Several members of the GFC Network have asked, “how can a state legislator get away with saying one thing but doing another?” Here’s how:

The biggest bank balance in the State Assembly has been accumulated by a progressive-talking legislator from a progressive district who collects most of his money from special interests. None of his top 10 donors are from his district. They are from these places:

Image for post
Image for post

His donors include insurance and other corporations, casinos, trial lawyers, and police, prison guard and other unions. His progressive talk aside, he has helped to perpetuate the country’s most expensive prison-industrial complex in California by voting for salary increases for prison guards already the highest paid in the nation even before six increases granted over the last decade. He is a defender of unlimited subsidies for retired government employees — including for retired city employees like himself* — that are funded with money diverted from classrooms, services and taxpayers, and of pensions for police and prison guards who can retire at 50 with annual pensions equal to 90 percent of their final salaries. He votes for budgets in which those fast-growing subsidies and pensions crowd out services for the vulnerable and the most expensive beneficiaries of which are public safety employees, and he constantly seeks tax increases to cover those expenditures and his tracks.You won’t find those facts on his website. Presented with a constituency that only pays attention to what he says while armed with a bank balance from special interests who only care about what he does, he can get away with not walking his talk.

His name doesn’t really matter. Outing hypocritical legislators isn’t enough. 62 is enough. That’s the number needed for majorities in the Assembly (41) and Senate (21). Many state legislators are itching to get out from under the thumbs of special interests, but they cannot succeed without financial support that they can rely upon now and for decades to come. It doesn’t take a lot of money. It takes persistence. In a future post we will little how little has been spent by powerful special interests who have persistently been at it for decades, and successful as a result. Supporters of the general interest must do the same.

*At one time in their careers, several current state and federal legislators were employed by local governments or agencies in California that provide these retirement subsidies, including to employees who worked for only five years.

Written by

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store