February 21, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Styming Half A Very Good Idea:

The best two things that could happen in American politics would be cutting or removing altogether the corporate and labor union campaign contributions that are the most significant sources of corruption in both national and state government. 

U.S. Supreme Court decisions that hold donations by these wealthy special interests are protected by the Constitution’s free speech guarantees dictate that anyone wanting to diminish their influence over politicians must pursue something other than an outright ban, or even a cap on the special interest spending. 

In California, that effort last year took the form of an Assembly bill that would have forced corporations to report all their political activities and spending to shareholders, who could then have nixed a proportionate amount of that spending equal to their ownership stakes. 

In short, if a shareholder owned 1 percent of all stock in the Exxon-Mobil oil company, he or she could demand the company cut its political spending by 1 percent. 

It’s an idea very similar to what outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to impose on labor unions via the Proposition 75 ballot initiative in a 2005 special election. Back then, when Schwarzenegger was a political rookie still willing to take on major special interests, he tried to allow public employee union members to opt in or out of letting their dues be used for political contributions. 

“There’s a fundamental unfairness in California,” went the ballot argument for the measure, which failed. “Hundreds of thousands of public employee union members are forced to contribute their hard-earned money to political candidates or issues they may oppose.” 

There was truth to that argument, but it lacked balance. The clear-cut aim of Proposition 75 was to truncate the influence of the California Teachers Association and other unions representing prison guards, nurses, police and firefighters, which usually are leading contributors to Democratic candidates. 

Just last fall, public employee unions were among those that funded independent expenditure radio and television commercials backing Democrat Jerry Brown in his run for governor at a time when he didn’t want to touch his own campaign war chest. 

No doubt, Republicans like the signers of the pro-75 ballot argument would have loved to stymie that. 

But this column and others argued in 2005 that it would be unfair to cut union influence while leaving corporations unfettered. 

Former Democratic Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, a defeated candidate for attorney general last year, picked up on that contention with the proposal to let shareholders cut corporate contributions. Given the fact that corporations provide a large part of Republican campaign funds in California, including support for numerous independent expenditure committees, the presumption was that the Democratic-controlled Legislature would pass this easily. 

But it died in the state Senate’s Banking and Finance Committee, where four Democrats voted for the measure, when five votes were needed to move it along. Committee chairman Ron Calderon of Montebello, a Democrat, was one of three no votes (along with two Republicans), while Democrats Lou Correa of Orange County and Alex Padilla of Los Angeles did not vote. 

“A corporation’s treasury shouldn’t be used to bankroll the political agendas of a few members of its board,” said Pedro Morillas, a consumer advocate for the California Public Interest Research Group, paraphrasing a bit from the ballot argument for Proposition 75. 

If Californians are really interested in cleaning up this state’s politics and ending what many believe is governmental dysfunction, measures like both Proposition 75 and Nava’s defeated measure will be needed. 

It would be virtually impossible to put both union member and shareholder vetoes of using their money for politics into a single ballot initiative because of laws that require propositions to cover only one subject area each. 

But there’s nothing to prevent legislators from writing and passing companion bills accomplishing both aims. Nothing, that is, except pressure from the labor union and corporate interests who all too often call the shots in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. 

in Opinion
Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Civic Center Debate

September 24, 2023

September 24, 2023

Civic Center Debate Last year, the City declared the Civic Center Auditorium surplus property after a decade of neglect and...