By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
L.A. WEEKLY:Tell us about yourself and then about the campaign.PETER CAMEJO:Okay, well, you know, I spent the ’60s, I worked on civil rights stuff primarily, marched with Martin Luther King in the late ’60s. The ’70s I worked on the political prisoners quite a bit. In the ’80s I needed money. I never had any money. I got a job in the post office and actually worked for minimum wage in New York for a while to try to organize Latino workers. That’s another whole story, but anyway I ended up — a friend of mine suggested I go get a job at Merrill Lynch. I told him, "How can I do that? I’ve been thrown out of school. I don’t have a degree. I know nothing about finances." He said, "They’ll love you. You talk so fast."
Sure enough, they hired me. They hire 400 people at a time. I became number one nationally producing the money, so they loved me. I [did] a fund for Merrill Lynch that became the first pro-environmental fund of any major firm, and it was their second best performer. And I made them give part of the profits to the environmental movement. I quit them over an issue of support to the AIDS Foundation.What was the issue?
I wanted to do a program to benefit the AIDS Foundation, and they would let me do it for the American Heart Association, but they wouldn’t let me do it for the AIDS Foundation, so I quit them over that. And I went to Prudential, who said I could do it, and then once they had [hired me], they sent me an overnight letter saying, "We’re not going to let you do it." So I, with seven other people, I set up a firm, which now has offices in 16 states, and we manage about a billion dollars, and that’s what I do for a living.And that firm is?
Progressive Asset Management Incorporated. [Out of the earlier experience in progressive investing at Merrill Lynch] I helped set up the Environmental Justice Fund. And I helped set up a thing called the Council for Responsible Public Investments. That’s funded by the health department in California. They’ve given us several million dollars, where we educate people on the importance of making their investments coincide with their mission. I’ve been working on several programs right now on how to get solar energy to really grow in California. It would only take a billion dollars of capital and one and a half billion in lines of credit to transform California to the world leader in solar energy. So these are the type of things I’ve been doing in my life. I joined the Green Party when it was first established.When and why did you leave the Socialist Workers Party?
For those who don’t know, the Socialist Workers Party is an organization that came out of the Communist Party in about 1928, with the split between [Stalin] and Trotsky. Anyway, I became very concerned about the sectarianism of most of the left in the ’60s and going into the ’70s, and I tried to make changes inside the SWP, and it was very difficult. I guess it’s like being in the Catholic Church and suggesting that Mary wasn’t really virgin or something.
I’m from a Catholic background, so I can say those things. My departure was very peculiar because there was a rule in the SWP, which was there to protect our members. That if you were outside the United States, you weren’t a member. So if you got arrested in some other country, they couldn’t say you were a member, ’cause you actually had a rule that you’re not a member. You could actually say in court, "I’m not a member." So I went to Venezuela to spend some time with my family. When I came back, they told me I wasn’t a member, ’cause I’d been out of the country.And they didn’t reinstate you?
No, that’s right.They didn’t want you?
No. They actually passed a rule that no one was to talk to me. You’d be expelled if you talked to me. But anyway, that’s a long time ago.But now you’re running for governor.
And now I’m running for governor for the second time.Given your experience in managing money and finances, how do you dissect the budget crisis in California and what to do about it?
Well, I’m sort of glad you asked. I want to show you something which I’ve been showing everybody. Okay, this is a chart of what you would need to balance the budget at the highest level ever in California history. The only way you can have a deficit is by decisions you made that were wrong. The money that came in was the greatest ever. The issue should be how big is our surplus.
It’s not that every decision Governor Davis made was wrong. He increased the pay of teachers. He did some things that we would have wanted to do, but if we’re going to increase the expenditures, we got to figure out where we’re increasing the income. Instead, he did the opposite. He lowered the taxes. Remember, he lowered the DMV fee, and he lowered the tax rates on the wealthiest people. The poorest 20 percent, who don’t hardly have any money, they pay 11.3 percent in taxes. The richest 1 percent [pay] 7.2 percent.