California’s initiative process adds up to a huge waste of money – latimes.com
One can learn a lot by examining where the initiative campaign money comes from.
Looking at contributions of more than $1-million among the top contributors on each initiative (thanks to Maplight.org for crunching the data from the California secretary of state’s office), we find that about $80.5 million came directly from corporations. Most of that was spent by Monsanto, DuPont, PepsiCo and other food mega-marketers to defeat Proposition 37, which mandates the labeling of foods prepared with genetically modified ingredients (some foods, not all, which is a major problem with the measure).
An additional $128.3 million came from wealthy individuals whose money generally can be traced to corporate or investment sources. The big spenders here are Charles Munger Jr., who contributed $35 million to enact Proposition 32 and defeat Brown’s Proposition 30, which raises income taxes on the wealthy and sales taxes on everyone. Munger is the son of Warren Buffett’s investment partner. His half-sister, Molly Munger, has spent $44 million to enact Proposition 38, an alternative tax increase competing with Brown’s plan.
There’s the mysterious $11 million dropped on the No on 30/Yes on 32 campaign by an outfit called Americans for Responsible Leadership, which is claiming in court that as a nonprofit devoted to “social welfare” it shouldn’t have to tell California voters who its donors are. The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission disputes that, and a state judge agreed. But late Friday the state Supreme Court signaled that it will accept briefs in the case over the weekend, so it’s remotely possible that we’ll get some names before election day.
Then there’s organized labor, which accounts for about $80 million of these major contributions. The vast bulk of that money — $53.6 million — has gone to defeat Proposition 32, an unbelievably dishonest attempt to drive working men and women out of the political process by eliminating their unions’ ability to spend money in politics, while leaving the political influence of corporations and their wealthy beneficiaries intact.
That points us to the principle that initiative spending often begets more initiative spending: None of that money would have to be donated if not for the $60 million in influence on the other side devoted to stripping unions of their political voice.
An additional $16 million has gone to promotional ads for Mercury Insurance — sorry, did I say Mercury Insurance? Of course I meant Proposition 33, which is touted as a rate-cutting measure for car owners, but is really just a device cooked up by Mercury to enable it to poach customers from other insurers. The money comes from Mercury Chairman George Joseph, the creator of this measure.