CA’s $200B Conflict of Interest

Believe it or not, CA state legislators accept donations from enterprises that collect more than $200 billion per year from the state. E.g., $10 billion is provided to prison staff under contracts authorized by legislators to whom unions representing prison staff make donations, and the state pays billions more to dialysis and other health care corporations that make donations to legislators.

Legislators should reject such donations. Enterprises that manage money for state pension funds may not make donations to legislators who are in a position to influence the award of investment advisory business, yet legislators with greater influence over larger sums are permitted to collect donations from parties interested in those sums. That makes no sense.

The Legislature should not create favored political funders. In 1968, Ronald Reagan signed the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act that gave collective bargaining rights to police and other local personnel. Before then, only one other state (Wisconsin) had authorized collective bargaining for public employees, a notion both FDR and labor leader George Meany had opposed. But local public safety personnel were largely GOP at that time, so Reagan signed the legislation. A decade later, Jerry Brown signed the Rodda and Dills Acts extending the same rights to school and state employees, who were more likely to favor his party. Together, Reagan, Brown and their legislatures damaged California’s democracy by delivering extraordinary political powers to public employees and large sources of funding for politicians willing to do their bidding. Now there is even a movement to turn legislative staffs into organized political funders, a notion legislators should reject. They already have enough conflicts of interest.

PS: You can see the donations collected by your representatives here. If you don’t know the identities of your representatives, you can find them here.