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Mailbag 8.3.2006

Aug
3
2006

We love reader mail. We really love reader mail where you disagree with us because it makes us all think. Today, a reader takes Scott Olin Schmidt to task over his post last week about “clean money.” Got something to say? Don’t be shy!

I believe Scott Olin Schmidt misunderstands Prop 89, the Clean Money Initiative for public financing of campaigns. Please consider the following points: Prop 89 is patterned after systems in effect in Arizona and Maine which have already survived constitutional scrutiny in several courts. Furthermore the U.S. Supreme Court specifically encourages such systems.

Far from “pushing campaign finance into the shadowing realms of independent expenditures (IE’s),” public financing actually discourages such spending by providing additional matching funds to those targeted by such groups so they can respond. This makes helps level the playing field.

The corporate tax increase that pays for the system is only 0.2% and still leaves that tax rate at or below what it was from 1980-1996. No individual taxpayer dollars are involved and the $5 contributions are simply what participating candidates must collect in their own districts in order to qualify for public financing. This helps eliminate “fringe” candidates.

Self-funded millionaire candidates actually don’t benefit from Prop 89. In fact any such candidate who tries to outspend a publicly funded candidate will simply trigger matching funds for that candidate in the same fashion described above. The number of millionaire candidates actually tends to drop off.

Labor unions don’t receive any windfall benefit either; they are subject to the same limits on contributions to privately funded candidates as corporations ($500 for legislators, $1000 for statewide officers). The idea is to reduce the disproportionate influence of private money regardless of the source so that elections can be contests of ideas instead fundraising wars.

At present the only candidates who can speak to voters are those with access to great private wealth. It is thus the current system which dramatically limits free speech. Under Prop 89 private wealth becomes irrelevant and local voters – not big donors – decide who gets to run and who gets to serve.

Finally, Scott’s contention that money will be taken from one group of Californians (namely corporations) who will then be forced to pay for political speech they disagree with is misleading. What the tax revenues pay for is not any particular candidate’s speech. Like justice, the public financing system is blind and does not discriminate for or against anyone based on what they say. What the revenues pay for, and what ALL citizens get, is a fair and balanced election where all qualified candidates get to have their say, and voters know that whoever wins will be free to represent them, owing no favors to anyone. I submit that such elections are a public good that benefits

everyone.

Craig Dunkerley,

Southbay Area Coordinator, California Clean Money Campaign

San Jose, CA

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