By Doug Porter
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors consideration of re-establishing limits on political parties donations to candidates in races for county office has the local GOP up in arms.
Caps on partisan candidate support in county contests were lifted several years ago following a federal judge’s ruling striking down a City of San Diego ordinance limiting donations to $1000. The city re-established limits at $10,000 for district only and $20,000 for city-wide races.
Supervisor Ron Roberts has proposed similar limits. Ron Nehring, formerly Chairman of both the California and San Diego Republican Party organizations took to Flash Report to denounce the proposal, saying it was an “infringement on the Free Speech rights of political parties.”
The proposal would sharply curtail the ability of political parties to directly contribute to county candidates, with a limit of about 1 cent (not dollar, cent) per voter for countywide candidates, and about 3 cents per voter for supervisor candidates. Donors and special interests who wish to support candidates in excess of these limits will shift their funds elsewhere. Often, that’s under ground. And everybody knows it.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the First Amendment protects every American’s right to make unlimited contributions to so-called “independent expenditure” committees.
These “IE’s” conduct campaigns in support or opposition to candidates and can take unlimited money so long as they do so “independently” of the candidates involved. Just how “independent” they are varies.
Tony Krvaric, currently local GOP chair, sent an email (also posted at SDRostra) hoping rally the membership to contact Supervisors Roberts, Cox and Jacobs in opposition to this proposal.
Here’s the Post Script:
PS-Instead of thoroughly studying the issue, involving the affected parties, they are rushing this through AND TRYING TO CHANGE THE RULES WHILE THE 2016 CAMPAIGN IS ALREADY UNDERWAY. This is no way to run government and we should expect more from our Republican elected officials!
UPDATE: They raised the limits, on a 4-1 vote. Supervisor Bill Horn dissented, saying any limits should be put off until 2018. From City News Service via KPBS:
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to tentatively approve caps on the amount of money political parties can donate to candidates for county offices.
Pending a second vote, the limits would be $25,000 for supervisors races by district and $50,000 for countywide offices.
What’s amusing about this outrage is the level of support by assorted Independent Expenditure groups for GOP candidates around the country. According to the Sunlight Foundation report issued just prior to last fall’s elections, “Republican-leaning dark money groups have spent $94.6 million, while Democratic-leaning groups have spent $28.4 million.”
Apparently this isn’t the case in California, where the GOP’s poor track record translates into most of the conservative-leaning dark money being spent on ballot propositions.
What the local GOP is really complaining about is a potential interruption of its own cash flow. Uncapped donations from wealthy donors can be used by political parties (Democrats do it too) in support of candidates. It’s considered outreach, with a certain amount coming off the top for everyday expenses. Also the expenditures can be coordinated above board with candidates(as opposed to IE funding).
SD Rostra’s Brian Brady says this move is really designed to benefit a certain political consultant:
Tom Shepard is up to his old shenanigans again. Shepard-backed Supervisor Ron Roberts is introducing a proposal to limit candidate donations from political parties in San Diego County. Guess why? To protect two of Shepard’s other clients, up for re-election in 2016: Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox. It also gives Shepard a chance to make MORE money by forming and/or consulting for “independent expenditure committees” (also known as attack ad slush funds).
Here’s the lowdown on Supervisor Roberts point of view via KPBS:
“Rather than wait for a major incident to happen — that would have the public really scratching their heads — I thought why don’t we try to put some sanity into this system,” Roberts said.
Roberts also worried unlimited contributions from political parties created a way for donors to mask where money in a particular race is coming from.
“They make a donation to the political parties and the political parties spend it,” Roberts said. “And the public, I think, has more of a right to know who’s contributing. It is not just the amounts that are being contributed but I feel strongly this is a good government issue.”
2016 Elections: A Disagreement Among Rich People?
While the local right wingers are whining about cash flow, the big boys at the national level are taking no chances.
Higher projected turnout and demographic trends don’t favor Republicans and conservative issues going into the 2016 elections. And America’s billionaires aren’t going to let little things like that get in the way of imposing their agenda.
From the New York Times:
The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.
The spending goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs’ annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would require a significant financial commitment from the Kochs and roughly 300 other donors they have recruited over the years, and covers both the presidential and congressional races. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party’s two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million.
The contemporary role of big money in politics allows a wealthy elite few to overpower other voices to an unprecedented degree, at all levels of government. This is a terrible thing. Rich people’s “free speech” equals policies negatively impacting the rest of us on a basic human level.
A recent USA Today poll found that 54 percent of Americans who don’t vote say they don’t pay attention to politics because the political system is too corrupt.
From a recent Demos essay about the negative impacts of Citizens United:
Regardless of partisan affiliation, when wealthy individuals and corporate interests can determine who runs, who wins, the agenda, and ultimately the law, our politics risks becoming just a disagreement between rich people.
The dominance of big money in politics has a real impact on elections at all levels, not just federal elections, and is skewing policy at those levels as well. There has been a vast increase in spending in state and local legislative and executive races: $2.2 billion was spent in state elections in the 2014 cycle.
Repealing Obamacare: It’s Okay if People Die
What this big money power grab could translate to was the subject of a Michael Hiltzik column in the Los Angeles Times:
Rarely do conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act acknowledge the real human consequences of their campaign to overturn the healthcare reform law. But an astonishing op-ed published Friday by the Washington Post does just that.
Its author, Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, argues that even though the result of repeal is that some Obamacare beneficiaries may die from losing their insurance, that outcome is moral. As the Post’s editors succinctly and accurately headlined the piece: “End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay.”
In Strain’s own words: “Repealing Obamacare could — although wouldn’t necessarily — result in more people dying. But it clearly would not be immoral.”
Strain bases his argument on the fact that society applies cost-benefit analyses to policy choices all the time. Some of these balancings result in raising the mortality risk for some people in return for achieving broader benefits for the larger community. Repealing Obamacare involves just another one of these trade-offs, he argues, so what’s the big deal?
On to other news…
North Park Development Done Right
The city council has approved plans for two largish buildings in North Park and nobody’s complaining. Not a single speaker opposed this deal. That’s news, right?
The Arizona Street Development project by Community HousingWorks (CHW) comprises two sets of mid-rise buildings on either side of Texas Street that front Howard Avenue.
One building rising five stories will contain 76 apartments for seniors with the goal of appealing to LGBT seniors. The developer has partnered with The San Diego LGBT Community Center to assure that LGBT seniors will find the apartment complex is LGBT friendly and will provide a safe, inclusive and affirming environment for all residents.
The larger building rising seven stories will have 118 units, including 23 units dedicated to people who earn very low income.
Councilmember Todd Gloria, who represents District 3 where the complex will be built, praised the project and noted that it will be located a short walk to El Cajon Boulevard, where residents can hop aboard the new Rapid Transit bus that cuts down transportation times between San Diego State University and Downtown San Diego.
What’s a YIMBY?
A blog named YIMBY (as in Yes In My Back Yard) is making waves locally with interesting ideas about development and sustainability.
Consider this introduction to a recent post:
For the past several years, the North Park area has been booming. 30th Street and University Avenue are full of new and exciting restaurants, breweries, and other shops, and El Cajon Blvd is building steam. Large houses are selling for a lot of money in the neighborhood, but a stroll in the area reveals an ugly truth: there are still a lot of run down houses and poorly designed apartments. The scourge of the “Huffman Six-Pack” is well documented. This is especially true on the edges of the central area.
Small developers are creating new infill projects, but they are not exactly affordable and don’t necessarily lead to a better design for the community. In large part, this is likely because these developers are focused on one main thing: profit. In the quest for profit (which, to be fair, is necessary for any business venture), the need for a larger variety of housing types is left behind. Also, these developers aren’t necessarily focused on creating a great streetscape. Is there a way to fix this?
Here is what I propose: a non-profit urban infill factory. To be clear, I am not talking about building only affordable units or seeking City for State funds, which complicates things for many reasons. Instead, I am talking about a small organization looking to build residential units, but not focusing on profitability.
I’m not prepared to endorse all the ideas in YIMBY (and there are many). But I do find it admirable to see discussion beyond the usual bounds of “yes” or “no” when it comes to development.
On This Day: 1756 – Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. 1998 – Then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on NBC’s “Today” show. She charged that the allegations against her husband were the work of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” 2014 – Pete Seeger died in New York at age 94. A musician and activist, he was a revered figure on the American left, persecuted during the McCarthy era for his support of progressive, labor and civil rights causes. A prolific songwriter, he is generally credited with popularizing the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” He actively participated in demonstrations until shortly before his death.
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