Former speaker of the California State Assembly and State Treasurer Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh once said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” As the war chest necessary to mount a successful political campaign only continues to grow, Unruh’s words seem perhaps truer today than at any other time in our republic. But many worry that all the special interest strings that come attached to the money are gaining too great of a foothold in the halls of power in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
John Cox, a businessman, former chairman of the Chicago area’s Cook County Republican committee and candidate for both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in Illinois before resettling in California, hopes to raise greater awareness for that influence of money in politics in an interesting and rather unusual initiative.
(1) What spurred you to put forward the Name All Sponsors California Accountability Reform initiative?
To know why, first you need a little of my background. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a small apartment. My mom was a school teacher and I remember how she would come home and cry. She would cry about having to deal with the principals at her schools – it was because of all the corruption in the system there.
That is what I grew up with and why I’ve been fighting corruption ever since. The reason I came up with this initiative is I picked this to highlight the absurdity.
(2) What exactly would this initiative do?
It would require legislators to wear the logos of their 10 top donors when they cast votes and give testimony. The current system forces them to be professional fundraisers and the whole idea is to hold the entire absurd, corrupt and broken system that is in need of change up to ridicule.
(3) Hence the NASCAR acronym. But what effect do you think the initiative would have on politics as usual?
It might dissuade people from the legislature because they realize they have to be professional fundraisers. But, my fondest wish is that legislators walk through the door and have a clean suit on. Because that would mean they haven’t taken money from anyone.
(4) What are the chances of the NASCAR initiative reaching the ballot?
I’m being told by our consultant that this is one of the most popular initiatives they’ve ever done. Almost no one declines to sign. We’re getting 20,000 to 30,000 signatures a week. We’re highlighting a broken, ridiculous system that needs to be fixed. Everyone should be for that.
(5) Do you foresee opposition to your NASCAR initiative from the state Capitol?
The influence-makers are spending this money to protect the status quo. But influence peddling isn’t just bad because it is immoral or corrupt, but because it blocks reform. We have the highest energy costs, the highest utility costs, the highest housing costs, the most people on welfare and in poverty. Jobs are fleeing the state. The pension situation isn’t going well.
(6) Some have expressed concern that the initiative might be a violation of First Amendment free speech rights. What do you say to them?
It just requires them to disclose it. In that case it should pass constitutional muster. But I wouldn’t mind a court challenge. It would only bring more attention to the issue.
(7) What do you say to people who think the NASCAR initiative is a joke?
I’ll freely admit this was used to get attention. If people find it funny, so be it. We are looking to ridicule the system and create the momentum for changing it. The politicians are not going to change the system on their own. They like the system. They make money from the system. They are going to work very hard to keep the system the same. The only way to change it is to get people motivated and involved.
(8) How do people get involved in the NASCAR initiative?
The initiative is set for the November ballot and we purposely made it simple. You can go on our website, californiaisnotforsale.com, and click the red box to download and sign the ballot. It is one page and you can print it at home, sign it and send it in. You don’t have to wait for a signature gatherer to come to you.
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About the Author: Scott Kaufman brings his journalistic experience to the California Policy Center to write investigative reports, commentary and conduct interviews for UnionWatch and the Prosperity Digest. Kaufman also works for the Orange County Register as an editorial writer. He graduated from the University of California, San Diego and got his start in journalism with the Washington D.C. based weekly Human Events. He transitioned to local government reporting at the Santa Barbara News-Press.