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California politicians to don donor logos if ballot initiative succeeds

Political campaign aims to make legislators’ corporate and union sponsors known to voting public

by Ben Piven @benpiven

Altria. Chevron. AT&T. These names may seem like a random assortment of Fortune 500 and blue-chip U.S. corporations. But they are among the donors that gave the most money to California state Assemblyman William Brough.

Of course, Brough is far from alone in accepting the financial help of corporate America when it comes to fighting elections. But if a seemingly outlandish proposal by a local California lawyer gets onto the ballot, he will not be able to stay shy about those donating to his cause.

Nor will any other politician in the state. John Cox, an activist businessman, wants to require legislators to walk into their assembly chamber wearing the logos of their biggest sponsors.

The shock tactic aims to find its way onto the ballot for November, a goal that will be made possible by gathering 365,880 signatures. That effort is already under way, after the state attorney general approved the text of the petition earlier this month. The nonprofit running the campaign, California Is Not for Sale, has committed $1 million for the project.

The group is also traveling the state with life-size cutouts for all 120 members of the California Senate and Assembly and one for Gov. Jerry Brown. Each cardboard politician’s torso is adorned with his or her most significant backers, like NASCAR sponsors on a driver’s racing suit.

“This will be on the ballot in 2016. That is our guarantee,” the organization says on its website. “The only question is whether Californians will vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ We think that it will be ‘yes’ by an overwhelming majority.”

The specific language of the petition mandates “stickers or badges displaying the names of their 10 highest campaign contributors” yet leaves the specifics to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Ultimately, the purpose of the gimmick is to call attention to the role of vast sums of money in financing campaigns, at the state, local and federal levels. By increasing the transparency behind who has paid for politicians’ races, voters theoretically would get a better idea about what happens to bills behind the scenes.

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