Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, would establish voluntary public campaign financing for candidates meeting certain eligibility requirements. It would create a public campaign fund of $200 million from a 0.2% increase to the income tax rate on corporations and financial institutions. It would also impose new limits on contributions to state-office candidates, campaign committees, and ballot measure campaigns, and would add new restrictions on contributions by lobbyists, state contractors, and corporations.
Californians have been debating and voting on campaign finance reform initiatives since Proposition 9, the Political Reform Act of 1974. For a summary of measures that made it to the ballot and those that didn't, see A History of California Initiatives.
Proposition 89 establishes public funding for candidates for statewide office, based on fulfillment of the following requirements. Candidates must collect a number of $5 donations, paid to the state, and signatures from residents prior to a primary election. The number varies according to office. Candidates may not accept private campaign funding, with two main exceptions. First, candidates are allowed to collect and spend limited start-up contributions beginning 18 months and ending 90 days prior to a primary. Second, candidates could continue to receive donations from political parties, limited by the same restrictions that would apply to candidates choosing not to receive public funds. Candidates accepting public funding would be required to participate in public debates, and would be prohibited from using personal funds for their campaigns.In February 2005, Assembly Member Loni Hancock introduced AB 583, a "clean money" bill based in part on similar legislation in Maine and Arizona. When AB 583 stalled in the Senate in spring 2006, the California Nurses Association began collecting signatures to place Proposition 89 on the ballot.
Candidates meeting these eligibility requirements would receive funding in amounts that vary according to the office sought, and whether they are campaigning for a primary or general election. In cases where a candidate's opponent does not receive public funding, the measure permits the publicly funded candidate to receive additional funds in some cases. Limits apply to the maximum amount of additional public funds a candidate could receive.
Candidates from minor parties and independent candidates would be eligible to receive smaller amounts of public funds.
Proposition 89 imposes new limits on campaign contributions to candidates who choose not to participate in public financing. These new limits would apply to individual, group, corporate, small committee, and political party contributions, and are generally much more restrictive than the limits currently in place. The measure also adds other types of restrictions on contributions to privately funded candidates and contributions for state ballot measures.
Arguments For and Against
Proponents argue that special interests use campaign contributions to control government in California. They assert that Proposition 89 will make elections more fair and competitive by restricting the ability of special interest groups and lobbyists to influence candidates through large campaign contributions.
Opponents claim that Proposition 89 serves the political agenda of its main backer, the California Nurses Association. They claim that the measure would fail to reform political campaigns, and may be unconstitutional. Some opponents, including the California Teachers Association, argue that the measure would severely impact union members' ability to have a voice in political affairs. Others, including Gov. Schwarzenegger, oppose it on the grounds that it is essentially a tax on business.
Official Voter Information
Voter Information Guide
Includes title and summary, arguments for and against, and text of the initiative.
Political Campaigns. Public Financing. Corporate Tax Increase. Contribution and Expenditure Limits
Analysis by California Legislative Analyst, 2006.
PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Future, Public Policy Institute of California, September 2006.
Continuing negative job appraisals of the Governor and the legislature, despite initial support for infrastructure bonds. Field Poll, Release 2201, June 5, 2006
Voters are supporting four of the five bond proposals on the November ballot, although not by overwhelming margins. Field Poll, Release 2206, July 28, 2006
PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Future, Public Policy Institute of California, August 2006