'The Main Problem Is the Role of Money in Politics' 

Excerpts from an editorial-board interview with Arianna Huffington


L.A. WEEKLY: You have always been politically active. Why now are you running for office? What is your motivation this time around?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well, I didn’t expect me to run for office, ever. The reason I say I want to run is because I believe the system is broken. [But] I was not interested in running to get my message out. I felt I had a platform to get my message out — you know, my books, my columns, my media work. I ended up running, first of all, [because of] the urging of people I respect. And because of the unlikely nature of this election. There was an unprecedented opportunity here: to get, to actually elect, a progressive governor, who’s not affiliated to either of the parties and who can appeal to independents. I have no party. I would not run in the primary of any of the parties.

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There are elected Democrats as liberal as you.

Yes, but I’m challenging the definition of what is left, because I think that’s very important. The main problem is the role of money in politics. A lot of candidates that you would describe as liberal are beholden to a lot of special interests in order to get elected. I’m seeing it now that I’m raising money. It’s very hard raising money from individuals. I mean, we have over 2,500 individual contributors now, which is twice as much as any other candidate has. But it’s either small contributions — like five dollars, 10 dollars — or it’s my friends giving large contributions. But there’s a limit to how much you can raise that way, and there’s no limit to how much you can raise if you are willing to take money from different interests.

What’s the difference between you and Peter Camejo of the Green Party?

Well, Peter is the head of [a] party. And his interest, as well as everything else, is building his party. I’m not a member of the party, so my interest is movement building. You see, there are two different ways to bring about change. And I believe the way the system is right now, and until we have instant-runoff voting, it’s going to be very hard to really bring about reform through third-party politics. Even though I believe in multiple parties, the model that I’m following, that I believe in, is movement building. I believe that if you have a critical mass of people sufficiently galvanized, you can really succeed in reforming the system. Because even after you win, if you don’t have that group of people, you’re still not going to be able to change things, even with the best intentions.

So, my model is sort of the civil rights movement model, the women’s movement, the movement to end the war in Vietnam. Which [Martin Luther] King called a creative minority. It’s always gonna be a minority [of the citizenry] pushing on politicians. When I published Pigs at the Trough, my last book, I did a 20-college tour, and it was collecting names, getting people involved, working with groups that are working on government reform on campuses and elsewhere. That predates my candidacy.

Part of the challenge for progressives during the last few years is the lack of a unified, worthy goal to unite behind. Will you try to focus on one issue, or merge multiple issues?

Well, for me, it is a single issue, the way big money is determining our political and policy priorities. That is the one dominant issue. And the way that Cruz Bustamante is backtracking and is on the defense on the issue shows how much salience the issue has. We have the wrong priorities determined by big money.

Say you win, what do you do with Republicans and Democrats in the state?

I believe there are a lot of good people in the Legislature, who are at the moment victims of the system. And who, if the leadership is there, would remember why they got into politics in the first place. And would want to be part of this fundamental movement for reform. It’s really kind of appealing to the better angels of their nature.

If that technique, if that strategy, doesn’t work, the fallback plan would be taking my major priorities and turning them into initiatives and going directly to the people. And basically using the authority of my office, and the bully pulpit, to campaign for them up and down the state. And bring them about that way. And the first one would be public financing of campaigns.

Do you like the campaign-finance laws for the city of Los Angeles, the public-funding part of it?

Yeah, but I like the system of Arizona and Maine the best, because it’s a system that has been proven.

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