“Corporations and some of the wealthiest Americans have spent more than $1 billion in the past 18 months on ballot initiatives in just 11 states,” Reid Wilson informed Washington Post readers following last week’s election. He dubbed it “an unprecedented explosion of money used to pass new laws and influence the public debate.”
He’s implying that bad ol’ corporations and “the rich” can change our laws merely by petitioning issues onto the ballot. Is that right?
Thankfully, no: we get to vote.
“Money is most effective on ballot measures when you’re trying to get a ‘no’ . . . the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” explained Rob Richie, the executive director of FairVote, appearing yesterday on C-Span’s Washington Journal. “It’s a lot harder, actually, to spend a lot of money and get a ‘yes.’”
He’s exactly right. Big corporations and big labor have had success in defeating measures, but not much at all in passing “new laws.”
Last Tuesday’s election bears this out. While there were 31 issues on state ballots, only three were initiatives petitioned onto the ballot by citizens, and all three were defeated.
In Washington, Initiative 517, a pro-initiative measure, and Initiative 522, a measure requiring genetically modified foods to be labeled, were both badly outspent and defeated. However, in Colorado, those supporting Amendment 66, a tax increase for education, spent over $10 million to promote the measure compared to less than $50,000 spent against it. Still, the tax hike was defeated 2-to-1.
Money helps in campaigning, no doubt. But the facts show that wealthy interests can’t buy our votes or brainwash us to gain new laws. We decide.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.