Clean Money

CLEAN MONEY….I missed the news when it was announced on Monday, but it looks as if a ballot initiative has qualified in California that I might actually have to vote for: the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2006. It’s modeled on Arizona’s campaign finance law, and the goal is to remove nearly all private funding of political campaigns. To qualify for public funding under the act, you have to raise $5 contributions from a set number of people (for example, 750 contributions for an Assembly race, 25,000 contributions if you’re running for governor), and agree not to raise any additional money from private sources. All candidates get the same amount of money, and if one candidate decides to forego the state limits and raise private money, the others qualify for additional matching funds.

So far, neither Phil Angelides nor Arnold Schwarzenegger have taken a position on the measure, which was put on the ballot by the California Nurses Association. Marc Cooper is, um, skeptical that either one will support it:

So will Phil, whose campaign is already faltering and scurrying behind the Governator?s, come out and boldly endorse the clean-money initiative? Will the Democratic Party machine that cranked out squads of phone bankers and door knockers for Angelides in the primary now put its muscle behind an initiative that will finally crimp the role of Big Money in state politics? Will Democrats be willing to support a measure that blocks the flow of both corporate and union funding into the electoral system? Or, better put, will Pope Benedict demand that his young nephews have bar mitzvahs? All of the above outcomes are equally likely.

….So while naive liberals might now be expecting Phil and the party to throw their weight behind real campaign-finance reform, it?s more likely they?re about to learn that there really is no difference between the two parties on this issue. The fight around the November clean-money initiative promises to be a monumental battle between the entirety of the political establishment on the one hand, and the CNA and some consumer advocates on the other.

My head says Marc is probably right, but my heart hopes he’s wrong. Having a big state like California adopt a measure like this would give campaign finance reform a huge boost. We’ll see.

In the meantime, a brief summary of the initiative is here. A slightly more detailed summary is here. A more complete primer with all the details is here.