By now registered voters in California should have received the official state election guide for the June primary. However, if you’re looking for information about most major candidates for statewide office, you won’t find it in this strange document. You won’t even find a clearly labeled list of who’s running.
What the guide does include are campaign statements from more than a score of candidates running for governor, attorney general and other important statewide offices. Most of these people are political unknowns and have virtually no chance of winning. There are also a few who do have broad name recognition but not because they have distinguished themselves as office holders or leaders. One, for example, is Orly Taitz, who identifies herself as a lawyer, dentist, and former real estate agent. Taitz, who was born in the Soviet Union, is best known for her campaign to remove President Obama from office because she believes he was born in Kenya and is controlled by the Chicago mafia. Clearly she has the kind of keen legal mind that qualifies her to be state attorney general, which is the office she’s running for.
Why does Taitz merit a paragraph in the voter guide and not Kamala Harris, the widely respected incumbent? The reason is a wacko scheme passed by California voters designed to curb campaign expenditure excesses. Couple that with a new open primary law and you have a recipe for electoral confusion.
So here’s the picture: The campaign expenditure law requires candidates to declare whether or not they will comply with certain spending limits. If they accept the limits they become eligible to buy space in the voter guide for their campaign statements and also get an asterisk by their name. Those who don’t agree are on their own and don’t get an asterisk. Major candidates and incumbents, of course, can usually raise significant amounts of money so they don’t typically volunteer to limit expenditures.
The problem is that under the new open primary system there are no longer separate primaries for each party. All candidates for an office are lumped together on the ballot. However, the voter guide, one of the tools people use to decide how to vote, not only bans campaign statements by candidates who've declined expenditure limits, it doesn’t even prominently list all the contenders. For example, you might want to look in the guide to check whether Jerry Brown, the incumbent governor, is running again. He is, but because he doesn’t have a paragraph in the guide, it takes a concerted effort to find the answer. The only place Brown’s name appears is at the bottom of page 22 in the list that identifies who has or hasn’t volunteered for spending limits.
You might say it’s just tough luck if Brown wants to spend more money than the limit and forego a paragraph in the voter guide. However, the tough luck actually goes to voters who want to know, among other things, how many people are running for a particular office and what their names and party affiliations are. This is the kind of information that isn't provided in the television spots "rich" candidates like Brown can afford by choosing not to limit their expenditures.