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Election 2012: Proposition 32

Aired 10/9/12 on KPBS News.

It’s time for the next story in our series on California’s 11 November ballot measures. Today, it’s perhaps the loudest fight on the airwaves: Proposition 32, which deals with union and corporate campaign contributions.

Prop 32 would ban direct campaign contributions from unions and corporations, and ban automatic paycheck deductions for political purposes. But rarely do two competing sides disagree so sharply about a measure's impact. Supporters said it would level California's political playing field by clamping down on special interest money. John Kabateck with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business advocacy group, commented "let's give the average voter - the taxpayer, the small business owner - a voice. Stop the money in, favors out, pay-to-play way that things have been."

All good in theory, said Philip Ung with the public interest group Common Cause - if Prop 32 were real campaign finance reform. But, he said, it's not.

"We think it's a group of partisans trying to use campaign finance reform to go after an opposition group or a group that they simply don't like," said Ung.

Specifically: California's powerful public employee unions, who collect their dues using the same automatic paycheck deductions banned by Prop 32. And Steve Smith with the California Labor Federation said the measure is riddled with loopholes for everyone else, commenting that "what this would do is really tilt the balance of power even further toward those corporate special interests while shutting down the ability of working people to engage in politics."

But former Democratic State Senator Gloria Romero, who's clashed with unions over education policy, said Prop 32 is consistent, fair and democratic.

"It gives the power to the individual union member to decide for themself how they want to spend their political dues," said Romero.

Both campaigns have raised tens of millions of dollars and are slamming each other with TV ads - unions on one side, wealthy donors and Super PACs on the other.

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Avatar for user 'Tanstaafl'

Tanstaafl | October 9, 2012 at 10:19 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

I think the fund raising is 5 to 1 union money over taxpayer money. The last expenditure figures I saw were Unions and allies $45,000,000, versus taxpayers and allies $9,000,000.

Sooooo, as often happens, the unions use the involuntary withholding to disadvantage the taxpayers.

Prop 32 is about leveling the playing field and stopping corporate and union involuntary collections, AND limiting contractor contributions to decision-makers.

Prop 32 a step to reduce political corruption. Yes, there are more steps to take, but doing nothing (voting NO) leaves the bought/rented politicians issue un-addressed.

Who is not nauseated by the charade of politicians pretending to seriously negotiate with people who helped put them in office? Let us start to free our representatives from their indentured status.

/s/ Tanstaafl

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Avatar for user 'Juvenal451'

Juvenal451 | October 10, 2012 at 1:12 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Several points: 1) Unions are spending a lot of money opposing prop 32 because it bears the same relationship to curtailing their political participation as spending money on chemotherapy bears to cancer: spending money to fight cancer does not establish that cancer must be RIGHT in some way. 2) There are NO INVOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS to union political coffers: membership, which encompasses the union's political efforts, is voluntary; and, for members, the making of political contributions is voluntary--this is according to the US Supreme Court in the Hudson and Beck cases. 3) Prop 32 is not a fair measure; it is a political attack on unions.

Imagine Prop 32's opposite: non-profit corporations such as unions and environmental groups, many of which bump noses with corporate interests from time to time, advance a "Dividend Protection Initiative." The idea is that ALL corporations, both non-profit and for profit, are prohibited from making political contributions from monies that could otherwise be paid as dividends. The exception is that, if a dividend is paid, an individual shareholder may authorize all or part of his or her dividend to be used by the corporation for political purposes. Such authorization would required to be in writing, and would have effect for no more than a year.

Never mind that non-profits do not have profits or pay dividends; never mind that none of this would apply to independent expenditure committees, or SuperPacs.

I am a union member, and I hold mutual funds in my IRA, just like many people. I would oppose such a hypothetical "Dividend Protection Initiative" just as strongly as I oppose Prop 32.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | October 10, 2012 at 3:48 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

I'll be voting against prop 32. This would exclude super pacs, and big organizations.

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Avatar for user 'Tick'

Tick | October 15, 2012 at 11:42 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

First, only unions collect dues through payroll deductions NOT corporations. There is a system with in every union that governs the tiny percent of the dues that go to politics and every member has the right to opt out. However, The language in Prop. 32 continues to state that even if money is collected through voluntary practices the union cannot use the money for any political purpose or communicate with their members regarding politics. Second the language of prop. 32 states it will stop pay to play. It only stops it during the bidding process, than corporations can go back to giving moneys. It doesn’t stop Corporate Super PAC’s, Wal-Mart, which is not a corporation, Anti union Billionaire CEOs, or 501 4c non profits that don’t even have to report to the FPPC who gave them money. Even the Chamber of Commerce can give unlimited amounts of money to their special interests. Let’s talk Chamber of Commerce, their attorneys and members attend every MSHA, OSHA or CAL OSHA hearing I have every attended fighting to stop or repeal health and safety laws that protect workers. Yeah, that’s the folks I want to decide my working conditions and pay.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | October 15, 2012 at 2:48 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

If only there were a way to make the money less important to begin with I'm sure those who control its expenditure would retarget it to somewhere more productive.

Perhaps we as an electorate could simply ignore the emotionally amped 30 second advertising spots that attempt to influence us on complex issues and actually read the proposals.

Perhaps we could tax the campaigns (If politics is a career, then a campaign is a business and it probably could stand to pay)

Perhaps we could tax donations, heck it's obvious the money is 'extra' anyway if it is being given to a politician or political committee.

I hope by the time I become a CA resident this process gets sorted out, right now it looks as clean and well organized as two muddy kindergarteners squabbling over smooshed cupcake.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | October 15, 2012 at 3:09 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Prop 32 will go down as one of the most importation propositions of this decade.
A landmark in turning the tide against special interest money and giving a bigger voice to the people.

Prop 32 will:

1. Ban both corporate and labor union contributions to candidates

2. Prohibit government contractors from contributing money to government officials

3. Prohibit corporations and labor unions from collecting political funds from employees using the inherently coercive means of payroll deduction

4. Make all employee political contributions by any other means strictly voluntary.

There are no exemptions. Read the proposition for yourself:

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 15, 2012 at 5:20 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

If this went after all special interests and did something to undo some of the damage done by the shameful SCOTUS Citizens United decision, I would be all for it.

But it's not.

It's a cherry-picked partisan ploy to strip away union power.

Anything that ignores the superPACS won't get my vote!!

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | October 16, 2012 at 10:46 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Prop 32 is not about "stopping special interests" in fact it's exactly the opposite,this measure written and backed by anti-worker "special interest" billionaires and CEO's, would be the unraveling of democracy by allowing the buying of our democracy by the wealthy elite,It Exempts Dark Money SuperPacs like Karl Rove's and corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity,WallSt,Big Oil,anti-environment,anti-worker
etc.It would be a disaster for California
"..a fraud to end all frauds"-LA Times

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | October 16, 2012 at 11:11 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

PDSD & Willard, unions are also special interest groups. What do you propose as a better way to limit funding influence on political decisions without limiting free speech?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | October 16, 2012 at 12:45 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree Benz. They give no suggestions while ignoring the fact that everybody, including Democrats from Filner to Obama, use Super PACs. Even unions like SEIU have their own Super PACs.

The sad fact is the Supreme Court ruled Super PACs are protected free speech, one of their worst decisions in 223 years. All we can do now is cut off as many of their tentacles as possible. Prop 32 does exactly that.

This isn't unions vs. corporations or liberals vs. conservatives.

This is special interests vs. Californians. All of us.

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | October 16, 2012 at 4:01 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Proposition 32 was written by the Lincoln Club of Orange County.
In mid-September, the Iowa-based American Future Fund dumped over $4
million into the campaign to pass Prop 32. The fund is associated with
the Koch brothers, the big-oil billionaires who were behind the anti-union drive in Wisconsin last year.

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | October 16, 2012 at 4:03 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Even among PACs - the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions
- business has a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage. In soft money,
"SuperPacs"which are exempted under 32,the ratio is nearly 17-to-1.

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | October 16, 2012 at 4:09 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Unions represent 10s of thousands of workers,helping keep even many non-union jobs at a livable standard, prop 32 represents a very few of the wealthiest elite who would be content if most workers made minimum wage or less

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | October 16, 2012 at 5:31 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Willard, stop with the misinformation.

Super PACs are not exempt from Prop 32. Due to the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, it would be unconstitutional to include them. There is no choice.

By voting NO on Prop 32, we will allow corporations, unions, and government contractors to continue buying candidates and influencing elections.

By voting YES on Prop 32, we will stop that corruption.

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Avatar for user 'Debra'

Debra | October 16, 2012 at 9:01 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

I voted against Prop 32, because in my opinion, this country CANNOT afford any more companies paying only minimum wages, part-time hours without paid healthcare, which results in the workers relying on public assistance, even though they are employed. As a taxpayer, I feel my taxes are being used to subsidize the profits of said companies AND I believe that more pressure needs to be put upon them to pay and treat their workers fairly. The only way of accomplishing that is through organization and unity.
I may not agree with everything that Unions do, but the prospect of doing away with all of them is very dismal.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | October 17, 2012 at 9:54 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Debra, if the work being done is only worth minimum wage (or less) how will those people who are currently employed at that pay scale fare when their job is eliminated as being unprofitable?

I'm not sure what program you are referring to, but it seems like most subsidies go to the workers who aren't productive enough rather than to the employers who buy their productivity. Can you please clarify by naming the program that pays employers of minimum wage earners?

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