On May 21, the voters of Los Angeles will have the opportunity to weigh in on the most pervasive problem facing America today -- money in politics -- through Proposition C on the mayoral ballot. The Money Out/Voters In Coalition (MOVI) of Los Angeles, of which I am a member, played a key role in the measure's success. Councilmembers Richard Alarcón, Eric Garcetti, José Huizar, and Bill Rosendahl all gave speeches in support of Prop C in the Jan. 16 meeting of the LA City Council, which approved the drafting of the ballot initiative by a 13-1 vote. Proposition C reads:
Shall the voters adopt a resolution that there should be limits on political campaign spending and that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings and instruct Los Angeles elected officials and area legislative representatives to promote that policy through amendments to the United States Constitution?
Signatories of the supporting argument in favor of Proposition C include Councilmember Bill Rosendahl; Kathay Feng, the Executive Director of California Common Cause; Mary Beth Fielder, the Co-Founder of Money Out/Voters In; and seven others. No argument against Prop C was submitted. Despite this apparently overwhelming support, the Los Angeles Times objected to what it regards as a lack of clarity and impact in the initiative in an editorial on April 21.
Proposition C is essentially a primal scream about the role of corporate (and other) money in politics. But its message would be a muddled one. Whatever their views of Citizens United, voters who believe that elections should involve clear choices and have practical consequences will vote no on Proposition C.
A non-binding resolution, Proposition C will not have any legal bearing on the infamous court case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that is the touchstone of the campaign finance reform movement. Contrary to the assertion of the LA Times, this does not mean that the initiative does not serve a clear purpose. That purpose is to ignite a debate amongst our political leaders at the municipal level in order to put pressure on officials at the state and federal levels and to pollinate a broad-based grassroots movement.
Prop C was never intended to be the panacea to the problems of Citizens United and campaign finance reform. Its passage would make the city the largest electorate to weigh in, and would be a big push forward for the movement nationally. We cannot let perfection be the enemy of progress. Angelenos, please join the Money Out/Voters In Coalition this Friday, May 10 at 10:30 a.m. on the west steps of City Hall for Operation Primal Scream.