UPDATE NOTE: This original post referred to California Forward, but it is two entities. California Forward, a 501(c)3, is limited in what it can do. The political activities, including the backing of the initiative in this post, are conducted by an affiliated organization, California Forward Action Fund, a 501(c)4 that has more freedom to engage in advocacy.
What if you gave people who had spent years thinking about reforming California some serious political money?
We're about to find out.
California Forward, a nonprofit that has pursued reform on governance in recent years, has been funded by foundations on its research and philanthropic work, but hasn't had big money to wage politics (since its foundation backers can't give big to their political advocacy affiliate, the California Forward Action Fund, and since there are few natural donor constituencies for political reform).
But billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, who convened a reform effort known as the Think Long Committee, is already changing that.
It was disclosed this week that Berggruen gave $1.2 million to a California Forward Action Fund-backed ballot initiative to change various aspects of the budget process.
This initiative has many pieces, and its impact on the broken budget process is expected to be modest. But it's a big deal that Berggruen and California Forward Action Fund are working together, in that it combines a well-funded if new player on the California reform scene with one of its most sophisticated reform groups.
If you think California needs big fixes, this provides a bit of hope.
In future years and elections, the combination of Berggruen's money and his expertise with broad reform, along with California Forward Action Fund's sophistication and organization creates the opportunity for top-to-bottom structural reform that the state needs.
Whether that will happen remains to be seen.
There is considerable disagreement on policy particulars among the good government community, and the reform plan of Berggruen's Think Long group has only some overlap with California Forward Action Fund's reform frameworks. But there is potential here.