Agit-prop for clean campaigns

CALL THE COPS! <br>Batman-89 cuffs a sleazy politician in Proposition 89’s battle to clean up campaigns.

Batman-89 cuffs a sleazy politician in Proposition 89’s battle to clean up campaigns.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

If you were walking down Main Street in the vicinity of City Hall Monday (Sept. 18) shortly after noon, you might have seen a Batman figure manhandling a money-driven “politician” who was allegedly making a mess of our political system.

The agit-prop photo opportunity started with a sharply dressed but clearly sleazy politician asking patrons for money for his political campaign. Then Batman-89 suddenly appeared, coming straight from Gotham City to save Chicoans and arrest the corrupt politician.

“Call Enron … Call Blue Shield … I need bail,” the arrested politician told a small crowd on hand.

It was all a way for the Yes on 89 campaign to grab some media attention while making a point about the campaign-financing-reform proposition on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Butte County residents have little influence in Sacramento’s corrupt politics, said Shum Preston, a spokesman for the Yes on 89 campaign. That’s because this area doesn’t have the money to contribute big bucks to politicians’ campaign war chests.

The California Nurses Association, a major endorser of the Yes on 89 campaign, counted major check contributions as checks written for over $5,000 and included donations to propositions, Assembly, Senate and constitutional offices in contributions to California politics, he said.

“From Jan. 1, 2000, to May 20, 2006, $1.7 billion was donated to California politics,” Preston said. “Butte County donated only $1.4 million of that.”

This is a staggeringly low number, less than 1 percent of the total contributions, he said. Most of the funds come from places like Sacramento, Los Angeles and even out-of-state cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“A town like Chico has far less influence than the numbers would suggest because they can’t contribute as much to political campaigns as out-of-state contributors who want to influence California politics,” Preston said.

Batman-89 isn’t the only piece of political theater the Yes on 89 group is using. At a $100,000-a-plate fundraising dinner for Gov. Schwarzenegger held on Aug. 18, the group shone its “bat signal” 40 feet high onto the hotel’s walls, Preston said. Since then Batman-89 has been a spokesman for the campaign and can be found all over praising Prop. 89.

“My role is to strike fear into the hearts of corrupt politicians and corporations that support legislators in California who spend 50 percent of their time in office campaigning,” Batman-89 said.

“Politicians go to Sacramento to serve their communities, not to be corrupt, but the only way to run viable campaigns is to raise large amounts of money,” said David Welch, a registered nurse at Enloe Medical Center and CNA board member, following the skit.

Prop. 89, the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2006, would strictly limit the ability of corporations, unions, and the “$100,000-a-plate” crowd to contribute to political campaigns, Preston said. It bans contributions from lobbyists and state contractors altogether.

Further, the “clean” system of public financing would even the playing field, allowing political hopefuls to give up private financing, he said.

Candidates will qualify for the public fund after they attain a set amount of $5 contributions, Welch said. The fund will come from a .2 percent increase in the corporation tax, from 8.84 percent to 9.04 percent. A limit of $15,000 per year per donor to all candidates and committees would also be implemented.

“Across the country people are fed up with the corruption that has become as much a feature in politics as buttons and bumper stickers,” Preston said. “This is the most exciting opportunity for Californians to clean up politics in a generation.”