March 7, 2000 will go down in sprawl-busters chronicles as Super Money Day. Although the day will be remembered more as Super Tuesday in the Presidential Primaries, in which the monied candidates eliminated those with less financing, two communities also found out how Super Money can influence a local election. In Glendora and Huntington Beach (see newsflash entries below) citizens groups were obscenely outspent in their effort to cut the Big Corporations down to size. In Glendora, a commmittee called “The Citizens for a Better Glendora, Yes on Measure D, Supported by California Retailers and Commercial Builders”, was, in reality, a shell group for Wal-Mart and Home Depot money. According to this “Citizen’s” Committee Campaign finance report submitted on February 25th, the only “citizens” contributing to the campaign were corporate citizens with out of town addresses: Home Depot and Wal-Mart. Both stores are slated to be built in the controversial MarketPlace project in Glendora. According to the report filed by the “Citizen’s” Treasurer (who does not live in Glendora), a total of $224,312 was contributed to the campaign, plus another $710 thrown in for good measure by Home Depot to make signs. The “Citizens” group spent its corporate funds on a variety of political consulting groups, including $60,682 on a Washington state consultant for campaign literature and mailing; $15,000 on a Los Angeles consulting firm; $31,532 for campaign literature from a Chatsworth, CA consultant. In other words, it was a campaign fueled with outside money, conducted by outside consultants. It was like a political aerial bombing mission in which all the ammunition came from a distant location. Sprawl-busters in Glendora reported that the fight got very nasty, and the town was deeply divided over the issue. If Super Tuesday was a classic case of Presidential Super Money winning the contest, the same was true that day in the battle against California sprawl.
The “Citizens” for a Better Glendora, sponsored by California Retailers and Commercial Builders” won by about the same margin in Glendora that they lost by in Eureka, CA last summer (see newsflash entry below). Super Money will not win every time, but citizen’s groups can now expect that Super Money will be used to campaign for Superstores every time. The final expenditures in Glendora could easily top $400,000 or more when the last campaign statement is filed. Spending in Huntington Beach was just about the same. The Glendora report shows that the “Citizens” campaign is largely a corporate affair, just like an image advertising blitz. Because corporations can spend an unlimited amount of money on such campaigns, they hold a distinct advantage over citizen’s groups, who often have to hold bake sales and car washes to raise money to fight the largest retail corporations in the world. Companies like Wal-Mart and Home Depot say nothing about the “money advantage” they wield, perhaps because in general they believe in the retail Darwinian theory of “survival of the biggest”. Until corporate donations are limited, Wal-Mart and Home Depot will continue to use Super Money to get their way. We are turning into a “corporate democracy” where democracy depends on the spending of corporations.