• black and white photo of dollar bills in the shadows

      Dark Money Floods Local Races (Photo -olle svensson)

      We need to pass legislation to stop unlimited Independent Expenditure PACs from influencing our elections.

      By Sara Lee

      It’s that time of year when our mailboxes are inundated with campaign mailers with images of politicians in hardhats, standing amongst folk who look like the salt of the earth. Many of these ads are paid for by the campaign, but oftentimes, they are paid for by Independent Expenditure PACs (IE’s). The only clue you get as to who paid for these is from the small print at the bottom or top of the ad.

      Stop voting for folks who have the slickest mailers and the most TV ads

      The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We need to stop voting for the folks who have the slickest mailers and the most TV ads.

      In the Assembly 52 race in Northeast LA/South Glendale, IEs have flooded mailboxes with mailers supporting Jessica Caloza. One ad states that she will protect abortion rights in California, but when you read the small print, you see that the ad was paid for by

      • Tomorrow CA PAC, a front for Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE),
      • CCPOA (a prison guard union),
      • Uber, and the
      • California Apartment Association, the latter known for its stances against tenant protection bills.

      In total, she has received over $766,000 in IE spending from ‘dark money,’ as it is sometimes called.

      I organized a protest at Asm Carrillo’s AD52 office to protest AB1139, a PG&E supported bill that would have killed rooftop solar. Asm Carrillo is the sixth highest recipient of funds from utilities and its allies in the State legislature per the Solar Rights Alliance.  While activists were successful in stopping AB1139  in the State house, PG&E was successful in getting the California Public Utilities Commission to pass the AB1139-copied ruling, leading to rooftop solar sales plummeting 80% in California this past year.

      PG&E and the Investor Owned Utilities

      California could make huge inroads on climate goals with solar, storage, bi-directional charging and microgrids, but there is one problem – PG&E and the Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) own the majority of CA’s low voltage lines that distribute local energy generation including solar and do not want to allow access to their lines. The IOUs are not only trying to kill rooftop solar in California, but they have delayed hundreds of projects from interconnecting and being energized, including those for affordable housing, small-scale solar, schools and hospitals

      In the Assembly 41 race to replace Chris Holden, IE’s have spent $993,624.7 supporting candidate John Harabedian, the majority of funds coming from Davita, Uber, Private Utilities and the ranchers alliance (last time I checked, there weren’t too many farmers and ranchers in the Pasadena and Sierra Madre area).

      In contrast, candidates such as Jed Leano in AD41 or David Giron in AD52, do not have any IEs supporting them but have still, nonetheless, raised enough small donations to run expansive campaigns. Giron, who is running against Caloza, has written policy for the City of Los Angeles for municipal rooftop solar and storage and supports the renting of PG&E’s distribution lines.

      We need to use sites such as Cal-Access or Open Secrets, support our independent media outlets (such as Colorado Boulevard!) and reach out to our community members. Maybe then, we can get public servants who will truly work for a better climate future, work for more affordable housing, and who will not continue appeasing corporate special interests.

      Sara Lee is a local environmental and community activist. Mostly a mom, sometimes a troublemaker.


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      1. Adrys Alva says:

        Yes. This is the true essence of community involvement. Non local, big check donors too often means politicians have favors to return. Funding earned by the meeting and greeting of locals, restores hope and trust in the democratic process.

      2. Marianne G Freidberg says:

        Your guest’s opinion is to the point:
        My daughter lives in Los Angeles and I hear from her and her many long-time
        LA friends about the hard and honest work they all do as local residents on LOCALLY raised funds !
        There are no skills involved when big pockets write big checks to tilt the scales. However, the local candidates for elected office work hard with the help of small contributions but big personal dedication, effort and enthusiasm. For them, an election is about meeting the residents personally and listening to their interests, suggestions and ideas for improvement in the lives of all.

        • Yolanda says:

          I am an 50 yr resident of Los Angeles. Grass roots approach to elections is needed. But President Biden put an example of basement campaigning. NOT, today, incumbents now take their elected position for granted. They have an attitude they do not need to debate. How the Democrats get their votes is a question.
          Yet, people still complain things are not well, and their communities are going to hell. It takes over a million to run for office.
          And those that are in office, use the peoples money that is suppose to go back the communities for the pleasure of their campaigns. WRONG. We have now so much corruption that I have no idea how we will cure this deases among our politicians.

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