Debt Consolidation

The "Poison Pill"

Posted on: June 11, 2008
Written by: UWSA Staff
The California Constitution states that if two initiatives dealing with the same subject are on the same ballot and both are passed by the voters, the one receiving the most votes will take effect. In the event that parts of the first place initiative are found to be unconstitutional, they can be replaced by the corresponding provisions of the second place initiative.

Under this scenario, we would be perfectly happy to share the ballot with an initiativewhich seeks to challenge current court precedents. If the court challenges fail, the law would revert to our initiative and California would still get good reform laws.

Unfortunately, sponsors of the California Anti-Corruption Act included in their initiative a "poison pill" which states that should their initiative get more votes, our initiative would be declared "null and void in its entirety." This means that should they get more votes and their court challenges fail (as is likely), the law would revert to what is now in effect (i.e. no limits on campaign contributions or spending).

We are painfully aware of this possible outcome because it occurred just eight years ago, the last time that campaign finance reform was attempted in California.

In 1988 Common Cause sponsored Prop 68, a comprehensive campaign finance reform initiative which included public financing. In response, the legislature sponsored Prop 73, a weaker campaign finance reform initiative which included a ban on public financing. Prop 73 got more votes and went into effect. When major portions of it were later declared unconstitutional, the corresponding provisions of Prop 68 were not put into effect because the courts ruled that they were based on the public financing aspects of the initiative. This is what got us what we have now - no campaign finance laws in California (except of course the ban on public financing, which still stands).

As an aside, just to add insult to injury, sponsors of the California Anti-Corruption Act also included a provision which states that should our initiative get more votes, their initiative "shall take effect to the extent permitted by law". Geez, the nerve of some folks.