Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
If there's one core cause for progressives to unite around, it just may be the clean elections movement. Until elections are publicly financed, big money will continue to dominate politics and legislation--from health care to trade to minimum wage initiatives--will continue to be crafted in the interests of corporations, not citizens.
Fortunately, in the past two weeks, there's been some major progress in the fight to take money out of politics. On Valentine's Day, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 9 to 2 in support of public financing of the city's mayoral elections. The ordinance will provide $6 million in public funds to all qualifying mayoral candidates in each election cycle. Although the measure does not provide 100 percent public financing like the intitiatives in Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the legislation's sponsor, said it will be an important first step to "ward off the corrosive impact of big money and special interests."
Both Portland and Albuquerque--the two strongest clean election models in the country--prevailed over serious opposition from corporate interests in the past week. Last week, in Portland, business-backed opponents of public financing failed to obtain enough signatures to force a referendum on the clean elections bill in May (a recount, however, is pending). And in Albuquerque, according to Nick Nyhart, executive director of Public Campaign, legislative backers of a repeal failed to move their bill by a key legislative deadline.
"This past week's good news for reformers is likely to continue in the weeks and months to come," said Nyhart. "Record campaign fundraising (see Schwarzenegger's bid to raise $120 million in the California gubernatorial race) and the continued stench of national scandal will lift reform efforts in Washington DC and across the country this year and beyond."
In other electoral reform news, the Center for Voting and Democracy has launched an excellent new initiative that would give equal representation to voters in presidental elections. The plan, backed by Common Cause and a bipartisan group of Congressmen, would bring states together in support of a national popular vote.
"This exciting new campaign…promises to dramatically change debate about reforming presidential elections," said Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. "If successful, [it] would have a powerful impact on voter participation, racial fairness and protections of the right to vote." Click here for details.
Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker, contributes to The Nation's new blog, The Notion, and co-writes Sweet Victories with Katrina vanden Heuvel.