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Voters like pilot public campaign finance measure

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 at 11:17 am in 2010 election, campaign finance.

Nearly two-thirds of likely California voters support a June 2010 ballot measure that would create a pilot public campaign financing system for candidates running for Secretary of State.

A new poll released this morning shows that 63 percent would vote for the California Fair Elections Act, while 22 percent oppose it and 16 percent are undecided.

Topping the 60 percent threshold is usually good news for statewide ballot measures. It provides a cushion in the face of opposition, a near certainty in the controversial question about whether taxpayers should directly fund campaigns.

The findings run counter to Field Poll findings last week that found voters in favor of reform but opposed to most of the specific reforms under discussion.

Critics view public financing of campaigns as an inappropriate use of tax dollars. But voters appear to be asking whether it might be worth it, given the heavy influence of special interest money in the selection of who wins and stays in office.

Lake Research Partners conducted the telephone survey of 800 likely voters last week. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

“This survey really encourages me,” said Common Cause regional director Derek Cressman, a longtime advocate for reforms of campaign finance. “While voters have been frustrated for a while, they haven’t been willing to embrace a lot of specific reforms over the past five or six years … But people are starting to believe not only that change is necessary but possible.”

In other survey findings, Lake Research found strong support for the bill among both major parties and decline-to-state voters — 65 percent of Democrats and nonpartisans would vote yes along with 59 percent of Republicans.

Lake Research partner David Mermin also reported that support for the measure grew overall to 69 percent after survey participants heard both the arguments in favor and against the measure.

“That is not the usual pattern,” Mermin said.

The California Legislature, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature, last year placed the measure on the ballot.

Written by now Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, Assembly Bill 583 allows Secretary of State candidates in 2014 and 2018 to voluntarily apply for up to $1 million of public campaign funding in the primary and $1.3 in the general elections. Candidates must adhere to strict spending and outside fundraising caps and disclosure rules, and to qualify, they must obtain 7,600 signatures and $5 contributions from registered voters.

If a non-participating candidate or an outside group outspends a participating candidate, he or she can receive up to four times that expense in what is called “fair fight” money. Click here to read the full measure.

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  • 4Antioch

    And with no money in the State Treasury, where would they get the money? Voluntary ‘tick’ on a FTB 540?

    And is there CPI indexing for future years?

    Since a candidate would have to gather 7600 signature and 7600 contributions of at least $5 each, this sounds like it is set up to benefit the well organized political parties and union political apparatus.

  • Nancy Bickel

    “Clean Money” is the only way the voters can begin to take back our government and ensure that our elected officials owe their allegiance only to those who live in their district–and not to their big contributors. Elected officials believe that they are not influenced by their corporate contributors–but they are wrong.

    Contributors get more access, get their views heard and respected by electeds and staff, sometimes even write the legislation the electeds present as their own.

    This is the first step to a key reform to regain a real democracy.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Tired of the phony arguments about “Big Money” corrupting politics and elections? What’s the alternative, government by cellphone vote, “American Idol”-style? So-called “special interests” spend to protect their stake in the economy–these include nurses, police officers, hotel cleaners and truck drivers in addition to dairy farmers, insurance and investment firms, trial attorneys, and surgeons. Are they being selfish? Sure. I suppose public-minded voters, “The People,” want only the greatest good for the greatest number without any thought of themselves or their livelihoods. Utter nonsense. It’s a darn shame our senators don’t have the leisure to sit and listen to every crank and old fogey with an ax to grind. Organize, baby, organize. Join like-minded voters to make your voice heard. Don’t complain that DC ignores you. This isn’t a village of 100 huts. It’s a superpower with many competing interests.

  • Joe Ely

    Don’t let Fair Elections opponents tell you that pay-to-play isn’t a problem. The latest non-partisan PPIC poll reports that 73% of Californians (79% of likely voters) believe that our government is run by special interests, not the people. Most of our elected leaders consider campaign fund raising highly burdensome, spending 25% or more of their time doing it all year, every year. The California Fair Elections Act specifically limits the period of qualifying for public funding to 270 days before the election.

    In other states and cities where full public campaign financing is already in place, the results have been a downward pressure on campaign spending (especially the huge problem of independent expenditures from outside the campaigns), more candidate diversity, more voter participation and public policy that benefits more ordinary people. In those places, there have been efforts by special interests and their friends to go back to compulsory pay-to-play (like California’s system), but the people would never go back. They know that giant contributions too often thwart the will of the people, and we get bad healthcare policy, bad energy policy, bad environmental policy, poor consumer protection, poor worker protection and poor investor protection.

    The California Fair Elections Act is a step towards better democracy.

  • Bill Walzer

    Some information for 4Antioch

    The funding does not come from taxes or the general fund but rather from an increase in the registration fee charged professional lobbyists to $350/year. The Act does not restrict lobbying but rather allows candidates a voluntary alternative to depending on campaign contributions from lobbyists.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    The Fair Elections Act will do nothing to improve the quality of service to ordinary citizens. The Sacramento slobbovians abdicated their responsiblity to the voters years ago. The tough decisions on policy that need to be fully debated and acted upon wind up instead on the ballot or in the courts.

  • D. Jaber

    It’s not surprising. People are sick of feeling disregarded by a political system that goes to the highest bidder. I look forward to the restoration of democracy and to politicians relieved of massive fundraising burdens

  • Elwood

    Re: #7

    I am also looking forward to the resurrection.

    One will happen about as soon as the other.

  • Joe Ely

    4Antioch raises some good questions.

    The amount of public financing is indeed indexed to inflation, as well as the number of registered elections.

    Taxpayers will also be able to make voluntary contributions, but most of the funding will come from increased fees on lobbyists, who now pay much less in California than in other states.

  • Ralph Hoffmann, Guest Columnist

    Communism, here we come. Jesse Unruh remarked, “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” James Thurber said, Don’t count your boobies until they are hatched.
    How can boobs be elected to office if the free market is replaced by funds raised by the government?