Monday, October 02, 2006

Bay Area Business Women support Prop 89

Bay Area BusinessWoman Online

The Clean Face of Money: Ballot Initaitive Opens Doors for the Rest of Us
—By Sarah E. Clark

Published: October, 2006

Imagine we have a female governor — perhaps another actor like, say, Geena Davis — and strong female representation in the State Legislature and other elected positions. Sound impossible? Think again. Proposition 89, the Clean Money & Fair Elections Act, could change the face of politics in California.

Sponsored by the California Nurses Association (CNA), Proposition 89 is designed to level the election playing field by radically restricting the ability of corporations, unions, and individuals to contribute to political candidates in California. “The Clean Money initiative takes the level of corruption out of politics. It limits the amount of money that special interests can give to a politician, and it lets them be free to actually do what we elect them to do — care for everyday Californians,” says Rose Ann DeMoro, CNA’s executive director.

CNA scored a stunning success in the special election last year, teaming up with other powerful labor unions — teachers, firefighters and public employees — to oppose Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives. This year, as the primary player sponsoring Prop 89, CNA has lined up the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, and Common Cause as allies. Individual endorsers include U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and State Senator Jackie Speier. State Treasurer Phil Angelides, candidate for governor, has also endorsed the initiative.

Donna Chipps, the executive vice president of the League of Women Voters of California, says, “Proposition 89 is a way to give a lot more people the ability to run as well as re-engage voters in the process, both to vote and run, because there seems to be a lot of voter apathy right now.”

According to Northeast Action, a New England-based organization that has been at the forefront of efforts to achieve Clean Elections in the U.S. since the early 1990s, women are underrepresented in American government due to many factors, including a history of discrimination and disenfranchisement as well as a relative lack of access to money to run political campaigns.

CNA released a study in September showing that big-money donors have spent $1.7 billion in the past five years to influence state elections. After analyzing 2.4 million records on file with the secretary of state, CNA found 52,000 contributions of $5,000 or more had been made to candidates for statewide offices and the Legislature and to ballot-initiative campaigns. The average amount of those large contributions was $33,000.

Clean Elections specifically reduces the influence of big money on elections and enables people of modest means to run for office. In California, Prop 89 supports candidates who reject private fundraising by providing them with a set amount of public funding. The cost is paid by a two-tenths of one percent increase in the state corporate tax rate.

Proposition 89 is patterned on Clean Money initiatives that are now law in Arizona and Maine. In Arizona, voters approved a Clean Money initiative in 1998. In every year since the adoption of Clean Elections, more women have run for the Arizona State Legislature and won. In 2004, women accounted for 40 percent of publicly financed candidates. Arizona’s current governor, elected as a Clean Money candidate, is only the state’s third female governor.

Maine became the first state to pass a Clean Money initiative in 1996. Nurse Practitioner Anne Perry ran for the Maine House of Representatives in 2004 and beat an incumbent for the seat. She says she wouldn’t have run for the seat if it weren’t for the Clean Money system. “I had trouble just asking for $5 donations,” said Perry, referring to the requirement that Clean Money candidates demonstrate viability by gathering a prescribed number of $5 donations. “As a nurse, I’ll take care of people, but heaven forbid I should ask anything from them!” The number of women who opted to run “clean” in Maine rose 29 percent from 2002 to 2004, from 68 to 86.

Currently, 31 percent of the California State Legislature is women. The California Elected Women’s Association for Education and Research predicts that after the November elections, the number of women in the Legislature will drop to 29 or 30 percent.

If Proposition 89 passes, the number of women in the State Legislature may actually increase rather than decrease. And if Proposition 89 passes, Californians may one day see a female governor with the integrity of the presidential character Davis plays on TV. But the real-life version would be elected to the position — with Clean Money.


For more information on Proposition 89, go to


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