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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Another Millionaire For Public Office

As Justin Jouvenal reports in The San Mateo County Times, Steve Poizner, a candidate for the California Assembly seat for the 21st District, has contributed $2.85 million of his own money to the $3.7 million in his campaign warchest. His donation makes him the third largest donor to a California campaign this year, trailing only Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Bill Lockyer, both of whom have also given themselves huge amounts of cash.

Perhaps modeling his own stance after Schwarzenegger's recent successful use of his own personal fortune to run for office, candidate Poizner says he's spending millions of dollars of his own money in order to avoid accepting contributions from corrupting political interests like corporations, political parties, and unions.

Poizner styles himself a proponent of campaign finance reform, but at least one of his proposals - restricting donations during key decision-making periods for the legislature and governor - sounds like the same tired suggestions we've been hearing for years from people who think that the only problem with big money in politics is that wealthy interests can buy policy like regular folks buy cereal. While that may happen sometimes, it ignores the larger problem of wealthy interests making big contributions to buy the way into office for candidates who already agree with their positions, so that there's no need to for policy-buying of the type Poizner decries.

California allows individuals to give $3,200 to a legislative candidate, a huge sum of money that very few Californians can afford. Poizner's rhetoric of reform will carry greater weight if instead of advocating piecemeal nonreforms, he urges California to make it a lot harder for people like himself to dominate its elections.

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