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Myths & Facts

View highlights of this year’s Candidate School, capsule held on April 28, 2012 at Rhode Island College.



  1. “Big Money” will win on ballot issues — True that big money may influence ballot campaigns, order
    but already special interests are influencing the legislature with a lot less money than it would
    take to influence a ballot question. Therefore the initiative process is clearly less corrupted than
    the legislative process. And rigorous campaign finance reporting will expose where the money
    is coming from. National experience in other states shows no conclusive evidence that “big
    money” campaigns can guarantee a “Yes” or “No” vote on a measure. For example:

    1. Big money did not sway the voters on the gambling issue in 1994. Citizens in West
      Greenwich raised $500 to defeat a massive campaign for a casino in their town.
    2. In California, in 2004, gambling interests failed despite $100 million spending by tribe
      and other gambling interests.
    3. Chip Faulkner, Associate Director of “Citizens for Limited Taxation” (CLT) in
      Massachusetts, has stated that their group has won 4 out of 5 initiatives and they were
      outspent on 4 of them.
    4. Bill Sizemore, Executive Director of Oregon Taxpayers United, stated in USA Today,
      Oct. 23, 2000, “Opponents of the initiative process claim that money and specialinterest
      groups have taken over the initiative process. But when you consider all of those
      hundreds of special-interest groups and paid lobbyists who haunt the halls of every state
      legislature, the initiative process looks squeaky clean. Our organization has won seven
      of nine ballot-measure campaigns in Oregon, and we’ve been outspent an average of
      about 8-1.”
    5. M. Dane Waters in “The Initiative and Referendum Almanac” 2003, states, “In the last
      decade alone numerous wealthy individuals have tried to enact reform through the
      initiative process only to lose after spending millions of dollars.”
    6. Professor Liz Gerber of the University of California authored The Populist Paradox
      (Princeton University Press, 1999) researched and found that when citizen groups are
      able to mobilize sufficient financial resources to get out their message, they are much
      more successful at the ballot box, even when economic interest groups greatly outspend
  2. Initiatives will clutter the ballot — You hear about the large number of ballot questions in
    California. About 75 percent of those are introduced by legislators, not voters. And yet, polling
    of California voters show that overwhelmingly they prefer to keep the voter initiative process.
    From the “I&R Almanac,” “In 1999-2000, Portrait of America (POA) conducted a series of
    statewide telephone polls that asked voters if the initiative and referendum (I&R) process was
    good public policy.” Statewide samplings were 1,000 voters. In all states a majority of voters
    responded “yes” with only five states below 55%. The 24 states that already have I&R had the
    highest percentage of supporters and those states that used the process more frequently in the
    four years prior to the poll had the highest scores.
  3. Initiatives are a tool of the “special interests” — In fact, the opposite is true. Look at the
    opposition to Initiative. It is the special interests who influence the General Assembly with a lot
    less money and effort. They fear giving the people a mechanism for expressing the public will.
  4. The voters can’t understand complex issues — Thomas Jefferson said it best “I know of no
    safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people, and if we think them not
    enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power form them, but to inform them
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