Thursday, August 28, 2003

When is it legal to break the law? When lawmaker leaves the back door open to invite the criminal in.

California's Lieutenant Governor, Cruz Bustamante, who also happens to be running for Governor in the recall election, has been in a little hot water this week for accepting a $300,000 campaign donation - far above the limits set by our campaign finance reform law, Proposition 34.

It's legal! He loudly maintains. Or, rather, has his apparatchiks maintain. Says an aide, "We're abiding by the way they wrote it, we didn't write Proposition 34. If they want to change it, they need to change it."

How this manages to be legal is that prop 34 only applied to campaign funds established after a certain date. What Cruz has done is leave an old campaign fund open, accepts over-sized gifts into it (perfectly legal), then transfers the money to his 2003 campaign fund (also perfectly legal).

He's done nothing legally wrong, as he claims. But has he violated the spirit of the law? Has he gone against the intent of the people as expressed in a ballot initiative? Of course he has. In his defense (and only slightly), how else is he to compete with the self-financed Arnold machine?

Even so, how can you run to govern "by the will of the people" when you make such a mockery of their will? Yes, prop 34 left huge gaps to drive trucks full of money through. Let's not let any politicians get those trucks through; let's close those holes (including limits on self-financing).

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