Part one: reform
The CDP has come a long way since the days when all Party Delegates were appointed by elected officials, and all power was concentrated at the top. Generations of activists pushed successfully for more openness and transparency in our delegate selection and endorsement processes. They have achieved tremendous changes, from the creation of ADEMs, to the more recent reforms of our endorsement process, to the creation of caucuses to ensure that the full diversity of our party had a voice.
We need to do more. We have made great strides at making the structure of our party more inclusive, but we must put the same effort into making sure the culture of our party is inclusive. Above all, of course, we must fix the glaring problems in our structure and culture that have allowed abuse and intimidation to go unchecked.
1. ACCOUNTABILITY, MISCONDUCT AND PERSONAL SAFETY
We must develop a fair and safe process for resolving allegations of harassment and abuse as part of a top-to-bottom audit of our procedures by trusted outside experts. Our colleagues in the Legislature, trade unions, feminist organizations and NGOs who have worked to develop such procedures in their own environments can help guide this process. A new system must be in place by the next Executive Board meeting.
The Party should hire an Ombudsperson who is independent of the Chair and other officers to help guide members and activists through the process of filing and adjudicating complaints. The ombud must be trained in victim advocacy and conflict resolution and be well-versed in Party structure and culture.
We have healing to do. I have proposed that our upcoming convention plan for and incorporate a Healing Room staffed with professional individual counselors. with the inclusion of an optional, guided group counseling session. We have the ability at this unique point in history to model true community, and a responsibility to not only enact swift action toward justice on behalf of survivors, but also care for the very real injuries sustained via a broken system by providing professional support.
Throughout this process, we must always put our commitment to valuing people of all genders, gender expressions, and sexual orientations front and center.
We must develop a code of conduct with the help of legal counsel and distributed to all delegates to electronically sign and submit with their convention fees. All delegates will promise to abide by this code of conduct, which will include bans on sexual abuse, harassment, bullying, and threatening behavior, and an agreement to abide by CDP and external investigations on CDP matters. Failure to electronically sign this code of conduct will result in your convention pass being held until your signature is provided.
2. POWERS OF THE CHAIR AND OFFICERS
Our Party cannot be accountable to the voters if the Chair is not equally accountable to the delegates and the Executive Officers. As Chair I pledge to create a formal, bottom-up feedback mechanism so that suggestions for improvements and reforms from delegates can be formally presented to the Executive Officers in an institutional process managed by the Regional Directors; distribute the power of appointment to standing committees (see below); observe and respect proper rules and procedure from podium and the dais, without bias or favoritism.
The specific, formal responsibilities of the other statewide officers should be expanded and codified in the bylaws. Right now, aside from some rules on succession and some administrative tasks, all of the officer’s assignments come directly from the Chair. We should explore the addition of more Vice Chair positions, assigning them thematic or geographical responsibilities. Remuneration of officers for their time and work, so that the positions are more accessible to people of all incomes should be explored by the Finance Committee.
Major changes to the budget should be a collective decision by the Executive Officers, and check-signing responsibility shared between the Chair and Controller.
ADEMs should be fair, open and accessible to all members of the Democratic Party, and they should empower grassroots organizing from all corners of a given district, free from corrupting influences such as untraceable money. To this end, as Chair I commit to increasing transparency and fairness in conducting our ADEM caucuses.
This includes but is not limited to banning the practice of compensating ADEM voters in exchange for their votes; doing more to inform Democrats across the state about the process; ensuring that caucuses are truly centrally located in their districts or held in multiple locations if necessary; holding regional directors accountable if they actively support candidates or slates contrary to explicit guidelines, or appoint conveners with such conflicts; expanding the voting window time and streamlining the counting process; increasing resources available to conveners to find accessible sites, and examining the possibility of changes to the voting process if increased participation makes the current process unsustainable.
4. INCLUSION AND ACCESS
Currently, the basis for participation in many of our bodies is voter registration status. Using this criteria excludes many people who identify as Democrats and would like to participate in our work--including young people and non-citizens. For those who cannot register to vote, wherever possible, we should replace registration status requirements with a signed statement of agreement with our values and mission.
Relatedly, the Party should expand its production of materials and information in a range of languages spoken in California. Outreach events should include simultaneous translation whenever possible.
5. STANDING COMMITTEES
The Chair should not have the sole discretion to appoint members of standing committees. I favor the creation of a Nomination Committee made up of the Executive Officers and six members elected by the Executive Board to review applications and fill committee spots. The application process itself should include a formalized and public recommendation/nomination system. While I believe the Chair should retain the prerogative of appointing Co-Chairs of the standing committees, the number of co-chairs should be set in the bylaws, so that this process cannot be used to add unlimited numbers of individuals to the Executive Board.
6. FUNDRAISING, TRANSPARENCY, AND CORPORATE MONEY
A democratic and transparent organization needs to have an operating budget. As Chair, I will submit regular operating budgets for approval to the Executive Board. While campaign realities mean that there has to be flexibility in expenditures to follow unfolding strategy, the budget will serve as a guide for our deployment of resources.
Moving forward, we must balance somewhat competing realities. First, our voters, and our values, demand that we work seriously to decrease the influence of corporate money and large donations in the political process. We cannot continue to talk out of both sides of our mouths about money in politics. At the same time, disastrous Federal decisions on campaign finance law have opened the cash floodgates into shadowy PACs and Independent Expenditures flowing to pro-corporate candidates. We must develop a long-term fundraising strategy that takes both of these facts into account.
Unfortunately, poor leadership has delayed the launch of our promised Campaign Finance Working Group, a high-level committee of activists, party leaders, labor representatives and legislative leadership. We need thoughtful deliberation to guide this discussion and make recommendations to the Party on how to make progress on reducing corporate donations without unilaterally disarming. For example, we have already decided to ban fossil fuel, charter school, private prison and tobacco industry donations to the Party. Improving on this ad-hoc approach, we should create clear general criteria for acceptable sources of direct donations. Additionally, we should coordinate campaigns for municipal, county and state finance reforms, including public financing and contribution limits that have already withstood legal scrutiny. As Chair, I will immediately empanel this Working Group.
To replace funds we don’t want to take, we have to increase our small-dollar fundraising. The Donate Every Month (DEM) program has been a good start, helping to fund our doorhanger program, but if we are really to get serious about changing how we fund our operations here’s the real hard truth: we all have to become donors. Most of us agree that it takes a significant amount of money to operate an effective State Party, and we want more, not fewer resources to win in those targeted races and build our infrastructure.
7. CAUCUSES AND WORKING GROUPS
Our caucuses are a vital part of the Democratic Party. We should work to improve their accessibility and encourage activity in between major Party functions. As Chair I would provide more staff support and access to online tools for organizing and advocacy projects in the community, around elections, and in favor of their policy priorities.
In addition, Party activists want to unite around projects and issues, like affordable housing and restoring the Master Plan for Higher Education. We should support the creation of Working Groups to stimulate discussion, education and activism around the issues that motivate our base.
8. CDP EMPLOYEE RIGHTS
We must end the widespread abuse of “independent contractor” designations in Democratic politics. Most campaign workers are actually employees and should be provided with the pay and benefits they deserve. The CDP under my chairship will refuse to abuse this loophole, and will demand that our endorsed campaign partners do the same.
As Chair, I will recognize and bargain with any group of employees who choose to be represented by a union.
9. MORE TRANSPARENCY AND FAIRNESS IN INTERNAL ELECTIONS
Running for Party office, whether it’s to be an ADEM delegate or Party Chair, should not be a big money race. Officer candidates should be required to form FPPC-regulated Political Action Committees and publicly report their contributions. Reasonable limits on internal campaign expenditures should be adopted by the Rules Committee, and a system of reporting and transparency added to the bylaws. Personally, I will disclose my donors, and I will not accept a dime of corporate PAC funding for my campaign.