As most of you know, I have long expressed that our campaign finance system is a disaster, and Californians are sick and tired of having the best candidates money can buy. In California, unlike the federal level, corporations are able to donate directly to candidates for state office. Today, I am proud to share that I am joining the growing tide of democratic candidates around the country and declining ALL corporate donations.
I have been a longtime supporter of Common Cause and People for the American Way and experienced first hand the threat of big money on politics during my re-election campaign for State Superintendent in 1998.
Two weeks before the November election, David Packard donated $500,000 to the campaign of my opponent. At the time, it was the largest contribution ever made to a California politician. He was joined by Howard Ahmanson from Home Savings who donated $225,000 and John Walton of Walmart who kicked in $55,000. Three other wealthy corporate moguls brought the total contribution to over one million dollars.
The money was spent to attack me as a liberal, for having a “gay agenda” because she proudly touted endorsements from LGBTQ organizations, and for being a strong supporter of bilingual education. It went to the campaign of a candidate that the Sacramento Bee characterized as “…not remotely qualified to hold this office”.
They thought they could take me out, but we fought back with a lot of small dollar donors, and I won. And that is how I will win our campaign to be your next governor.
My dad always told me that you might as well shoot a dog as give it a bad name. California has the highest effective poverty rate in the country. People are understandably cynical. They want money out of politics. I support public funding of campaigns, but in the meantime, I am going entirely corporate free, and returning funds that do not meet this pledge, because it is the right thing to do. I am also continuing my pledge not to take money from Big Oil, Big Tobacco, or the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Let’s win this!