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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Thursday, September 22, 2005

the mod squad

Reader Matt points out that here in California we have a "Mod Squad," or Moderate Caucus, that defeats environmental legislation with the help of corporate $$$ and the GOP. (Article from the Capital Weekly):

"The so-called Moderate Caucus was first organized as a campaign finance committee in 1998 by then-Assemblyman (and now Congressman) Dennis Cardoza, who wanted to raise corporate money for Democrats that traditionally had flowed to Republicans. But only in the last couple of years has the Mod Squad flexed their political muscle. The caucus currently has fifteen members, 10 of [whom] are Latino, with Assemblymen Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and [Joe] Canciamilla, [D-Pittsburg] serving as "co-conveners."

In June 2004, the Moderate Caucus circulated its first ever "action alert" listing a dozen bills--sponsored by fellow Democrats--to be targeted for defeat. Circulated only to other moderate members, the list angered both the Democratic leadership and the environmental lobby. Such "action alerts" are now common for the Mod Squad, which meets at least once a month, and sometimes more than once a day toward the end of session...[snip]

"The `Mod Squad' is the single greatest impediment to progressive environmental legislation in Sacramento," wrote the California League of Conservation Voters in their annual legislative scorecard last year. "Sure, they cast the easy votes, but when every friend is needed on strong environmental legislation, the Mod Squad is usually missing in action or an enemy combatant."

This is the reality we live in here in California, even with a majority.  

Dollars pry the political process away from progress.


  • Matt had a really interesting question to me in the email he sent with the aritcle (thanks Matt!):

    Why are we so comfortable with enivironmentalism being labelled a "liberal" issue? Isn't that a GOP frame? Doesn't the environment affect all of us...today even more so?

    I think Matt highlighted a trap I fall into...the trap of seeing everything through activist eyes even to the point of missing GOP spin.

    His question, as I understand it, is how do we make environmentalism perceived as a broad enough issue so that one can't call oneself a "moderate" and pretend to be standing up against "those liberals."

    Ie. how do we either defeat the "mod squad" or pressure them to change their votes? (I guarantee you blogging about it won't do squat!!) And how do we rebrand environmentalism as we do that?

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 4:16 PM  

  • Kid Oakland wrote:
    Dollars pry the political process away from progress.

    Indeed. If you look at who actually contributes to legislative campaigns in California, it consists almost entirely of corporations, unions, and lawyers. If you're out to defeat the "mod squad," the best way is to create an environment where constituents donate to the campaigns of their local candidates. Until that happens, we're going to continue to have a legislature which serves the interests of its donors, rather than the constituents it is supposed to represent.

    By Anonymous silence, at 4:21 PM  

  • I am about to run out my door so I'll leave my response to KO for later. However, I do want to respond to Silence briefly.

    I agree that we need to change the money dynamics in the state. I am proud that my Assemblywoman, Loni Hancock, is sponsoring Clean Money legislation. You can watch a video where she talks about it here. It's a bit long and she's not the most dynamic speaker, but it's worth watching to get an unvarnished account of the role of big money donors in CA politics.

    Also, and I forget if this is covered in the video or not, we need to reassess term limits in our Legislature.

    By Anonymous Matt, at 6:14 PM  

  • This is a very interesting and troubling piece. Raises a lot of questions and thoughts for me. But here's one.

    I was struck by the way that the original article makes it almost impossible to understand the exact issues that are exactly being voted on. We know, from learning this, that the mod squad is obstructing "environmental votes" but the specifics are underexplained. There's a tacit assumption that it would be a waste of space. This happens a lot -- in fact, this omission in the Capital Weekly article, is the very hinge where policy gets transformed into politics.

    This kind of transformation happens a lot, even on left-wing news sources. Its our responsibility though to never accept a trade-off between policy details and simplicity of presentation. In my opinion, we lose the battle the moment it is framed this way.

    By Blogger awol, at 8:04 PM  

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