David Crane’s resume is a varied and illustrious one. He was a partner at Babcock & Brown, a global investment firm, for 24 years, then went on to serve as a special adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2004 to 2010. Now Crane lectures in public policy at Stanford University, serves on the board of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, and is president of Govern for California, an organization of more than 250 politically informed philanthropists supporting state legislators who put citizen interests ahead of party or personal concerns. Some legislators vow publicly to support job creation, students and social justice, but vote against those priorities under pressure from special-interest groups. In backing legislators dedicated to honest budgets and open government, Govern for California aims to improve schools and health care, fix pension problems, fund parks and environmental protection, protect tax revenues from special interests, and in general make government work.
1. How did you initially get interested in politics?
It started with the 1960 presidential election and accelerated with the events of that decade. My bedroom walls were covered with Robert Kennedy posters.
2. What did you enjoy most about working with Arnold Schwarzenegger?
I loved his fearlessness and his willingness to fight for political reforms such as independent redistricting and open primaries even though the benefits would not be felt until after he left office.
3. Was there a specific incident that prompted you to start Govern for California?
After I was attacked by “free-market” Republicans when I tried to get water priced at market and by “progressive” Democrats when I tried to save classrooms from unfunded pension costs, I knew we had to help liberate legislators to govern in the general interest.
4. What do you believe is the biggest problem in politics right now?
Too little attention paid to the state governments that provide approximately 90 percent of domestic services. Everyone knows Trump’s tweets, but few know about the billions being diverted from schoolchildren to special interests.
5. Why is it that legislators count on people not to know what is going on in government?
Most citizens don’t compare politicians’ words with their votes. But those days are over. We watch every vote and expose legislators who don’t walk their talk.
6. What fact about state government would shock Californians the most?
Their state is spending $8 billion a year on compensation for 57,000 prison employees who supervise 127,000 prisoners. Since 2010 elected officials have awarded four salary increases to prison guards who were already the highest paid in the nation.
7. How can citizens help change the current system?
Support great legislators. Donations of any size help liberate them from special interests.
8. What is your vision for California’s future?
Informed involvement by Californians in the governance of their state. Everyone knows the name of, say, Nancy Pelosi, but few know the name of a more powerful official when it comes to public education, criminal justice and more: that is Toni Atkins, president pro tem of the state Senate. State legislators matter.