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Wednesday, May. 08, 2013 at 5:13 AM
It's almost hidden on the ballot, but it's worth considering. It's a flawed proposition, and probably "toothless", but worth voting for.
The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for political spending, and it's been an escalating war of fundraising ever since. People are pissed off, and CA Common Cause is riding the wave of resentment by passing resolutions to amend the Constitution to stop corporate personhood.
While this is nice, it's also kind of bogus, because this proposition only passes a resolution, which is basically powerless to do anything in Congress. It's just a show of force.
So I say, yes, vote for it, but don't expect anything to happen, at least not directly.
Politically, it would be significant, and would motivate politicians to pass laws to restrict business influence in politics. To what degree, though, is hard to know.
There are already campaign donation limits. What's questionable are what the CU decision cemented, which is that corporations, organizations, or individuals have a right to make an "independent expenditure", aka "IE" in the politico lingo.
An IE is basically any political campaigning done by an organization, without coordinating with the politician's campaign. When you see an ad sponsored by a group with a name like "Californians for Better Clean Future Outcomes" you're seeing an IE.
The trouble with IEs is that they matter a LOT to elections. Labor unions use them. Corporations use them. Community groups might use them. Rich people use them. PACs do them. During an election, there are multiple campaigns operating. The candidates' campaigns, and a few independent ones, usually by business groups and labor unions.
The flipside to C, however, is that it's based on some fundamental misunderstandings about politics. There is the running assumption that all political spending should be going through a candidate's campaign. That's why Ralph Nader does so well with his idea of political contributions - people don't understand it.
Campaign money is more effective for an organization when the entire organization donates. An organization has focus, and all the members put aside differences to focus on a common issue. An organization wants to run a campaign on their own issue, but work the politician into the messaging. A politician's job is to juggle the desires of these donating organizations against the needs of the community at large.
There's another mistaken assumption that politicians get big donations. They don't, because there are campaign donation limits. What the expensive dinner fundraisers fund are either external campaigns, or, more likely, the political party of the candidate. The party then spends the money separate from the politicians campaign.
The big political game changer has been Obama, whose campaign has out-fundraised many of the IEs, which is impressive. But, Obama also fundraised for a PAC. That PAC got money from the Party, and gave money to the Party. That's "soft money."
So, it's complicated. It really is a gray area.
Overview and text:
LA Times: NO on C
Yes on C site:
Obama Victory Fund PAC info
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