Anti-choice Big Bedfellows smacked down

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"DP cheers Big Bedfellows against workers"
More worker-choice stories: here

Stop! That is the message to Gov. Bill Ritter, Sen. Ken Salazar and business and labor leaders who are working on a compromise to remove the four anti-business initiatives from this year's ballot.

An attempt to have these measures pulled is critical. However, the idea that businesses would contribute millions of dollars to an effort to defeat three other anti-labor measures is so flawed and problematic that everyone involved needs to stop for a minute and take a gut check.

With this compromise we are truly standing on the shores of a Rubicon in Colorado politics. The very notion that an opposing party, regardless of the issue, could essentially pay millions of dollars to the other side to drop something from the ballot flies in the face of everything we stand for in this country.

Politics is often a contested sport and sometimes even a war, but what sets us apart as Americans is that we play by the rules. Under those rules, you can accuse, cajole, berate, intimidate and even threaten, but the one thing you can't do is buy off the other side.

Can you imagine the uproar if the oil and gas companies went to the governor and paid him - via a multimillion-dollar contribution to some other cause he cared about - to remove the severance tax issue from the ballot? People would go to jail and there would be the proverbial hell to pay.

I understand that sometimes you have to compromise for the greater good. However, in this case, there is an ethical line and - out of desperation - good people are poised to cross it. The unions went too far and pulled the pin on an economic grenade that will truly have catastrophic consequences on the Colorado economy (and, in case they missed it, their members as well). The right to work proponents won't back down either, setting up an impasse. Those involved in the issue are scrambling to find a way to prevent the ticking bomb from going off. In their desperation they have lost sight of the bigger picture.

The sad reality is that there are two clear messages from this attempt to stave off a disaster. The first is the presumption that with enough money one can actually buy an election. After all, why would the unions support pulling their measures in return for a big check to fight the measures that they oppose unless they thought they could beat them with money?

While skeptics have long said that elections can be bought, I don't think that has always been the case in Colorado. In our recent history there are a number of instances where extremely well-funded candidates haven't won their contests. However, starting with issues races in the late '90s (and more recently with Statehouse seats and perhaps even the 2nd Congressional District race this year), there is starting to be a disturbing pattern of the ability to purchase political success.

The second message from this folly is that there is way too much garbage on the ballot. We continue to frivolously amend what is supposed to be our sacred document with the trivial and arcane. The idea that our state constitution can be changed at whim and that dueling measures can be easily wielded as a weapon against an opposing party is absurd (again, they can be bought - it only takes about $200,000 to gather the requisite signatures to put anything on the ballot).

Let us hope that cooler heads prevail and an attainable and ethical solution is found. If there is anything good that comes from all of this, may it be that the citizens of Colorado get fed up with these abuses and recognize that we need to reform our ballot process.

- Jack Fox is a Denver businessman who has been involved in a number of campaigns to defeat ballot initiatives in the state.


1 comment:

Evan Ravitz said...

Ballot initiatives are the origin of most reforms, such as women's suffrage (passed in 13 states before Congress went along), direct election of Senators (4 states), publicly financed elections (passed by initiative in 6 of 7 states with them), medical marijuana ( in 8 of 13 states) and increasing minimum wages (in all 6 states that tried in 2006). See http://Vote.org/initiatives for more examples and references. The media have seized on the problem initiatives. They generally kiss up to politicians.

Voters on initiatives need what legislators get: public hearings, expert testimony, amendments, reports, etc. The best project for such deliberative process is the National Initiative for Democracy, led by former Sen. Mike Gravel: http://Vote.org. Also http://healthydemocracyoregon.org/ and http://cirwa.org

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