Re "Reinventing California," Oct. 26:
Your reform position on "cash register" politics in California is highly commendable. Public financing seems to be the only effective way to counteract special-interest domination of election campaigns. The contribution and expenditure disparity between special interests and individual voters is even more pronounced at the local level, and is equally ripe for reform. In regional or national elections, both political sides have access to big money.
However, local city council seats are easy pickings for special-interests with huge bankrolls and no limitations on contributions or how much they spend. They compete against individual candidates who are subject, in many cases, to locally imposed contribution maximums.
In Dana Point, for instance, developer committees dominated the last city election by spending more than $125,000 to successfully elect three councilmen to office. This gave these special interests all five seats over two city elections. No other local candidate committee had access to such amounts in a city where $15,000 to $20,000 had been the norm for successful council candidacy -- unless, of course, they were willing to compromise their obligation to all voters, and therein lies the corruption rub!
The cities of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano had similar experiences in the last election and lost independent council majorities to special interests. Thus, many of us join you and the Clean Money Campaign in urging the state to yank the for-sale signs in California -- both regionally and locally.