New Initiative May Ban Corporate Contributions to Political Candidates

A recent meeting of the Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee featured a presentation from Robert Loewen of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher on the Stop Special Interest Money Now ballot initiative to ban corporate and union contributions to all political candidates, which sparked a robust discussion among committee members. Also featured was Orange County’s Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, who shared the challenges facing the County’s aging voting equipment, why OC is unique among California’s voting jurisdictions, and what the future of voting looks like in California.

The Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee meeting featured no shortage of opinions as participants weighed in on the Stop Special Interest Money Now initiative. Robert Loewen of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher shared the initiative’s objectives: to establish “A simple, fair and balanced solution that addresses the whole problem of special interests controlling government. In short, it returns power back to the people by limiting both corporate and union political spending.” The four key components of the initiative are:

  1. Bans both corporate and labor union contributions to candidates;
  2. Prohibits government contractors from contributing money to government officials who award them contracts;
  3. Prohibits corporations and labor unions from collecting political funds from employees and union members using the inherently coercive means of payroll deduction; and
  4. Makes all employee political contributions by any other means strictly voluntary, requiring annual written consent.

Opinions about the initiative varied, with discussions centering around the initiative’s ability to affect campaign contributions, and what the implications might be on freedom of speech. Orange County Business Council will be following this initiative closely to determine, if passed, what effect it could have on the business community in California.

Neal Kelley, Orange County’s Registrar of Voters provided valuable information on the state of Orange County’s voting system. This multi-million dollar investment is facing the need for maintenance and repair much sooner than expected or required by state law, due to the high frequency of Orange County’s elections. In the face of significant obstacles, Mr. Kelley is working diligently to obtain federal and state certification for a part that will significantly extend the life of the county’s voting equipment.

Mr. Kelley also touched on the high propensity of vote-by-mail voters in Orange County. The number of voters choosing to vote-by-mail has steadily increased over the years; in the November 2010 election 52% of ballots cast were by mail – the first election to ever see more vote-by-mail voters than poll site voters. Though Mr. Kelley expects this trend to continue, state law prevents election officials from conducting all-mail ballot elections, and legislation to change this has been historically unsuccessful. For more information contact Kate Klimow, Vice President of Government Affairs.

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