Why Meek Should Not Inherit the Earth

Steve Novick

Like Steve Duin and the Willamette Week staff, I respect Dan Meek for his years of work on progressive causes. But that doesn’t make him right on Measures 46 and 47.

Dan’s background in the progressive movement is in lawsuits and initiatives. He has not – at least not visibly -- sullied his hands with any involvement in the legislative process or in candidate campaigns. And, frankly, even when it comes to initiatives, he has not joined the rest of the progressive movement in our endless battles against the likes of Sizemore and McIntire. In fact, he has opposed modest changes to the initiative process that would have hurt Sizemore without hurting democracy.

Stand for Children, Ecumenical Ministries, Oregon Action, Basic Rights Oregon, NARAL and Planned Parenthood have been involved in the legislative process, and some have been involved in candidate campaigns. They have concluded that these measures will chill the participation of small and mid-sized donors, and muzzle politically active non-profits, while the final result will be wealthy individuals continuing on unfettered ... because, as every lawyer other than Dan has concluded, the measure’s own provisions on wealthy donors will inevitably be struck down by the Scalito Court.

These groups are in a position to know what they are talking about. More so than Dan, who has not fought in the same trenches.

The incomparable Steve Duin thinks Meek is incorruptible. But as I told Steve the other day, nobody should underestimate the self-righteous feeling of incorruptibility (and desire for recognition of same) as a source of corruption in its own right. I myself sometimes have to ask myself, "Am I saying this because it is right and true to say it and it needs to be said and I'm the only one who will and damn the consequences -- or am I saying it because I want Steve Duin [for example] to give me CREDIT for being the only one to say something that is right and true and needs to be said?" I don't always know the real answer. I suspect that Dan, like me, is often tempted by the poisonous fruit of self-righteousness into alienating his allies, not necessarily because we are right, but because it feels so good to be seen as Diogenes’ one honest man. I suspect that is what has happened in this case.

Personally, I have serious doubts about any campaign finance reform that does not include a public financing component. “Get the money out of politics”? How do you communicate, without money? You can’t knock on a million doors. Try it sometime. And I can give you a pretty good argument that there ISN’T very much money in politics. General Motors spends two billion dollars a year on ads, nationwide. I’d guess the Oregon portion of that (we’re a bit over 1% of the population) is over $20 million. Annually. That’s a lot more than is spent on the Governor’s race every FOUR years. Why aren’t we trying to “get the money out of cars”?

Erik Sten understands this. Which is why, unlike Dan Meek, whose quixotic, uncompromising “get the money out of politics” stance has alienated his friends, Erik Sten was willing to fight the powers that be, and take a serious risk with the public, by trying to get the fund-raising out of politics – a cause I can agree with wholeheartedly – through public financing.

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    You can't knock on a million doors, but you can knock on ten thousand. And the State legislators who do it consistently win, even under our current system.

    There are only two places where vast wads of campaign cash really do drown out shoeleather candidacies in Oregon politics: the Governor's race and the Initiative system.

    The greatest irony of Meek's proposals is that he's attempting to "fix" just about the only thing that isn't broken in Oregon, and has pointedly refused to address the Initiative demogaugery, the real reason this state seems always stuck in neutral.

    I've said it once, I'll say it again. A 10K personal limit to all campaigns and initiatives would take a few sentences, and solve more real problems in this State than Meek's entire Rube Goldberg legal contraption.

  • LT (unverified)

    Thanks Steven for that intelligent response.

  • TM (unverified)

    The following is likely the lamest excuse for inaction that I have ever read.

    "“Get the money out of politics”? How do you communicate, without money? You can’t knock on a million doors. Try it sometime. And I can give you a pretty good argument that there ISN’T very much money in politics. General Motors spends two billion dollars a year on ads, nationwide. I’d guess the Oregon portion of that (we’re a bit over 1% of the population) is over $20 million. Annually. That’s a lot more than is spent on the Governor’s race every FOUR years. Why aren’t we trying to “get the money out of cars”?"

  • Former Salem Staffer (unverified)

    Measure 47 strikes me as a very well-intentioned, but deeply flawed, attempt to straighten out a very complex problem. Even reading the voter's pamphlet is very revealing. The actual text of Measure 47 goes on for several pages, well beyond any of the other ones. I talked with Rep. Peter Buckley about this a few weeks ago. He was originally one of the proponents of the measure, but has since stopped supporting it. I think that says a lot.

  • David (unverified)

    I would like to support campaign finance reform, I really would. I think we need to do something to get rid of the ability of Loren Parks or an equivilent to provide obscene amounts of funding for people they support. However, this measure goes too far and that is why I am voting NO.

    I agree, btw, with Steven up above. The legislators who do win often are the ones who knock on the most doors, not have the most $. Witness Larry Galizio two years ago. I can't tell you an exact count but being peripherally involved in that campaign (I was volutneering for Hass, who worked out of the same office) I can certainly say that the number was at least several thousand.

  • Jesse O (unverified)

    We're all sick of money buying favors (or being a threat against good people). Yes, there is a better way, but knocking on doors isn't the answer.

    There are two ways to fix money in politics:

    (1) Limit speech to free time on airways, which isn't constitutional yet (2) Give people adequate public funds

    Everything else is a mess. And M46 creates a situation where only major money -- people who can run initiatives -- will be able to change the law (at least for major changes, as getting 3/4s of both houses is almost impossible).

    Yes, there's a problem (even though there's not a huge amount of money in politics, there are clear problems with that which exists). M46 and M47 aren't the fix.

    Thinking people who are about good government -- Common Cause, the League of Women Voters -- haven't endorsed these measures for a reason..

  • activist kaza (unverified)

    So now - having failed at every other attempt (free speech, equating Lonsdale to Sizemore, prepostorous reaches on theoretical future court decisions), the opponents of 46/47 have decided to take pot shots at Dan Meek???

    This is unconscionable...and ridiculous.

    I guess it's an obvious sign of desperation that Oregonians can see through all the flaccid and ludicrous arguments of the self-serving opposition. So it's time to shoot the messenger!

    Fortunately, it just won't work. This campaign isn't about Dan Meek (and Dan Meek is the first to say so). It isn't about Harry Lonsdale either. It's about the thousands of Oregonians who gave small donations (relative to other campaigns) collected signatures (280k of them) and see the outright flaws in Oregon's election system - flaws that political operatives (like Novick?) are too myopic to recognize any more.

    I can respect those (like the LWV) who have abstained from endorsing this version of CFR. But those who oppose it are clearly speaking with forked tongues. Those who would smear the backers of it are just plain...sick.

    BTW, the vast majority of 46/47 supporters love the idea of clean elections also. But we're pragmatists and realists...and when you look at the polls to the south (on prop 89), you know that we are a long ways off from having any public financing of campaigns throughout our great state.

  • Steve Duin (unverified)

    Once more with feeling: Steve, ol' chum: You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass. Over the last several years, there have been at least a half dozen times when Meek begged me not to put his name in the column if I elected to write about PGE, TPG, 408 or campaign finance. If I thought he was in it for the publicity, I'd avoid him like the plague ... or Len Bergstein.

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    Just a few comments, as I also have to run my law practice.

    Public funding of campaigns would be great. I was a donor to that cause in 2000, when it was defeated 58-42%. It was also defeated in Oregon by over 70% "no" vote in 1976. It will likely go down to defeat in California on November 7. Polls showed that the Portland system would have been repealed by the voters, had the referendum qualified for the ballot.

    And limits on private contributions are a prerequisite to a permanently workable system of public funding. If the developers has gotten together and really supported Ginny, she could have overwhelmed the Portland public funding system with private contributions that the public system could not have matched, due to lack of appropriations. Public funding systems work in Maine and Arizona, where they are accompanied by limits on private contributions.

    As for some of the other ideas, the U.S. Supreme Court has never allowed limits on contributions or expenditures regarding ballot measures and instead has always invalidated themn. It struck them down in Massachusetts (1978), Berkeley (1981). The Ninth Circuit struck down Montana's limits in about 2003. In 2000 and 2002, we circulated statewide measures that also limited contributions on ballot measures. Can't say we got support from any of those on this thread who now advocate that, but I encourage those who wish to limit contributions on measures to collect the signatures and put it on the ballot. I will help.

    Re the suggestions about free media, etc., regulation of broadcasting and even cable TV is preempted by federal law. In other words, a state or locality cannot require free time on any station for any purpose.

    As for who wins, the legislative candidate spending the most money wins over 90% of the time.

    As for endorsements, we have Sierra Club, OSPIRG, Gray Panthers, Physicians for Social Responsibility, etc. As for the LWV and Common Cause, both are neutral. If your arguments against the measures are so great, why are they not opposed?

    Anyway, I have to get back to work to make more money to contribute to the campaign.

  • J. Smalls (unverified)


    Meek isn't doing this for the publicity but because no matter how many smart people tell him otherwise, he does it because it's the perfect plan, because Harry Lonsdale says so, by golly.

  • John Napolitano (unverified)

    In the US Congress, those who accept thousands of dollars in gifts from lobbyists end up in jail. Republican congressman Bon Ney is the latest one to admit to the practice. But in Oregon, paying elected representatives with lavish trips is considered constitutionally protected speech. Without a change to the state constitution, we are not going to get rid of a system that is corrupt. Measure 46 is a step in the right direction.

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    Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAXsIs5ouX8

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Steve Duin is a columnist. Columnists often look for a personal angle on issues, hence Duin's piece on Dan Meek.

    Let's be honest. The Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47 are not about Dan Meek. The campaign in favor of them hardly mentions Meek. Opponents first tried to discredit the measures by attacking one of its main supporters, Harry Lonsdale, trying to conflate him with conservative deep pockets Loren Parks and Howard Rich. That approach has failed to gain traction. Now they are after Meek. When you don't have much of substance to argue, ad hominem attacks become tempting.

    I had dinner with Dan Meek last night. Besides talking about campaign finance reform, we discussed the disingenuous campaign for Measure 48, the military draft, and protesting the Vietnam War. We talked about how teens in the early seventies were much freer of parental control than they are today. I've also been in many meetings with Dan Meek. I heard him to being wrong about many things [the effectiveness of the Fair Elections measures was not among them]. Frankly, the guy is too busy to wait around for Diogenes to shine a lamp in his face. If he's not working on campaign finance reform, he's trying to prevent the "public" utilities from robbing us of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    On Steve Novick's points that are not ad hominem:

    The prediction by Steve and "every lawyer other than Dan" that limits on wealthy donors will be struck down has not stopped Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois (judicial races only), Michigan, Nevada, Tennessee, Washington (last 21 days before the election only), and West Virginia from enacting such limits enacting such limits. Pardon me if I don't roll over and give up because of such predictions, predictions just like the ones that many McCain/Feingold provisions would be overruled. Those predictions proved wrong.

    As to public financing of campaigns...Steve loves it, I love it, Dan Meek loves it, Oregon's voters do not love it. Polls suggest that Portland system [we all love that as well] would be overturned if it faced the voters. Oregonians are cheap, are "welfare for politicians" is a powerful message with them.

    Again, I need to mention for the umpteenth time that EVERY state that has public campaign financing also has contribution limits. The two are synergistic.

    As to the progressive groups who complain that Fair Elections would put a crimp in their fundraising, the more I hear from them, the more they sound like political professionals trying to protect their cash flow, and the less they sound like effective advocates for their issues and for democracy in general. Limits In Fair Elections apply only to their work for and against candidates in the period before the election. There is no effect on their work on measures, communication with members, are whatever else they do.

    Librarian and artist groups are taking their cue from ACLU on this issue. ACLU has always believed contribution limits are unconstitutional. I've been a member of ACLU for many decades, and I don't agree with their position. Either has the US Supreme Court. Money has enough power in this world with being equated with speech and protected by the First Amendment.

    People who make money from the political process [like many who gather here] are just about the ONLY people who believe that money is not a problem in politics. Face reality: most money spent on campaigns goes to TV and radio ads that have close to zero useful content. I think Oregon's voters can make better decisions based only on what is in the Voters Pamphlet than they can based on the totality of television, radio, and mail political ads.

    The string of recent stories on political money makes Steve's dismissal of its corrupting influence ring untrue.

    • Legislators fly to luxurious junkets in Hawaii to pick up big contribution checks from the alcohol lobby [by the way, tax on beer and wine has not increased in 30 years].

    • The legislature bowed to lobbyist pressure and repealed a program that saved Oregon millions [$400,000/month] on prescription drugs.

    • The forest products industry pours $1.1 million [so far] into Saxton's campaign after Kulongoski tries to protect roadless areas.

    Money in politics is not a problem? Sure, Steve. Whatever you say.

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    That did not produce a clickable link, so here is a clickable link: <ahref=http: www.youtube.com="" watch?v="gAXsIs5ouX8">Prop 89 ad

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    That did not work either, so just one more try:

    Prop 89 ad

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Sentence in third paragraph should read:

    "I've heard him admit to being wrong about many things [the effectiveness of the Fair Elections measures was not among them]."

    also: "enacting such limits" should not be repeated.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Steven Maurer wrote:

    "I've said it once, I'll say it again. A 10K personal limit to all campaigns and initiatives would take a few sentences, and solve more real problems in this State than Meek's entire Rube Goldberg legal contraption."

    Unfortunately, Steve, it would leave gaping holes for most contributions and runs counter to preexisting federal court decisons.

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    OK, Tom, how about this one-sentence measure -- that WOULD stand up to a federal court decision:

    "Corporations shall be prohibited from donating money to any candidate or candidate committee."

    Done. Just like the federal rules.

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    Speaking as someone who hasn't yet formed an opinion about the measures and doesn't know any of the personalities involved, I have to say I'm not favorably impressed by the attempt to make this about the person rather than the measures themselves.

  • Damiana (unverified)

    John Napolitano wrote: "But in Oregon, paying elected representatives with lavish trips is considered constitutionally protected speech."

    To clarify, these measures would do nothing to reduce trips to Maui or other lavish gifts. That is a completely different part of the law.

    If anything, passage of these measures will likely increase such gifts. If corporate big spenders are limited in what they can give during the election cycle, they will be even more motivated to curry favor through meals, trips, etc. directly to legislators.

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    Sorry, Kari, that would not work. The corporations would simply do independent ads themselves instead of the contributions to the candidates. That is why McCain-Feingold bans corporate independent expenditures, and so does Measure 47.

    Yes, our measures would have an impact on the Hawaii trips. Several of the legislators did not accept the trips as gifts (as that would look bad) and instead used their campaign funds (conveniently provided by the beer and wine lobbyist himself) to "pay" for the trips. Under Measure 47, no corporation can contribute to any candidate. Thus, no corporate money for trips to Hawaii.

    If you want to do a ballot measure banning all gifts to officeholders, sign me up.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Kari wrote,

    "Corporations shall be prohibited from donating money to any candidate or candidate committee."

    -that would stand up only if non-profit corporations [501c3] were included. The OurOregon, protectourVoices opposition complains that Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47 apply to nonprofits, even though federal court rulings make this mandatory.

    Also, it is common practice for corporations to give massive bonuses to their executives with the understanding that they will make massive contributions to political campaigns. This is a gaping loophole. I can supply specifics if desired.

    Damiana wrote:

    "To clarify, these measures would do nothing to reduce trips to Maui or other lavish gifts. That is a completely different part of the law."

    • Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47 would effect the reason Wayne Scott flew to Hawaii - to pick up a $30,000 contribution check, an amount worth way more than the value of the junket itself.
  • cja (unverified)

    What about in-kind contribtuions?

  • Gary Duell (unverified)

    RE: Political nonprofits- and others -worried about their funding when M46 & 47 pass. Currently the $50 political contribution tax credit costs the Oregon Dept. of Revenue approx. $10 mil. per year. There are about 2.6 mil. eligible voters in Oregon. If they all made an average $50 annual political contribution that would add up to $130 mil. So that PROVES that there is $120 mil. in slack for politicians to pursue, slack that would be TOTALLY unaffected by M46 & M47. It also PROVES that- if indeed money is speech -there is a huge amount of "free speech" that is not even being being used, much less being threatened by Meas. 47. Or else taxpayers are making contributions and forgetting to ask for the credit, which is highly unlikely on such a large scale. RE: Attacking Dan Meek. Dan is the last person in Oregon whose character or intelligence could justifiably be questioned. Hence, a person attacking him must be stupid, or ignorant, or ethically challenged, or all of the above. Doing so is a fool's errand. RE: Publicly financed elections. Yes, of course this is the best solution. But do you think it will ever happen as long as the brothel in Salem is in operation? An unusually rare convergence of intelligence and character on the Portland City Council, coupled with Potter's populist victory, is what made Portland's publicly financed campaigns possible. But that will NEVER occur in Salem as long as the love of legislators, and the media that elects them, can be bought.

  • anon (unverified)

    I keep reading references on Blue Oregon to Dan Meek as a "progressive". I don't get that.

    The guy worked to try and deliver Oregon for George W. Bush, twice (Nader 00 and 04)! Gee thanks! No doubt Alito and Roberts will be vital in helping to make America a better place for working families, the environment, and our civil liberties in the coming years.

    Further, he appeared in ads w/ Don McIntire in 2002 to support that judicial redistricting measure (similar to BM 40 on this year's ballot). Mr. Meek has claimed that this was in fact the progressive position. Of course, Loren Parks, Kevin Mannix, Russ Walker, Don McIntire and the rest of the right wing of the Oregon Republican Party didn't see it that way. Nor do they see it that way this time. See, Mr. Meek was just working his special Jedi mind tricks on those silly Republicans - jokes on them!

    But, I guess Mr. Meek and his actions are just too brilliant for the rest of us peons to understand. How dare anyone criticize him!?!

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    As a confirmed Democrat, I don't see the upside of progressive third party runs under the current election system. That doesn't mean that someone who supported Ralph Nader for president is not a progressive. It's a matter of strategy, not values. If we throw everyone off the progressive boat who doesn't agree with us completely, we're going to be pretty lonely.

    A Green is a Democrat who has been disappointed one too many times.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    "The incomparable Steve Duin thinks Meek is incorruptible. But as I told Steve the other day, nobody should underestimate the self-righteous feeling of incorruptibility (and desire for recognition of same) as a source of corruption in its own right."

    Hello? Does anyone actually read Steve Duin? The man has no equal for self-righteousness. Is it really any wonder he would promote someone else of the same mindset?

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    Trying to limit campaign SPENDING is a waste of time and an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.

    The goal of campaign finance reform laws should not be about trying to limit the ability of candidates to get their message out. It's pretty hard to do that if you have artificially low limits on what you can spend.

    The goal of campaign finance reform should be:

    1) Maximize full disclosure and prompt disclosure so that everyone knows who has paid for any kind of political ad or mailer, and who is funding which campaigns.

    2) Put realistic limits on campaign DONATIONS, so that a few rich individuals can't single handedly finance campaigns themselves. A realistic limit would be much more than $100 or $500. Maybe 10 or 20 times that much. The goal being to put a limit on the extreme cases, not put a rediculously low limit on everyone.

    3) Maximize alternative ways for candidates to get their message out.

    The thing I can't stand about these ballot measures and others is that it seems like what they really want to do it limit the ability as much as possible for candidates to run any ads at all, or mail out any flyers at all. So all we are left with is free media in the newspapers and on TV news broadcasts. If you're running a statewide campaign, going door to door isn't realistic.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    You haven't read the Fair Elections measures, have you? If you would, you'd learn that Fair Elections IS about limiting campaign contributions to candidates. Limits on campaign spending are unconstitutional. That's why Fair Elections doesn't try to do that.

    I don't believe that Fair Elections is going to stifle politcal campaigns. It will change them, that's for sure. But if Oregonians perceive a lack of political advertising, maybe they will vote for public funding [Clean Elections], and then all progressives will be happy.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Tom Civiletti sees, "People who make money from the political process [like many who gather here] are just about the ONLY people who believe that money is not a problem in politics. Face reality: most money spent on campaigns goes to TV and radio ads that have close to zero useful content. I think Oregon's voters can make better decisions based only on what is in the Voters Pamphlet than they can based on the totality of television, radio, and mail political ads." [emphasis added]

    I read and re-read the Constitutions and could not find anywhere that self-governance, liberty, and justice, are skilled career paths for those who have no science, art, tradecraft, commercial propriety, or agricultural skills to capitalize on.

    A person whose consciousness grasps no more of political activity than the nick of money they can pocket from public transactions, being the only type of person in politics these days, explains how open, informed, and just government has been removed from the laws of this land -- by the profiteers selling those illusions -- and everything written and enacted is more autocratic and authoritarian oppression of citizens. Seems that the death of American democracy coincides with the creations (1945-48) of militarized industry and manufacturing, the Pentagon, the CIA, and television. As implements of the the extensions of human powers in nuclear science, digital control, and genetic biology -- the absolute powers of the atom, the mind, and DNA design.

    Now, within 5 generations, every American political involvement is corrupted absolutely. Our nation is become a slave camp.

    <h2>Simply because, common knowledge is infected to think of politics as wage work. So is suck-up assistant killer guard jobs at a dictator's prison camps.</h2>

    Probably Steve Novick did not consider his ideas about campaign reforms as implicitly and inherently involved with democracy or autocracy powers and understanding. I just think that the discussion in terms of contribution limits, or dollars per candidate, shows none of it can effect liberty and justice for citizens in this land while nationalisms goes on, and now 60 years on, murdering humanisms.

    All these discussions -- campaign finance, jobs creation, ecology preservation, health care, police brutality, transportation, etc., etc. -- mostly seem to me to be wastes of time. American democracy, that good old body of liberty and justice intangible conceptual fuzzy stuff again -- although every human brain has an innate and inborn sense of those, (sociality, liberty and justice), and no human brain is born with hardwired comprehension of what are called 'issues,' (jobs, economy, war, etc.) -- is a body rotted inside from power-madness's cancerous corruption, much as sex-madness's cancerous syphilis rots a body from within, and the discussions that go on to treat and cure the dying body politick all amount to physicians arguing whether the bandaid goes on the left toe or the right toe.

    Anyway, in campaign finance, I understand it works this way. A candidate goes campaigning for office by getting some money and spending it. (Instead of publishing social and political thoughts.)

    Now, the lawmakers seem set on autocratic power over where a candidate can get money, and maybe, how much money.

    I always want to ask what about regulating where a candidate can spend it.

    Just enact that campaigns for public office are prohibited to spend money to buy broadcast time on radio and television.

    Only because those temporal media are known to impair and damage human conscious coherence, cogency and values.

    ...TV viewing may trigger autism, data analysis suggests

    Same reason statecraft enacted the prohibition on buying broadcast tobacco sales campaigns.

    For what it's worth, in personal conversations with Dan Meek, Steve Duin, and likely Steve Novick without knowing his name, (but if not in conversations, at least in reading his written thoughts), I appreciate each of them as kind and dear, intelligent human beings. I understand we are not supposed to say anything substantive or creatively original in the blogworld of words and wisecracks, and I ask your forgiveness if I have broken the ruler rules.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    The identity and putative sainthood of the authors is ultimately immaterial. Please let us not waste space on personal attacks which blockade debate of issues.

    The purpose of Measures 46 & 47 is to place controls on campaign finance so that large donors can't buy a contolling interest in choosing our representatives. The question is what the measures will deliver if passed.

    Measure 46 is a Constitutional Amendment, so it would be the most enduring accomplishment. Careful consideration is due to the conditions it sets for campain finance reform beyond Nov. 7, 2006.

    In an attempt to forestall opposition in the State Legislature, M 46 imposes the "superdupermajority" requirement of three-quarters assent in both Houses to write or amend campaign finance law. I judge that an unacceptable diminishment of the power of the institution of representational democracy. It would allow as few as seven State Senators to blockade campaign finance reform legislation.

    If there is popular support for campaign finance reform, then we should take measures to hold legislators to account for attempted subversion of it. If they are beyond popular censure, attempts to control their finances are utterly inadequate to the problem we face.

    Leaving the only practicable means of passing campaign finance law to be the initiative petition puts it in the arena of unfettered financing. As Mr. Meek noted: "the U.S. Supreme Court has never allowed limits on contributions or expenditures regarding ballot measures".

    M 47 seems unlikely to last long under those conditions. Big donors aren't aren't going to surrender after losing one skirmish.

  • Travis Diskin (unverified)

    ED states

    If they are beyond popular censure, attempts to control their finances are utterly inadequate to the problem we face.

    The problem is that great and there is overwhelming popular support for campaign finance reform in Oregon. If at any time the legislature finds a provision a problem, they can always refer it to the voters where simple majority decides.

    Oregonians on the whole have no confidence in their representatives because of this perceived corruption issue. The question that voters need to ask is, "Is this current system working," (I have yet to hear one person, even the opposition say yes to that,) and follow up that question with, "Will this new system be better for Oregonians?"

    The answer without question is, Yes, the system will be healthier by passing these measures.

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    As I read Measure 46, 16 rogue legislators in the House or 8 rogue members of the Senate could stop legislation that:*

    1. Fixes a drafting error or improves Measure 47.

    2. Applies tighter limits than Measure 47

    3. Closes a loophole that some crafty corporate lawyer figured out or that the folks implementing the statute create.

    Certainly Dan Meek isn’t so arrogant to think that his measure is perfectly written and will <u>never</u> need to be amended. And does anyone really believe that corporate Oregon won’t find any loopholes in the Measure 47 scheme that will need to be closed?

    Heck, if the alleged purpose of the measure will bring about better legislators, or at least legislators able to act in the public interest free of monied interests, we shouldn’t be writing a constitutional provision that undermines the ability of the new and better Legislature to act.

    There’s certainly good reason to be concerned that the Legislature might make some changes in the future that today’s drafters of Measures 46 and 47 won’t like, but tying the hands of the “cleaner, money free” Legislature from making positive changes, as well, makes no sense. The proponents of Measures 46 and 47 should have the strength of their convictions that the Legislature will be improved.

    The drafters of Measure 46 could have protected the right of citizens to refer negative changes to Measure 47 just like it is preserved for tax issues by prohibiting emergency clauses on campaign finance legislation. ** Instead, they chose to tie the hands of the very body they claim they are freeing from corporate money influence.

    In 1994, Oregon voters approved campaign finance reform. The 1995 Legislature, controlled in both houses by the Republicans, did not amend or repeal the law (it was struck down by the Supreme Court in early 1997). In addition, the effort to repeal Death With Dignity taught folks that trying to repeal a voter-enacted law is fruitless – the law was re-affirmed by an even larger margin while tarnishing the reputation of legislators and the institution who tried to repeal it (one of the reasons the Ds took over the Senate).

    The rules of the legislative process are designed to not pass bills – which is a good thing. That helps protect against initiatives from being undermined. Measure 46 puts clunky handcuffs on the Legislature; the ¾ requirement is more extreme than the power-to-the-minority requirements the Oregon GOP and their anti-government friends put in place on the kicker and measures to raise revenues. It would set a new standard for undermining the authority of the Legislature to act. “If its good enough for progressive Dan Meek on campaign finance reform, why isn’t it good enough on this spending or tax measure?”

    Some say “don’t let the perfect get in the way of improvement.” I’m not holding out for the perfect. I am, however, holding out for a measure that does not undermine the authority of the Legislature to act to improve the law and fix problems as they arise.

    The proponents of Measures 46 and 47 are so angry at the Legislature they don’t think their reforms will work. Why else would they tie the hands of the body they are claiming to be fixing” through campaign finance reform with a 75 percent threshold to make any changes?

    Giving power to ¼+1 of the Legislature is a thinly veiled effort by the proponents of M46 to write-off the Legislature that they claim they are trying to fix!. I want it improved through campaign finance reform, and I want it to be able to do its job.

    I find Measure 47 confusing. It is a statutory scheme that cries out for clarification and simplicity. Unfortunately, because a small group of rogue legislators can stop any reforms of the statute under Measure 46, any reforms would likely have to go through the referendum-initiative process. Under Measure 46, a simple majority in the Legislature can only refer measures to voters for changes, good or bad. That’s not a very efficient way of fixing any problems identified in Measure 47’s scheme. That is expensive, untimely, and silly.


    *The Legislature will always have some rogues, and this measure gives them power. The ¾ of the Legislature test in M 46 is bad public policy. Remember that fully 19 House members and 8 Senators voted against placing limits on payday loan lenders in an election year special session even though polling found 80 percent of Oregonians wanted the controls; with term limits (something possibly on the horizon) the number of rogues could go higher.

    ** If legislation has an emergency clause Oregonians cannot petition to refer the legislation to the voters.

  • Jeremiah Baumann (unverified)

    I'm out of town (on the East Coast) and wish I'd weighed in earlier, but here goes anyway:

    1. I'm kind of surprised by the amount of guilt-by-personality that goes on in our community sometimes. Arguments that Dan Meek is looking for attention or, as the Willamette Week editorial board was told, is an intellectual looking to control the world, are ridiculous. And, more importantly, have nothing to do with the substance of the measure. (Another example is those oppose Measure 42 for the sole fact that it's a Sizemore measure even though it was a progressive bill in the Legislature.

    2. I can't personally testify to whether Dan hasn't been "in the trenches" enough, but I have personally spent 5 years lobbying Congress, worked in 2 state legislatures and several ballot measures, and I personally believe quite strongly that when it comes to reforming our current political system, a) campaign finance is of utmost importance, b) contribution limits are a foundation for public financing, c) if I had to choose one, I'd take contribution limits, and d) measure 47 is one of the strongest campaign finance proposals I've seen in recent years in any state.

    3. More relevantly, OSPIRG spent quite a bit of time analyzing these measures, looking at opponents' arguments, at our broader campaign finance reform platform (which includes public financing as well as low contribution limits), at our experience of how elected officials get elected and make decisions, at our experience raising money for legislative advocacy and ballot measures, and at other states' experiences electoral campaigns under similar policies. I can tell you that after going through it all several times, we had no doubt that measures 46 and 47 are very good public policy.

    4. My view on the problem often paraphrased as "money in politics" is that it's "BIG money in politics" that's the problem.

    5. My view is not that the big money corrupts individuals, like a legalized bribe. The problem with a big money system is that a) the candidate with the most money usually wins (not always of course), and b) with no limits or too-high limits, a person has to know a lot of people who can afford to write very large checks in order to really be in the running for public office (assuming the race is contested).

    That basically means you have to know rich people to run for office. (I'm talking in extremes to make a point here; of course in a state with a relatively accessible process with a relatively small legislature, there are exceptions) And the reality is that pro-big-business candidates will tend to know or have connections to more rich people than candidates whose priority is the environment, income inequality, health care, or other issues that have no inherent relationship to wealth.

    1. As long as there's no limit (or, for that matter, a $2,000 limit like we have at the federal level), the average person who can give $50 knows full well that their contribution is ultimately not that helpful. The candidates spend more time looking for big money and less time talking to voters, and meanwhile voters spend less time paying attention to candidates who they know aren't paying attention to them. And they start voting a little less time. On the positive side, if a candidate can only raise contributions of $100 or $500, they've got a reason to focus more on how many people they can talk to rather than finding the people who can give the big checks.

    2. By the way, I agree fully with Steve (Novick) that it's silly to try and rid politics of money. In fact, I think money in politics is a good thing. As long as contributions are limited so that the most people can at least get into the ballpark of a meaningful contribution, fundraising success is actually an indicator of popular support rather than a cause for suspicion.

    3. One of the reasons I'm passionate about this issue is that after a year and a half in Oregon politics, one of my strongest frustrations is this: a) we have a population that is progressive and populist and independent. And not just in Portland, but all over the state. b) we have a relatively accessible legislative & political process c) despite those two factors, we have a legislature that does not act in the public interest and does not act according to the popular will. Look at bills that failed to move last session: prescription drug purchasing pool, payday loans. Look at bills that were actively voted against: clean air standards for cars, global warming (3 House votes to block global warming solutions even though a majorty of Republican voters in Oregon agree that global warming is a serious problem). The few real success stories were passed in cases where opposition was negotiated away by weakening a bill or where the corporate coalition was split on a bill.

    Oregon needs campaign finance reform. Measures 46 and 47 are a very good start.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    I'll agree with your points 1,2, and 3. It's a question of the greatest risk in requiring a supermajority of the legislature to change Fair Elections reforms passed by the people. Based on recent experience in other states, such as Massachusetts and Colorado, it's likely that the legislature would try to gut Fair Elections. If the legislature can't bring its "rogues" under control, we can go back to the people for tweaks. The legislature could always, by a simple majority, refer such tweaks to the voters at the next election.

    Fair Elections supporters DO believe the reforms will yield a better legislature, but this will take time. No one in the next legislature will have been elected under Fair Elections, and that is when the risk of legislative scuttle will be greatest. If Fair Elections never has a chance to work, we'll never get that better legislature.

    I don't know about other reformers, but I'm not angry at the Legislature. I am seriously disappointed in the weak, sold-out legislature that our present funding system has given us. If we pass Fair Elections, not only will incumbents fear that their campaign finance advantage is about to end, they will be heavily pressured by their big funders who don't want to see their influence over politics compromised by effective reforms. That is a powerful confluence, one that warrants Measure 46's supermajority provision, by my reckoning.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    Tom shows so little confidence in popular support for campaign finance reform that right after passage legislators could just dispose of it without outraging their constituents.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Tom has little confidence in the ability of legislators to resist the lure of the big campaign contributions that got them elected.

    I bet there was plenty of popular support for the program that was saving the state $400,000 a month on drug costs. I bet there was plenty of popular support for having legislators report junkets to Hawaii. I bet there's plenty of popular support for making corporations pay more than 4% of income taxes. None of that matters when legislators must face the possibility of displeasing their big funders. Add to this the prospect of losing the ability to take any of those fat contribution checks, and the temptation to subvert voter passed Fair Elections reform is great indeed.

    There's plenty of popular support for campaign finance reform, just as there's plenty of popular support for good government. It's money that matters, though.

  • Julie (unverified)

    No, a Green is just a hippie.

  • (Show?)

    Tom, you're echoing a particular form of right wing bias that is overwhelmingly present in today's media: when a Democrat does something bad, trumpet loudly "DEMOCRAT DOING BAD THINGS!!!!" When Republicans do bad things, genericize it as "Congress" or "the Legislature" or "Lawmakers".

    Everything you mentioned, saving money on drug costs, making corporations pay more than 4% of income taxes, the (already in place) gift reporting requirements, have been CHAMPIONED by Democrats. The very same Democrats who say your initiative isn't going to help, it'll likely hurt.

  • (Show?)

    This is Oregon - where it passed before and was not gutted by the Legislature, and where the political powers that be learned a lesson with Death With Dignity.

    Massachusetts has a history of overturning at least one other voter-passed initiative - a 1992 initiative to disclose corporate taxes and profits.

    Sending tweaks to the voters is inefficient, untimely, and a waste of money.

    And setting a bar higher than the Right has done on taxes and the kicker is, well, . . . . [expletive deleted].

    I believe in representative democracy and the simple majority to pass laws. Mis-named supermajorities give power to the minority, and Measure 46, if it passes, would give power to the smallest minority.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    Democrats take big bucks from the same corporations as Republicans do. They aren't as sold out as the Republicans, not quite. This being close to election time, I won't post a list of Democratic votes for sordid bills in the Oregon Legislature. and there is a big difference between one Democrat proposing a progressive bill and the entire Democratic caucus making a progressive a priority. There's lots of the former, not much of the latter, at least not when wealthy toes would be stepped on.


    We disagree on how much faith to put in the present Oregon Legislature. How have they been doing on your issues?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    The ad hominem attacks continue. Following is a transcript of a radio ad now playing on Eugene radio. The buy was made for a consultant who works with progressive groups, often the Oregon Education Association. So much for high-minded progressives. By the way, Harry Lonsdale lives in Bend.

    Teach your children well?

    Radio ad transcript:

    Announcer: With all the money being poured into ballot initiatives this year, we'd like to introduce you to the big campaign spenders . . . like Mr. Rich of New York.

    Groaning, wheezing, loud footsteps getting closer.

    Announcer: Wait a second . . . you're not Mr. Rich!

    Peevish voice: No, I'm the guy who holds Mr. Rich's checkbook. He let's the money do the talking.

    Announcer: For years, a few rich guys from out-of-state - like Howard Rich and Lauren Parks - have bank-rolled campaigns. Now Harry Lonsdale wants to re-write our Constitutional free-speech protections. Don't let him . . . vote no on Measures 46 & 47.

    Announcer #2: Paid for by the "If You Loose Your Voice This Time, You'll Never Get It Back Coalition".

  • (Show?)

    What precisely do you mean by "sold out"?

    Yes, Democrats listen to Corporations. They should. Corporations and the Business community are what provide the jobs in Oregon and America, if you haven't noticed. The only issue is whether Corporations have an undue influence.

    While I agree that they do, that is nearly entirely due to the Republican party. Despite your foresworn attempt to cherry-pick a handful of anecdotes, it is rather clear that overall, Democrats do what is best for the State as a whole - labor, corporations, poor, middle class, and rich.

    The Democratic party is NOT the Socialist party, people who hate corporations and capitalism as much as Republicans worship it. We are centrists, and side with the business community when they're right.

    And that is not "selling out".

  • (Show?)

    of all the comments i've read on this & my post, including the stupid bits of nastiness between people who i thought were on the same general side of things, the one argument that hasn't been made is that a large, complex ballot measure is a good thing. even the small ones go boom in our face. laws are tough buggers to write. the more they try to cover, or the more detailed they are, the more opportunity for them to fail.

    as i said, Dan Meek has picked the right issue: campaign finance reform is needed. he's just gone about it the wrong way, and that's why i will vote no. and if it does fail, maybe a good next step is to organize a confab of progressives early next year to talk about this issue and try to find a proposal we can take to the Legislature. we need to do something, and i don't think any of us want to wait for the Leg to act. they may not happen.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    If only the world were so black and white. I don't have time to go through decades of legislative acitivity to document each time the Dems let the people down, but here's one from the last session that made the Oregonian this week. In order for the legislature to do the drug industry's bidding and gut the Prescription Drug Buying Pool, the Democratic controlled Senate had to go along. Undue influence? Looks like it to me.

  • (Show?)

    The Democratic controlled Senate "had to go along" because Minnis made it clear that the choice was between a watered down law that didn't address the problem anywhere near to what it should have been, and no law at all.

    And this experience was hardly unique. She killed dozens of good bills that had significant bipartisan support by holding the threat of an extremist campaign over her own caucus.

    Again, Tom, you are doing exactly what our right wing media loves to see: blaming Democratic victims of Republican extremist governing. And quite frankly, I see that as extremely counterproductive towards the very goals you are trying to achieve.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    You don't mention in your last message that you've finally read the Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47. If you have not, your opinion is based on someone else's reading, or, for all I know, the on opinion of someone else who has not read the measures either. Do you expect to be persuasive on this matter?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    The Prescription Drug Buying Pool was establised in 2003. The gutting happened in 2005. Did the Senate really have to "go along" with this, or is this a handy excuse?

    Since the legislative houses are co-equal, it's hard to blame every bad bill passed and every good one dumped because of Mrs. Minnis. She's a bad one for sure, but she's not a queen - unless Democrats let her be one.

  • (Show?)

    Oh please, Tom. Prescription Drug Buying Pool was (slightly) expanded in 2005, not gutted. And if you look at Senate Bill 329, the one Minnis bottled up on committee, you can see it is just about everything the people of Oregon needed.

    We can both honorably disagree about strategy and whether your Initiative is good or bad, but don't try to rewrite history to match your preconceptions. It's unworthy of you.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    It's likely that whatever example I mention from recent times will lead to you excusing Democrats because the Republicans controlled one or both chambers. I could go back in time to when Democrats controlled the Legislature, but you'd probably argue that was ancient history, or that they needed to compromise with a Republican governor.

  • (Show?)

    Probably I would. Because it's true.

    Again, branches of government do not serve at each other's pleasure - they serve their constituents. So blaming anyone else other than the people who actually blocked a bill is not only absurd, it's often counter-productive. By spreading the blame onto Democrats who don't deserve it, you confuse voters into unfairly blaming both sides, causing even more regressive neandethals to be elected.

    All during the time when Kitzhaber was in office, I didn't hear a bunch of whining from Republicans blaming the Republicans for their inability to - for example - put anti-abortion hurdles into Oregon law. Instead they dubbed him "Dr. No", for all his vetoes, placing the so-called "blame" where it really belonged.

    This is a very simple concept, Tom. I simply don't understand why you don't get it.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    1) I think it ought to be clear that anyone who makes a living in politics is not likely to have much interest in getting money out of politics. It has little to do with their political philosophy.

    2) Faced with an idea which is popular in the abstract, but contrary to their interests, people will always argue the "devil is in the details".

    3) Some people are interested in campaign finance reform that will result in more of their favorite candidates being elected. They oppose campaign finance reform they think will result in fewer of their favorite candidates getting elected. In fact, most people take that position.

    4) As I said in the Steve Duin thread, I think the problem is that people who talk about campaign finance reform ignore the issues people care about. The problem is not who gets elected, its that everyone who gets elected is beholden to people with deep pockets, even if they get no money at all from them.

    The result is a legislative process that doesn't adequately fund schools, builds new roads while letting the existing roads deteriorate, creates a health care system that is the most expensive in the world and leaves large numbers of people faced with bankruptcy if they get sick, provides some of the worst and most expensive access to broadband internet in the developed world - and even large parts of the developing world, extends copyright for the sole purpose of enriching the owners of the copyright, passes bankruptcy laws designed to protect predatory lenders ... the list goes on and on.

    The reality is that some of our most intractable problems are intractable only because they threaten the financial interests of people who can contribute to electing any candidates who will protect those interests.

    The problem is not what influence they have when voters go to the polls, but that often the only real choices voters have are candidates that have already been vetted by contributors.

    The problem is not how legislators vote on specific bills. Its that the bills they vote on have already been constrained to the limited range of choices acceptable to people who contribute to campaigns.

    The problem is not the influence of money on elections, it is the conflict of interest it creates for every elected official.

    Every candidate training, on both sides of the aisle, tells candidates that when they approach the lobby for money the message is pretty simple. "I am going to win." If they believe you, they will give you money no matter where you stand on their issues because they want at least friendly hearing.

    The real problem would be solved by simply making having accepted a campaign contribution from someone with a financial interest in legislation a conflict of interest and require legislators to not vote on such legislation. Then make it illegal for them to solicit contributions for any purpose from anyone who has a financial interest in legislation while they are in office. It wouldn't dry up the money, but it would sure reduce its influence.

    I think there is something to be said for the notion that our choice leaders shouldn't be limited to those willing to spend months focused on their own self-aggrandizement and paying for the effort by soliciting money from people who have a substantial financial interest in specific legislation.

    Like most Presidential candidates of his time, Lincoln didn't campaign for President. That was the responsibility of his supporters. Perhaps we should start seeing candidates as people we select for public service instead of choosing among people who seek it out. Perhaps we would get more Lincoln's and Washington's and fewer Bush's and Delay's.

  • LT (unverified)

    Tom, I have read the measures. Measure 46 has a superdupermajority of 3/4 of the legislators. If someone wants to say that I have to support 46 and not say 3/4 is too high a hurdle--or else I support big money in politics, go ahead and be such a polarizer--but don't think that is the way to get my vote!

    Measure 47 is very long and I worry about the unintended consequences. There are good ideas within 47, but that doesn't mean I will vote for it.

    TA is right.

    Dan Meek has picked the right issue: campaign finance reform is needed. he's just gone about it the wrong way, and that's why i will vote no.

    Steven and Former Salem Staffer make good points.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    If someone wants to say that I have to support 46 and not say 3/4 is too high a hurdle--or else I support big money in politics, go ahead and be such a polarizer-

    As a practical matter in this election opposing measure 46 is supporting "big money in politics", whether you like it or not. Sentiment doesn't matter, its what you do that counts. "By their deeds will you know them."

  • (Show?)

    Steve, your favorite lobby, the Oregon Restaurant Assn (representatives of the video poker outlets) is on the air running radio ads against Measures 46 and 47. The ads say nothing about the content of the measures and instead just try to smear Harry Lonsdale as being some sort of out-of-state rich guy who "wants to rewrite out campaign laws to serve his own interests." The first half of the ad is about a "Mr. Rich of New York." Quite the sleaze job.

  • (Show?)

    There is a confab of progressives in every year that the Legislature meets to propose campaign finance reform. Both what became Measures 46 and 47 were introduced in the 2005 Legislature, for example, and of course went nowhere. Also going nowhere were bills written by the League of Women Voters and other groups.

    Having confabs of progressives has accomplished nothing in terms of limits on contributions.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    Opposing M46 because of the 3/4 majority is understandable. I think the 3/4 provision is about right and that opposition over it is a trivial reason for opposing something that can lead to massive positive change in Oregon politics. It is understandable, though.

    Opposing M47 because it is long makes zero sense to me. Legislation should be as long as it needs to be. Much of M47 is the findings section and definition section.

    "Unintended consequences" seems to be the mantra of the political season. I have seen NO exposition of these "unintended consequences" that jives with what is in the Measure, what is the present political landscape, and what are the existing campaign finance laws on the books in other states. Every scenario offered falls apart on close examination. No, of course, this does not mean there may not be some other "unintended consequences" that no one has thought of, but there also may be little green menon the dark side of the moon.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    Those who willingly disable the mechanisms of democracy to gain their short-term ends reveal their cynical disbelief in the viability of democratic government. They are not to be trusted.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    That is precisely why we support Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47. Fat cats have disabled democratic elections with their huge contributions [read "bribes"] for their own short-term gain, revealing their cynical disbelief in the viability of democratic government. They are not to be trusted, particularly with injecting enough money into political campaigns to determine who can and who cannot represent the people.

    I'm glad you and I agree on this.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    Tom and I do agree on the need to have campaign finance reform that will build democratic government that gives effective representation without dependance on big donors. We disagree on how to accomplish that.

  • LT (unverified)

    Tom, I will give you an example of my concern for unintended consequences, and it has nothing to do with the current measures.

    I was at the ceremony for turning in the signatures for Measure 9, the campaign finance reform which passed in all 36 counties and then was overthrown by the Supreme Court.

    It was a great measure, but I seem to recall a small flaw. It has been awhile but I seem to recall something in 9 which made it difficult for 2 or more people to co-host an event like a neighborhood coffee for a campaign to the point that it wasn't worth the effort of ordinary neighbors to deal with it and therefore people would have been well advised to be sole sponsors of a neighborhood coffee.

    Now that may not be a big deal to you, but I have co-sponsored neighborhood coffees and debate-watching parties with neighbors/friends. I think those are a great way to get neighbors engaged in politics. Haven't done one for years--if someone hosts a coffee, invites friends, serves coffee, tea, and lemonade along with homemade cookies, must the cost of all those refreshments be shown on a C & E these days or under 47?

    And there are people who are concerned about how the language of this measure would impact the Bus Project. I happen to be a big supporter of that group--they've reformed campaigns more already (by showing the power of volunteers) than any legislation ever could. If you think that is an acceptable risk that nothing in 47 would hurt the Bus Project, that is your decision. I don't have to take it as an act of faith that 47 will be the greatest thing since sliced bread and couldn't possibly hurt any grass roots efforts just because the supporters say so.

    Seems to me that the goal of campaign finance reform should be to return more power to the folks I remember 20-30 years ago doing grass roots school board, legislative and other campaigns with volunteers and not much fundraising.

    This is why I agree with Ed. My first vote (I'm old enough that I had to be 21 to vote) was in 1968, and in my adult life I have seen people of all persuasions who had the attitude "we have this great idea, therefore it will work and implementation won't be a problem". Except there were often implementation problems.

    I can understand people so frustrated with the current system that they see 46 and 47 as the only answer.

    But unless people who feel like that are half the population, the advocates of any campaign need to listen to those who have concerns.

    Sarcasm has a history of expressing frustration but not of earning votes. And that is what this sounds like:

    "No, of course, this does not mean there may not be some other "unintended consequences" that no one has thought of, but there also may be little green menon the dark side of the moon."

    I have grown increasingly careful over the years about which measures I support. Sorry if that offends you, but I fail to believe that something as long as 47 has no clinkers in it that could come back to haunt the sponsors. And if that makes you think less of me because all good people support the measures you support then so be it.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Ross William’s post about how opponents go about discrediting an idea like Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47 got me thinking about the battle for campaign finance reform to our south, where Californians will vote on prop 89 to establish a public campaign funding system. Now just about every opponent of Fair Elections who is not a Republican or Libertarian has claimed that public funding is the way to go, instead of Fair Elections.

    So, what are opponents of prop 89 against public financing? This is from the Sacramento News Review. The CTA is the California Teachers Association:

    "CTA spokesman Mike Myslinski confirmed that the CTA was opposing Prop. 89.

    'It’s poorly crafted and full of unintended consequences,” Myslinski said. “Experts believe it could give more power to corporations while limiting the unions’ participation in politics.”

    Acknowledging that the idea of public funding for politics deserves to be debated, Myslinski said, “Legal experts believe that the initiative’s restrictions on corporations are illegal and could be thrown out, leaving the unions with the restrictions.”

    And with CTA representing 335,000 educators, Myslinski fears Prop. 89 could “unfairly limit our voices on critical issues.”'

    Damn, if that doesn't sound JUST LIKE what opponents of Fair Elections are saying! Why, if I didn't know better, I'd conclude that OurOregon and protectourVoice had cloned the anti-prop 89 talking points and gotten a whole bunch of Oregon progressives [and editorial boards] squawking like parrots in search of a fresh cracker. It couldn't be, though, because Oregon progressives are independent thinkers. Right? Right?

    Now, let's remember that Clean Elections initiatives have passed in several states already, and initiatives to establish comprehensive contribution limits have passed in several states as well. Both prop 89 and Fair Elections are based on earlier models, so being full of "unintended consequences" is not that likely in either case. Prop 89 even closely follows a Clean Money system developed in the California Legislature [all bow down to elected representation, please].

    Come on folks, consider for just a minute that political professionals in both California and Oregon are practicing good-old cynical hardball shock and scare politics to defeat campaign finance reform that would be great for democracy, but maybe not so great for their own personal power. If you just can't bring yourself to do that, report back here with your fantasy constructions on why the anti-campaign finance reform talking points are so similar, when the reform systems, themselves, are very different.

  • (Show?)

    Those who oppose the measures might be interested in what AOI says about Measure 47:

    "While supporters may think they are getting corporate and union money out of politics, they are actually giving unions a big advantage in electing their candidates."

    AOI's white paper against Measure 47 (Petition 37) is at: http://www.aoi.org/members/articledetail.asp?id=801

  • (Show?)

    I feel like a magician setting up the scene: "We've never met before, have we? I don't know you, right?"

    That said, owing to the weird personalization of the issue this thread has intended --and oh so clever a title-- let me just say: Dan, you do good work. Thanks.

  • (Show?)

    I'm in here way late and Dan, Tom, and others have provided a spirited and comprehensive defense to the points made by Steve (Novick) and others.

    Looking at corruption as a term, in it's broadest sense, it is the pressure that changes a system into a less effective or totally ineffective version of that system as it was originally meant to function.

    Who are legislators most likely to see as authorities?

    From my experience, legislators, being human, try to identify groups or individuals as experts and give additional weight to their utterances. There is little evidence that this process is logical.

    Physicians are seen as experts on health care issues, Attorneys are the legal experts, Intel execs are the high tech experts. Big Donors are also experts by dint of the fact that their contributions get the ear and attention of legislators.

    Logically, physicians and attorneys should be seen as experts in their chosen field of specialization, and Intel execs are the go-to guys for processor architecture. Any additional weight given to their utterances by themselves or by lawmakers is specious. These folks are as likely as any of the rest of us to be ignorant on a broad range of issues. There are no empirical data to show that a private citizen who has done specific research, has made no large donation, and sends an angry email is any less informed than folks in the above categories.

    That is the most insidious corruption and it is really difficult for any person, no matter how honest and well intentioned, to avoid this hazard.

    The other elephant in the room is that this would bring a lot of unwelcome uncertainty and change. Everybody's in a rut to a greater or lesser degree.

    The Executive Director of the DPO, under the new system would be less credible when he overtly (and successfully) threatens to end the careers of young progressive political aspirants who support finance reform.

    The state chair of the DPO might have to go in for plastic surgery to mask his contempt for all grassroots volunteers everywhere.

    The Unions would have to go to their individual members to get buy in on specific efforts instead of dipping into the pot of dues in the treasury when they feel it to be personally or collectively useful.

    Large corporations might be forced to argue their positions on the merits if precluded from spending millions to deceive the inattentive.

    Any change in the system that promotes rational decision making should be supported by progressives regardless of the inevitable personal turmoil that such change might bring about.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    I repeat myself: "The identity and putative sainthood of the authors is ultimately immaterial. Please let us not waste space on personal attacks which blockade debate of issues." Frank is wasting space.

    I repeat the quote about CA. Prop 89 which Tom repeated: "'It’s poorly crafted and full of unintended consequences,' Myslinski said." That points out the shared weakness between the otherwise distantly related measures that explain the similar reactions to them without recourse to conspiracy theories. As proof of its poor crafting, note that it includes limits on financing ballot measures, which as noted in M 46's Explanatory Statement, are sure to be struck down. I saw the segment on Prop. 89 of PBS's show 'Now' of yesterday, where the proposed limits were mentioned.

    I am an independent thinker, with no need to parrot anyone's talking points. It takes no genius to read these measures and see glaring mistakes in their crafting.

  • LT (unverified)

    Tune in for the next exciting episode.....

    Having been in sales for over a decade, I know when the sale has been made and when it hasn't. Customers always have the right to walk away if not convinced, and a sales person telling them they really ought to buy because the sales person says so is not alone enough to close the deal.

    But in a few weeks the election results will be interesting. There could be a lot of new members of the legislature, in which case what was said above about faith in the legislature might not be relevant with new legislators.

    Partly due to disgust with the current legislature, it is just possible that new members will be elected who didn't raise tons of money but got lots of volunteer support.

    And there is unrest with the current party system--shown by popular support for Ben Westlund. What was that--50,000 signatures of people who didn't vote in the primary and how many people who did vote in the primary attended events and otherwise support that effort?

    I do love this quote--representing the ferment I have seen from active Democrats not happy with the status quo.

    The Executive Director of the DPO, under the new system would be less credible when he overtly (and successfully) threatens to end the careers of young progressive political aspirants who support finance reform. The state chair of the DPO might have to go in for plastic surgery to mask his contempt for all grassroots volunteers everywhere.

    Now, if someone can prove to me that if Measure 47 passes (by prove, I mean point to actual wording in the measure so I can read that part over and decide for myself) this idiocy of caucus campaign organizations uncontrolled by party (for instance, FP is not part of the DPO structure and acts like its own little fiefdom) will end and we can go back to the old days when candidates ran locally and were not part of "keep/regain our majority" efforts, then that might be a reason to vote for it. I think it might help what is wrong with the legislature if the House were split 30-30 after the next election and maybe the Senate were 15-13-2 or some other combination without a strong majority. That would require winning over support of those who see their oath of office as working for constituents and not just there to obey their majority leader. I don't see that strongly partisan caucuses have helped Oregon be a better state.

    But nothing I have heard/ read about 47 tackles that question.

    And having known Harry Lonsdale for over a decade, I do know he lives in Bend. I supported his campaigns for US Senate. That doesn't mean I agreed with him on everything.

    The opening words of the first comment make more sense to me than anything I have heard/ read from Measure 47 proponents: "You can't knock on a million doors, but you can knock on ten thousand. And the State legislators who do it consistently win, even under our current system.

    There are only two places where vast wads of campaign cash really do drown out shoeleather candidacies in Oregon politics: the Governor's race and the Initiative system."

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    LT wrote:

    'The opening words of the first comment make more sense to me than anything I have heard/ read from Measure 47 proponents: "You can't knock on a million doors, but you can knock on ten thousand. And the State legislators who do it consistently win, even under our current system.

    There are only two places where vast wads of campaign cash really do drown out shoeleather candidacies in Oregon politics: the Governor's race and the Initiative system."'

    • Nice sentiment, LT, but where is your data to back it up. Every study of money and election success I've seen found that the biggest spender won +90% of the time. I knocked on 14,000 doors in my 1998 campaign. I was outspend 3:1 in both primary and general. I lost.

    • On FuturePac: legislative party caucus campaign committees are so powerful because they are a conduit for lobbyists to get bribes, er, contributions to candidates in a way that maximizes influence. Why do you think Wayne Scott flew to Hawaii to pick up a $30,000 check from the beer and wine distributors? why does FuturePac organize meet & greet's for candidates and lobbyists. Fair Elections removes the ability of corporate interests to unduly influence elections. Here's the text of M47:

    (3) Limits on Contributions relating to Candidates.

          (a)      No corporation or labor union shall make any contribution to a candidate committee, political committee, or political party.

    That's it, LT. Read it. Reread it. Think about it.

    This is about large, long-standing forces in politics, forces that have been well-documented by much research over many election cycles. It's not about particular candidates in particular election cycles. Their will be Tom Potters and others who pull-off unconventional wins. That is not the way the vast majority of elections go, never has been, never will be until the influence of big money is ended.

  • Gary Duell (unverified)

    So now we have requests for "proof" that M47 will have certain results? You can't be serious. That's like me insisting that my surgeon "prove" his procedure will make me better. What I can prove is that it would be impossible for M47 to increase the current corruption of Oregon politics. It's as bad as it could be, even if existing laws and regulations were enforced.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    Pat Ryan's wordplay is rarther obtuse. From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

    Corruption (broadest definition): a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct.

    Pat is actually more specific. The more specific concept he defines:

    Subversion: the state of being perverted or corrupted by an undermining of morals, allegiance, or faith, especially : a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within.

    Is he saying that legislators, looking for advisors in whom to have faith, are being led astray by policy wonks with hidden agendas? Or that they mistake big donors for wonks? Well anyway, even opponents of these particular measures realize that legislators are taking the advice of the wrong people; that's not under debate here.

    He indulges in personal attacks on officers of the Democratic Party and of unnamed unions, which is unproductive and unwelcome.

    He ends with a couple of assertions that would be ill-served by passage of these measures:

    Large corporations would only be forced to argue their positions in the venue of the initiative petition in spending millions to deceive the inattentive if precluded from spending them in candidate races. Measure 46 seriously impedes the Legislature's ability to respond to such manipulation of popular opinion.

    It is not personal turmoil that informs much of the progressives' opposition to these measures. That is another diversion to personal attack. There are actual issues which are the rightful topic of debate.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    Sorry, but your last post is more weak stuff.

    Pat Ryan knows, and so should you, that the corrupting influence of money in politics is systemic. There are several personally corrupt Republicans and a few Democrats, but most politicians want to be honest. The system is not. Money determines WHO gets elected, even who is considereed a serious candidate. Money determines who gets reelected. If a legislator bucks several rich interests, they're not going to be around very long. They don't buck those interests unless they can get support from a wealthy interest opposing the first wealthy interest. The ability to raise money from big donors is a prime qualification for being a state executive director. If your not part of that system, you won't have the job very long, if you get it in the first place. Have you never read anything about CFR that didn't come out of Cato or Heritage? If you had, you'd know this stuff. It's elemental. It's well documented.

    Measure 47 keeps all corporate money out of candidate campaigns. That is huge. It does nothing about measures, because courts have said that's verbotten. Should we have a completely corrupt system because we can't have a completely incorrupt system? Only a fool would say so.

    If the supermajority provision of M46 is a deal-breaker for you, so be it. I think that's a minor aspect of the totality of the campaign finance landscape, but if you don't agree, okay then. You don't need to parrot the senseless anti-prop89,OurOregon, protectourVoice drivel that has little basis except in fear and misunderstanding.

    As to the "actual issues" I'm still waiting for something of substance, something with more than emotional, characterizing, or anecdotal evidence as support, something that is more than a recitation of focus group tested talking points followed by hot air.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    And gettin back to Ed's previous post:

    The inclusion of a constitutionally risky provision, such as controls on ballot measure campaign spending in prop 89, is not an indication of poor crafting. It is an attempt to push the limits in hope that the courts will see things differently next time [that happens]. It would be poor crafting if prop 89 did not contain a severability clause that saves the rest of the legislation should some part be ruled unconstitutional.

    Measure 47 has such a severability clause. It is well crafted.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    In the end (once again) Tom, you resort to character assassination and cynical pontification. You can belittle my understanding of the issues if that makes you feel superior, but it really is irrelevent. I am nobody's mouthpiece and you have no justifiable reason keep saying so.

    So, exactly what "system" is it you aver is fundamentally dishonest, defeating the honest intentions of the majority of politicians? Has your cynicism led you at last to condemn representatational democracy itself? To include a provision in your beloved Constitutional Amendment that effectively removes the power of the Legislature to write law on a subject you arrogate to yourselves says "yes". That is not "a minor aspect of the totality of the campaign finance landscape" but is evidence that the motives of the framers are untrustworthy.

    Pat Ryan noted that big money advances its agenda by "spending millions to deceive the inattentive." If indeed he is right, it is not "the system" which has failed us , but we who have failed it.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    If indeed he is right, it is not "the system" which has failed us , but we who have failed it.

    Baloney. The notion that people should be able to drown out the cacophony of deceptive advertising that has been carefully tested to appeal directly to their emotions and then make rational decisions based on careful consideration of the alternatives is ludicrous.

    So, exactly what "system" is it you aver is fundamentally dishonest, defeating the honest intentions of the majority of politicians?

    It seems to me a system in which success depends upon taking money from people who have a direct financial interest in legislation is fundamentally corrupt by definition. Under the current system if you defined having received money from someone as a conflict of interest, as we would of any judge or juror in a legal case, the legislature would not be able to make any decisions. If that isn't fundamentally dishonest, I don't know what is. Do you?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    Come on, now. We are adults discussing an important issue. To write that an argument of yours is weak is not character assassination. Good God, I had more intense differences of opinion than we are having here in seventh grade social studies. I mean no personal slight against you, I am arguing against what you are saying. But political debate is not about reassuring each other's self-esteem. It's about the ideas, and I think the position you are taking on the Fair Elections Measures is very destructive to the future well-being of Oregon. I'm not going to pull punches as if you are a frail child. I'm going to treat you like an adult.

    I do not suggest that you are acting as someone's agent. I am suggesting that your thinking has been co-opted by a professionally constructed political disinformation campaign. You are not alone in this. Several intelligent, well-meaning progressives are making the same arguments as you. I don't think they are bad people. I don't think they are stupid. I think they are wrong.

    There is neither time nor space for me to educate you here about the subversion of democracy by wealthy interests. You might begin by reading Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." Here's a short essay by Bill Moyers called "A Culture of Corruption." Another short piece is That Old-Fashioned Corruption by Geov Parrish. Then there's Democrats, Who Needs Them? in case you think Republicans are the only problem, like another poster in this string. THE WEALTH PRIMARY is good book on money in politics. Go read.

    I don't condemn representational democracy. I'd like to have some. What we have is representational plutocracy. It stinks as a form of government.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    R. W.:

    The notion that adults should be able to blame their failure to make rational decisions on deceptive advertising, whining that it has rendered them powerless to function above the level of their emotions is ludicrous.

    It is not the system of representational democracy that has defined success as corruption without accountability; it is the practitioners who have lost faith in the system who revert to undemocratic means and cynicism and inattention to duty. The fundamental dishonesty cannot be blamed on the system.

    My point is simple and direct; I'm not trying to be wonkish like certain other commenters. The inappropriate attack on the powers of the Legislature which M 46 would enshrine in the State Constitution is too injurious to the institution it and the accompanying measure seek to reform. I'm voting "NO". Make of it what you will.

  • (Show?)

    The fundamental dishonesty cannot be blamed on the system.

    Of course it can. It's why, driving along I-5, you get the message that Ballot Measure 48 is about creating a rainy-day fund, and Measure 43 is about protecting teen girls.

    Black is white, up is down, and lobbyists and corporations stuff the pockets of legislators --and "political consultants"-- to sell this crap.

    It's an ugly, ugly system, that does nothing to educate or enlighten, and is a distraction from and disservice to democratic discourse.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    Please Frank, pay attention to the discussion if you are going to participate.

    The system of representational democracy does not induce people to pervert its function; it leaves us free to act that way if we so decide. People are given the responsibility to build a community that serves its own well-being, but living up to that responsibility cannot be dictated.

  • (Show?)


    A few points for the determinedly non-wonkish:

    Colgate does not keep your teeth significantly whiter. Nivea cream doesn't make your wife younger. Driving a sports car doesn't make a middle aged man more virile. When we succumb to these advertisers and the most sophisticated among us do no great harm befalls the republic. When these fundamentally dishonest tactics are unleashed on the sleeping public, they can and do cause huge harm to the very citizens who are hoodwinked. Remember measure 5? Remember the Club for Growth? They are sponsoring measure 48.

    For you to assert that the voters bear sole blame for the destruction of the social safety net and for the fact that legislators respond first to large donors, is either naive or disingenuous.


    As for specifics regarding party officials, both elected and appointed, I refer you to the huge battle being waged for control of the party between the grassroots, led by our man Howie and the Republicrat DLC fronted by Rahm Emmanuel and Chuck Schumer.

    The state party boys in question have wisely been mouthing the correct platitudes about the importance of the grassroots, but their continued behavior demonstrates that to them the grassroots is about giving out little rectangular badges to people who donate $25 per month to the state party. In private, they continue to be sarcastic, belittling, and dismissive of the actual grassroots. And why not? A stronger grassroots means proportionally less power to the self-anointed experts and their big donor kitchen cabinet.

    You know, Tom Civilletti and I disagree on a wide range of issues, but we are able to show some respect for each other as we share the common goal of better government.

    I will continue to show exactly the degree of respect to these self-agrandizing "leaders" as they show me and my allies in the grassroots.

    State Reorg coming up!!

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    You sound like you've bee reading Ayn Rand and Bill Bennett in claiming that the system is fine, but we are failing in out individual responsiblities. If you are moral libertarian or conservative Republican, fine. We can take your comments for what they're worth.

    If a political system depends on humans being virtuous, honest, and competent, it will fail every time. Actually, if humans were virtuous, honest, and competent, we might be able to get along with a constitution altogether. Some perfect human would rise to ruler through unconscious assent of society and run things as an enlightened king. We'd all save a lot of time.

    People aren't perfect, we're screwed up majorly; so we design systems of government to protect ourselves from individuals and groups who seek to profit at cost to the rest of us or dictate behavior based on their deepfelt beliefs that the rest of us don't share. Things being as they are, folks will always try to find a way to get their own way by using whatever power they have at hand. Wealth is a very effective means to power. If the body politic does not protect itself rigorously, wealth will translate its power into control over government. That is anti-democratic, even if wealth gets it way through the ballot box. Unfortunately, enough people will be suseptible to political advertising to change the result of most elections. Now, your average corporate executive and your average political consultant thinks this is grand. Your average democrat, small 'd' or large 'D', thinks this is terrible.

    It's very easy to get a government that reflects the interests of the wealthy. It's a long, hard battle to get government that reflects the interests of the people. Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47 are part of that battle.

    As to Pat Ryan, that shiny-headed, country-living, log truck-hugging son-of-a-gun, I'll take care of him another day.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    The cursed italics have infested us!

    This thread is on the merit of Measures 46 & 47 as as being worthy of support of progressives, not on my personal character. If anyone has problems with me personally, please pursue it via my published e-mail address, and don't clog the blog with off-topic distractions. I apologize if any take affront at my blunt criticism of their arguments, but this is a space for debate.

    Pat, you miscontrue my position. Citizens who are asleep in an age where the President can demand that habeus corpus be suspended against the constraints in the Constitution have to bear a good part of the blame in allowing such abuses of power to go unchecked. I am aware that PR has been used to manipulate public opinion, but we are making much too easy for them. I think it is time we who are awake get something organized to shake more people out of their torpor; but that would be discussion for another thread.

    The point I was trying to make is that the provision of M 46 which sets a practically unreachable bar for the Legislature to surpass in order to make CFR law is a misguided attack on the institution. What the framers of the measure are trying to ward off is a defeat by corrupt office-holders, and it is those people who should be the focus of their efforts to defend the desired accomplishments of these measures. They make a serious error by hobbling the Legislature when they fear that they cannot win a fight there.

  • (Show?)

    This thread is on the merit of Measures 46 & 47 as as being worthy of support of progressives, not on my personal character...

    Hey...and its just an accident that this post is about Dan Meek, and that he shalt not inherit the eath?

    Jesus, Ed, get a grip. You attack people on a very personal level --"pay attention, Frank", "you're wasting space, Frank"-- then whine like a little baby about how, lordy, this isn't about "people."


    Hobble the legislature? Have YOU been paying attention to what they DO (or DON'T do...?) If the legislature can't get the job done, we'll step to the plate to do it for them.

    We call it democracy...

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    I criticized your lack of cogent response to debate underway, and I could have been more courteous, but I'm usually not when commenters behave like trolls.

    Personalizing this debate by making it a referendum on Dan Meek's laudable devotion to CFR is a diversion from frank discussion of the issues as addressed by M 46 & 47. That was the point I took from Steve Novick's post; it was not an "accident" nor should it be taken as an 'ad hominem' attack on Mr. Meek. I want effective CFR law passed, but my judgement of these measures as not "measuring up" is not an attack on CFR or Dan Meek, nor anyone else in particular (including you).

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Steve Novick wrote:

    "I suspect that Dan, like me, is often tempted by the poisonous fruit of self-righteousness into alienating his allies, not necessarily because we are right, but because it feels so good to be seen as Diogenes’ one honest man. I suspect that is what has happened in this case."

    It seems the point the Ed Bickford took from Novick's post is not the one Novick made.

  • (Show?)

    The corporations have finally started to reveal their well-funded opposition to M46 & M47. A new political committee formed solely to oppose them is funded by $90,000 of union money but about $240,000 of corporation money, including the list below. No doubt there is much more corporate money to come.

    Associated Oregon Industries((corporations of all types) $25,000

    Associated Oregon Loggers$ 10,000

    Oregon Health Care Assn (nursing homes) $30,000

    Oregon Local Grocery Assn $50,000

    Oregon Forest Industry Council $25,000

    Oregon Restaurant Assn $25,000

    Association of Builders & Contractors $2,000

    Association of General Contractors $15,000

    Oregon Assn Realtors $25,000

    Oregon Committee for Food and Shelter (agribusiness corporations) $10,000

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    From a commentary by State Rep. Peter Buckley (D, HD 5) in today's Oregonian, 'Measure 47 - How to make a bad system even worse':

    "The turning point for me came when we brought in a national consultant on campaign-finance reform to talk through the proposed system with different groups in Oregon. When the direct question came up as to the likelihood of all of the different financial limits being upheld in court, the consultant's reply was this: 'Maybe fifty-fifty.'

    "I've taken that same question to a number of constitutional attorneys since then. They all agree on one thing: After the dust clears from the legal challenges, wealthy individuals who contribute to their own campaigns and special-interest groups funded by a Loren Parks or a Howard Rich who run high-dollar independent expenditure efforts would emerge victorious and would have the limits on their campaign contributions overturned. Meanwhile, the rest of us would be muzzled."

    Tom seems to have been disingenuous in writing "No, of course, this does not mean there may not be some other 'unintended consequences' that no one has thought of, but there also may be little green men on the dark side of the moon." The likely consequences were well known.

    It is because of this outcome that I feel justified in rejecting the argument that the 'superdupermajority' campaign-finance bar imposed on the Legislature by M 46 is a "trivial reason" to oppose the measures. The Legislature, for all its failures, would be our best hope for salvaging the wreckage of M 47. One could only deny that if he believed that people would not care.

  • (Show?)

    Initiatives establishing limits on campaign contributions and/or publicly-funded elections have been repealed by several legislatures, including Colorado (2000), Massachusetts (2003), and Missouri (2006). In every case, the vote to do so was less than 3/4 of both houses. Thus, Measure 46 reasonably protects Measure 47 from repeal while allowing the Legislature to make changes that have broad appeal (correcting alleged mistakes, etc.).

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