Political campaigns

A new initiative to take corporate money out of state political campaigns

Efforts to get corporate money out of politics took another step forward with the introduction of a bill by Assemblyman Alex Lee that would ban corporate donations to candidates for public office. .

“It’s not a magic bullet,” Lee said at a news conference today. “But it is important that we cut off all possible avenues.”

Assemblyman Alex Lee

The measure would align state law with federal rules (and San Francisco rules) that prohibit direct corporate donations to candidates. “Every year, corporations donate hundreds of millions” to state candidates, Lee, who ran for office pledging not to accept corporate donations.

This has a huge impact: As Sup. Dean Preston, who previously led a statewide tenant advocacy group, said, “People with experience in Sacramento know it’s a tough environment to advocate on behalf of businesses.

He added: “At this time, as we encourage new generations of upstarts, activists with lived experience and political outsiders to engage in the political process and run for office, those who take Clean money pledges are extremely disadvantaged and are effectively silenced by the massive corporate spending in these races.

The bill does not prevent corporate political action committees from contributing to candidates. That’s because PACs are protected by federal law and the US Supreme Court.

But almost exactly at the same time Lee introduced his bill, Rep. Pramila Jayapal introduced a constitutional amendment that would end corporate personality and reverse the notorious United Citizens decision:

Businesses are not people and money is not speech. After the most expensive election in American history in which special interests poured millions of black money into campaigns across the country, the We the People Amendment finally returns power to the people, ends to the constitutional rights of businesses, nullifies United Citizensand ensure that our democracy is truly one of the people, by the people – not of corporations.

Assemblyman Ash Kalra, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, said the Jayapal measure and AB 20 are “complementary and additive”. He noted: “All of these efforts at all levels of government beg the question, what is this entity known as the corporation and how should it be treated?”

Lee said none of the San Francisco delegation signed on as a co-sponsor. I contacted Assemblymen David Chiu and Phil Ting and State Senator Scott Wiener and all said they supported the bill.

The press conference was sponsored by the new Daybreak PAC, formed by former state Senate candidate Jackie Fielder to support candidates for public office who agree to reject donations from corporations and billionaires and pledge to support a progressive agenda.

The SF Supes Board of Directors today unanimously approved a resolution supporting AB 20.