My ongoing research project into how elections, candidates and issues are funded grinds on, and the more it grinds, the angrier I get at efforts to manipulate, lie, and maneuver the public into decisions that are fundamentally against their best interests.
Look no farther than California for evidence of how low the Great American Political PR Machine will stoop. Proposition 16, the ballot measure here in California to “protect your right to vote” is one of the most cynical, anti-populist, pro-corporate campaigns I have ever seen. Ever.
PG&E wants to protect “your vote”. No, really. They do.
Start with a visit to http://www.taxpayersrighttovote.com/ where you’ll be told YOU ARE BEING DEPRIVED OF A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT IN THIS COUNTRY TO VOTE. How dare they deprive me of that right? How DARE THEY? Well, they dare, but you’re not deprived. Not even a little bit.
The core motive under Proposition 16 is PG&E’s objection to city-owned utilities competing with their monopoly. SMUD, Sacramento’s Municipal Utility, charges customers 75% of what PG&E charges for the same electricity. PG&E would like to make it impossible for them to continue acting on behalf of Sacramento consumers by forcing a 2/3rds vote in situations where SMUD might extend electric service to new subdivisions or even one new customer.
A legal analysis shows that because the initiative is ambiguously worded, it could potentially prevent SMUD from extending electric service to in-fill projects, new subdivisions or even a single new residential or business customer, prevent it from spending bond money to efficiently run operations, and bar it from buying some renewable energy – unless two-thirds of voters in SMUD’s service territory approve. That would interfere with SMUD fulfilling its legal duty to serve customers in its core service area.
Sort the signal from the noise, and you’ll find out PG&E has framed a play to monopolize utilities as “your right to vote”. Despite the populist frame, there is only one beneficiary to this law: PG&E.
Further proof of their self-interested snow job is in the California campaign disclosure database. From January 1, 2010 to April 29, 2010, $23 million dollars has been spent on the Yes on 16 effort. $23 MILLION.
Who spent it? Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Only Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Not Edison. Not DWP. Not one single other entity. Only PG&E.
Does anyone reading this, no matter what their politics, doubt who this measure is written for? In case there is doubt, let me at least clear this much away: Proposition 16 is not for the benefit of the people of California or the voters in this state. It is intended to hamstring local efforts to keep utility costs manageable and keep PG&E profitable.
That $23 million has been spent on the Great American Political PR Machine: mailers, web sites, robocalls, TV and print ads, Facebook ads, Google ads, radio ads, petition circulating, campaign consultants (also known as PR professionals), astroturf groups, pollsters, voter guides, “strategic communications”, and of course, media buys.
SMUD and others like them cannot fight back. They are barred under the law from spending any public funds to preserve their standing, giving PG&E full and free reign to not only write the ticket, but load the ballot box by spinning the issue away from truth toward fiction. The groups who have formed to stand in opposition have gathered $31,500 total. $31,500 versus $23 million. Let the machine grind on.
$23 Million spent. $2 Million in the bank. Unlimited millions at their disposal. All to protect “your right to vote?”
For more on Prop 16, visit the Calitics blog. They do a great job of keeping voters informed on the real issues.
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