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No dash for cash

Clean campaigning is sweeping the nation, dollar by dollar, county by county, slowly changing the face of elections and leveling the playing field.

California has recently joined an ever-growing collection of states intent on making publicly funded elections the norm, breaking away from the donor- and lobbyist-controlled campaign arena for good. The pros of this morally pristine strategy far outweigh the cons--not only do spending restrictions encourage more candidates to run, the voters become the central focus of a campaign.

Moira Brennan, the Northern California director of California's Clean Money Campaign, says that San Rafael's recent adoption of clean campaigning is a precedent-setting move for California, a "critical building block," because of the benefits for communities and voters.

"There is a crisis in our election process," Brennan says. "The government is not run for the benefit of ordinary citizens. I'm not cynical, but I really don't think people think their vote counts. Things just don't have to be this way."

Before even being granted consideration, potential candidates are required to agree to voluntary spending limits, refuse any contributions from private donors and refrain from spending their own money to ensure a spot on the ballot. The average expenses for even a small local campaign are estimated to be in the $45,000 range.

Of course, some skeptics aren't so sure that clean elections are that clean. First Amendment hawks have already cried foul with respect to the compulsory spending cap, and traditionalists claim that politics are meant to be dirty and unfair--always have been, always will be.

"First of all," Brennan laughs. "It's a voluntary system. And I would argue that because you're giving candidates who might not have bundles of money the opportunity to get their messages out, you're creating more free speech, feeding into the marketplace of ideas."

The official launch of the San Rafael clean elections movement is slated for Monday, June 30, from 7pm to 9pm at the San Rafael City Hall. 1400 Fifth Ave., San Rafael.

Can you hear me now?

Sure, those wireless headsets are a tad dorky and make everyone look like a Secret Service agent, but beginning July 1, they are the only legal way to talk on the phone while driving. The California Highway Patrol would like to remind us that time spent driving is strictly for driving, so hang up the cellular or plug in that Bluetooth if a long-lost aunt just insists on catching up during the commute. Either that or leave the cell phone on speaker on the seat and yell into it while merging lanes on Highway 101. We recommend the headset.


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