By City News Service
Former Fair Political Practices Commission Chairman Dan Schnur announced his candidacy for secretary of state Friday, outlining his plan to rebuild Californians' confidence in the state's political system.
Schnur, now the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, supports banning legislators and statewide elected officials from fundraising while the Legislature is in session and requiring disclosure of all campaign contributions in 24 hours.
Schnur is running for office for the first time. He worked for then-Gov. Pete Wilson and as director of communications for Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.
"I teach my students that politics is too important to be left to the politicians," Schnur said. "California politics is broken and change is only going to happen if it comes form the outside."
Schnur re-registered as a no party preference voter almost three years ago and will be running without a party preference. He said he wants to turn the office into a nonpartisan position.
"The umpire should not be wearing a Dodgers or a Giants jersey and the state's chief elections officer shouldn't be under the control of the Democrats of the Republicans," Schnur said.
The top two finishers in the June primary will advance to the general election, seeking to succeed Debra Bowen, who is barred from running for re- election because of term limits.
Schnur was "welcomed" to the race by the four other candidates.
Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, told City News Service he was looking "forward to having another voice on how the office of secretary of state can embrace new technologies and grow more transparent for the betterment of our state."
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, tweeted that he was "looking forward to the debate of our records and visions for the future."
Former Common Cause Vice President Derek Cressman, also a Democrat, said "it's always good for voters to have more choices and more attention on the Secretary of State's Office."
Cressman called Schnur's proposal to ban fundraising by legislators and statewide officeholders while the Legislature is in session "pretty weak tea and wouldn't really do very much."
"What we'll see the same powerful interests that fund campaigns now will continue to fund campaigns," Cressman said.
"They'll write their checks in November and December, but they'll still meet with legislators during the legislative session. I think we'll see legislators holding all sorts of... donor maintenance events instead of a fundraising event. They'll still be inviting the same people to have wine and cheese the same day they're making decisions about legislation."
Republican Pete Peterson, the executive director of the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University, said he has included the proposed fundraising ban in his campaign's five-point plan.
Schnur acknowledged that fundraising "is a necessary part of politics, but governing is too."
"You shouldn't be able to do both at the same time," Schnur said. "It is clear that excessive and never-ending fundraising have corrupted state politics and it's equally clear the politicians in Sacramento are incapable of curing this corrupt system.
"I will fight tirelessly to ban fundraising during legislative sessions to force the politicians to do the job they were elected to do."
Cressman said the long-term solution is to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision "so that we can have workable limits on campaign contributions and campaign spending."
An "immediate" solution is creating a digital voters guide "that would have a series of online videos that candidates could use to talk directly to voters" enabling candidates who "don't take money from special interests" to "compete with those who do," Cressman said.