(I am just back from Puerto Rico and the SEIU convention, so I am only writing this today.)
We can celebrate the outcome of the Eminent Domain Propositions: 98 lost and 99 won. The spending on the initiatives was, as usual, enormous. As usual the money distorted people’s understanding of the candidates and issues and turned a lot of people off to the election process and democracy in general. Only 22% turned out to vote.
Spending on primaries was enormous in some races, with the independent expenditures from JOBSPAC , JPAC, EDVOICE and other interests working against candidates who opposed their narrow interests. And one of the worst things is that the money goes to buy those horrible ads. Clint Reilly wrote about the effect of the ads and mailers in Those Awful Political Ads,
Even though I actively support many candidates financially and through volunteering, just turning on a TV during election season is difficult for me. Opening my mailbox is painful. I feel smothered by the tidal wave of television commercials and brochures that wash through my house every election cycle.
. . . Nevertheless, mediocre candidates win and atrocious political ads work for two disturbing reasons: because one side has more money, and because there isn’t enough objective information coming from neutral sources like newspapers to communicate the truth.
David Dayen wrote at Calitics, The Money Goes In, The Favors Go Out,
The bottom line is that in this recent primary election special interest groups spent nearly $10 million, and a good bulk of them were business interests who are now playing inside Democratic primaries in traditionally liberal areas to sell low-information voters a bill of goods. This doesn’t always work, but it works just enough to frustrate progress in Sacramento.
[. . .] IE’s are increasingly the only way to reach the electorate, as the low-dollar revolution has pretty much not reached the Golden State. So the Chamber of Commerce and industry groups fill the pockets of the politicians who, once elected, feel obligated to repay them.
Brian Leubitz writes in the comments to Dayen’s post,
There are only a few orgs that are willing to fight for the progressive nominees. The Nurses throw some money around and CTA typically picks a good candidate to get behind, but that is nothing compared to the money that groups like CJAC and EdVoice are willing to toss in to the pot.
I’m not sure what the solution is here, but progressive organizations need to make sure that they are working to educate voters year round.
I think Brian nails it here. Until We, the People can regain control of our own electoral process — which means changing the laws to get regular people on an equal footing with the big money interests, we should at least support year-round education efforts like Speak Out California to help the public understand what is going on and work against this understanding being drowned out and shouted down by huge-dollar scare campaigns.
In another Calitics post Dayen wrote,
The outsized influence of IE [independent expenditure] campaigns is something we have to understand and work with. Even the races where, as Robert said, progressives won in state legislature primaries, there were in general a lot of IEs, funded mostly by labor, on their behalf. Rod Wright basically bought a seat in SD-25, with well over a million dollars of independent expenditures funded mostly by tobacco and business interests. And the size of Bob Blumenfield’s victory in AD-40 suggests the importance of IEs. There isn’t going to be a lot of appetite for reforming this from a set of state legislators who have IEs to thank for their positions in office. Clean money elections is obviously the killer app, and I’m glad Loni Hancock will be in the State Senate to carry the bill, but it’s pretty depressing how easily these seats can be bought, particularly in low-turnout primaries where almost nobody is paying attention.
Meanwhile California Progress Report carries the story An Independent Expenditure Campaign that Backfired by Doug Paul Davis. The story originally appeared at The People’s Vanguard of Davis. From the story,
Independent Expenditures are in many ways a real problem. Campaigns lose control of their messages. They are largely unregulated and unaccountable to anyone. And yet they can drop hundreds of thousands and change the dynamics of a race. That is what happened here. EdVoice likely the culprit here and labor likely the hero on behalf of a Yamada Campaign that had previously been outspent and out-organized.
This ability to influence the election with money is a problem that we have to solve in California. People in both parties are unhappy with this situation.
One very good sign is that the national Democratic Party is stepping up to the plate and announced they will no longer accept contributions from lobbyists and PACs. This is a step toward people-powered politics. If they win this frees them from obligations and hopefully enables them to get the ball rolling toward implementing public financing of campaigns and banning all money from the process.
In other news people voted for taxes. Again at California Report, Thirty Years After Prop 13, California Voters Supported Tax Increases in Tuesday’s Election,
Voting just three days before the 30th anniversary of the passage of Proposition 13, the landmark Jarvis-Gann initiative that cut property taxes and triggered a tax revolt across the country, voters in the primary election approved dozens of tax increases in local communities around the state.
By my count from semi-official election results available the day after the election, they passed 26 of 32 proposals to issue school and community college bonds; each of these measures, which raise local property taxes to repay the bonds, required a super-majority (55 percent) vote for passage. They approved 13 of 24 proposals to create or raise local per parcel property taxes to pay for a variety of services, including schools, libraries, parks, and law enforcement; parcel taxes can be passed only with a two-thirds vote. They approved tax increases not just in the liberal Bay Area but also in the Central Valley and Orange County. Overall, they passed 49 of the 75 tax-increase measures on local ballots around the state. And in many of the cases where the measures failed, it was with a majority that fell short of the required 55 percent or two-thirds requirement.
Well there is some good news.