How Political Hypocrisy Is Financed In California

Let’s say you run a business that collects $6 billion in annual revenue from a single customer. Would you spend $2 million to keep that customer? Of course you would. That’s how CCPOA, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association that represents state prison guards, operates.

Earlier this week we wrote about a state legislator who says one thing to constituents but does another for special interests. CCPOA is one of those special interests. Last year it spent less than $2 million on political contributions, independent expenditures and lobbying. The most it can contribute to a candidate for the legislature is $9,400 per election cycle. It can contribute more to parties ($500k in 2018) and at times will make large independent expenditures ($2.8 million on the 2018 governor’s race), but those amounts are trivial compared to the $6 billion the legislature and governor spend on salaries, current benefits, retirement subsidies and pensions for CCPOA’s members. Last year the legislature and governor granted their sixth raise since 2013. You can see the legislature’s votes here.

The amount of CCPOA’s political spending matters less than the fact that elected officials know CCPOA will always be there.

That’s the reality of politics in California. But don’t blame CCPOA, which has the right to support its members. You could blame legislators who cave to special interests but that wouldn’t change anything. Change happens only when 62 legislators and the governor legislate change, and that happens only if lawmakers who legislate — not just talk — in the general interest are supported. If you’re not supporting them, then the blame rests with you.

It doesn’t take much money, especially when spread across a network of donors, but it does take persistence. It also takes a long time. Legislators know special interests will always be there but they can’t be sure the same is true of general interest supporters. GFC has been around since 2011 and only now are legislators starting to feel we are here to stay. But we have a long way to go — and even when we get there the fight will go on. That’s because special interests will always be there. So must we.

If you’re not already in the ring, climb in. We make it easy for you here.

Written by

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California

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