About 30 residents from the San Gabriel Valley formed the latest chapter of Represent Us at a kick-off gathering at the Pasadena Library on July 9.
By Melissa Michelson
Represent Us is a nation-wide non-profit, non-partisan group that provides support to residents that want to start up chapters to institute local campaign finance reforms.
Since the presidential election, there have been a variety of new groups that have cropped up to ‘resist’ Trump’s agenda (Indivisible), to implement Medicare health care for all Californians (Healthy California), and to promote national campaign finance reform (WolfPac), but there is little organized activism to combat moneyed interests their corrupting influence in local politics. Represent Us San Gabriel Valley serves as the local chapter for the entire San Gabriel Valley, with current members from Alhambra, San Gabriel, Pasadena, Altadena, Temple City and El Monte.
The founding board members believe there is an immediate need for local campaign finance reforms. In five local examples in the 2016 election cycle, 3 candidates in San Gabriel that raised the most money won the 3 contested city council seats; in Alhambra the two that raised the most won the two contested city council seats. One had $65k and the other had $40k in their coffers, compared to their opponents’ $10k each. In all cases, the winning candidates were backed by moneyed interests, which can lead to an apathetic electorate and disgruntled discouragement from new non-incumbent candidates from running.
The Citizens United Supreme Court decision that states corporations are considered ‘people’ that have a right to make donations in campaigns, if overturned, would not exempt political action committees (PACs) from making potential large-scale donations. Nor would overturning Citizens United have jurisdiction over city and state campaign finance laws.
There are various kinds of anti-corruption and finance reforms ranging from limiting donations or implementing donation caps per resident, barring developers from donating to city council candidates. For example, Temple City has instituted advocating for at-large voting districts as opposed to district-wide voting, publicly- funded elections and rank-choice voting, where voters may rank various candidates in terms of first and second choice instead of a winner-take-all approach to elections.
Melissa Michelson teaches at community college and is an active community member in Alhambra. She is a board member of the SGV Represent Us chapter, organizer for San Gabriel Valley Progressive Alliance, and founding president of Feel the Bern Democratic Club of Los Angeles. Melissa was the top female vote-getter for national Bernie Sanders delegates in the San Gabriel Valley (Congressional District 27).
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