Only Free & Equal can stop corporate special interests from buying California’s elections

Only Free & Equal can stop corporate special interests from buying California’s elections

We’ve got our work cut out for us if we are going to Stop Top Two in California.

A recent pollconducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) states that 56% of likely voters are in favor of Proposition 14, the Top Two Primaries Act. Meanwhile, only 27% claimed to be opposed, while 17% are undecided.

Of course, the PPIC poll merely told the voters what the ballot measure claims to accomplish. They did not tell the voters that Top Two would:
– prevent voters from choosing alternatives to the status quo on their general election ballots;
– eliminate the write-in vote;
– reduce the number of qualified political parties;
– prevent anyone from entering a race a full eight months before the general election; and,
– protect incumbents like no other electoral system ever used before.

Frankly, that’s not the pollsters’ job to present our side of the story. That’s our job.

The proponents of Top Two have been able to connect their position with the massive discontent voters feel towards the California legislature. The same PPIC poll found that the legislature’s approval rating has dipped to an historic low of just 9%.

Supporters of Top Two have raised and spent cash in big chunks from corporate special interests – companies like Hewlett-Packard, Burlington Northern Railroad, Pacific Life Insurance, Blue Shield, and a variety of unions, banks, and developers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an ardent proponent of Top Two, vowed to raise millions of dollars to fund the supporters of Proposition 14. That’s on top of the expenditures totaling close to $1 million already made this year by the deliberately misnamed Californians for an Open Primary.

He’s already making good on that vow, according to John Wildermuth writing for Fox & Hounds Daily. He points out that besides the massive contributions made directly by corporate special interests, those who want to buy California’s elections also can disguise their involvement by contributing to Gov. Schwarzenegger, with a wink and a nod that the money is earmarked for Top Two.

Why do such big corporate special interests want Top Two so badly? Hewlett-Packard came right out and explained their interest on their own website. HP wants to “(m)ake a difference in the tech-friendly composition of legislative body,” and supports candidates who have a “strong or emerging relationship with HP and/or high-tech industry.”

It’s not a stretch to say that Hewlett-Packard thinks $100,000 is a small price to pay to buy the electoral system of California and populate Sacramento with only HP-friendly legislators.

Meanwhile, we have on our side organizations in favor of grassroots democracy such as the Californians for Election Reform, the Coalition for Free and Open Elections, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition. Individuals with a long history of fighting for voters’ rights have also endorsed our Stop Top Two effort, such as Ralph Nader, Richard Winger, Wayne Allyn Root, Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Steve Greenhut of the Pacific Research Institute.

No one can claim these supporters of our cause are in the pockets of corporate special interests!

We’re off to a good start with the launching of our website But we’ve hardly even begun the huge task of presenting our side of the story to the voters of California. As the Wildermuth article points out, all we have on our side is this website and two committees that have raised about $1,000 between them.

California is a massive state with over a dozen large media markets. It will take a lot of resources to reach all of the voters with the message to Vote No on Proposition 14.

The good news is we don’t have to match the excessive spending of our opponents. Californians rejected a less destructive version of this system in 2004, and just last year Oregon voters also rejected a similar system.

Historically, all a “Vote No” campaign has to accomplish is to present one strong voice to become competitive in a vote on a statewide initiative. Free & Equal has to step up and be that voice!

We have to find the resources to tell the voters that the only way to keep free and fair elections is to defeat Proposition 14!

We must inform voters that having more than two choices on the ballot is the only way to be able to vote for a candidate that represents their views.

We need to educate voters that Top Two will only further disconnect their representatives from the voice of the people, allowing them to maintain the disastrous status quo without the benefit of new ideas that could solve California’s most pressing problems.

According to Wyatt Buchanan of the San Francisco Chronicle, “If passed, the measure would affect every primary race in California with the exception of presidential primaries, party committee elections and nonpartisan elections… it would make it more difficult for minor parties to be legitimately recognized in California elections – essentially disqualifying the Peace and Freedom and Libertarian parties due to insufficient registration numbers.”

Richard Winger of Ballot Access News published a new analysis of Proposition 14which further demonstrates how Top Two would rob the voters of their choices. He points out that primary elections in June always have abysmally lower voter participation than general elections in November. The last time even 50% of the registered voters showed up for a June primary was in 1982.

Top Two is clearly designed to eliminate voters from the process of elections.

Our arguments are simple, based on the facts and common sense. The arguments of our opponents are based on emotional claims that have to ignore the history of how similar systems have worked in other states.

But if the voters only get to hear one side of the debate, it is far more likely that side can carry the day.

We need your help! We need your best contribution right now to have any chance at all of turning the tide and convincing Californians to Vote No on Proposition 14!

There is no limit on how much you can donate to help Free & Equal tell the voters about elections with choices, elections that are truly free and equal. Maybe you don’t have the $500,000 available to the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, or the $100,000 given by Hewlett-Packard, or even the $50,000 donated by the California Chamber of Commerce.

We need your help whatever you can donate!

Our support is at the grassroots. Even if you can only give $5,000, or $1,000, or $500 or even $25, we’ll put everything we’ve got into fighting for elections that truly are Free & Equal.

Please let me hear from you soon. Your donation will be the best investment you can make for the future of honest politics in California! Thanks!

Christina Tobin
Founder, CEO
Free & Equal