While Californians celebrated the centennial of their initiative and referendum, the Associated Press pushed a story headlined, “Corporations, wealthy dominate initiative process.”
Reporter Judy Lin gave examples:
- In 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric spent $46 million on a measure to make it more difficult for localities to go into the utility business — outspending the opposition by 161 to 1.
- Another measure last year, to allow auto insurance discounts for continuous customers, was funded almost entirely by $14.6 million from Mercury Insurance.
- In 2008, T. Boone Pickens’ company contributed over $22 million — outspending opponents 100-to-1 — on a measure to encourage use of natural gas . . . which would have benefited the billionaire’s business interests.
- A 2006 ballot measure charging a severance tax on oil production to fund alternative energy programs was bankrolled with nearly $50 million dollars from real estate heir and Hollywood producer Steven Bing.
What Ms. Lin did not emphasize was that each of these big-spending corporate/rich-dude campaigns had the same result: The voters defeated their ballot measure.
The millions spent didn’t sway the people.
If special interests “dominated” the state legislature (or Congress) in this same way, we’d be dancing in the streets.
I spent the 1990s organizing petition drives to put term limits measures before voters — over 100 state and local initiatives — and virtually every single one passed, usually by large margins. No one ever charged that the term limits movement was “dominating” the initiative process.
Nice to know that I’m not plausibly demonizable.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.