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CA-Init: Democratic Party Will Endorse Clean Money, Oppose Corporate-Backed Initiatives

Brian Leubitz of Calitics, a member of the state resolutions committee, reports:

On the Props, the resolutions committee went the right way on all the props, and we’ll approve them. They supported Prop 15, the fair elections initiative, and Prop 13, a measure that would change the way seismic retrofits are taxed. They opposed Prop 14 (“open” primaries), Prop 16 (PG&E Power Grab), and Prop 17 (Mercury Insurance power grab).

It’s significant that the party endorsed the Fair Elections Act, Prop. 15. Back in 2006, the state party failed to endorse Prop. 89, a more wide-ranging public financing initiative which eventually got trounced at the polls. This particular measure would set up a pilot program on clean money for the Secretary of State’s race starting in 2014, but it would also remove a state law that opens it up for local elections to experiment with clean money. So Prop. 15 is well worth supporting, and the state party did not stand in the way. State parties sometimes prefer the accumulated power that comes with money in politics, but the California Democratic Party stood against special interests today.

Most of the state editorials on Prop. 15 have been positive, and the Democratic Party endorsement could egg it on to victory. The fact that the bigger primaries are on the Republican side in June may make it difficult, however.

Jim Dean, the chair of Democracy for America, expressed excitement about Prop. 15 and the implications for the future. “This gets California back to being in the vanguard of the country, and to spur something that could go to other states.” Currently, Maine, Arizona and Connecticut, along with several other states, have some form of public financing, but repealing the ban on public financing in California would be a major step. “I talk to big donors all the time,” Dean said, “telling them ‘How would you like to spend $25 and max out to candidates?'”

It’s also positive that the CDP rejected the two corporate-funded measures on the ballot, Props. 16 (PG&E, which has to date dumped $34 million into the race) and Prop. 17 (Mercury Insurance). There was some thought that the CDP wouldn’t want to bite the hands of potential funders, but that didn’t materialize. Prop. 14, the open primary initiative, is one of those “reforms” that is advertised as a major step forward but in reality would do almost nothing it promises. Open primaries in Louisiana, for example, have done absolutely nothing to “moderate” politicians. Prop. 13 is a technical fix and opponents didn’t even put a statement on the ballot packet.

UPDATE: Just a note, the regulate and tax cannabis initiative will not be on the June ballot, but on the general election ballot in November, and so the endorsement will not get decided at this convention. John Burton, the party chair, did say over the weekend that the tax cannabis initiative would be a potential key to youth turnout.

UPDATE II: Robert Cruickshank has a really good piece playing off of this. I’ll have more thoughts later.

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David Dayen

David Dayen