Center for Governmental Studies

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The Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) is a California non-profit organization that was founded in 1983. In early October 2011, the organization announced that it will close its doors on October 20, 2011. A spokesperson for the group said, "The recession has depleted our funding, and we cannot continue to operate CGS in its present form."[1]

Tracy Westen was the group's Chief Executive Officer and Robert Stern was its President.

Although CGS prepared studies on a number of different topics related to California governance, it had a special interest in California's ballot initiative process. This interest expressed itself in two main ways, through:

  • Publication of several influential reports and recommendations
  • Preparation of "Voter Videos." These were short videos that explained particular ballot propositions.[2]

Initiative publications

CGS made available or published these studies on the initiative process:

  • "Democracy by Initiative: Shaping California's Fourth Branch of Government" (2008, the 2nd edition of this publication)[3]
  • "Online Signature Gathering for California Initiatives" (2008)[4]
  • "Democracy by Initiative: Shaping California's Fourth Branch of Government" (1992)[5]
  • "To Govern Ourselves: Ballot Initiatives in the Los Angeles Area" (1992)[6]

In November 2009, Robert Stern of CGS told the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government at a hearing in Oakland that "Most of the ballot-box budgeting has come from you." According to the CGS, of the 68 ballot measures approved between 1988 and 2009 that had a price tag attached to them, 51 (or 75%) were legislatively-referred constitutional amendments or legislatively-referred state statutes. The legislatively-referred measures cost $9.8 billion versus $2.05 billion for citizen-initiated measures, according to the CGS.[7]

Views on campaign finance

CGS published a study in December 2009 which asserts that "Politicians across the country keep finding ways to skirt campaign-finance laws, using ballot-measure committees and other avenues to raise millions in unregulated contributions."[8]

The report, by Molly Milligan, is called "Loopholes, Tricks and End Runs: Evasions of Campaign Finance laws, and a Model Law to Block Them."[9] The report was financially sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Milligan's report said that these donors are not responsible for the views she expressed in the report. Her report advocated a new way of looking at donations to political candidates-- she suggested that all such donations to candidates should be viewed as having a political purpose intended to influence the views of candidates.


CGS disclosed a list of its donors on its website.[10]

The list included organizations that are generally identified as leaning to the left in their political views, such as the ARCA Foundation, and the Joyce Foundation. The list also includes the Open Society Institute, a group funded by George Soros, who has been a significant donor to California ballot proposition campaigns over the years.

See also

External links