Derigging California

Yesterday GFC was proud to express support for SB 710, a bill by Senator Steven Bradford to require prosecutors in California who have accepted money from a police union to recuse themselves from cases involving alleged lawbreaking by police represented by that union. If enacted, SB 710 would be a helpful step towards derigging public policy in California from political contributions, but the state would still have a long way to go.

Should the head of Purchasing for (say) The New York Times accept money from corporations who compete to provide ink to the paper? Should the lead labor negotiator for (say) the Washington Post accept money from unions who represent press operators? Of course not. Yet every day, elected officials in California accept money from corporations, unions, associations and other entities whose shareholders, employees and members receive money for providing services to the State and its subdivisions under authorizations by those same officials. To add insult to public injury, the contributions aren’t reported until after the officials have authorized billions of dollars of spending in favor of the contributors. The losers are consumers, who get poor service, and taxpayers, who get poor value for tax payments.

Fortunately there is precedent for reform. Elected officials may not accept contributions from entities receiving money under contracts to manage state pension assets if they have influence over those contracts. Needless to say, elected officials should also not be permitted to accept contributions from entities whose shareholders, employees or members receive money as a result of spending authorized by those same officials.

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California

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