Secret plan alleged on campaign financing;

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Measure’s foes say nurses group is trying to limit opposition to its future health care strategy.

Sacramento Bee (California)

A California Nurses Association publication indicates the group is pushing the Proposition 89 campaign-finance measure as a Trojan horse to get what it covets most: universal health care, opponents said Monday.

Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said the strategy basically was spelled out in a document that appeared on the nurses association Web site.

“They have a two-step process here,” he said. “One is to eliminate the ability of business to communicate with the voters. The second step is to have government-run health care on the next ballot… and deny voters the ability to hear the other side.”

Proposition 89 would allow public financing of campaigns for state offices, an overhaul touted as a way to discourage undue influence by well-heeled special interests.

The measure, crafted by the CNA, is on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Chuck Idelson, spokesman for both the CNA and the Yes on Proposition 89 campaign, said the nurses group has supported universal health care for many years but that the campaign-finance initiative is not specifically linked to that goal.

Universal health care is a bitterly controversial concept to replace California’s system of private health insurance with a state-run system to provide medical care to every resident.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced earlier this month that he will veto universal health care legislation, Senate Bill 840, which was sponsored by CNA.

Idelson joked about Monday’s allegations of a Trojan horse in Proposition 89.

“So, this is the great secret that they’ve discovered — that we believe in single-payer health care?” he said, laughing.

But Zaremberg and other leaders of the No on Proposition 89 campaign say the CNA document, “California Nurses, Clean Money and Fair Elections,” is no laughing matter.

Opponents of the ballot measure contend that the CNA publication lends insight into why the group has spent more than $2 million thus far to qualify Proposition 89 for the Nov. 7 ballot and to launch an extensive campaign to pass it.

The 16-page document covers a wide range of nurse-related topics, but several pages tout an overhaul of campaign financing as a step toward achieving health care changes.

One headline reads: “CNA‘s Ultimate Destination: Single-Payer Healthcare.”

Another sentence reads, “With pharmaceutical and healthcare corporations barred from funding political candidates and limited in funding ballot measures, real healthcare reform can be won.”

“I think that’s their goal, to create an unlevel playing field, to deny the ability for voters to have information when a government-run health care system comes toward them on the 2008 ballot,” Zaremberg said.

Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for the No on Proposition 89 campaign, described the CNA strategy as a “really circuitous route.”

To improve their ballot-box chances for universal health care, Swanson said, the CNA apparently is willing to undercut the ability of corporations and other groups to campaign on any other ballot measure — school vouchers, perhaps.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Swanson said.

Idelson said Proposition 89 stands on its own merits.

“It’s the reform that makes other reforms possible,” he said.

“It’s going to reduce the power of special interests across the board in the Capitol,” said Ned Wigglesworth of California Common Cause.

Some groups spend multimillions of dollars on a single ballot issue — the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, for example, spent more than $83 million last year to defeat imposition of tough controls on prescription drug costs for the poor.

Proposition 89 isn’t about Trojan horses, it isn’t about any particular issue, it’s about the opportunity to have a fair debate in Sacramento — and you don’t get that now because of the special interests,” said Doug Heller, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
The Bee’s Jim Sanders can be reached at (916) 326-5538 or [email protected]

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