Politicians have long been beholden to corporations and their donors rather than their constituents. And here in California, where Democrats have held majorities in the state legislature since 1997, corporations invest in moderate Democrats to hold onto their power. In California, having a “D” next to their name doesn’t mean a legislator is committed to civil liberty, social equality, or the California Dream.
That’s why corporate entities spent about $42 million dollars in California State Senate and Assembly races last election cycle. One out of every four dollars raised were from corporate donors! So it comes as no surprise that The Corporate-Free Elections Act (AB 20) failed to get through its first legislative hurdle — the Assembly Elections Committee.
While The Corporate-Free Elections Act did not make it out of committee this legislative cycle, it will come back around again early next year. Its first hurdle is, once again, will be the Assembly Elections Committee.
We want to thank the Elections Committee Chair, Marc Berman (D-Silicon Valley), for allowing the bill to be heard, as many chairs have begun refusing to hear any bill that doesn’t serve their interests. We hope he continues showing support by allowing the bill to be heard when it returns next year.
However, of the seven members on the committee — including Asm. Berman — only one, Evan Low (D-San Jose), had the courage to motion for the bill to be heard for a vote. But in order for a bill to be voted on in any committee, it needs a second motion. Unfortunately, no other legislator stood up for the people and fought back against corporate influence on our elections.
They all had different reasons for refusing to second the motion to vote on the bill. Some legislators felt it didn’t go far enough, while others — like Asm. Blanca Rubio (D-West Covina) — blatantly defended corporations.
Progressive-leaning assemblymembers like Steve Bennett and Marc Berman claimed that despite supporting the cause, they felt the bill language wasn’t comprehensive. Asm. Berman said that it doesn’t include removing corporate contributions to ballot propositions — implying that he thinks it should include that language. They were also concerned with the ways that corporations could contribute to independent expenditures (IEs).
We feel these are facetious arguments. We know that having a bill that includes many progressive elements: removing direct corporate contributions to candidates, publicly funding elections, and targeting IEs would never make it passed a floor vote. This bill alone couldn’t make it passed its first committee. That’s why we at Courage California plan on talking to these legislators to figure out what amendments this bill needs to make it out of committee.
In the meantime, we have about eight months to drum up as much public support for The Corporate-Free Elections Act as possible. We need the legislature — and especially the Assembly Elections Committee — to know that the vast majority of Californians want to remove money out of politics. While this bill will not remove money’s influence entirely, it is a critical first step to pushing back against corporate entities who buy our politicians’ votes.