There is every reason in the world to reject John Pérez’ bid for state controller based solely on his lack of ethical boundaries; however, there is one glaring reason for roundly rejecting Speaker Gifty for any state or local office: handing the state over to health insurers and providers, including Catholic healthcare conglomerates.
It’s time to say "no" to John Pérez because his campaign finance schemes have damaged the Democratic Party and more importantly have harmed the people of the State of California. John Pérez has let the money flow into his and other legislators’ campaign coffers. The results have not been good for California’s women and children, for workers, nor for California’s economy, especially if you measure a thriving economy by the number of good-paying middle class jobs.
Cynical newspapers and political pundits believe John Pérez is a shoe-in for State Controller because he has amassed a pile of money. They’re wrong for one simple reason – where the money comes from matters. John Pérez has a pile of money collected from American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) member corporations, as well as health insurers and providers, including Catholic bishop-controlled conglomerates.
A complex matrix of money and influence has been built out of the weakest campaign finance laws in the country where money and influence flow in and out of state and local government, as well as non-profits. The political corruption that permeates local and state government has risen to exponential levels since John Pérez became Speaker.
On February 28, 2010, the Los Angeles Times wrote an article entitled, “California Assembly Speaker-elect Pérez has ties to deep pockets.” Citing a new Common Cause Report, John Hrabe’s article, Common Cause Report: CA Lawmakers Accept Gifts All Year Round, shows the only thing that’s changed since the 2010 LA Times’ piece that the Speaker's benefactors' political ties have gotten stronger and their pockets deeper.
Much has already been written about John Pérez and the hordes of benefactors lining up seeing influence and political favors. Recent articles and reports have shown that John Pérez doesn’t just take gifts, donations and contributions; he also distributes gifts, donations and contributions to cooperative legislators and non-profits.
The Common Cause report entitled, Gifts, Influence, & Power: A Report on Gifts Given to California’s Elected Officials, found that "Speaker Pérez outpaced his leadership colleagues by accepting gifts valued at nearly four times of those gifts given to other leaders.” Common Cause further found that Pérez led the all others with “the largest 2012 case of using campaign funds for gifts.”
These articles and reports demonstrate Pérez’ pattern in using campaign finance loopholes to benefit himself and corporate contributors to the detriment of consumers and the public.
The anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-middleclass California Chamber of Commerce killed 37 of 38 bills in the last legislative session. The Democrats may dominate Sacramento, but Sacramento is not dominated by liberals, let alone progressives. While congressional democrats and the President are trying to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour right now, putting much-needed income in the hands of women and their families, John Pérez will be bragging about passing a bill that waits until 2016 to reach $10.00 an hour minimum wage. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
That’s what Pérez’ scheme has done for California, but that’s only the half of what he’s done and plans on continuing to do if his political finance scheme successfully places him and his financial benefactors in control of the state’s finances and audit function.
The $4.8 million contributed to Pérez and his appointed legislative committee chairs coming from healthcare interests alone is bad enough, but scarier and much less reported on are the tens of millions of dollars flooding government and nonprofits at all levels and sectors by health-related foundations.
The handover of public health and healthcare to the health insurance industry and healthcare providers, including Catholic bishop-controlled healthcare conglomerates, involves much more than simply passing legislation friendly to the industry. Speaker Pérez strategically placed healthcare foundations in every aspect of public health and healthcare delivery assessment departments.
Right now in California, Lloyd Dean, Dignity Health’s CEO, is executing an ambitious expansion plan for the Catholic healthcare provider that seeks to compete with Kaiser. That means a 40% share of the healthcare market in this state.
Through Pérez led legislative initiatives such as GoBiz, anti-woman, anti-gender equity health foundations and other corporate-led interests control the state of California’s strategic economic planning council and major components of the Affordable Care Act implementation. This avalanche of funds is not going to lobbying elected officials; this money is controlling implementation of laws to the benefit of health insurers and providers, including Catholic healthcare conglomerates like Dignity Health.
What California NOW has uncovered is these health-related foundations, such as the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the California Endowment, are spending millions to ensure the adoption of anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-human rights health policies. For a full analysis of the impact these currently anti-woman foundations on health policies, especially on gender equity, women’s reproductive healthcare access and end-of-life care, read California NOW’s Principles & Purpose Matter Putting Gender Equity & Justice at the Center of Health in All Policies.
These acts couldn’t come a worse time for women and girls in this state. Critical pieces of legislation ensuring women and girls’ access to full reproductive healthcare have not been passed and signed by the governor. Catholic bishop healthcare corporations are expanding across the state, with these corporations controlling entire healthcare networks. Yet legislation has not yet been passed to protect our right to go out-of-network for reproductive and end-of-life care free from Catholic bishop-control without incurring out-of-pocket costs. This is just one critical piece of legislation that John Pérez is potentially holding hostage.
Instead of concentrating on passing such vital legislation, Pérez is using his Assembly leadership position to bully Assembly members into endorsing his run for controller. Instead of doing what is right for the people of California and the Democratic Party by immediately stepping down as Speaker the moment he announced his candidacy for statewide office, John Pérez is choosing once again to use his powers as Speaker to benefit himself at the expense of California’s women and girls.
There is a fight going on for the soul of the Democratic party and it will take every delegate at the State Democratic Convention to ensure that the California Democratic Party is the party of Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich and not handed over to corporations like ALEC member Google and Catholic bishop-controlled healthcare networks.
The Democratic Party needs to live up to its platform, including supporting qualified progressive candidates, women and men alike. Too much of state government and the Democratic Party is being controlled by big money.
The first step in gaining control of the Democratic Party, for the people of this state, instead of only the moneyed interests, is to resoundingly reject John Pérez’ bid for state controller.
Pérez knowingly pays men more than women for the same work and also places more male staffers in higher level positions than female staffers. It’s time to say no to John Pérez, who over the course of his tenure as Speaker, has seen the number of female elected Assembly members steadily decline, including in Los Angeles.
For Equality & in Solidarity,
Patricia Bellasalma, J.D
President, California National Organization for Women
Note: California State Assembly Representatives Toni Atkins, Holly Mitchell, and Bonnie Lowenthal wrote an op-ed in response to this post. You can read their op-ed by clicking here.