Long before I ever thought about running for public office myself, I took steps to reform our system, starting right here in California.
I dedicated both my time and money in support of an initiative that would create a non-partisan commission to draw California’s legislative districts, ending the self-serving conflict of legislators drawing their own district lines to assure they retain safe seats. After initially failing in 2005, despite my strong support, this initiative was passed by California voters in the November 2008 election, even though it was opposed by the national political parties, and despite opposition from Congressman Waxman.
I also invested in support of “Open Primaries”, which Californians passed in 2010. This initiative allowed all voters to vote in all primaries, regardless of party affiliation. Meaning that you now have the freedom to vote for whomever you think is the best candidate, and you are not limited by the political parties. It was one of the many reasons that I now felt comfortable re-registering as an Independent as I could still have a voice in the primary elections. I am proud of my efforts here, and I must note that once again, this initiative passed despite opposition from both political parties (and Congressman Waxman.)
There is yet another significant reform initiative which has qualified for this November’s ballot that I’ve been involved in since its drafting phase. It is designed to limit the corrupting influence of special interests that infect both political parties. This “Stop Special Interests” initiative will ban contractors from making contributions to elected officials who approve their contracts. It will also prohibit labor unions and corporations from making donations to candidates running for state office. And, it will prohibit unions and corporations from deducting political contributions from their members’ and employees’ paychecks without their permission. I believe that all political contributions should be voluntary. No one should be compelled to give to politicians unless they choose to give.
No, this initiative isn’t perfect. For instance, I wish it included a requirement forcing corporations to get shareholder approval before spending money on political activities. However, this is a very good start at reining in some of the corrupting influence of special interests, and perhaps a follow-up initiative can finish the job.
I supported each of these non-partisan reform measures because I think they will make our political system in California more responsive to individual voters and taxpayers and much less beholden to the special interests that create so much of the dysfunction in government today.
In addition to these Californian initiatives, there are other ways I have been working to reform the system.
I am listed as one of the co-founders of “No Labels,” the national organization dedicated to unlocking the hyper-partisan gridlock in Washington. Nancy Jacobson, the former Finance Chair of the Democratic party, and Mark McKinnon, a former senior advisor to the McCain Presidential campaign, originated the idea for “No Labels.” Our organization encourages and backs politicians who put a priority on solving problems by seeking out and working with like-minded patriots, regardless of party affiliation. We believe in putting country ahead of party and the next election. The “No Labels” philosophy is similar to my own: “Not Left; Not Right, but Forward.”
I even went as far as meeting with Speaker Boehner in March of 2011. I attended a fundraiser in Los Angeles to suggest to Speaker Boehner how he might encourage President Obama to engage him in meaningful debt reduction negotiations. Speaker Boehner liked my suggestion, and although he didn’t implement it, he and the President did commence a series of subsequent deficit reduction meetings. Sadly, however, they proved unsuccessful, leading to our nearly disastrous brush with default on our debt in August and the subsequent credit downgrade.
I have worked to improve and change our system by spending my personal time, energy and resources on reform initiatives and urging key leaders to support reform of our political system.