LA Times: Why the Harris-Sanchez Senate race is a good argument for California’s top-two system (Oct. 8, 2016)

The LA Times recently published an Op Ed challenging the merits of the top-two election system.  My letter to the editor in response was published today and follows below:

Why the Harris-Sanchez Senate race is a good argument for California’s top-two system

Larry N. Gerston is correct that our state is heading toward one-party rule, but his diagnosis of the cause — the top-two election system — couldn’t be more wrong. The top-two reform is doing exactly what was intended: ensuring that all voters have a say in who represents them despite the political parties’ best efforts to keep people focused on the party, not the person. (“Top-two reform tilts California toward one-party rule,” Opinion, Oct. 5)

The reason for the decline in viable Republican candidates making it to the November ballot in California is because their national party is trying to sell things that our electorate isn’t buying. We Californians reject candidates who sound selfish on taxes, homophobic on family values and racist on immigration.

In California, there hasn’t been a competitive race for the U.S. Senate in more than 20 years because voter registration numbers dictated that Democratic candidates would win. How great is it that the party title in this year’s Senate race has taken a back seat to the individuals themselves?

If Gerston wants more Republicans or Libertarians to appear on a November ballot, I suggest he work on enlisting candidates from those parties who appeal to Californians. And, if they’re running for federal office, at least know where Aleppo is.

Bill Bloomfield, Manhattan Beach

The Lesson of Paris (November 20, 2015)

Peggy Noonan, three years before 9-11, practically predicted the very tragedy that was to unfold.   In a Forbes magazine article titled “There is No Time, There Will Be Time” published in the fall of 1998, she lamented the fact that a terrorist attack was going to occur in New York or Washington DC, our elected officials knew it was bound to happen, but none of them had the courage to do anything about it.

And so, on the 11th of September 2001, Al Qaeda attacked.  And on September 12thour government finally acted.

In June of 2014, the recently retired Deputy Director of the CIA told a spellbound audience that the single biggest threat to the security of the west was the ISIS insurgency that was spreading across two continents, encompassing parts of Nigeria, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.  And he said the world’s response thus far was far from adequate.

And so it took a terrorist attack in Paris to get the French President to declare war on ISIS a year and a half later.

But there are other risks ….. risks far more cataclysmic than those presented by a handful of suicide bombers.

In June of 2006, at a time when North Korea was preparing to test a long range ballistic missile, Ashton Carter, our current Secretary of Defense, along with former Secretary of Defense William Perry, jointly authored an op-ed that recommended the Bush administration, if necessary, “strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched.”  They wrote that while there were risks in taking out the missile, the risk of not doing so would be far greater as it would lead to “more and more warheads atop more and more missiles.”

To recap:  Our elected officials knew we faced terrorist threats and did little…until after we were attacked, when, along with other things, they set up the office of homeland security.  France knew that they faced terrorist attacks from ISIS and did very little…until after they were attacked, when they declared war.

And nine years ago our Secretary of Defense warned that a nuclear-armed North Korea would present a grave threat to the people of the United States.

The difference with this threat, of course, is if our leaders get it wrong again, and continue to wait until after the fact to react to the foreseeable North Korean threat, we lose a lot more than two buildings and thousands of lives.

The lesson of Paris is not just to destroy ISIS.

The main lesson of Paris is for our leaders, this time, to actually lead.  And keep us safe.  I hope you agree.

Bill

Great-grandchildren, Iran and 2016 (July 16, 2015)

It will be some time before I have great-grandchildren – my eldest grandchild just turned six.  But I know that my great-granddaughter won’t like the Iran nuclear deal for the same reason I don’t like political deals that trade unsustainable pensions for labor peace, nor corporate deals that lay people off in order to meet Wall Street’s quarterly expectations:  What may be good in the short term is often very bad in the long term.  And our nation should not be ignoring the long term.

If I was negotiating a deal with Iran I’d want to keep them out of the nuclear club permanently.  In my opinion, most of the potential good that could come from an agreement with Iran was lost when we agreed to discuss anything shorter, let alone just 10 years.  (The ban on Iran’s ability to import ballistic missile technology apparently expires in only eight years.)

There were two members of the nuclear club when I was born.  Now there are at least eight, an addition of roughly one per decade.  Anyone who cares about the long term viability of our country – indeed, our world – believes that rate of increase is not viable over the long run.  Worse yet, the short term nature of this agreement, coupled with the effects of our failed North Korean agreement 20 years earlier, promises to increase the rate of nuclearization, perhaps dramatically.

Which brings up the 2016 presidential race.

I haven’t decided who I’m going to support yet.  But I will be looking for the presidential candidate who will speak to the needs of our unborn future generations.  I’m looking for someone who realizes 10 years is a blink of an eye – not a worthy time frame when it comes to maintaining the security of our country.  I hope you agree.

Bill

P.S.  Nothing above should be construed as a recommendation on how Congress should vote on the deal.  Since the cat’s already out of the bag, I’m not sure rejecting the deal is any better in the long term than accepting it.  Either way, we need to figure out a way to protect us from a nuclear-armed, ICBM-equipped Iran.  And soon.

A Victory for the Good Guys (June 3, 2015)

Last Thursday, Steve Glazer was sworn into the California State Senate to represent the San Francisco Bay Area’s 7th Senatorial District. The state’s pundits and insiders had originally predicted this dramatic political event would never happen.  Steve’s election is considered a game-changer by many.

Although a life-long Democrat and political ally of Governor Brown, Glazer dared to oppose the BART strikes and refused to pledge his loyalty to anyspecial interest agenda, regardless of their party affiliation.  For this demonstration of independence from the state’s most powerful special interests, the government unions spent millions to try and stop him in a cynically vicious mudslide of false attacks and dirty politics.

The voters saw through the lies and easily elected Glazer by over 9 points. Newspapers across the state reported Steve’s win for what it was – a significant defeat for the special interest politics of government unions, including the teacher’s union. It is hugely consequential for our state’s future that Democratic candidates know they can stand up to these powerful special interests by supporting a kids first agenda.

Susan and I were proud to be part of the independent expenditure campaign of education reformers that leveled the playing field for an outstanding and courageous candidate like Steve Glazer. This election is a victory for education reform and a sign of hope for our state’s broken politics.

There is much that needs to be done to improve California’s schools.  Steve’s election is an important step in the right direction by demonstrating that voters will put kids ahead of special interests’ lobbying goals when given the chance.  I hope you agree.

I’m Asking for an Important Favor (Mar. 24, 2015)

Friends,

I don’t normally do this, but I want to ask you for an important favor.

There is a remarkable and courageously independent reformer named Steve Glazer who is running in a major special election for a California State Senate seat. This contest is considered by many – including me – to be the single most consequential state election of the 2015-16 campaign cycle.

That’s because Steve Glazer has the guts and integrity to challenge the most powerful special interests in his own party and in Sacramento – the public employee union bosses who run California.  Steve is one of those rare leaders who has put the voters and our state’s best interests ahead of the moneyed special interests that typically control Sacramento.

Steve had the audacity to go up against the powerful political arm of the teacher’s union because he wanted to make it easier to fire teachers who are sexual predators.  Then he opposed the unreasonable BART strikes which crippled the Bay Area in 2013.

For this, Steve has emerged as a threat to the lobbyists and their special interests. They will spend anything – and do anything – to stop Steve because his independence threatens their agenda.

In the primary, the government union bosses told Democrats he was a right-wing corporate shill while telling Republicans he was a liberal Democrat. Even worse, they deceptively sent mailers to Republicans encouraging them to vote for a candidate who had dropped out.  The Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton likened these dirty tricks to “mob bosses executing payback.”

Despite these corrupt tactics from his opposition, Steve won last week’s primary.  Now there is a run-off where the special interests can be counted on to double their spending against Steve.

Susan and I are committed to doing what we can to help level the playing field for Steve. But Steve also needs your help. Please follow this link https://steveglazer.nationbuilder.com/donate and give generously to Steve’s campaign.

Everyone has a stake in how this crucial campaign turns out.

We need to support brave candidates who put the people ahead of special interests and are willing to risk their political success in order to do the right thing.  I hope you agree!

Sincerely,

Bill

Bill Bloomfield

Are Open Primaries Working? (Feb. 23, 2015)

Recently the Los Angeles Times editorialized that although the jury was still out on California’s top-two primary, they were encouraged with the results thus far.  My letter to the Times, which was published last Saturday, follows below.   I believe that our top-two system of Open Primaries is transforming this state for the better – and providing every voter the opportunity to have their vote count. I hope you agree.

Sincerely,

Bill Bloomfield

———–

To the editor: The main effect of open primaries is the creation of a large number of districts where candidates in the general elections are often members of the same political party. Even after redistricting reform, the majority of districts within California are still heavily skewed toward one political party.

However, in the old closed primary system, only the majority party’s primary voters would effectively pick the ultimate victor. Under open primaries, the final outcome is determined by all voters.

For example, the race last November for the state Senate’s 26th District was decided by 204,000 voters from all parties. Under the old system, roughly 50,000 Democratic primary voters would have determined the ultimate victor.

Isn’t it better for 200,000 voters who make up a cross section of the electorate to decide an election than 50,000 party partisans?

-Bill Bloomfield

Getting Serious with North Korea (Feb. 09, 2015)

There was a lot of press over the holidays about the cyberattack on Sony Entertainment and the effect on their Christmas day release of the Hollywood movie “The Interview.”  Most of the press focused on the celebrity gossip aspect of the released private emails.  But the very important story should not be overlooked:  We are at risk from potential debilitating cyber security breaches and other worse threats emanating from North Korea.

Please take the time to read the following article about this growing threat:

http://www.securityaffairs.org/issues/number-27/our-nagging-north-korea-problem

If we value our security, and want to keep our country safe for future generations, we need to take further steps to isolate North Korea.  Putting them back on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states would be a good place to start.  I hope you agree.

LA Times: Political donor Bill Bloomfield aims to be altruistic counterweight (Dec. 11, 2014)

Excerpted from the Los Angeles Times

Political donor Bill Bloomfield aims to be altruistic ‘counterweight

By Jean Merl
December 7, 2014
Ask Bill Bloomfield why he lavished…on an assortment of candidates in this year’s elections and the retired businessman brings up the billboard he and his dad had erected on Santa Monica Boulevard back in 1987.

Visible to thousands of motorists heading east each day along one of the Westside’s busiest arteries, the sign keeps a running tally of smoking-related deaths annually and flips back to zero at midnight every New Year’s Eve.

Bloomfield, then a young executive in his family’s successful coin-operated laundry machine business, found that putting up the money for the billboard gave him his first taste of “the importance of getting involved, the start of taking on sacred cows.”

At first, getting involved mainly meant supporting favorite charities and Republican candidates, but over the last few years it evolved as Bloomfield grew disenchanted with partisan politics and frustrated with the state of public education. He supported redistricting reform and the open primary.

As someone who is “pretty liberal ” on social issues, he said he became concerned about “the direction of the Republican Party” and switched his registration to “no party preference” in 2011. The following year, Bloomfield…drew wide attention by spending his own money on a challenge to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills).

This election season, he opted not to run again and concentrated on another path for political players: supporting candidates. Bloomfield, 64, and his wife, Susan, see themselves as a “tiny counterweight” to special interests and spend part of their fortune on candidates they believe will help improve government by easing partisan gridlock, put public schools on a sounder footing, or both.

And the Bloomfields plan to keep going, even if they haven’t figured out yet just where. He said he probably won’t run for office again but didn’t rule out an eventual bid by his wife, saying in a recent interview that “she’d make a great candidate.”

“We submit we’re in it for the right reasons,” Bloomfield said of the couple’s burgeoning political involvement, which he likens to his family’s tradition of supporting charities through its foundation. “We want to leave the world a better place than we found it.”

They decry what they see as cynicism about their motives and point out that, unlike public employee unions or corporations and wealthy individuals directly affected by the Legislature’s or Congress’ votes, they have nothing personally to gain.

They talk about the need for campaign finance reform (Bloomfield notes he is on the board of California Common Cause) but say they will continue to put money behind candidates and causes as long as the rules allow it.

“We do what we can in the very unfair system that we’ve got,” he said.

“You can make a difference if you can develop a thick enough skin,” added Susan, 50, who said she had disliked politics, because of the negativity that marks many campaigns, before meeting Bill.

She said he soon inspired her to get involved, and she gave up a flourishing career as head of skin-care firm Neutrogena to devote all her time to the couple’s charitable and political pursuits.

In this year’s elections, that included donating to, or spending on behalf of, 13 candidates for offices ranging from water boards to governor…

Derek Cressman, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate and a candidate for secretary of state in this year’s primary, said “it’s fair to say his giving is not motivated by any immediate financial self-interest in the way that many other interest groups are.” But he is concerned about wealthy individuals, even those with altruistic intentions, having “an outsize voice” in elections because of the money they can spend. “I would like to see him be a little more vocal about his views [advocating campaign finance reforms] and perhaps use reform as a litmus test” in choosing which candidates to support, Cressman said.

Democrats who received the Bloomfields’ support this year included state Assembly candidates Autumn Burke, Armando Gomez and Steve Glazer. The Bloomfields spent in the June 3 primary on former Republican Dan Schnur, an independent who failed to make the fall ballot for secretary of state. They put $ into helping Republican Neel Kashkari advance to the Nov. 4 general election but stayed out of the race in the fall. Bill Bloomfield said their goal had been to stop the highly conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) from getting to the fall ballot.

But their biggest outlays came in their independent spending: activities undertaken outside a candidate’s campaign. (Unlike contributions to candidates, there are no limits on outside spending.) According to notices filed with the California secretary of state, the Bloomfields spent trying to elect former charter schools executive Marshall Tuck as state superintendent of public instruction — he lost —and on Santa Monica-Malibu school board member Ben Allen’s successful run for the state Senate.

Lindsay Bubar, consultant for the campaign of Sandra Fluke, Allen’s opponent, believes Bloomfield’s spending made the difference in the general election contest between two Democrats who had raised roughly the same amounts for their campaigns, about $1 million apiece. “What’s really concerning is that one person is able to spend so much money to influence an election,” said Bubar, whose candidate lost to Allen by 20 percentage points.

Bubar, who also managed Waxman’s successful reelection campaign against Bloomfield, said he struck her as being “a smart, sincere guy, who was very clear about wanting to take the partisan piece out of politics.”

“But it’s important to look at where he spends his money,” Bubar added, citing his support of a 2012 ballot measure that would have barred labor unions from participating in political campaigns but held no such sanctions for corporate interests.

[Note: this preceding statement is inaccurate.  Bill’s support was, and continues to be, for limitations on ALL special interests, including corporations. The ballot measure mentioned would not have barred labor unions from participating in political campaigns.]

As for supporting Allen, Bloomfield said he had felt it was important to “level the playing field” because Fluke had earned national name recognition after Rush Limbaugh called her a slut for advocating access to birth control during a congressional hearing.

The Bloomfields credit just-retired Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky with calling Allen to their attention.

Bill Bloomfield had phoned Yaroslavsky, a longtime fixture in Westside Democratic politics, shortly after Waxman announced early this year that he would not seek reelection. Bloomfield suggested he wasn’t going to run again but thought Yaroslavsky should and offered to support him.

“I almost fell off my chair,” recalled Yaroslavsky, a longtime friend and political ally of Waxman. Yaroslavsky decided not to run but wanted to know more about Bloomfield, who had become friendly with Waxman after their election battle ended.

Over breakfast at Nate ‘n Al in Beverly Hills, Yaroslavsky found Bloomfield to be “a very likeable guy. He’s very serious, he’s very focused.”

Yaroslavsky also talked up Allen, whom he has known for 20 years.

“Zev was quite effusive,” Bloomfield recalled. So he and Susan looked further into Allen and decided he was their kind of candidate: smart, with a lot of integrity, broad support from local leaders, an interest in education and pragmatic enough to work across the political aisle to solve problems.

“It wouldn’t have mattered who his opponent was,” Susan Bloomfield said.

 

Huffington Post: The Campaign Finance Game (Nov. 1, 2014)

Often times, I have talked about the need for campaign finance reform to prohibit special interests’ influence over our elected officials.  Until that reform happens, we have spent some of our resources to help get the message out for some highly ethical and intelligent candidates who will put the public’s interests ahead of special interests.  We do this regardless of ideology.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of money in politics comes from special interests that have specific legislative favors in mind.  We do not.
 
Our support this election season has been focused on “leveling the playing field” for a couple of these exceptional candidates – Ben Allen and Marshall Tuck.   We came across this article which does a great job of explaining the need to level the playing field — please take a quick look:

Why We Do This (Oct. 27, 2014)

I am sometimes asked – usually by reporters or newspaper columnists – why Susan and I are spending so much of our personal resources on political campaigns – especially when it comes to helping two individuals in particular.

Here’s why:

Our current system discourages good people from running for public office. I think many of us would agree that our state and nation are suffering as a result. Running for office requires too much time raising money to pay for advertising to get their name known and message out. The expensive cost of campaigning forces too many candidates to rely on special interests to finance their races.  We want our representatives in government to be beholden only to the voters, not the special interests.

Until our campaign finance system is overhauled, we are trying to level the playing field for smart, ethical, good government type candidates who refuse to be part of the “pay to play” system that funnels cash from special interests who want favorable action from the government in return.

After working with and donating to many philanthropies over the years, we’ve found that nothing has a more far-reaching positive effect than having highly intelligent and ethical policy-makers in government.

Marshall Tuck and Ben Allen are both exceptional candidates. They are smart, ethical, competent and committed to serving the public with integrity.  We are very fortunate that they are willing to make the sacrifice to run for public office. They also share the deep passion that Susan and I have for improving California’s public schools.

We are gratified that there are candidates like Marshall and Ben worthy of supporting. Susan and I will continue to do what we can to encourage and support such outstanding individuals. We want nothing in return other than to know we have done what we can in the quest for good government.

I hope you agree and that you will also seriously consider voting for Marshall Tuck and, if you live in the 26th Senate district, for Ben Allen.