Dem incumbents’ sneaky ploy

JULY 1, 2010

By LAURA SUCHESKI

California incumbents have started to pony up cash to protect their seats from bipartisan redistricting, hoping to restore the old system that favors safe seats and partisan gerrymandering.

This week, the ballot measure to do away with the Citizens Redistricting Commission was approved by the California Secretary of State’s Office and assigned a number.  Proposition 27, the Financial Accountability in Redistricting Act, will face voters on the General Election ballot in November.

If enacted, the initiative would invalidate Proposition 11 and put the power of redistricting back in the hands of elected state representatives, who have been known to gerrymander their seats into security.   Proposition 11, enacted by a slim majority in 2008, established a redistricting commission that all but ensures a politically balanced commission of citizen volunteers insulated from partisan politics.

To those interested in good government, Prop. 27 represents a step backwards.  “It restores the same formula for gerrymandering that existed before Proposition 11,” said Doug Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College.

A voter perusing the submitted paperwork for the proposition might be sympathetic to its findings, however.  “Our political leadership has failed us,” proclaims the proposed initiative.

Yet if passed, the law would give the power of redistricting back to the same politicians they accuse of making a mess of state government, with no indication of how the situation would suddenly rectify itself.

“Sacramento has become a full time game of Musical Chairs,” write proponents. “Where incumbent term-limited politicians serve out their maximum term in one office then run for another office where they are a shoo in.  This must stop!”

And maybe it should, but if that were the real intent and effect of this proposition, would incumbents be coming out in droves and giving thousands of dollars to the campaign?

Already, incumbent members of Congress Judy Chu (CD 32), Adam Schiff (CD 29), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CD 8), Anna Eshoo (CD 14) , Linda Sanchez (CD 39), Lynn Woolsey (CD 6), Lois Capps (CD 23), Laura Richardson (CD 37), Zoe Lofgren (CD 16), Doris Matsui (CD 5), Howard Berman (CD 28), Mike Honda (CD 15) and Sam Farr (CD 17) have all donated at least $10,000 each. All are Democrats who would benefit from a partisan redistricting done by the Democrat-controlled statehouse.

The commission currently doesn’t have jurisdiction over congressional seats, but that will change if Proposition 20 passes in November. State Assembly, Senate and Board of Equalization districts are covered by Prop. 11.

It’s no coincidence that some of the contributors’ seats are among the most vulnerable to the Citizen Redistricting Commission.  The districts represented by Pelosi, Eshoo, Woolsey and Watson all have less than the “ideal” population, meaning they will require expansion so that all districts are roughly the same size. With expansion comes the possibility of a change in demographics that could make a safe seat suddenly competitive.

“The underpopulated seats will be the hardest to preserve in current shape,” said Johnson. “They need the most partisan control of the process that they can get.  The commission [established by Proposition 11] won’t care about the current political makeup.”

Other contributions are from retiring Congresswoman Diane Watson and her likely replacement, former State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.   Incumbents state Sen. Alex Padilla and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield also contributed thousands.

There are no other contributions from public officials or candidates.   Besides Watson and Bass, every political contributor is an incumbent running for reelection.

“It looks highly suspicious,” said Johnson.  “The interest of the voters may not be the primary motivation here.”

As Proposition 27 says, “Stacking districts to further disadvantage ordinary people who don’t have access to the special interest contributions that flow to Sacramento incumbents is outrageous.”    We only wish the campaign would practice what it preaches.

3 comments

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  1. TruthSquad
    TruthSquad 1 July, 2010, 13:51

    Is it better to have unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats do this work? Or public officials that we can boot out of office?

    The Prop 11 process IS political. It gives seats by party — 3 of each. And then appeals to a politically-appointed court.

    Besides, these are CONGRESSIONAL seats, not legislative seats you’re talking about.

    Reply this comment
  2. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 1 July, 2010, 14:30

    @TruthSquad

    You’re right. I fixed the story accordingly.

    Reply this comment
  3. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 1 July, 2010, 19:38

    The fact that this redistricting commission exists kind of answers your question. The commission was formed due to the fact that us peasants voted for it. I know you public relations parasites & the politicians that you feed off of just hate it when us meager citizens make decisions on our own, especially when we try to tell you guys how the state should be run. I guess they just didnt pay you quite enough before that election. Maybe if they tossed a couple hundred thousand more at you, you would have worked harder to mislead & brainwash a few more of your “Useful Idiots”, then that initiative wouldnt have passed on the first place. If they learned their lesson last time, you should be well compensated to lie to the voters this time.

    The whole reason why this was passed is because the way they rigged the districts, it was impossible to boot the idiots out of office. We are much better off having the taxpayers draw up the districts because us normal tax paying citizens dont give a damn about the political makeup of a district. Now atleast we wont end up with gerrymandered districts that make no geographical sense. There is no reason why a district should include a long skinny section that is a freeway with no residents, just so a town 50 miles away from the rest of the district will be included to make sure the demographic of the district is 75% of a certain party, so they are sure it is a safe district, no matter how bad the representatives are.

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