By Ann Menasche
The 2010 election cycle is demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that California’s proposition process is undemocratic, corrupt, and irreparably broken. It’s time to reform the process to eliminate moneyed interests and return decision making power to the voters.
The propositions that have made it onto the ballot are, by definition, backed by massive funding – most from corporate interests, some from wealthy individuals, and some from unions and associations who have no choice but to spend their members’ hard earned money to have any chance of influencing policy. Most paid one to two million dollars to qualify for the ballot. Combined with campaign and advertising costs that have climbed as high as tens of millions of dollars, it’s clear that the average Californian has been completely squeezed out of the process.
Prop 16, which failed by just a few percentage points this past June, is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with the proposition system. The Yes on 16 campaign was a bare-knuckled attempt by electric industry giant Pacific Gas & Electric to block competition from public utilities. PG&E felt it needed to take this preemptive step after it spent $13 million on a nearly failed effort in 2003 to block the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (a publicly owned, not-for-profit utility that offered cheaper electric rates and was supported by local government) from expanding into PG&E’s territory in eastern Yolo County. The fact that a proposition that would straightjacket voters, promote commercial monopolies and stifle competition was even allowed on the ballot is horrifying. That PG&E almost won the vote by spending over $46M (about $20 for every vote it received) should be a wake-up call to anyone who prizes our democracy. You can be sure PG&E has not given up the fight because it lost one battle.
Many of the November 2010 ballot propositions are promising to be just as egregious. For example, Prop 23, “Suspension of Air Pollution Control Laws” is another bald-faced attempt by the energy lobby (this time a coalition of oil companies) to block implementation of California’s existing greenhouse gas reduction law that requires increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel, as well as mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries. To protect their profits, the oil companies are preparing to spend millions of dollars to promote legislation which would adversely impact our health, environment, economy and national security.
A major plank of my campaign is ending the influence of moneyed interests on the proposition process and restoring power to the individual voter by advocating for the elimination of paid petitioning and the use of clean, public financing of elections.
I urge voters to join me in standing up to special interests in California and demanding an end to corporately-funded propositions.
Ann Menasche is the Green Party candidate for California Secretary of State (www.voteann.org). The opinions expressed in this editorial reflect the views of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.