Capitol Alert

Who funds California politicians? Initiative would have them wear the answer

Cutouts of legislators with images of their top donors on the steps of the California Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 26, 2015.
Cutouts of legislators with images of their top donors on the steps of the California Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 26, 2015. Photo courtesy John Cox

A California ballot initiative would have elected officials wear their campaign contributions on their sleeves.

Like many disgruntled citizens, Rancho Santa Fe resident John Cox believes money has corrupted politics to the extent that “the Legislature only serves the special interests,” as his ballot initiative states. Rather than try to plug the flow of campaign cash itself, Cox is focusing on making politicians more honest about the sources of their funding.

His ballot initiative would have candidates declare their top ten donors in campaign advertisements. Once they get to Sacramento, elected officials would need to don “stickers or badges” detailing their biggest benefactors in type printed clearly enough that anyone can read them.

“It’s a very serious proposal,” Cox said in an interview, adding that he plans to campaign with cardboard cutouts that imitate the proposed badges by listing current officials’ backers. “We’re illustrating the fact that our legislators don’t work for us – they work for the people who give them money.”

No stranger to long-shot political reform ballot initiatives, Cox has sought multiple times to qualify a measure that would vastly increase the number of state legislators from the current level of 120 to around 12,000.

Cox will need to collect around 365,000 signatures to put his disclosure measure before voters. But he said the campaign would serve the dual purpose of ginning up awareness for his “neighborhood legislature” idea, which he now hopes to place on the 2018 ballot.

“We’re trying to build grassroots support for it,” he said.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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