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There's a lot of big money behind California's Proposition 32, which should tell you right away how much to believe its backers' claims that the ballot initiative is about getting money out of politics. Most recently, Charles Munger, Jr., the son of the vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, this week gave $9.9 million to a committee aimed at simultaneously supporting Prop. 32 and defeating Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure; Munger has now given a total of $20 million to those two fights. Meanwhile, good-government groups like the League of Women Voters are lining up against Prop. 32 along with the unions it explicitly targets.

Prop. 32 eliminates a key union fundraising tool. Then it restricts direct contributions to candidates by unions and some kinds of corporations. That's meant to look like "getting special interest money out of politics," in the hope that you won't notice that corporate big money could still put unlimited amounts of money into outside spending and Super PACs, while unions would have lost the ability to compete financially (to the small extent they currently do). California Republicans are hoping that if this passes, they'd finally be able to start winning statewide elections.

Munger is not the only super-rich guy supporting Prop. 32. According to Frying Pan News, the go-to source for reporting on who's behind this initiative, other major donors include major supporters of Prop. 8 and of education privatization via vouchers.

For instance, Larry T. Smith, "a prominent proponent of 'gay-to-straight' conversion therapy for minors ... personally donated $50,000 to help support Prop. 8 and funneled even more money to the campaign through his political action group, the Family Action PAC." Fellow Prop. 32 donor Howard Ahmanson gave $1.4 million to Prop. 8, as well as giving "millions to both creationist and school-voucher causes." Also on the school vouchers front, Timothy C. Draper has given $100,000 to support Prop. 32:

In 2000 Draper was the brains and the piggybank behind Proposition 38—arguably the most extreme school voucher effort in recent American history. The measure would have drained California public school coffers to give students up to $4,000 in taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for private schools. The bill included no means testing, so that children of privilege who were already attending California’s prep schools would be given an unneeded subsidy for their elite education.
Likewise, "Former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio gave $1,040,000 to back Prop. 38 and to date has donated $250,000 to Prop. 32." He's also a big donor to Karl Rove's American Crossroads.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

The Yes on 32 campaign is working with the Dolphin Group, the Republican consulting outfit behind the Willie Horton ad:

According to the most recent filing statements published on the California Secretary of State’s website, Dolphin has received nearly $25,000 in consulting fees and expense reimbursements from the Yes on 32 effort. Dolphin Senior Vice President Elizabeth Hansell is personally involved in the Yes on 32 effort, taking part in at least one pro-Prop. 32 community forum in Kern County, and is referred to in campaign literature as Stop the Special Interest Money’s “Coalitions Director.”
The Dolphin Group has spent the years since the Willie Horton ad carrying out astroturf-style campaigns to, for instance, gut anti-smoking laws on behalf of the tobacco industry, kill living wage proposals, and prevent environmental regulation—exactly the kinds of campaigns that would gain ground if you left corporate money in California politics while drastically weakening the grassroots power of unions. Here's an example: In 2010, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman outspent once and future Gov. Jerry Brown by nearly five times, thanks to her immense personal wealth. Brown, though, had a lot of help from unions, which are especially good at mobilizing voters on the ground. Jerry Brown has been far from perfect. But:
Except for her stated adamant opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy, Meg Whitman was largely short on policy specifics during her campaign. In 2009, however, she told the San Diego Union-Tribune that her first act as governor would be to suspend AB 32 — California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, citing its financial impact on California industry. [...]

The global sweep of AB 32 has made it a top target for multinational oil and petrochemical interests. In 2010, Big Oil banded together to launch Proposition 23—a California ballot initiative to nullify AB 32. Among the donors to the pro-Prop. 23 effort were the billionaire Koch brothers—whose Koch Industries subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, gave $1 million to overturn the law. Their efforts failed by nearly 25 percentage points at the polls. [...]

If Prop. 32 were to pass, repealing AB 32 would likely be at the top of the Koch brothers’ — and the rest of the oil/petrochemical industry’s — to-do list.

Passage of Prop. 32 could set off a domino effect, toppling not just good candidates but important bills, clearing the way for the passage of more and more terrible ballot initiatives as big business outspends working people and progressive voices by more than the already huge margin. Happily, a recent poll shows Prop. 32 trailing by eight points. But with opposition still well below 50 percent, this is going to be a fight to the finish.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 05:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Dream Menders and Daily Kos.

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