their hands by making it less expensive and easier to acquire? What should progressives do?

Paying the people who teach: The Impasse at CSU

We have been subjected to many horror stories of how administrators keep getting salary increases and bonuses while our teachers and professors incomes languish from policies that keep rewarding the big paycheck and ignoring the key work in the classroom.
Speak Out California Board Member, Stan Oden, Ph.D. is a professor at California State University, Sacramento who has been following this situation closely. As a member of the California Faculty Association, he has been fighting to get the attention of the CSU Board of Trustees to correct the inequities that havekept qualified professionals from being respected and paid what they are worth while paychecks get fatter and fatter for so-called “top-level administrators”.
A large and vocal rally was held in Long Beach on Wednesday, November 15, 2006 to protest this inequitable situation and to mobilize CFA’s faculty to “Stop the Rip-offs against Faculty, Staff and Students:” Dr. Oden has submitted the following blog for our readers:

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Did the Fraudsters Take a Substantial Vacation?

Many of us have been concerned with the ability of our revamped voting machines and requirements under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to accurately and honestly count the votes of Americans casting their ballots in all types of elections across the country. Although the results of the past election have assuaged the concerns of many, there are still serious outstanding issues about the integrity of our voting system.
Fortunately here in California we elected Debra Bowen as our Secretary of State. She is committed to correcting these problems but her jurisdiction does not extend beyond our great state. More must be done to insure that our national elections are protected from the kinds of fraud and abuse that are abundantly possible unless we act now.
Katy Dopp of National Election Data Archive has written this blog which we are posting for your information—and consideration as we see an imminent need to correct the flaws that have put the integrity of our elections at serious risk:
“We have one year to pass legislation to fix our voting systems in time to prevent vote tampering and fraud prior to the November 2008 election.
The National Election Data Archive is a 501(c)(3) so we cannot do lobbying, so it is up to other groups to implement legislative measures that are based on the new methods we derived for ensuring election outcome integrity.
At least for high profile US Congressional races, election fraudsters may have taken a short substantial vacation due to all the heat provided by recent mainstream media coverage of voting system security flaws and the plethora of election activists in numerous states who (unbeknownest to most Americans):
1. checked the precinct vote counts to ensure no tampering occurred at the central county tabulators, and
2. conducted public exit polls in a few key places, and
3. were poised to use open records requests to obtain detailed data for forensic election analysis, and
4. arranged systems for voters to report problems, and
5. provided methods for citizens to evaluate the transparency of their election process.
The majority of state legislative races had little public scrutiny, no opinion polls, and state legislators control election laws in every state. The media consortium kept all exit polling data secret this year, adjusting the exit poll data to within one tenth of one percent of the official election results prior to releasing it – so we have no exit poll data to detect suspicious election outcomes any longer.
Right now, there are several key races, one in Ohio and two in Florida with highly suspicious vote counts that are currently being investigated, contested, and protested and there is no reason to have confidence in election results in races without opinion polls that could be used to guage the likelihood of the outcome.
Unaudited U.S. election results obtained from secretly counted invisible e-ballots provide no confidence. US election systems are set up to commit the perfect crime, leaving no evidence.
If someone robs a bank, they are not put in charge of the bank afterwards. However, the winners of rigged elections are afterwards put in charge of securing the system, and winners tend to believe that a system which elected them must be adequate.
If we don’t fix our election systems within the next year, election fraud could return with a vengeance in November 2008, and never provide us with another opportunity to right it.
To Moderize and Repair US Election Systems, we need:
1. sufficient manual independent audits of electronic vote counts
See http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/paper-audits/ElectionIntegrityAudit.pdf and

Click to access VoteCountAudit-UT.pdf

2. routine release of detailed vote counts and detailed election records to allow for independent forensic statistical analysis to detect the patterns that miscounts, machine malfunctions, and fraud create, See
http://electionarchive.org/ucvinfo/US/WeCount2pdf and see this report that showed that 10% of the votes overall disagreed between the voter verifiable and the electronic records of vote counts: http://bocc.cuyahogacounty.us/GSC/pdf/esi_cuyahoga_final.pdf
3. public exit poll data.
See http://electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/US/Exit-Poll-Analysis.pdf
We must push for reforms within the next year that make U.S. election outcomes transparently verifiably accurate because we have possibly the worst election systems in U.S. history still.”
For further information, please contact:
Kathy Dopp
National Election Data Archive
Dedicated to Accurately Counting Elections

Progressive values control the state and national agenda

The post-election pundits claim the national election results were a clear call for “bipartisanship” and governing from the “center”. In looking at this concept more closely, one has to ask whether such conclusions are based on any measure of fact or are simply the fantasies of more delusional characters who think the Democrats have been in the play at all during the past six years in Washington.
Implicit in that analysis is that both parties were not only engaged in the process, but were motivated by their polar opposites. The fact is that since the Republicans took over both the Executive as well as the Legislative branches of government, the Democrats haven’t even been able to participate in the process of governing. No Democratic bills have gone to hearing; there were no oversight hearings in which Democrats have been represented proportionately on these panels. In other words, the right-wing extremists have tried to rule as a one-party country, a process finally ending with the clear and unequivocal rejection of such anti-democratic efforts that lie exclusively at the hands of this White House and the out-going Republican-controlled Congress.
Here in California, the similar claim is that the people of California also want bipartisanship and more centrist leadership. Yet, how does one reach that conclusion when Schwarzenegger virtually ran his re-election campaign as a Democrat? Running around the state with democrats, signing the global warming measure, the increase in the miminum wage measure and easing the cost of some prescription drug costs for seniors—-all measures he opposed until this year.
So what really gives here–and how should progressives be responding and defining ourselves in the weeks and months ahead?

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RootsCamp this weekend in SF

If you’re in the Bay Area, this weekend from 10am on on both Saturday and Sunday, there’s going to be a fun event for grassroots activists, RootsCamp…

Click on the logo for more details, but this is an “unconference,” an ad-hoc, open schedule meeting where people get together and talk about whatever is on their minds, usually around a certain topic. The focus this time is going to be on grassroots activism. This one will be at the New Progressive Coalition offices in SOMA. I haven’t had a day off in two months but I’ll probably be there on Saturday at least. Click on the link for details and I hope to see you there!

The Work We Have To Do

Cross-posted on Governor Phil
Tuesday’s election results were not what we wanted. And electing Arnold Schwarzenegger over Phil Angelides will not move this state forward as a leader for the nation. This we know. What is less clear, and what we must sort through now, is why we got the results we did.
There will be a lot of theories as to what caused Phil’s loss. Certainly there were a variety of factors, not the least of which is going up against a celebrity incumbent Governor who can summon an admiring gaggle of print and tv journalists with the snap of his fingers. But we also must confront the brutal facts of our own weaknesses, and the weaknesses of this campaign, if we want to learn anything from this experience and prepare for the fights ahead on the road to 2010.
At the top of the list for California progressives is figuring out the language and the narrative around taxes. We tried to push this on Governor Phil, but Phil’s own website still invoked conservative frames of “tax relief” when discussing his economic plans. As this race showed, relentless anti-tax attacks are about the only thing left for Schwarzenegger-style Republicans to beat us on. It is very easy for them to steal all of our other progressive issues and win over Democrats (minimum wage, environment, education.) We can expect the next moderate Republican candidate, who I predict will be newly elected Insurance Commissioner Poizner, to follow this formula in the future.

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The short version of our election analysis

No question November 7th was a tidal wave in national politics and for progressives, a good day indeed. Actually, it was a good day for America. We have hopefully seen the fall of arrogant,corrupt, right-wing extremist leadership in this country and the future can only be seen, at least at this moment, as bright.
California’s election night was a mixed bag. As the rest of the country is trending blue, we found ourselves with an election that was so controlled by millions of dollars—from Schwarzenegger to several of the key propositions, that we can’t help but believe we MUST take the money out of the process to get California back to the work and the will of the people.
In a nutshell, then:
Speak Out California helped educate our state’s voters-especially about the down-ticket races that got far less media attention the the Governor’s race or the ballot initiatives. It’s important that the hotly contested races on which Speak Out California focused—Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Controller resulted in victories for John Garamendi, Debra Bowen and John Chiang.
Money still talks way too much in California elections—look at the numbers—big business invested heavily in Schwarzenneger and thwarting progressive policies that would lead to better health care, energy independence and clean elections. Superior funding resulted in victories of profit over the public good.
We need to better coordinate our efforts to insure we keep California Blue and Progressive. Too many of our voters were fooled by the power of money over principle. Too many of the key constitutional races were far closer than they should have been. California must lead the nation—and as Bill Clinton said, “Embrace the Future”
We must do better…….

Over 1.5 million hits on our site…and counting!

It is so important progressive Californians cast their ballots today–whether by casting your vote at the polls or making sure that absentee ballot is handed in before the polls close today. We’ve done our part by creating an easy to follow, straight-forward analysis of the election from the progressive’s perspective. We’ve received an extraordinary response—almost 1.5 million hits on our site—and still counting.
Please make sure you and your like-minded friends cast your ballots. We are on the cusp in this state–and nation– of working toward positive change or falling back into the old and failed policies of a century gone by. Do we want health care for all our people? energy independence?protection for a woman’s reproductive choices? a future based on hope and opportunity?equal dignity for all? corporations being accountable–both financially and as stewards for their actions and polllution? consumers to be protected from dangerous and failed products? Quality public education available for all our children?
The list goes on and on. But today is the day we can steer the course of our state and nation. It is our duty and privilege to have our say. If you’re still not quite sure what to support or oppose, take another look at our voter guide, or better yet, make a hardcopy and take it with you to the polls………close to 1.5 million hits on our site says we can help you make a difference!