All you have to do is to open today’s newspapers and the facts jump off the pages as to why we need the corrective surgery of Proposition 89’s Clean Money provisions to save California from the cancer of money that is growing on our democracy. What is it going to take—an Abramoff scandal here in the Golden State? Sounds exaggerated? One link is already here to Abramoff. Let’s just take a look at a few articles.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a front page article by Greg Lucas, “It’s Open Season on Lobbyists’ Donations: Lawmakers Hunt for Cash in Final Days of Voting on Bills.” It’s enough to curl your hair, and if you look at my picture, I don’t have much. This is one article definitely worth reading entirely. It starts out:
“With more than 1,700 pieces of legislation pending — many affecting the bottom line of powerful, monied interests — state lawmakers have crammed their final 19 days of business in 2006 with 75 fundraisers to seek campaign contributions from those same interest groups.”
Barbara O’Connor, Director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State Sacramento who has been around the Capitol for decades, it quoted as saying “It’s an opportune time to fleece lobbyists for as much money as possible because the fate of bills is literally being voted on.”
You would think that with thousands of bills to act upon, many of them the most important pieces of legislation to be considered in this two year session, that all of our legislators would be focused on the work that they have under the Capitol dome. Instead, we are told that “lobbyists, whose business depends on passing or killing bills, are inundated with invitations and phone solicitations from legislators aware that their ‘aye’ or ‘no’ vote could be crucial.”
We shouldn’t paint with too broad a brush. There are many fine legislators who are concentrating on the people’s work, but what are the others doing making all those phone calls at a time when they need to be paying attention to what’s in all those measure they are voting on and the last minute changes in them that are made at the end of a legislative session?
It gets worse:
Despite previous calls for fundraising blackouts during the legislative session and when he is considering which bills to sign or veto, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will hold two Sacramento events in August — breakfast Thursday at $22,300 a plate and a $10,000-a-head cocktail reception featuring former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
In 2004, the GOP governor raised $2.7 million during August and September when he was weighing whether to sign or veto legislation.
And you should read former Speaker Willie Brown’s comments in this article where he says fundraising is definitely more aggressive. You could not put it more bluntly than he did in saying: “Events in Sacramento are strictly for the third house. They aren’t civilian events. They are events for people who understand why they have to give.”
The Chronicle also has an editorial entitled “California Vice” that just skewers Arnold Schwarzenegger for the casino compact he announced earlier this week with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and there is plenty in today’s papers to back up their criticism. The editorial asks and answers its own question:
Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger, the recall candidate, who vigorously — and quite correctly — chastised Gov. Gray Davis for his coziness with the cash-rich tribal gaming interests? Remember Schwarzenegger, the new governor, who started negotiating meaningful labor and environmental protections into gaming compacts? Remember Schwarzenegger, the opponent of two 2004 ballot measures to expand casino gambling, who boldly pointed to the greed of certain tribes who were “ripping us off”? …
Now it’s an election year — and Schwarzenegger is blinking.
They reject the spin being put out by the Governor’s office about this agreement and conclude:
Schwarzenegger was the candidate who promised to be the “people’s governor,” who would take on the special interests. Two of the most powerful and politically active special interests, prison guards and tribal-gaming operators, are suddenly — conveniently — placated in this election year. It may be smart politics, but it’s not good news for Californians, who are disgusted with the ever-escalating size and number of prisons and casinos being built in our state
This deal would, according to the Sacramento Bee, “open a third casino near Palm Springs and expand the total number of slot machines from 2,000 to 5,000. If it installs that many, the tribe would host more slot machines than the largest Las Vegas casino.” Professor I. Nelson Rose, an expert on gambling, noted the deal “buys a measure of goodwill from a deep-pocketed tribe that could make things difficult for him in an election year.” We learn in this article details in the agreement that stink to high heaven including poor wages that force some of the casino workers to be paid poorly and use Medi-Cal for their health needs.
But this is the kicker: “The Agua Caliente have emerged as one of the largest campaign contributors to state and national politicians. The tribe grabbed headlines by paying disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and associates $10 million.”
We also learn from this and an article in the LA Times that this tribe has opposed other Indian tribes’ casino plans and that these have stalled in the legislature.
If you still question whether there is a link between campaign money and public policy in this state, just read the following passage from the Times article:
Agua Caliente, among the most politically active tribes in the nation, has spent $17 million on state campaigns since 2004. By striking a deal with Agua Caliente, Schwarzenegger may be ensuring that the band will not spend any of its millions to unseat him in November.
“I would imagine that had something to do with his thinking,” said Alison Harvey, executive director of the California Tribal Business Alliance, a consortium mainly of tribes that struck compacts with Schwarzenegger in 2004.
And Agua Caliente leaders “could be thinking he was more prepared to deal,” Harvey said
I’m sure there is more in today’s press that is part of Exhibit 1 for Clean Money and Prop 89.
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