Campaigns in California are among the most costly in the nation. This barrier to participation in our state spurs heated debate over how state campaigns are funded and whether different methods of financing produce different effects with regard to the comparative influence of special interests, who chooses to run for office, and who participates in elections and in what numbers.
Some experts believe campaign contributions should be regulated; others believe that the cost of political campaigns should be distributed equally among the public as a shared cost of a democratic society; and others believe that improved disclosure is the only workable remedy, or at least would be a good place to start.
Although campaign contribution limits were enacted in California in 2000 there is still a widespread sense that something more needs to be done to increase the quality of campaigns while reducing the cost of running for office and the negative consequences of big dollar fundraising that for most candidates is currently an unavoidable necessity.
Supporters of campaign finance reform are generally motivated by an interest in limiting the disproportionate and potentially distorting impact of well financed interests on the political process, and increasing access to candidacy for a more representative sample of the state’s population.
In the '05-'06 legislative session, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D-14) introduced AB 583 to establish a statewide system for public campaign financing. Other campaign finance-related legislation has been introduced would have required corporations to report political campaign contributions and publicly finance the campaign for Insurance Commissioner on a pilot basis. None of these passed the legislature.
The California Nurses Association and a number of other groups are supporting Prop 89 (on the November ballot), an initiative to enact public financing of campaigns, mandate corporate reporting of political contributions, and other items.
Supporters of Prop 89 say public financing will level the playing field at election time, and reign in undue influence over campaigns by special interests. Opponents of the measure say that by further limiting who can contribute to candidates and campaigns, the measure would actually restrict participation in the political process.
Opponents also object to the funding mechanism for the proposed policy, which would be a .2% increase in the corporation tax rate from 8.84% to 9.04%. Supporters assert that the tax increase is negligible, amounting to less than 20 cents for every $100 of taxable income, and would restore the corporate tax rate to 1996 levels.
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