VIDEO LINKS AND QUOTES from Today’s Media Briefing: What’s at Stake if Big Money Wins Lawsuit to Terminate Anti-Corruption Law

VIDEO LINKS AND QUOTES from Today’s Media Briefing: What’s at Stake if Big Money Wins Lawsuit to Terminate Anti-Corruption Law 

A panel of policy and democracy experts warned the public of the high-stakes consequences of the special interest lawsuit to terminate SB 1439 at a virtual press conference held Monday. The legislation, signed into law last year, is a common sense anti-corruption law that would help end the cycle of scandals caused by special interests’ massive campaign contributions to local officials they have business before.

The panel discussed the urgent need to uphold the lawful, long-overdue legislation that holds local leaders accountable to the people they serve, not to special interests. Local stakeholders illustrated how special interests meddling in local politics hinders democracy and harms our communities.

In case you missed today’s media briefing, you can find the video link to the recording here.

Select quotes from the briefing, in order of speakers, are below. 

Regarding the urgent need to protect SB 1439:  

“We have become numb to the legal corruption that has enveloped our democracy. Pay-to-play is antithetical to an honest and ethical government, and it should be rooted out and killed like a cancer that has affected the body politic. 

The influence-peddling community wants the opposite – greasy contributions that taint decisions that should be exclusively in the public’s interest. The status quo is shameful and it is bigger than the corruption we are trying to root out – it is the confidence of our citizenry in whether people can have faith in our democracy,” said Senator Steve Glazer, author of SB 1439

Regarding the importance of expanding our anti-corruption laws: 

“California’s local governments have been plagued by scandals in which special interest entities pump campaign cash to the local government officials who determine their fate on licenses, permits, and contracts. The examples are endless – SB 1439 is a common sense, narrowly tailored solution to an acute and documented problem to protect our communities. 

It has been tried in other states and in a long list of California cities, and it has never been knocked down because of legal challenges. We trust SB 1439 will succeed in the courts,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director of California Common Cause. 

Regarding how SB 1439 expands the Political Reform Act: 

“SB 1439 is one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the last 10 years. It gets right to the heart of the corruption problem – people think that elected officials are acting in the best interest of their contributors, not in the public interest. This is a major effort to correct this problem and public perception, thus the law should be upheld by the courts,” said Bob Stern, policy expert and principal co-author of the Political Reform Act of 1974.

Regarding how big money in our local politics hurts our communities: 

“Supporting SB 1439 as a bill was an easy choice for us – we see and feel regularly the impact of corporate money in the Inland Empire. Increasingly, it’s felt that regardless of how loudly residents and voters push back against certain kinds of local projects, developer money will always drown out our voice. 

Over the past 20 years, the Inland Empire has become the largest logistics hub in the world – so instead of green space and local businesses, we’re surrounded by massive warehouses and, as a result, we breathe some of the worst air and are offered fewer quality jobs. Laws like SB 1439 give us hope that moving forward, the scales will be more balanced,” said Sky Allen, Executive Director of Inland Empire United. 

Regarding how big money in our local politics hurts consumers: 

“Local politicians have tremendous influence and direct impact on the policies that impact consumers the most, like zoning laws, environmental regulations, and business licensing. When corporations and wealthy individuals use their financial resources to influence local elections and create favor with local elected officials, they successfully steer public policy in ways that are sympathetic to their own interests at the expense of consumers as a whole. 

Laws like SB 1439 address this by insuring that local politicians are working in favor of the public interest, not bids for re-election or trading favors with wealthy donors,” said Ben Powell, Staff Attorney for Consumer Watchdog. 

Regarding the community support to remove big money from our local politics: 

“It’s imperative that we ensure local elections stay equitable for everyone. When big money comes into play, socioeconomic barriers are strengthened and the community is ultimately the one who loses. 

In Baldwin Park, we enacted a local ordinance barring city contractors from directly donating to candidates and adding stricter contribution limits. When we sent it to the voters to reinforce the ordinance, over 80 percent were in favor, illustrating the massive desire to remove the influence of big money from our local poltics,” said Emmanuel Estrada, Mayor of Baldwin Park. 

Additional statements from partners unable to attend the briefing: 

Statement from the California Fair Political Practices Commission Chair, Richard C. Miadich:

“We’re disappointed to learn a lawsuit has been filed regarding SB 1439 after the Commission voted unanimously to support it and months after it unanimously passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor. It also comes months after we’ve begun issuing guidance, gathering public input, and crafting regulations to implement the law. We’ll continue doing just that and will continue to enforce the law unless and until a court ruling says otherwise.”

 To watch the full briefing, click here.

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