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Clean Money, Dirty Politics


This fall, California Voters will be asked to decide the fate of a so-called “clean money” initiative, Proposition 89. But this constitutionally-questionable plan to publicly finance elections in California will make elections anything but clean. It pushes campaign finance into the shadowy, unregulated realm of “independent expenditures.”

Sponsored by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election nemesis, the California Nurses Association—who, by the way, endorsed Ralph Nader over Al Gore in 2000—the “Clean Money Initiative” raises corporate tax rates by at least $200 million to pay for public financing of elections. Candidates taking public financing are limited to taking contributions of no more than $5 dollars per individual and candidates who opt-out of the system are limited to contribution limits set between 5% and 16% of the State’s current levels.

Who benefits from such a system? Millionaire candidates and labor unions stand to gain the most from this complicated plan to limit political speech.

Whenever limits are placed on how much money can be raised by political candidates, those who are rich enough to not need to raise money get an advantage. Steve Westly threw away tens of millions on his unsuccessful run for Governor and, undeterred, is undoubtedly planning on doing it again come twenty-ten.

Unlike other efforts at campaign finance reform, the “Clean Money” initiative will also be a boon to the state’s labor unions. Businesses will be limited to giving $5 to each candidate. But the unions – with thousands of members – can bundle checks like no one else. That give them a structural advantage no other Californians will have; and, of course, that’s good for Democrats.

But what’s worst about the “Clean Money” initiative is that it probably violates the Constitution. By taking money from one group of Californians and forcing them to pay for the political speech of candidates with whom they disagree, Proposition 89 amounts to forced speech—not free speech.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 4:58 PM | Permalink

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