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Ballots for sale – No contribution limits

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Citizen ballot initiatives, once a way for activists to bypass state legislatures and take their issue directly to the voters, have increasingly been taken over by billionaires and corporations, the Associated Press reported July 23.

Successful initiatives are expensive, because they have to gather tens of thousands of voter signatures. For those with plenty of money, however, they can be a good bargain: about 40 percent of ballot initiatives become law, as compared to the legislative process where only a tiny percentage of bills are enacted.

Supporters of the initiatives don’t face the same restrictions as those who donate to political candidates. When Massachusetts Gov. Paul Celucci wanted to take a tax cut proposal straight to the voters, he turned to a handful of top donors, who wrote checks for $10,000 or more.

The limit on direct contributions to Celucci’s campaign, in contrast, was $500.

Big money has proved as able to kill initiatives as to create them. When activists sponsored an initiative designed to kill Massachusetts’ 1998 energy deregulation law, the electricity industry spent millions to fight it – and won.

This year up to 80 issues could go before voters in the 24 states that allow citizen initiatives.

For full story, go to America Online.

Citizen ballot initiatives, once a way for activists to bypass state legislatures and take their issue directly to the voters, have increasingly been taken over by billionaires and corporations, the Associated Press reported July 23.

Successful initiatives are expensive, because they have to gather tens of thousands of voter signatures. For those with plenty of money, however, they can be a good bargain: about 40 percent of ballot initiatives become law, as compared to the legislative process where only a tiny percentage of bills are enacted.

Supporters of the initiatives don’t face the same restrictions as those who donate to political candidates. When Massachusetts Gov. Paul Celucci wanted to take a tax cut proposal straight to the voters, he turned to a handful of top donors, who wrote checks for $10,000 or more.

The limit on direct contributions to Celucci’s campaign, in contrast, was $500.

Big money has proved as able to kill initiatives as to create them. When activists sponsored an initiative designed to kill Massachusetts’ 1998 energy deregulation law, the electricity industry spent millions to fight it – and won.

This year up to 80 issues could go before voters in the 24 states that allow citizen initiatives.

For full story, go to America Online.

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