Propositional legislation is big business in California as evidenced by how much money pours into campaigns to either pass or stop a ballot measures at each election.
Initially devised as a way for the public to bypass an unresponsive legislature, putting propositions on the ballot is now used to grant special privileges to certain groups, assess additional taxes to assist an industry or class of individuals, or effect some type of political or social change with the taxpayer usually picking up the tab.
In the most recent election, more than $392 million dollars was poured into campaigns for and against different ballot measures according to information from the Fair Political Practices Commission. (For a listing of the propositions and contributions received for and against, see the accompanying sidebar.)
Three of those attracting the most money were Propositions 30, 32, and 37.
In the case of Proposition 30, the ballot measure proposed raising the sales tax as well as the tax on those earning over $250,000 a year. It brought in donations of at least $61.4 million.
Some of the largest contributions came from groups directly benefiting from the legislation including $11.7 million from the California Teachers Association; $5 million from the Democratic State Central Committee; $1.45 million from the American Federation of Teachers; $564,759 from the California School Employees Association; and $2.9 million from the California Federation of Teachers.
Donations against the measure totaled at least $51.7 million. Some of the larger donations came from Charles Munger Jr. who gave $25 million; $11.4 million from the Small Business Action Committee; $11 million from a group called Americans for Responsible Leadership; and a slew of donations came from individuals.
Another sizeable chunk of money went to Proposition 32 which would have prohibited unions, corporations, and government contractors from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. That ballot measure received donations of $48.7 million in favor of it. Donations against totaled more than $70.7 million.
Those donating against it included $6.79 million from the California State Council of Service Employees; $6.76 from the AFL-CIO; $5 million from the SEIU; $4.3 million from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees: $3.2 million from the Democratic State Central Committee; $3 million from the California Professional Firefighters; as well as other sizeable donations from other associations and unions representing public employees.
Those donating towards the proposition included $25 million from Charles Munger Jr.; $11 million from Americans for Responsible Leadership; $4 million from the American Future Fund; plus a long list of donations from individual contributors who often gave $100,000 or more.
The last of the big three was Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of products containing genetically modified food. It received donations of $8.3 million in favor of the proposition. Donations against totaled $45.7 million.
Those giving the most money towards passing the proposition included Dr. Brommer’s Magic Soap that gave a little over a half million, Mercola.com which gave $1.1 million, and Nature’s Path Foods which donated $660,709.
Those donating against the proposition included a list of the Who’s Who in the food world including: $2 million from BASF Plant Science; $2 million from Bayer CropScience; $1.5 million from Coca Cola; $1,177 million from ConAgra; $1.2 million from General Mills; $2 million from the Grocery Manufacturing Assn.; $8.1 million from Monsanto Co.; $1.3 million from Nestle USA; $2.1 million from PepsiCo. Inc; and $2 million from Syngenta Corp.
As the stakes get higher, Californians can expect to see even more money pour into the campaigns of future ballot measures as groups seek to influence public policy as well as access to the public purse.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.