First elected governor of California in 1974, his progressive values have put him ahead of the curve, though his environmental policy and disorganization also earned him criticism. He’s now the state’s oldest governor. This is the story of his last days in office, and a portrait of his 40 years of public service.
“We’ve got the scientists. We’ve got the universities. We have the national labs. We have a lot of political clout and sophistication for the battle. And we will persevere,” says California governor Jerry Brown. This first piece in a series explores the relationship between the Golden State and Donald Trump’s Washington.
Jeff Roe will do anything to win. Just watch.
Jim Gilliam was a precocious young conservative Christian who grew up in Silicon Valley and became a talented programmer. After fighting cancer, he lost his faith in God and found a passion for progressive causes. NationBuilder, a piece of software he built to—in his own words—help “democratize democracy,” has had some of his progressive friends consider him a traitor:
“Before he’d written a single line of code, Gilliam had decided that NationBuilder would be nonpartisan. Aaron Straus Garcia, a field organizer on Obama’s 2008 campaign who briefly worked at NationBuilder, recalls a conversation he had with Gilliam early on. ‘What happens when the Tea Party comes knocking on our door?’ Garcia asked. Gilliam’s response was immediate: ‘There’s no way we close doors, or we start picking or choosing. This is what will set us apart.’
“It was always going to be a controversial strategy. Gilliam’s activist friends saw him as both a leader and a product of the netroots; the liberal Campaign for America’s Future had even given him an award for being an unsung progressive hero. Now he was courting Republicans, trying to persuade them to use his product to defeat Democrats. In June 2012, NationBuilder announced that it had signed “probably the largest deal ever struck in political technology” with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), whose primary mission is to elect GOP candidates at the state level. His competitors scoffed at the claim, but the agreement potentially put NationBuilder into the hands of several thousand Republican politicians.”
Chronicling a four-decade fight over campaign finance, and how American politics is fueled by secret spending.
“For decades, the campaign finance wars have pitted two ideological foes against each other: one side clamoring to dam the flow while the other seeks to open the floodgates. The self-styled good-government types believe that unregulated political money inherently corrupts. A healthy democracy, they say, needs robust regulation—clear disclosure, tough limits on campaign spending and donations, and publicly financed presidential and congressional elections. The dean of this movement is 73-year-old Fred Wertheimer, the former president of the advocacy outfit Common Cause, who now runs the reform group Democracy 21.
“On the other side are conservatives and libertarians who consider laws regulating political money an assault on free markets and free speech. They want to deregulate campaign finance—knock down spending and giving limits and roll back disclosure laws. Their leaders include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr., and former FEC commissioner Brad Smith, who now chairs the Center for Competitive Politics, which fights campaign finance regulation.”