Business Loses Lot in Big Money Politics

This article was originally published in the “CAPITOL BUSINESS : The Business-Government Connection” section of the Sacramento Union on June 12th, 1991.

Big money Republican politics is the same as big money Democrat politics.  It’s all one in the same thing, known as establishment or incumbent politics.  And ultimately it’s bad for the business community.  The current illustration of B.T. Collins highlights the situation as he switched his residence at the last moment so that he could run in the July 23rd special election for the Assembly Fifth District (recently vacated as then Assemblyman Tim Leslie became Senator Leslie as he took the Senate seat vacated by John Doolittle who was elected to Congress).

Now there is nothing new or inventive about the political opportunism of a politician switching his residence so that he can run in a different political district.  Although Collins residential switch only moments before the filing deadline (and claiming his residential address as the home of state Finance Director Tom Hayes) is stretching reasonability to the limit.  My point is not about Collins, or any other person, but about the system.  Collins jumped into an election where six other Republicans had already filed because Governor Wilson did not find the other candidates acceptable and tagged Collins for the job.  And I am sure that Wilson will put his Republican money where his mouth is to make sure that Collins wins.

The point, which I have often claimed, is that the established, incumbent political structure has more to do with the selection of candidates, and who ultimately wins, than do the constituents themselves.  The ideal of the citizen government goes further out the window and the grip of the professional government by career incumbents is tightened.  This is bad for business which is forced to deal with policy makers whose primary motivation is to stay in office, rather than to legislate good public policy.

Business has many problems in California – insurance, infrastructure, education, and taxation, to name just a few.  Our legislators have failed to solve one major policy problem in the last eight to ten years, and now we face the $14.3 billion budget crisis.  Furthermore, business is the pot of gold which politicians always tap to fund their escapades.  It still takes money to make the political machinery work – money which could be put to much better use.  Money which is virtually blackmailed from businesspeople so that modest access to the policy makers can be maintained.

Senator Tim Leslie wasn’t going to run for the First Senate seat until Governor Wilson convinced him over a weekend meeting at Rancho Murietta, and then the Republicans put a pile of support into his campaign.  Leslie was a good choice, and a good legislator, in the bipartisan race for the Senate.  However, Wilson giving Collins the nod in a strictly GOP race only points out the true nature of the political establishment.  Without the golden touch of the establishment, citizen-candidates have only an infinitesimal chance of winning an elected seat at the state level.

Business need criteria based redistricting reform so that incumbents cannot build their castle-like safe districts which are impenetrable.  As a ballot proponent of Proposition 140, I urge us not to let term limits fall to the legislature’s challenge of its constitutionality.  And finally, we should consider returning to a part-time legislature.  Strong claims can be made that we accomplished a lot more before we institutionalized our career politicians.  Legislators need to live under the laws that they make and not isolate themselves.

In essence, we need to own and control our own government, rather than it control us.

Bruce Lee expresses the views of the California Business League, a trade association dedicated to restoring quality government.  His column appears Fridays in The Union.  If you have comments or an item for the column, write Capitol Business, P.O. Box 60267, Sacramento, CA  95860.

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