I’m not a politician, and I have no intention of becoming one. What I do aspire to be is a public servant. I’m proud to have served my country as an officer in the United States Army earlier in my life, and I’d be equally proud to serve my fellow Californians in the state senate as their representative.
Anyone who is even vaguely versed in the politics of today is well aware that politics has become a big business, with its own set of rules, many of which seem to reward those who are willing to compromise their ethics or ideals in the pursuit of success. Politics today, especially as practiced in California, is riven with special interests who have not only thoroughly gamed the current system to their advantage, but who are also willing to go to extraordinary lengths to preserve that advantage. The easiest way to do that is to be able to decide who runs. If you can control the set of choices presented to the voters in a given election, you don’t really have to worry too much about the outcome.
A member of the California state legislature makes $97,197 a year. That’s almost $12,000 more than the next highest-paid lawmakers, in Pennsylvania. That’s not a bad salary by most standards, but is it worth selling your soul for? I don’t think so. According to a 2012 analysis of campaign contributions to members of the California state senate, each member of the state senate, on average, raised $1,041,537 for their next election campaign. That nets out to $1,427 for every day during the 2012 cycle. And that’s only the average.
As the idealist I am, I think of elections this way: when you vote for someone, you are hiring that person to work for you, to serve as your representative and advocate in the office to which they are elected. Does it make sense to hire someone for a job working for you who then spends a significant amount of time each day in that job out grubbing for money for their next campaign? I don’t think so. When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious that at that point, unless you’re the person who’s coughing up those checks, they’re not really working for you . Not hardly. They’re using your vote, and a position in an institution that’s supposed to belong to all of us, to advance their own political career, and in doing so effectively leasing that office out to their “investors”. Nothing in this world is ever perfect, but that’s a far cry from how things should be.
California adopted term limits for our state legislators as the result of the passage of Proposition 140 in 1990. In the 26 years since, and despite their modification in June 2012, term limits have failed on the problem they were intended to solve. Instead of ensuring a steady supply of new, uncorrupted contestants for public office, the presence of term limits, when combined with the exercise of party control and the infusion of special interest money to incumbents on both sides of the political spectrum, has achieved something close to the opposite effect. With the clock ticking louder on every politician’s time in office, the influence of the special interests and party bosses is greater than ever.
In order to have any real chance of reversing this dispiriting trend, two things need to happen: first, the voters of California have to insist, over the obstruction and obfuscation of those who supposedly represent them, that the strongest possible measures be put in place to ensure accountability and full transparency in the conduct of politics and government.
Toward that end, I fully support the work of the California Clean Money Campaign, and AB 700, the California Disclose Act, which would allow voters to know who is really paying for all those misleading political ads. In the last two elections cycles in California, over $640 million was spent on ballot measures, most of it by ‘committees’ using misleading names and hiding their true funders. We need AB 700 and other laws like it, in order to take California’s political process back from special interests and return the power to its rightful place, which is in the hands of citizen voters themselves.
Second, in order to make that happen, we need more good men and women to insert themselves into the political process, and in so doing provide an alternative to so many of the political hacks and professional errand runners who have come to populate California’s ‘political class.’ We need these people to be smart, committed, and as fed up with the status quo as the rest of us, intent on the kind of public service originally envisioned by the founders of both our nation and our state, who assumed that good, principled people would give of their time and of themselves in the pursuit of the larger public good, and then having done their civic duty would eventually return to private life. I’d like to think that I fit that description, and that all makes good sense to me. That’s why I am running, and that’s why I hope I can count on your support.
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