Perhaps more than any state in the nation, California loves its
ballot initiatives. Over the years, citizen-led initiatives in the
state have sparked tax revolts, imposed a "three strikes" law on
criminals, and spurred stem-cell research.
This election year, amid concern that special-interest money and
deep-pocketed corporations are unduly influencing statewide
initiative campaigns, a new ballot measure comes before California
voters on Nov. 7. Proposition 89 would, among other reforms, limit
the amount companies and organizations can contribute to ... what
else? Citizen ballot measures.
If Prop. 89 passes, the state would be the first to limit
corporations' donations for initiatives - an area of election law
that the measure's backers see as ripe for challenge in the courts.
The proposed caps are just one piece of Prop. 89, a sweeping
measure that would also provide for public financing of candidates'
campaigns (via a tax on certain businesses) and reduce the amount
individual donors can give to candidates for office. If Prop. 89
were to pass, many of its provisions are expected to be challenged
in court on grounds that they curtail the free-speech rights of
No broad polls have yet gauged Prop. 89's popularity. Its backers
cite statewide polls showing that 64 percent of likely voters
believe campaign contributions negatively affect public-policy
decisions - and that 92 percent feel special interests control the
state's initiative process.
"We have a massive problem with money in politics - a
transactional system in which the biggest spenders give money to
politicians and get favors in return," charges Charles Idelson,
communications director for the California Nurses Association (CNA),
the union that is Prop. 89's official sponsor. "This has a huge
impact on the daily lives of Californians, and the problem is a
microcosm of the problem with political campaigns nationwide."
The 70,000-member CNA decided to pursue campaign-finance reform
after last year's defeat of a labor-backed ballot initiative that
would have curbed prescription-drug prices. It cites $80 million in
campaign contributions from drug companies. The union says "clean
money" laws elsewhere, notably in Maine and Arizona, have
established a track record that points to higher voter turnout, more
candidates, more competitiveness, and some reduction in total money
spent on elections.
Prop. 89 - also known as the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act -
would transform California politics, political analysts say.
Elections in the state have recently been distinguished by a string
of record-spending Senate, gubernatorial, and initiative campaigns,
even as voter participation has dropped to its lowest in 80 years. …