California’s broken proposition system

My recent article for the California Independent Voter Network uses the misleadingly named and just-approved for ballot California Jobs Initiative as an example of how the proposition system is broken. It was meant to be a way of exercising direct democracy, going right to the voters, but is anything but that now.

This proposition is funded primarily by out-of-state oil companies and wants to overturn the landmark California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

Look, there can be reasoned and intelligent debate from well-meaning folks on both sides here (I happen to favor AB32) and that’s what democracy is all about. But the California Jobs Initiative isn’t home-grown at all and seems to me to be just one more instance of how the California proposition system is broken and can be easily gamed.

The anti-AB32 proposition is funded almost entirely by two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro. Of the almost $1 million raised, those companies have given $775,000, paying more than half of that to groups who are paid by how many signatures they get. One would assume they expect to get something from their investment.

This shows just how broken the California proposition system is. Deep-pocketed corporations from anywhere can buy their way onto the ballot, and then spend millions in advertising to get it passed.

This is contrary to what the proposition system was supposed to be, a way for California citizens at a grassroots level to change policy by bypassing Sacramento and going directly to the voters. However, there will literally be dozens of propositions on the ballot in November, some genuinely from in-state citizen groups while others are clearly Astroturf, sponsored by corporations lurking in the background working through front groups.


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