tv KQED Newsroom PBS October 27, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm PDT
next on "newsroom" one transit strike ends and another is averted, but tensions remain. what does it all mean for the labor movement? with the national roll-out of obama care hobbling along, what can we expect from california's new health care exchange? the state's top campaign finance watchdog heads to the federal election commission in washington. >> we have been able to achieve consensus, and i'm hoping that we're going to be able to do the same at the s.e.c.
good evening. welcome to "wqed newsroom." the top political watchdog scored a major win this week and california's fptc announced $1 million fine in a case of campaign money laundering. the settlement is against two nonprofits until last year's election. >> the nonprofit and the donors to them thought to exploit loopholes in california disclosure laws. >> the contributions were intended to help defeat governor brown's proposition 30 to raise taxes and pass the anti-labor measure proposition 32. they went to court before the november election pushing the group to disclose the true source of the contribution. she's now headed to washington d.c. to serve as president obama's appointee on the federal election commission. before thursday's settlement was announced, she spoke with scott
shafer about the challenges of informing voters about the flood of money in today's political campaign. >> welcome to "newsroom." >> thank you very much. >> well, the fair political action commission, which you chair, or have chaired, was created after waterfwat. there was a lot of cynicism about politics. how do you feel you have made a difference under your tenure there to, you know, enhance trust or faith in our political system? >> the purpose of the ftpc was to enhance faith and trust. clearly a large percentage of americans do not feel that trust in government. we have made inroads, though, and i think we've provided much greater disclosure. we've shown the public that we will fight for disclosure before an election when it counts, when it makes a difference for them when they vote. we've tried to provide a lot more information on-line and in a way that is easily accessible
to people so they know more about their government and about political activities. >> in fact, your tenure will probably be defined by $11 million contribution from an arizona group that was secretly done, came just before the 2012 election. it was designed to help sink prop 30, the governor's tax increase measure, and you went to court to try to force them to disclose the true source. what did you learn from that experience? >> well, the experience was very interesting because this group had given the money anonymously, and it was more money than had ever been spent by an outside group in a california campaign, so it took a lot of effort all the way to the california supreme court to find out that it had been funneled through a number of different 501 c3 and c4 organizations outside of california. under california law if they're contributing to a campaign in
california and they knowingly are giving money for political activity in california, then they do have to disclose. >> there were critics who say what if that money had been in support of prop 30, the governor's measure to increase taxes. instead it was meant to undermine it. can you say with real honesty that the ftpc would have acted exactly the same way? >> i don't think there's any question that we would have acted the same way. in that case we were responding to a complaint that was made. it was prior to the election, so we have a policy now of getting information to the people when it counts before an election. we did probably 24 had or 25 other cases that were not of the same magnitude, but also requiring disclosure before an election, and the only difference was those people complied, and the arizona group did not. >> there is, of course, so much money in our politics today, and
one way, some say, to fix that would be public financing, to just use tax dollars or some combination of tax money and contributions for private sources to fund our campaign. yet, time and again voters reject that. it's just not popular with pole tigs. do you agree that that would be the best way to go? >> i think some kinds of financing are reasonable. if you can encourage lots of donors to also give to candidates, and it's not just public financing on its own. my view is what's really left in political campaign is disclosure and disclosure is what's important to provide. >> as gu to the s.e.c. in washington, is that going to be one of your priorities, to improve disclosure? >> there's no question. the purpose of the s.e.c. just as the purpose of the ftpc is to provide information to the public and disclosure about who
is funding campaigns is essential, and while some people are backing off from disclosure, the united states supreme court and citizens united supported disclosure as a very important aspect of campaign finance reform. >> yet the fcc has done nothing to disclose those updates and -- >> you are going from a state where democrats are in control, and you share the ftpc have been able to get things done in very little time. you're going to the fcc which is built to fail. you have three democratic appointes, economic gridlock, and that is the case. why would you leave california for that kind of situation? >> well, i think that it's true that the s.e.c. has been known for gridlock, but there have been times when they have been able to achieve important inroads in campaign finance
reform. i've had to interact with people of both parties. we have been able to achieve consensus, and i'm hoping that we're going to be able to do the same at the s.e.c. >> are you preparing for this by watching "house of cards?" >> i think that may be a little extreme. >> yeah, yeah. nonetheless, you're heading into the fire. >> yes, most definitely. after all, we interact with presidential campaigns and senatorial and congressional campaigns absorbing the stakes are really significant. >> all right. outgoing chair of the california fair political practices commission, soon to be a member of the s.e.c. >> thank you very much for your time. the affordable care act also known as obama care, is barely limping along three weeks after it was first rolled out. technical glitches are still
crippling the federal website to sign up for health plans. plus, lots of finger-pointing this week at a congressional hearing on the problem. here in california a customized system set up by the state called cover california has been earning higher marks. it's running more smoothly than the federal system, and people are enrolling. tonight obama care under the microscope. we take a deeper look to find out what went wrong, what works, and what still needs to be done. for analysis, we're joined by sarah barney, keiser health news reporter, josh richmond, bay area news reporter, and lisa, kqed health editor. sarah, i want to begin with you. what are the current technical problems, and why are they happening? >> so this is obviously a massive system. it has to talk to the irs. it has to talk to individual insurers. it has to talk to individual medicaid systems. it has to collect an extraordinary amount of data. it has to talk to immigration, for instance.
>> it covers 36 states. much, much bigger than what the administration is originally imaged. originally we thought -- originally the administration thought states -- even if they were politically opposed to the affordable care act, that they would decide that they want to have control over it, so they would build it themselves. this is a much, much bigger system than i think anybody had imaged. what you have right now is essentially medicare and medicaid, which is the quarterback, if you will, and the players are all these individual contractors. you have one contractor that was built that was hired to build the identity management system. you've got another contractor that was hired to actually program the code to run the website. literally the opening page. you have another set of contractors who are writing other code to try and make all those things talk to each other. i think what's unusual about this roll-out, and having talked to contractors who are building these systems, both at the state level as well as in washington is that there really was not one contractor that was responsible
for making sure that things worked from end to end. that was cms's job. i think we can all -- >> cms is the company that was handling -- >> cms is the centers for medicare and medicaid. that's the federal government. they were the ones that were supposed to be responsible for testing to make sure that everything ran smoothly. >> did they do the tsting? now revel aings are coming out that the testing of the system from end to end really didn't happen until just two weeks before the roll-out, which is really not enough time to test something this massive. >> of course. yes. the testing did not happen according to what we heard in testimony over the last two days. it did not happen until two weeks beforehand. >> why was that? >> well, if i could answer that question -- first of all, the one thing that's different about the federal website when they first decided to do this is they were going to build it using open source code. right? hss, the health and human services says we want to pay for this one, and then other states if they want to use the federal system and import it to their own state, we don't want to pay
for it multiple times. the federal government is footing the bill for all of this. they built this open source system, and -- and it has been basically much clunkier, obviously, than they imaged. i think some of these comparisons to well, you know, ftd doesn't crash before valentine's day, and ebay doesn't crash before christmas is pretty unfair and pretty spurious, obviously. this is -- as you were saying earlier, this is a system that's on orders of magnitude far more complex than anything that's really happening in the private sector. >> those web sites would have all had the opportunity to watch in beta mode ask then ramp up slowly over time, and suddenly here we are. it's like, boom, october 1st, we have millions of consumers wanting to get information, and they can't. >> also, the other big thing here is that a lot of the regulations didn't come down until fairly recently. if you talk to the actual contractors themselves, they would have loved to have gotten
this back for what they were building several years ago, and because of the political situation, and also because this was a -- this is a huge law to implement. you know, millions and millions of decisions to be made. >> sure. >> tens of thousands of regulations to be written that then have to be translated into what does this actually mean when we're trying to build the website? all being done, of course, while a presidential election is going on. recently -- >> 42 votes to try to overturn the law. >> shocked. >> and so that's health care.gov, having a lot of problems, obviously. people are having a hard time enrolling and signing up, but here in california we have covered california, and that system actually seems to be running much better. talk about that. >> so that is running much more smoothly. cover california released numbers this week saying they've had 2.2 million unique visitors. they aren't releasing -- since the first week it opened, think aren't releasing more enrollment data, but we know that 126,000
applications have started. i've talked to people who have -- who successfully enrolled in that first week. we received an e-mail from a viewer today who saw we were doing the show who said, i mean, this is the story the obama administration will love. she's currently paying more than $2,500 a month in health insurance premiums for herself alone, and she said she enrolled -- she enhe roled easily and ran into a glitch and called the 800-number and solve the problem, enrolled. she's now paying less than $500 a month. saving $25,000 a year. that's a happy story, but i have also talked to people who are getting notices of cancellation of insurance, finding out they can't keep their doctor, finding out their premiums are skyrocketing. i mean, it's going to be -- for the two million people in the individual market in california, about one million of them are not subsidy-eligible, and what is going to happen with their
premiums is it's going to -- we're going to remain to be seen. i've heard from people who literally are crying over their increases. >> there's no doubt that some people are taking it on the chin, but it's worse in certain metropolitan areas than others according to availability of services. isn't there some element of this also that is related to the -- their own health preexisting condition, smoking habits? there's also -- >> so smoking is not a factor in california. >> it's not a factor in california. >> the only things they can take into account in california are age, number of people in your household, and your -- where you live, what region of california you are in. >> and, in fact -- >> that's on the federal website. >> kqed has an obama care explained guide where you lay out all of these explanations. >> we produced a guide to the aforredable care act, which people can look up. you stee on the screen now.
kqed.org/obama care. it will walk you through the health law, and you can also look it up if you are an immigrant, if you already have insurance, what it means to you. i want to talk a minute about the political ram ficks here too. is there a lot of political fallout from this, because we saw in the congressional hearing this week a lot of finger-pointing by republicans now. they're really pouncing on this. in fact, some are calling for cathleen sabilius's resignation. >> it's not just the republicans who are finger-pointing too. there are some pretty stiff language coming from some of the democrats in that hearing as well, and ann eshu from silicon valley wanted to know why the system was not prepared for this tremendous volume of hits it was going to get. she said amazon and ebay don't crash the week before christmas, and pro flowers does not crash on valentine's day. the private sector has figured out how to handle a lot of web traffic. albeit, that's a much easier
transaction that some of these commercial web sites handle than the tremendous amount of data that has to be gathered and then checked with various federal agencies. it may not be the most apt analogy, but country simple is coming from both sides of the aisle. that said, there are a lot of democrats who feel it's a little bit hard to take when republicans are complaining about how hard it is to use the law when they've been trying to shut down the law for the past three years very consistently. it sounds a little bit like hypocrisy to some people. now, that's not to say that there shouldn't be a full explanation of why it doesn't work and when it's going to work, but there's also the element that we are now 25 days into a six-month process, and if, indeed, the administration delivers on its promise to get this done by the end of next month, there's still plenty of time for people to sign up. i see you shaking your head. you don't think it's going to be done. >> i'm skeptical. >> you are? >> it's a hill to climb, for
sure. >> i think there's a lot of political points to be made by saying, okay, we're going to have a fix by the end of next month. that takes the heat off now. then at the end of next month if it's not fixed, there will be far bigger problems to deal with than the credibility that they made the claim that it would be fixed by now anyway. >> it's important to think about how else do people sign up for health insurance. as i'm sure as you have done, i have gone to many community clinics where you sit down and fill out an application. this is for working families, even committing to $90 or $120 at a premium. they have to go through their family budget, and that they'll be able to pay for that. this is a very -- this is kind of like buying a car. you know? it's an important decision that the family needs to make where they need to budget for it, so i think that in some ways having an insurance broker or having one of these sisters who can really sit down with them in person or somebody over the phone who can really help them walk through the process is not necessarily a bad thing.
there are certainly maybe people, i'm sure -- of course, there are people that want to go to the website, type in their zip code, make it fast and easy. of course. when it's working for many people having somebody on the phone or seeing somebody in person, is it really helpful? >> i don't disagree with that, but i think if you have a website that's not working and people are trying to enroll who are sampling now, might be the young and healthy that are getting turned away. we don't know. >> we don't know. >> we don't know a lot of things still. we will keep watching. thank you all. sarah barney, lisa, and josh richmond. still to come, a glimpse of upcoming stories we're working on, but, first, as bart unions prepare to take a contract vote, a look at the role labor unions play. sfwlirchlg the bay area commute is back on track after bart workers ended their strike, but did the walkout and other recent labor strikes derail the public's perception of unions?
we're taking a broader look. the labor disputes at bart's and ac transit has raised new questions about the role and relevance of unions in today's work world. we're seeing public anger towards organized labor, but the unions say they're fighting hard to protect decent wages and benefits. to give us historical perspective and analysis of the current fate of unions well, talked earlier with uc berkeley professor harley shakin. he has studied labor, the global economy, and the changing nature of work. professor shakin, thank you for joining us on the program. >> let me ask you -- >> it's very nice to be here. >> let me ask you, first of all, about the bart contract and the terms being offered to union workers, including a 15.4% pay raise over four years. what do you think of the terms? good contract? >> i think it's a very good contract. it's fair to both sides. a lot of hard bargaining got us here, but it's something in which both sides can go forward and build on it in constructive ways for bart, for the public, and for each other.
>> and for the first time they will be paying into their pensions 1% per year and then rising to 4% in the fourth year. also, health insurance premiums will rise from $92 to $129 a month. those sound equitable to you as well? >> they do. i think we have to put it in a bit of a context. for workers they didn't receive a wage raise over the last four years prior to negotiations, so it's a generous contract for the four years going forward, but it's also meant to pick up some lost ground where they didn't get anything. >> even with this proposal, there are a couple of things still pending. ac transit is still in a 60-day cooling off period, and, of course, this contract still needs to go before bart's unions for a vote next friday. any chance at all, do you think, that this might be rejected, or is it pretty much a sure deal that it will get passed? >> well, there's never a sure deal. i think it's likely it will be passed with bart given the difficulty of getting here, but
the ac transit workers turned down two contracts. one in july and one at the beginning of october. it's never a sure deal until the votes are in. >> you know, the bart strikes have sparked a lot of public resentment about dysfunction in general because we also, of course, have the federal government shutdown, and some of the public anger is directed against bart management, but so much of it seems to be directed against the unions. is that fair? >> no. i think it's not fair. part of it's understandable. people were angry and apprehensive. they're looking for someone to blame. the unions and the workers are the most immediate target, but i think it's unfair when you put it into larger context. for one thing, bart has been a very effective system. even with antiquated system. for another it is earning an operating profit today. workers were central to both those things. so to simply blame one side for a stalemate and difficult bargaining, i think it doesn't
reflect the realities. >> give us some historical perspective, if you will, in the 1950s when unions went on strike. a lot of people, millions of workers, even nonunion ones, often sheered their win thinking what they got today, we will get tomorrow. what's changed, because now it seems like there's more bitterness than cheering. >> well, there's a sea change in attitudes towards unions, and that was also reflected in a lot of the anger against the bart unions. as you pointed out, in the 1950s if the unions won something, even nonunion workers were very pleased because they felt unionized workers today, us tomorrow. that was the pattern that was being set. the whole economy prospered out of that because workers moved into the middle class, had more to spend. that spending power created jobs. now it's just the opposite for many people. they say as bart workers or other unionized workers have
this, and i don't, why should they have it? they think that their higher bar comes at their penicillin and when just the opposite is very likely true. as bart workers earn less, other workers in the bay area are going to earn even less in similar occupations. >> even so, given that public perception is what it is, do you think it will feed into broader issues by calls for abandoned ac transit strikes, the broader issue of pension reform, and also infrastructure that could affect bart in the future? >> i think that all of this could have an impact in these areas. that is, the anger that was out there. so far it has not gotten traction. particularly with the thought of banning strikes or rearranging collective bargaining somehow. pensions are an issue that had their own dynamic, so i don't think it's necessarily feeding into it in a decisive way. on the bart infrastructure bond,
that, of course, is management as well as labor. we will dissipate quickly, and if the system works right, if workers and managers get together on this going forward, i don't think there will be any traction in these areas for the anger that we see now? >> thanks for joining us, and sharing with us your insights and your perspective. good to have you. >> just a quick clarification. i noticed that i asked about a ban on ac transit strikes and what i should have said was a ban on all transit strikes? just want to make sure that that is clarified. finally now a quick look ahead at some of the stories we're watching next week. scott shafer joins us now to talk about bills. >> hi. >> hi. let's return to the top story
and talk about ann for a minute. sfwro put the spotlight on the secret money that comes into campaigns. not just in california, but all over the country. the important thing about this is -- although it is a victory, there's $1 million feign, we still don't know the names of the original donors. that's really what she was after. we do know that most of them were from california before it went back east and then to arizona and back to california, but what it points to is loopholes in california's election disclosure laws and the legislature now needs to fix that if they want to, and there is a bill in the legislature which passed the senate and it's been in the assembly. they may pick that up. obviously that's an important issue. >> bottom line, we're still left in the dark a little bit about who the individual donors are. >> absolutely. the ftpc released the documents that were mostly redacted, but they were kind of sloppy. first names and address and where people worked.
>> who to build for, luxury housing, who can afford it live in san francisco, and where should housing be? so they're going to be, you know -- we'll be talking about that. it's kicking off weeks of coverage about affordability and the cost of living in the bay area. >> just real quickly, you interviewed mark, ceo of sales force. >> yes. >> that will air next week. >> that will be on next week talking about his company and also his philosophy about philanthropy in the silicon valley and the high-tech sector. >> we'll be looking forward to that. >> that's all for tonight. before we close, we invite you to send your comments and
on this edition for sunday, october 27, immigration is back in the spotlight as competing visions work their way through the house of representatives. in our signature segment, risk and reward. the new government rules that would allow more americans to invest in start-up businesses. >> i think it's going to launch a new way of entrepreneurship across the nation. and millions go missing from american non-profits. next on pbs news hour weekend. >> "pbs news hour weekend" is made possible by jodi westin, the wallach