Personnel Profile: Derek Cressman

Your book, The Recall’s Broken Promise: How Big Money Still Runs California Politics, will come out on August 6.

[B]What outraged you enough to write this book?[/B]

It was really when Arnold went to court in 2005 to throw out some campaign-finance rules that had been cast in response to abuses during the recall campaign by Cruz Bustamante.

[B]When did you start writing this book?[/B]

I started in early 2006.

[B]When did you finish? [/B]

It took about a year to write. I finished at the beginning part of this year.
How did you go about researching and writing this book?

Primarily from info I already had on hand as a longtime political watchdog in California. Once I decided to do the book I also foraged through campaign finance data.
What is the main message of this book? [/B]

Politicians have either forgotten or ignored the voters’ call for reform in the recall election.

[B]Is the role of big money in Arnold’s campaign any different from other campaigns[/B]?

He had promised that it would be different. But, in fact, he has raised bigger chunks of money than any other California politician from interests that are just as quote-unquote “special” as any other politician.

[B]What is wrong with private interests protecting themselves and their professions by contributing to campaigns? [/B]

Political campaigns form public policy and should promote public interest and not private interest. Ordinary citizens lose out when private interests use big money to get a leg up in Sacramento.

In the 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo, the courts ruled that spending money to influence elections is a form of free speech. Given this, how do you propose limiting campaign contributions?

To clarify, the court in Buckley v. Valeo and several cases since then has upheld limiting contributions but not campaign spending. I think that eventually they will limit campaign spending, as well, just as they have changed their position on the poll-voting tax, slavery, “separate but equal” education and many other issues that the court has eventually reversed itself on.

[B]In your book you say that Californians need to “take back democracy.” How can Californians do this?[/B]

Three things. First, we need to pass some easy quick-fix reforms such as Assemblywoman Loni Hancock’s clean-money bill. Second, California could call for a constitutional amendment on mandatory campaign-spending limits, as Duf Sundheim, the former chair of the California Republican Party, has suggested. Third, is just to keep vigilant and keep a close eye on what politicians are doing.
You seem to be fighting an uphill battle. Do you consider yourself a cynic?[/B]

I do think it’s an uphill battle. And to fight uphill battles, you have to be an optimist. I am an optimist at heart. I could have given up a long time ago.
When you aren’t thinking about campaign-finance reform, how do you relax?
I love to spend time with my two daughters who are 3-and-one-half and 6-months old. And I am building a canoe with my father.

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