There are many reasons secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur’s proposal to ban political fundraising for legislators 10 months per year is unworkable, unfair and likely unconstitutional (“ Tunnel vision and outrageous excesses in Capitol culture,” Viewpoints, Feb. 20).
For starters, it ties the hands of lawmakers while their competitors would be able raise and spend money lavishly. It would guarantee that special interests would pour millions more into independent expenditure campaigns. And it would force sitting legislators to frantically dial for dollars during the weeks before the polls open, a time when they should be attending debates and knocking on doors.
But perhaps the worst thing about this campaign finance gimmick is that it reinforces the cynical notion that money automatically buys votes in the Capitol.
Having worked as a legislative and congressional staffer for nearly three decades, as well as six years serving as a legislator myself, I can tell you that rarely happens. Last week’s indictment of Sen. Ron Calderon was the first of a California legislator in decades.
Let me let you in on a little secret: Nearly every politician loathes raising money. They do it for one reason – to pay for campaigns that often cost millions. They hold fundraisers in Sacramento during the legislative session because that’s where they spend most of their time, away from their home districts and families.
Sipping Bordeaux and puffing cigars while talking legislation? It’s illegal. Guess what legislators and lobbyists talk about at these receptions? The Kings, their kids, the weather.
Here’s another dose of reality: It is not unusual for elected officials to accept contributions from interests on both sides of an issue – which always leaves one side disappointed.
And if you need an example of where you can’t connect the dots between big money and legislative success in Sacramento, just ask Big Oil to tell its story. It spends lavishly on lobbying and in California campaigns, yet legislators are constantly tightening the regulatory screws on that industry.
Frankly, there is only one way of ending even the appearance of special interest influence on the political process – the public financing of campaigns. Candidates wanting to end any appearance of vote buying at the Capitol need to embrace that concept if they want to be taken seriously about true reform.
Steve Maviglio is a Democratic strategist and former deputy chief of staff in the California Assembly.