Tuesday’s Election – As Usual It’s About The Money

(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.

How Does This Help Democrats Win?

Every time I think I might lean toward endorsing one or the other of the candidates things pop up that push me away again. I used to say I liked all of the candidates running for the nomination. Now I’m wondering about that.
And it isn’t just the candidates, it’s the stuff the people around them are doing. The people a candidate puts into leadership positions says a lot about how that person would run an administration.
My main concern in the primaries is winning in November. I can’t support taking self-interest over the interests of the party in November. When you run a scorched-earth primary campaign you reduce the chances of keeping people motivated. You also give tremendous ammunition to the opposition. In California we had a scorched-earth primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor between Westly and Angeledes. Then, during the general election all Schwarzenegger had to do was run ads with the same scripts that Westly had used and coast to victory. The result is that now we have a huge budget deficit and the school budget is going to be cut 10%. And the health budget. And everything else. Thanks guys.
The same thing is happening now between Obama and Clinton.
Hillary says John McCain is qualified to be President but Obama is not. How does that help Democrats win?
Then a top Obama aide calls Hillary a “monster.” How does that help Democrats win?
I have said this before: the candidate I want has the instinct to jump in and defend other progressives.
Now with that in mind, I want to address one particular meme that is circulating. Obama supporters accuse the Clinton campaign of “using race.” I am so sick of this divisive, false accusation. It is not true and it divides Democrats. It is destructive to all of us. The same COULD be said of the Obama campaign and misogyny, by the way, if you applied the same standards – someone loosely associated with the campaign saying something that COULD be interpreted as such-and-such. At least, if you consider the word “bitch” and associated characterizations as misogynist. I haven’t seen the “N” word used anywhere, but I HAVE seen the “B” word used.
People being stupid and saying stupid things is NOT a campaign strategy. People who support a candidate are not “the campaign.” And everyone knows that racism and misogyny are not going to win over the base in Democratic primaries.
We are all in this together. There is really no substantive difference between Obama’s and Clinton’s policies. They are both solid progressives and either would be a great President. OUR goal must be to get the conservative movement that wants to rule, not govern out of the White House and Congress. They really want to have a one party system with no oversight, no checks and no balances. That is as dangerous as any of their policies. What we need to focus on is getting them out and restoring our traditions of democracy.

Still Counting

California had a record turnout for Tuesday’s primary election … and as of Thursday they are still counting the ballots.
California Progress Report has the story: The Unprocessed Ballot Page of the California Secretary of State is our site of the day,

Here’s a page for all you election junkies to bookmark and check periodically, the California Secretary of State’s “Update on vote-by-mail and provisional ballots remaining to be processed/counted” site.

Click through to get the link to the Secretary of State’s page. CPR says there may be as many as two million uncounted ballots.

Primary Election Day

It’s primary election day in California. Don’t let yourself forget to vote, and check our voter guide to help you figure out what those initiatives are about.
Here is a scary thought: People who are just old enough to vote for the first time in this election were ten years old when the 2000 election brought George Bush to the White House, and likely don’t remember much from before that.
They certainly don’t remember California before Proposition 13 cut taxes, back when we had great roads and schools and colleges. They don’t remember that there was a debate over whether the people should be allowed to decide how much to tax ourselves. Instead we now have a requirement that 2/3 of voters approve taxes – a level that can almost never be met.
They don’t remember California before term limits. Proposition 93 is just a tweaking of the term limits rules, and there is no discussion over the merits of term limits generally. Young people don’t know that there was a debate over the idea that people should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to return their own representatives to office.
Last week I was caught in traffic so I couldn’t get home in time to watch the Clinton-Obama debate. I scanned the radio and not one single AM or FM station was carrying it. (Oddly one station was carrying an older Republican Presidential candidate debate.) FM was a sea of really bad commercial music, ads, and a few good Spanish music stations. AM was a sea of right-wing opinion, and ads. And then more ads.
I remember when it was considered a duty of a broadcaster to inform and serve the public. It was unimaginable that a candidate debate was not available. In exchange for licenses to use OUR radio spectrum for commercial purposes the broadcast companies agreed to serve the public interest. They would limit the number of ads and devote a large percentage of programming to documentaries, news and other information that served democracy. It was understood that WE owned the resource, and WE set the terms for commercialization of that resource. Imagine!
Yes, We, the People used to set the terms for licenses to commercialize the public resources. Now it’s the other way around – the corporations give us credit ratings.
It seems like such an old debate over ideas like these. But younger people they have never heard these debates and likely don’t even know there even was debate over these ideas. They don’t know about a time when the people were considered to be the owners of the state’s and country’s resources.
If they ever did get an opportunity to hear about these debates they might even think it is a good idea for the public to make decisions. (Hint.)
Here’s a good thing – young people today clearly don’t remember a time when most people were apathetic and didn’t vote. All indications say that today we will see the largest turnout of voters in decades.

Jackie Goldberg’s Initiative Picks for the Feb. 2008 ballot

Former State Assemblymember and Speak Out California Board member Jackie Goldberg provides her insights and suggestions on Prop. 91 and Prop. 92 in this blog entry. While it doesn’t appear that too many knowledgeable people who have no direct interest at stake are very excited about any of these measures, Jackie has some pretty straightforward thoughts on them. We wanted to give you her individualized take and in predictable Jackie fashion, she pulls no punches in her analysis. Here’s what she has to say on the first two ballot measures on the February 2008 ballot.

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The 2008 Primary Election Voter Guide

Our 2008 voter guide is up. Click here for SOCA’s analysis of the issues.

Note – This voter guide has been updated since it first appeared.

The February 5th California primary is upon us. Our top rated progressive one stop voter guide for this election focuses on the ballot initiatives and includes links to the independent and highly regarded California Legislative Analyst’s Office’s analysis of each proposition. The seven measures that actually made it on the ballot are primarily about money, and how it should be allocated. The one measure dealing with state governance is the so-called Term Limits initiative. While each of these is important to a particular interest group, none of them really incorporate progressive values nor do they serve to advance or impede the progressive agenda. For that reason, Speak Out California has not taken a position on any of them, but we have tried to distill each measure down to its basic parts so you can decide how you wish to vote on each of them.

For more details on each group’s endorsement, click on the name of the group in the table, and for details about the ballot campaigns, click on the proposition link on the left hand side of the table for a comprehensive research analysis and scroll down to read our summaries.

For updated endorsement coverage be sure to checked back to this page as additional endorsements come in. Make sure everyone you know votes February 5th, but with our values and state under such relentless attack, we all have to do more than vote. Freedom is a constant struggle. One way you can help is by making a donation, or by joining Speak Out California and forwarding this voter information to your friends!

The 2008 Primary Election SOCA Voter Guide

I asked Hillary Clinton about California…

Having Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton strongly praise California’s environmental leadership was a welcomed acknowledgement of our effort to set the standard for good environmental stewardship. She also told the crowd at the Democratic convention that she regularly points to California as the example the rest of the nation should be following in this effort.
Speak Out California was in attendance at the press conference Senator Clinton held after her speech to the Convention. I was able to ask her whether she was prepared to help California get back some of its tax dollars, since we are the biggest “donor” state in the country. (California pays over $50 Billion more in federal taxes than we receive in federal programs and services, which is equal to getting 78 cents worth for each dollar we contribute to the federal coffers in taxes). She responded by saying, “We have the same problem in New York. The states that have a lot of wealthy people, like California and New York do, . . . we don’t get our fair share back.” She said she would “look at” that issue as president, but that her focus would be in making sure that Health Care and Education are funded equally throughout the country.
The bad news…
No other presidential candidate had a press conference following their presentation to the general convention, so we did not have a chance to ask any of them what they will do for the people of California if elected president.
The good news…
I was interviewed for NPR speaking for Speak Out California, so listen for it in the coming days.

The “Head and Heart” and enthusiasim of California of Progressives is here in San Diego

Speak Out California is present at the Democratic Convention in San Diego! We have a table and have listened carefully to all the speakers. Those presidential candidates who have the “head and heart” of the Californian people have spoken.
We’re conducting an informal “Presidential Straw Poll” here to get a sense of how those attending the Convention
feel about the candidates, particularly after hearing them speak in person. We’ll be following up on this at the end of the convention and will keep you posted on just where the general sentiments seem to be–at least at this point in the campaign.
During her speech to the general convention, Hillary Clinton spoke powerfully about her commitment to a national universal health care system.
Barack Obama electrified the crowd as he empowered each person in the audience to have a “can do” attitude. He further emphasized that it is the voters who decide what the elected members must do.
After telling the audience that he was one of the few candidates who spoke Spanish, Christopher Dodd reminded us of the importance of fixing the nation for the benefit of the next generation.
Toward the end of the afternoon, Dennis Kucinich came and briefly continued his open support for the impeachment ofPresident George W. Bush.
We will be here again tomorrow as we wait to hear John Edwards. And check in later this week to see the results of the Convention Straw Poll.

Presidential candidates woo us–but will the honeymoon last?

Leading democratic presidential contenders will hit the hustings in San Diego this weekend, vying for votes and trolling for support from conventioneers. The accelerated presidential primary calendar will give California more influence over who is nominated, but it also favors those who amass the most in campaign contributions, so they can get their message out in multiple media markets at once.
All the more reason why those of us who hunger for change in Washington need to be on our toes, researching the candidates and their positions, and choosing wisely. We need to look beyond the race for dollars, get involved and active earlier, and make sure that whoever earns the nomination has a real depth of support and staying power.
What can you do to help ensure a progressive candidate wins?
Participate in town hall meetings. Volunteer in campaigns. Walk precincts, write letters to the editor, spread the word to friends and neighbors, put up signs, slap a bumper sticker on your own car, staff a table at your local farmer’s market, leaflet at a favorite sporting event, contribute online, and/or join up with friends to do phone banking.
You don’t need reminding how high the stakes are. You are already more then motivated. Just get out there and do it.
As Joan Blades of MoveOn.org has printed on one of her favorite T-shirts, “Politics is NOT a spectator sport!”

Crackling with new energy

Last Thursday night, Bay Area for Barack kicked off their grassroots push for the Senator’s 2008 campaign, organized through the campaign’s Meetup-on-steroids social networking tool. For those who were around to experience the Dean grassroots energy of 2003, the feel to this meeting was familiar to the grassroots push then – but with three particularly interesting new developments:

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