FROM Bob Stern
Who Is Really Funding Your Candidate? Over $24 million has been spent on this year's election by special interest groups. The record breaking independent expenditures are far more than the $16.7 million spent two years ago. But not every candidate is happy with the backing.
Shining a Light on Dark Money Last week, California's Fair Political Practices Commission — the FPPC — adopted new restrictions for what's called "dark money" in political campaigns. Next year, voters will be asked to crack down even harder. Bob Stern wrote the ballot measure that created the FPPC back in 1974 and he's pushing what's called the " Voters' Right to Know Act ."
Ron Calderon Surrenders State Senator Ron Calderon turned himself in today in Los Angeles. The Montebello Democrat faces 395 years in prison on 24 counts of fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns — all lodged against him by Federal authorities. For almost 10 years, Bob Stern was general counsel to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which he helped create in 1974, along with then-Secretary of State Jerry Brown. Stern has said his job was "taming a system that was a free-flowing river of political money."
Is California's Initiative Process Out of Control? California's initiative process was designed 100 years ago by progressive Governor Hiram Johnson. The goal was protection of voters against the predatory practices of the so-called railroad barons, who controlled the legislature. It wasn't used much until 1978, when the Association of Apartment House Owners backed Proposition 13, which cut property taxes and said that they could only be increased by one percent every year, regardless of how much property values increased. Proposition 13, of course, is still with us, and the initiative process has become an industry, as next month's ballot illustrates with 11 different measures. NOTE: You can find more California election coverage and learn more about the issues and specific propositions at kcrw.com/californiaelections .
What's Behind the Fight over Proposition 32? Proposition 32 on next month's ballot is generating big money and deluge of campaign commercials. One supporting Prop 32 cautions, "Money and politics, corporations and unions give politicians millions in contributions. They get tax breaks and big pensions and we get higher spending. There's a better way: Prop 32 prohibits deductions from employee's paychecks without permission… No loopholes, no exceptions." In another, the League of Women Voters' Helen Hutchison expresses the League's opposition . [It's] deliberatively written to look like campaign reform, but it's not. It actually gives more power to Wall Street, Big Oil, and those secret campaign Super PACs. And Prop 32 let's those same special interests spend that same unlimited and unregulated funds… Learn more about Prop 32 because it's not what it seems."
New Rules Raise New Questions about California Politics The turnout currently stands at 24 percent, although that could rise to 30 percent once late mail-in and provisional ballots are counted. So it's still not certain that Proposition 29, the tax increase on cigarettes, has been defeated, but it’s a very close call. Is that a surprise given California’s record on regulating tobacco? What does it mean for tax increases in the near future?
The Right to Speak to Elected Officials Last month, it was Zev Yaroslavsky's turn to chair the meetings of LA County's Board of Supervisors. He set off a firestorm by proposing to reduce the available time set aside for public comment. Reaction was fierce. But Board members complain that so-called "gadflies" often dominate meetings. What about people who want to bring up real issues?
Center for Governmental Studies Closes For 28 years, the Center for Governmental Studies has been examining how public policy is made in California and how it can be made more democratic, with a small "d." Since the Watergate era, it's been one of the state's most successful, bipartisan institutions of political reform, advocating what former LA Times City Editor Bill Boyarsky calls, "the dying cause of cleaning up elections and taking them out of the hands of big contributors." The CGS board includes prominent Republicans and Democrats, and its money has come from philanthropic foundations. But Board President Steve Rountree says, "Foundations have given up hope of meaningful reform," and the Center is closing its doors.
A Rumble in West Hollywood Since it was incorporated 27 years ago, West Hollywood has been known worldwide as a "gay destination." Some 37% of its residents are gay or lesbian. Now its reputation for enlightened self-government is under challenge. In next month’s city council election, veteran incumbents are accused of selling out to developers. Would term limits make for a healthier democracy? Or does their institutional memory make them more valuable than ever?
In Tomorrow's Elections, Follow the Money About $120 million has been spent on nine ballot propositions collectively, with most of the money often coming from just one side. They're all initiatives, which means that special interests put them on the ballot. Kim Alexander and Bob Stern remind us what the measures would do and where the money's coming from. The Superintendent of Public Instruction is a statewide office that gets little attention in a year when the races for Governor and US Senator crowd out almost everything else in the room. In an odd arrangement, the elected Superintendent carries out policies set by the Governor's appointed Board of Education . Jack O'Connell is termed out after eight years, and the candidates for this nonpartisan office are both Democrats, Assemblyman Tom Torlakson and former school superintendent Larry Aceves . Howard Blume has covered the race for the LA Times . Ken Ofgang if Metropolitan News-Enterprise updates us on the judgeships on the ballot, which hardly see any campaign spending at all. And it just wouldn't be WWLA? on election eve if we didn't talk slate slate mailers with Allan Hoffenblum, who co-edits the most authoritative running account of legislative and Congressional elections, the California Target Book.
Campaign Spending: Trial Lawyers and the Insurance Industry California's Insurance Commissioner is an elected official who overseas a $124 billion market of automobile, home and life insurance. Federal healthcare reform could provide even more power to Sacramento Democrat Dave Jones or Mike Villines of Fresno. Ten years ago, Republican Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quakenbush was run out of California. After taking $8 million in campaign contributions from the insurance industry, he allowed victims of the Northridge earthquake to get far less than they were entitled to. Jones and Villines, both termed-out assembly members running to be Commissioner, have said they won't take insurance-company money. Both claim to be pro-consumer, but their attitudes toward new regulations on health insurance are starkly different.
Ballot-Box Budgeting on the November Ballot Proposition 21 would establish an $18 surcharge on vehicles when they’re registered every year, commercial vehicles and trailers excepted. The fee would raise $500 million a year to be spent on 278 state parks. The purpose of Prop 22 is to prevent the state from seizing money earmarked for cities, counties and various transportation projects and spending it instead on state services. Prop 21 is an initiative statute which could be changed. Prop 22 is a constitutional amendment, which could only be changed by the voters. Both are examples of what’s called “ballot-box budgeting” because they would limit the discretion of elected officials to spend money as circumstances require.
Proposition 23 Dissected Los Angeles businesses are divided over Proposition 23 , a measure that would postpone the implementation of AB 32 , the greenhouse gas law that Governor Schwarzenegger sees as his legacy. Different polls show different results for where it now stands with the voters. Neither Jerry Brown nor Meg Whitman is supporting Prop 23, but Whitman says that, if she’s elected, she’ll postpone AB 32 for a year. Jerry Brown disputes Whitman’s claim that AB 32 would cost jobs in 97% of the economy, saying rather that it will help create new jobs in the developing green economy.
How Tiny Cities like Bell End Up with Giant Salaries The City of Bell has been up in arms since the LA Times disclosed that City Manager Robert Rizzo makes almost $800,000 a year, while council members pull down $100,000 for their part-time jobs. Bell, in South Los Angeles County, is home to 37,000, mostly Latinos with a per capita income about half the average of the United States. The vice mayor predicted that Rizzo would resign or be fired at last night’s council meeting. Cristina Garcia organized the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse .
GOP Goes for Whitman, Fiorina; Ups, Downs of the Propositions Republican Meg Whitman spent almost $90 million to win the Republican nomination for Governor over Steve Poisner , who spent $30 million. Today, Democrat Jerry Brown called that "a billionaire's demolition derby" that set "a national record for excessive spending." (Tomorrow, we'll talk about the upcoming race for Attorney General.)
Is the threat from Russia missing from the Russia meddling probe? There's much being made about the Trump administration's possible ties with Russia. But the bottom line is Russia's effort to influence American democracy. Do the President and his aides care enough to take action before voters go back to the polls?
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.
Venezuela spirals into economic and political chaos Venezuela, a country whose potential for prosperity is unmatched, finds itself on the verge of civil war. What sustains the repressive government? With time running out, guest host León Krauze looks at what the international community can do to pull the country from the edge of collapse.
Janesville and the American Dream Janesville, Wisconsin is the hometown of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. But he couldn’t prevent the closing of the General Motors factory after 100 years. On this Memorial Day rebroadcast of To the Point, we hear what’s happened to what once was a model of American middle-class unity.