Danvorious Tohd hopes this election will be the last one that’s corrupt. As he sees it, politics is currently defiled by unjustified restrictions on individual and corporate spending—what he calls “handcuffs made from regulations and rules.” Tohd is an outspoken proponent for a California ballot measure known as Prop 88, which he believes would fix the problem by outlawing any restrictions on spending in elections. Such restrictions would be deemed unconstitutional intrusions on individual liberty.
Prop 88 was thought to be a long shot, but a recent infusion of money from the Tohd Family Foundation’s Initiative for Money Rights has boosted its poll numbers, and forecasters now say it’s likely to become law—and to reshape politics as we know it.
The Stoneslide Corrective caught up with Tohd, the CEO of Tohd Power & Light, after a rally he held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Tohd spoke for about 15 minutes to a capacity crowd at the 18,000-seat arena, laying out the reasoning behind his push for money rights, which he said is really about protecting the rights of every individual. His speech came between sets by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Daughtry in what was billed as a We Want To Be Free! Concert. (Representatives of the bands later said they were unaware the event, sponsored by the Tohd Family Foundation, had a political purpose and they were just playing for the money, not the cause.) Tohd received his loudest cheers when he announced that he was paying for free beers at the concession stands for the rest of the day.
This reporter managed to catch Tohd on his way out of the arena. Standing near the corner of Figueroa Street and W. 12th Street, Tohd wore sunglasses against the afternoon glare and was accompanied by assistants and functionaries. Three held phones for him and provided updates on the price of natural gas and Tohd P&L’s stock price, as well as other financial information. One seemed focused on the straightness of Tohd’s tie. The others relayed messages to a waiting limo and adjusted Tohd’s schedule on the fly, as he seemed to be scheduled down to the half-minute.
Asked why he was doing so much to try to pass Prop 88, Tohd replied, “A lot of people think this is about power. But it’s really about love. Our relationship with our money is the most intimate relationship we have. Many of us love our money more than our wives or our children. We tell things to our money that we’d never say to a doctor, even. The law needs to recognize this love, not stifle it. If the gays and the lesbians can love people of the same sex, normal people should be able to give full expression to their love of money.”
Prop 88 has generated widespread debate, but one plank stands out as most controversial: the call to allow citizens to sell their votes to the highest bidder.
Tohd, whose pro-business views have made him a darling of conservative radio and a lightning rod for liberal hate, has been vocal on this point. In a sixty-second television advertisement being run in four major markets, he tells the camera, “You deserve the right to profit from your decisions. I know times are tough right now for many of you. Why cut off a revenue stream? That’s like cutting off your own arm.”
In our interview, he also argued that allowing vote buying will lead to more effective leadership in government. “After all, people willing to spend more money for office must want it more and so are likely to work harder so their investment won’t go to waste.”
While Tohd was speaking with The Stoneslide Corrective, a small crowd gathered and chanted, “Votes can’t be bought! Votes can’t be bought!” Seeing that this reporter had become nervous at the raucous shouts, Tohd turned to the demonstrators and called out, “Here’s $100 for each of you, go get some Starbucks.” He handed a stack of bills to an assistant, who approached the crowd and handed out the money. The chants stopped. The crowd dispersed.
“Why would you make that a crime?” Tohd asked, sounding as sad as a child looking down at a dropped ice cream cone. “You see, they’re better off. They’re happier now that they have a hundred bucks. You’re happier because you’re not scared anymore. I’m happier because I don’t have to hear their misguided squealing. That’s what economic exchange does—it makes everyone better off, without exception. It’s more democratic than democracy, you might say.”
One concern about Prop 88 is that it could put state law at variance with federal campaign laws. But Tohd points out that there’s a precedent for this in California’s medical marijuana laws. “Again, it’s about not bowing your neck to tyranny,” says Tohd. “Besides, I love growers. They’re great electricity customers.”
Some critics have called Prop 88 a throwback to days of oligarchy and white male privilege, pointing out similarities to property-based restrictions on voting that existed in the early years of the American republic. Tohd becomes animated in rebutting this argument. “I think property requirements are wrong. Government should never require anything. That’s just crazy. But how can you argue that every man deserves a vote and then turn around and deny that man just compensation, negotiated fairly and openly, for that vote he owns? That’s socialism right there.”
An assistant stepped in to end the interview, but Tohd brushed her aside, saying he wanted to make one more point. “Anyone but a dolt can see that markets can improve politics. When this resolution passes, PayPal will be here tomorrow to make it easy for you to sell your vote, or maybe eBay’ll do it, and that will create jobs.” Tohd’s voice takes on a dreamy tone. “Money rights are human rights, as I always say.”
He heads off, waving away a final question about whether he has further political ambitions after the fight for Prop 88 has ended. But whether he answers that question or not, rumors will continue to swirl that Tohd is preparing for a big move into politics.