I’m just old enough to remember the days when a politician with a billionaire friend and backer wouldn’t brag about the relationship. When said politician might downplay it. Or avoid mentioning the billionaire. And if pressed, the politician would certainly explain that he or she would never dare shape their public policy work to fit the preferences of the billionaires.

Those days are long gone.

Today, politicians highlight their closeness to billionaires. In California, we have the spectacle of the top legislator in the California State Senate, Kevin de Leon making a spectacle of his relationship with a billionaire, Tom Steyer.

The relationship dates back to a 2012 ballot measure campaign. And there has been a deluge of stories over the last year, most recently a CalMatters piece that popped up in papers around the state. De Leon and Steyer seem to be selling their friendship’s public policy potential; together they are going to battle climate change and bring a new energy system to the state.

“We share the same goals together,” De Leon is quoted by CalMatters. “And we continue to be supportive of each other because this is an issue we care deeply about.”

The stories pooh-pooh the notion of undue influence. This is partnership and collaboration.

I’ll say this: at least there’s no pretense anymore that billionaires can buy policy, and that such policy is for sale. This is the era of campaigns sustained by independent expenditures and SuperPACs.

If you’re not joined at the hip to a billionaire, you can’t be a power.

I’m tempted here to express phony astonishment that the public has tuned out politics, and mostly stopped voting, given this state of the affairs. But let me instead offer genuine astonishment that civic groups in California still are trying to get more people to vote and engage.

What’s the point? All the big politicians are just going to do what their billionaire buddies want them to.

That’s not a cynical view. That is merely what the politicians are telling us. Directly. And in their own words.