Clean money, nurses and you

Elizabeth Pataki is a Sacramento registered cardiac-care nurse at Mercy General Hospital and a member of the board of directors of the California Nurses Association

Elected politicians pledge to support the public’s will, but because of the costs of campaigning, these representatives are frequently beholden to corporate wealthy donors and industry lobbyists.

Governor Schwarzenegger, who promised to end such cash-register politics, has shattered all records for corporate fund-raising: $76 million so far. On October 7, the day he vetoed three consumer laws, he collected $450,000 from Wal-Mart, the American Insurance Association and the wine industry, groups that directly benefited from the vetoes. Now he plans to raise $120 million for his re-election campaign. No wonder people feel that our government is for sale to the highest bidder.

What can be done about corporate money directing and controlling our democracy? California’s registered nurses have a solution: “Clean money” for public funding of elections. California Nurses Association (CNA) registered nurses are collecting signatures this month to put a clean-money initiative on November’s ballot.

Publicly funded elections make it possible for working people and underrepresented groups like women and minorities to make a serious run for office. Voters then could choose candidates on the basis of their campaign platforms, character and achievements, rather than the size of their donors’ bankroll.

The CNA clean-money initiative would allow people running for office to voluntarily choose to receive public funds for their campaign and avoid corporate money with its need to trade political favors for cash. Funded with a .02-percent corporate tax rate (in California, 13 percent of corporations pay no taxes), this proposal also would limit corporation contributions to the initiative process.

Nurses are promoting clean-money elections because everyday we see the effects of inadequate funding for health care. The uninsured fill emergency rooms; patients are unable to afford needed prescriptions; and community support services are eliminated, downsized or vetoed while corporations are given tax breaks or special favors.

Only when ordinary citizens can elect politicians who are beholden only to their electorate can we begin to take the first step toward enacting universal health care, passing consumer- protection bills, securing our pensions, and living in a clean and healthful environment.

When you see nurses circulating clean-money-initiative petitions, remember that they are committed to your well-being, trying to heal a very corrupt, sick political system and restore a democratic government “of, by and for the people.”