There is one proposition on the State ballot this year that hasn’t yet drawn much attention, and probably won’t. It doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t require anyone to do or change anything. It doesn’t prohibit anything. It doesn’t even benefit one citizen or group of individuals over another. It just supports the core principle of a democratic system of government – one that is of the people, by the people and for the people.
The principles imbedded in Proposition 59 are especially important for smaller cities like Imperial Beach. Why? Because Proposition 59 supports the notion that big money Super PACs (i.e., independent-expenditure-only political action committees) should no longer be allowed to pour large amounts into elections, dwarfing any candidate’s direct spending, with the clear goal of influencing the outcome “independently” of the candidate being supported.
Proposition 59 calls upon all elected officials to do whatever is in their power to change the ability of corporations and unions to dump unlimited funds into our election process since this form of campaign support was authorized in 2010 by the Supreme Court’s Citizens Uniteddecision. Specifically, the Proposition states:
Shall California’s elected officials use all of their constitutional authority, including, but not limited to, proposing and ratifying one or more amendments to the United States Constitution, to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, to allow the full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another, and to make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings?
The State legislation that authorized this Proposition, Senate Bill 254, concluded that Citizens United is a serious threat to self-government because it “rolls back previous bans on corporate spending in the electoral process and allows unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, policy decisions, and public debate.” Numerous organizations support Prop 59, including California Common Cause, California Teachers Association, and CalPIRG.
In the interest of democracy, transparency and fair elections, I encourage every candidate for elected office in Imperial Beach to support Prop 59 and to publicly indicate their intention to decline (as I did in 2014) any and all current or future "independent" contributions on their behalf, even without their knowledge. Such public expressions of intention by our candidates will go far in dissuading a Super PAC from planning expenditures or continuing campaign expenditures on their behalf.
Let me be clear about one thing. I am not proposing campaign contribution limits on amounts given directly to any local candidate’s own campaign fund, as long as these are reported on the appropriate forms as required by California law. Candidates have to “own” these contributions and account for them and related expenditures. Direct contributions are not the problem.
However, so-called independent contributions made on a candidate’s behalf by a corporation or union are a problem, as Proposition 59 demonstrates, and should be rejected by candidates involved. Eliminating such funding will ensure that our local elections can be based mainly on the merits of the candidates alone and will make it possible for anyone to afford the cost of running for office in our town without having to compete against Super PAC support for one or more opponents.
If all candidates support Prop 59 and oppose Super PAC financing, our elections will be more open, fair and transparent -- and the citizens of IB will be better off.
Let’s make Imperial Beach a model for election finance transparency in San Diego County.
Mayor Pro Tem
City of Imperial Beach