As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Can You Buy An Election?

I think we're certainly close to finding out, with respect to the May 19 special election. While recent polling shows the electorate predisposed to opposing it, the money race is extremely lopsided in favor of the Yes side, and I suspect that will not change.

Led by Governor Schwarzenegger and a strange bedfellows coalition of big business and educators, the main campaign committee now reports donations of almost $3.7 million over the last six weeks.

Tops on the donor list is former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio, a longtime Schwarzenegger campaign donor, who dropped $1.5 million into the campaign late last month. But more recent big players are also worth noting. Last Friday, official campaign finance reports showed a $500,000 check written by Chevron and a little more than $250,000 from political switch-hitter Reed Hastings. Hastings, the founder of online video rental giant Netflix, is a former member of the state Board of Education and has a track record of contributions to both the GOP governor's causes and to a bevy of California Democrats [...]

Meantime, there's pretty much zippo reported so far in the way of money in opposition to any of the six budget-related ballot measures. Tops in cash seems to be the campaign opposing Proposition 1E, the temporary transfer of mental health money to the state's general budget needs. That campaign reports a little more than $120,000 on hand.

The use of the Prop. 1B bribe (I really don't know what else to call it) to split the labor coalition, and the co-opting of the legislature through predictable fearmongering has made this a virtual clean sweep for the Governor in the fundraising battle.

Additional support for the Yes side will be provided by the bipartisan fetishists in the media, whose "not too hot, not too cold" approach to problem solving should be completely discredited by the absolute and total mess made of California in its name, but which somehow still has some cachet. Dan Weintraub, good little centrist that he is, decides that a spending cap will - by itself - save the state from boom-and-bust budget cycles, when the history of such measures clearly shows that they ratchet down state spending to an unsustainable level that ruins quality of life for the broad mass of citizens.

TABOR, a (Colorado) state constitutional amendment adopted in 1992, limits the growth of state and local revenues to a highly restrictive formula: inflation plus the annual change in population. This formula is insufficient to fund the ongoing cost of government. By creating a permanent revenue shortage, TABOR pits state programs and services against each other for survival each year and virtually rules out any new initiatives to address unmet or emerging needs.

Declining services since TABOR’s enactment have become increasingly evident in most major areas of state spending: K-12 education, higher education, public health, and Medicaid.

"“[Business leaders] have figured out that no business would survive if it were run like the TABOR faithful say Colorado should be run -- with withering tax support for college and universities, underfunded public schools and a future of crumbling roads and bridges.”" Neil Westergaard, Editor of the Denver Business Journal

This fanciful notion that you can just sock money away for a rainy day and not then be restricted by the complete refusal to raise taxes, combined with tying long-term future growth to the worst three fiscal years (this year and the next two) in the state's history, and the fact that the rainy day fund would have to be replenished even in DOWN fiscal years, does not comport with the facts. We have verifiable data showing what happens when you artificially limit the size and scope of government and it's neither pretty nor desirable - before Colorado repealed TABOR, they were last or nearly last in spending in almost every major category across the board, with disastrous real-world effects on quality of life. The rainy day money never gets spent, it becomes another part of the budget out of the hands of lawmakers, and will only increase the deficit while crippling Californian's ability to cope with the downturn.

But one guy making that argument on a computer doesn't have the impact of a phalanx of glossy ads warning "Vote for this OR DIE!!!!" Given the paid media and earned media blitz on the Yes side, we really will see how much money can buy.

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