Monday, August 23, 2004

With Big Money, Corporation Tries Strong-Arm Tactics with Local DA

Recently released post-election campaign finance reports show that the unsuccessful recall effort of Humboldt County's District Attorney Paul Gallegos was the most expensive election in the county's history, costing some $700,000. Past elections averaged around $100,000 in spending.

The campaign to recall Gallegos started soon after he sued Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) over lying to state negotiators during the 1999 Headwaters Forest deal. PALCO and its parent corporation, Houston-based Maxxam, donated a quarter of a million dollars to the recall campaign, including some $70,000 towards local signature-gatherers to get the recall on the March ballot. The PALCO contributions provided the overwhelming majority of pro-recall contributions.

There is nothing wrong with the recall process per se. As citizens of a democracy, we should have the right to remove politicians from office for corruption, incompetence, or criminal acts. But when corporations can use their huge financial advantages to essentially buy themselves a recall election, our democracy suffers. This is especially true when the corporation does so to retaliate against an elected official for representing the public interest against the corporation.

If Californians want their public officials to be accountable to them instead of a few corporations, they should push their representatives to close the loophole that allows powerful wealthy interests like PALCO to make unlimited contributions towards ballot initiatives and recalls that are often little more than corporate strong-arm tactics.

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