Editorial: Corporations keep trying to throw out progressive California laws. Do we need reforms?
In 2007, when I wrote about how our economic future was being decided in Sacramento, the California State Legislature was in the midst of trying to pass a law that would have restricted campaign spending by corporations and banks in California. The law had been introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill, who would later become the first-term mayor of San Francisco.
In early June, the bill arrived on my desk. I was in Los Angeles at a dinner sponsored by the City Club of the West, where I was speaking on “The Crisis in American Corporations,” a subject dear to my heart.
The bill seemed a bit odd. As I watched it circulate, I tried to determine whether it was just misguided or if it represented a concerted effort by a powerful political interest group to suppress campaign finance reform in California.
Was that possible? As a political consultant, I had often watched political campaigns struggle to meet the realities of modern campaigns. It’s not really rocket science. When you can’t raise $15 million in five weeks, you have to consider some radical strategy.
At the city level, we can’t do any big thing unless we know we can raise $45 million in a day or we know that we can raise $50 million in 10 minutes.
“The time is fast approaching when the people will have the right to know who governs them and how they spend the money they get through an election cycle,” said California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. “At this time, the time is fast approaching when the people … have the right to know who governs them and how they spend the money they get through an election cycle.
When I saw the bill in the mail, I quickly realized there was an attempt here to legislate a two-party system in California — the kind of thing that is common in places like New York, or Vermont, or Maine. That is to say, a system that favors parties that have the money and power to spend on election campaigns.
And so, in early June, before I could