“People don’t realize how much power resides in the state legislature in California,” says David Crane, Governor Schwarzenegger’s former Jobs and Economic Advisor. “It has enormous power and each of these state legislators has enormous power.” But Crane doesn’t think the current crop of legislators is using their power to fix the state’s dysfunctional government.

So Crane, a Democrat, and fellow big-time investors Ronald Conway, a Republican, and Gregory Penner, registered Decline-to-State, have set up an organization, Govern for California, to help finance candidates that they think will take the steps needed to confront California’s problems.

Crane insists that the plan is not to elect moderate or centrist candidates but rather “courageous” candidates. Depending how one defines those terms, some may find that is a distinction without a difference.

Crane explains the candidate his group is looking for. “Our number one priority is higher quality people who are intelligent, who are numerate. There is very little understanding of budgetary math. Being a state legislator is all about budgets. We want people who understand that stuff. Then we want people who exhibit courage. Because being a successful state legislator who does things for the general interest and not for personal interest often times means standing up against powerful special interests.”

One goal of the organization is to inform voters that often legislators tell voters one thing but vote differently. Crane cited Democratic legislators who, while publicly vowing support for jobs, colleges, environmental protections and parks, vote to cut those services while spending millions more on labor contracts for prison guards. He criticized Republican legislators who publicly voice support for jobs but did not support a bill to raise revenue by changing the tax laws that would burden out of state business while creating jobs in California.

The state doesn’t need structural changes to improve governance, Crane insists, as much as legislators who have the courage to do their jobs.

He and his partners expect to find such candidates by examining those candidates who announce for office. Once they choose their candidates, Crane says “Govern for California” will go all out to support them.

“We’ll spend what it takes. These elections don’t cost as much as the power they get. The bang for the buck is really great. It’s like if you find a good company you like, you’ll buy more of the stock.”

Crane says his group’s successful involvement in only a few races will make a great difference in the way California is governed.