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Prop 32: Pro, Con And Where The Money Is Coming From

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Prop 32: Pro, Con And Where The Money Is Coming From
John Ortiz is a reporter and columnist and blogger for the Sacramento Bee Chris Cate is vice president of the San Diego Taxpayers association...which supports Prop 32. Jim Groth, a Chula Vista teacher and member of the Board of Directors of the California Teachers Association which says No on 32.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, the 2012 coverage continues which would become the hotly contested ballot measure proposition 32 called the paycheck protection initiative which would prohibit unions from using automatic payroll deductions for political purposes. Although language in the measure includes several restrictions on corporations both sides seem to agree prop 32 is directed toward restricting the political influence of unions in California. We have advocates for both sides of prop 32 with us today but first a few questions about the amount of money being spent on proposition 32 and where the money is coming from. I'd like to welcome John Ortiz. He's a reporter, columnist and blogger for the Sacramento Bee and John, welcome to the program. JOHN ORTIZ: Thanks for having me. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I saw an initial estimate that is way back last summer that as much as $50 million might be spent fighting over prop 32. We are way over that now, aren't we? JOHN ORTIZ: We passed the $100 million mark. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Where is the no on prop 32 money coming from? JOHN ORTIZ: Well, it is almost entirely from organized labor. About $66 million. I counted it up this morning. Raised from the teachers unions, public employee union such as SCRU MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it draining resources from the other union causes yes on prop 30? JOHN ORTIZ: It sure is in fact I had lunch with somebody involved with one of the unions have a high level one last week and he said the governor's office calls us they are asking for money on dirty and we can't do it because we are spending our money on 32. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Opponents of prop 32 the no on 32 campaign says this is the proposition brainchild of the conservative co-brothers. Are they big funders for yes on 32? JOHN ORTIZ: It appears they do have some ties. It's not clear to the extent their money is involved. There's a $4 million contribution that came in a few weeks ago. Through an Iowa source. That appeared to have ties with them. Another $11 million PAC donation from Arizona was given to a committee here. We really don't know the source of that money but really the largest donor is Charles Munger Junior who's given in excess of $20 million of his own money to try to make this thing go through. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So Charles Munger Junior, people might recognize the name Munger, Molly Munger is part of the same family and she's the woman behind proposition 38, the proposition that is in contrast, competing with some might say proposition 30 on the California ballot. So a lot of money in this race from among her family. What is the warchest in the yes on 32 campaign? JOHN ORTIZ: As of this morning trying to add this up can be a little bit confusing sometimes but it looks like they are right at about $50 million. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So John how much money do you think ultimately might be spent on the campaign JOHN ORTIZ: I could see 120, 130 million. It depends I think, the yes campaign, and no side are having to make a last-minute calculation because much of this money can go either to fight or support 32 or fight or support 30 and as we enter the final days before the election is a critical time for them to decide whether they're going to go after the governors tax initiative or whether they are going to try to make 30 to move ahead. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you very much, John. JOHN ORTIZ: Sure thing. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: John Ortiz is reporter blogger for the Sacramento Bee. Here in studio are my guests. Chris Cate is vice president of the San Diego taxpayers Association which supports proposition 32 and Chris, welcome to the show. CHRIS CATE: Good afternoon. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Jim Groth is a Chula Vista teacher and member of the Board of Directors of the California teachers Association which says no on 32 and Jim, welcome to the show JIM GROTH: Thank you very much for having me. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Chris, why is the taxpayers Association involved in support of prop 32? CHRIS CATE: It's pretty simple and the measure to go back to three very simple things that prevents corporations and unions from making contributions to candidates or candidate controlled communities. It prevents Gov. government contractors are making contributions to candidates and candidate controlled committees if they have a contract with state or local governments and other thing it does prevent unions and corporations from making automatic payroll deductions from employees wages and using the money for political purposes and in your opening you mentioned that corporations don't do this and that's actually not true. There are corporations and there was a report done by roll call a couple years ago that said that over 100,000 workers have wages deducted from that go to their corporate political coffers for contributions. AT&T, PG&E Chevron, these are all major corporations that use payroll deductions and then turn around and give to elected officials. That is the problem we are seeing in Sacramento where we have elected officials in Sacramento. Better at the behest of both unions and corporations in terms of voting on certain pieces of legislation carrying certain pieces of legislation, gotten amend bills all those things we here at the last minute when a budget bill is putting together or at the end of the session when we have hundreds of bills that have to be voted on this is where their influence is exerted enough of your single Sacramento has a problem and these constant budget gaps every single year we are having to go with MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To be clear, and to be fair, most corporations give political donations from their profits CHRIS CATE: Talking point (inaudible) MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Isn't it illegal in some ways--- CHRIS CATE: (inaudible) MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If it is in the affirmative, If each and every employee says it's okay CHRIS CATE: Yes all right (inaudible) MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jim you are against proposition 32. JIM GROTH: Very interesting, his comments about payroll deduction and corporate America. Because corporate America uses profits as you have mentioned, they outspend unions 15 to 1 in the political arena. And again, very simply, they just have to go to their profit base. This is really an attack on the middle class. It is an attack trying to silence the middle class. It is putting corporate interests first. The special interests that they talk about actually are corporate America and as Mr. Ortiz has talked about, who is unclear but also money that's coming in, I think that is very very clear in the last 10 days, the $11 million that came through Arizona and the $4 million that came from Iowa. The supporters of the people who put this together our corporate America and it will help them and it will silence the role of the middle class and union members across this great state of California. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Chris, we got caught up on one aspect of this. I want to give you a chance to tell me, answer the question originally, how would you change, how do you say prop 32 would change politics in Sacramento to benefit taxpayers? CHRIS CATE: We will see the last minute deals that we always see in Sacramento where you have a union or corporate cause that is of the utmost importance to them and they have a key vote and they need to buy off the boat and we see it with AT&T, we see with the inside as well to whether it is CTA or whomever else that has a built that would object to reform or obstruct reform in Sacramento. What is obvious is that the status quo is not working in Sacramento. We see constant budget deficits every year and see tax increases because of that. We see unions and corporations trying to object obstruct reform on a budget or government reform side the other side is not Africa types of reforms that we did in Sacramento and this is a perfect balance cycle where we can actually implement some real reforms whether it be prop 32 or prop 31 there are reforms on the bow and using the same sites opposing 32 are also opposing the other reforms on the ballot. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you Chris the measure is called the paper paycheck protection act whose paycheck is it supposed to be protecting? CHRIS CATE: For the employees. What we want to see and we are seeing with every other individual gifts to a political cause that that should be in the affirmative. That that should be a hockey proposition for an employee or anybody from the public who has to, wants to give to a clinical cause him should be no reason why unions or corporations should be in the same boat as every other individual in the private sector who has to give to a campaign where they actually have to write a check or give a debit card or a credit card for the clinical cause. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Jim, did union members as the creators of this initiative to protect their paychecks from automatic deductions? JIM GROTH: It's interesting, his answer because union members have a choice they have a choice whether to belong to a union or not, they don't have to belong to a union and if they do belong to the union they have an opt, where they can opt out of their political contributions. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is quite something that they have to go through in order to do that, though, is that true, Jim? JIM GROTH: What they have to do with the CTA you fill out one form, and that takes care of it. So you do have the option to opt out of the political contributions. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I guess my question really is, did union members are they the ones who initiated this particular proposition to protect their paychecks? JIM GROTH: No, this proposition is coming from millionaires and billionaires who have exempted themselves from proposition 32 so that they can write the rules in Sacramento and they can't make up the rules. They can't continue with what they are interested in. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Chris? CHRIS CATE: I would like to say to that individuals can choose whether or not to be in a union I disagree with you that is absolutely patently false. Union members do not have the option of being in the union or not. One thing he raised his in terms of this exceptions issue we are seeing all over the TV and mailers and radio ads that there are exceptions. There are actually no exceptions of this bill. Actually the Sacramento bee get a fat check on this stating and prop 32 does go as far as the federal constitutional law allows in terms of what is a corporation. Now we talk about silencing the middle class and silencing people who want to have a say in the political process from my standpoint it sounds like the supporters of this actually want to silence individuals who want to be part of the political process because they want to go further than what Constitution allows and First Amendment rights. Unfortunately we live in the country where individuals to have First Amendment rights and we cannot take that away from people and if they want to do that by all means they can but proposition 32 which is literally two pages long anybody can do it, use the definition of corporation as it stands today under federal law. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right, and tell us about, explain the no on 30 to stand on the fact that it does have all these exemptions for what you say is hedge funds and super PAC and Wall Street investors we see that in your literature, where do you find that these exceptions exist? JIM GROTH: Well, within the law, within two pages of the material what we are really talking about is a continuation of the super PAC because with proposition 32, this will not have any impact on super PAC and where to corporations come from? Or where do super PAC come from? They come primarily from corporate America. And once again my accepting the hedge funds, oil insurance companies, they still will have a free ride. They can put together their super PAC, they can go out and continue to attempt to silence the middle class across the state of California. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Jim, you know, unions are not necessarily the most popular organizations. When you sort of talk to people. Some people have some strong feelings against them. Why should voters care about whether voters, unions have access to money to spend on political campaigns? JIM GROTH: You know it's very very important for instance in the education area when you look at class-size reduction, that was very very important. Class-size reduction is going away. The budget fights for higher education, for regular education, for instance, CTA, who is CTA? It is the teachers who are in the classroom every day that know very well, they have a structure within the governance of CTA where they elect a leadership and the support or change the leadership. And we are the ones and also nurses that work very hard in creating, helping to create rules, patient loads etc. in hospitals and for public workers. The public worker is out there working on and protecting the infrastructure of the state of California. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Know Chris, recent polling shows, and I think John Ortiz's last question, lest answer to is kind of reflected that he said unions are going to have to decide whether to give more money to prop 32 or property, recent polling shows the prop 32 seems to be losing support. If it does lose, what does that indicate to you? CHRIS CATE: That will continue down the status quo and one question the opponents mentioned is that what all these hedge funds and super PACs unfortunately we live in a world where citizens United does exist and we have to abide by federal law. Whether this goes to defeat that's still going to be there you will still have individuals with super packs on both sides who can give to candidates or candidate controlled committees. We cannot go beyond that but what we can do is control the state level. We can control whether or not unions or corporations could give directly to candidates and have the special interest influence in Sacramento with legislators and continue the status quo and that is what we are trying to bring forward is actually some hard reforms to try to change the system in Sacramento how it exists today. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And my last question has to be for you, Jim because we are out of the question is some people say okay prop 32 isn't perfect and may be displayed on the side of trying to rein in union money a little bit but you know, we've got to start somewhere, what does the no on 32 campaign say to that? JIM GROTH: I think all across this country across California people are looking at reform but they are looking at true, fair reform, not reforms such as citizens United which came from the Lincoln club of orange County which is also the group that is behind proposition 32. I think what Californians want and across the country Democrats, Republicans independents is everyone to sit down together and say let's sit down, let's find common solutions and let's move California forward. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Jim growth of the California teachers Association, Chris Kate VP of the San Diego taxpayers Association thank you both very much. CHRIS CATE: Thank you very much JIM GROTH: Thank you.

Proposition 32 has become the most hotly contested state ballot measure this election season.

The so-called “Paycheck Protection Initiative” would prohibit unions from using automatic payroll deductions for political purposes. Although language in the measure includes similar restrictions on corporations, some say Prop 32 is meant to restrict the political influence of unions in California.

But Chris Cate, vice president of the Prop 32-supporting San Diego Taxpayers Association, told KPBS the measure also prohibits payroll deductions by corporations or government contractors.


He said a report by Roll Call from 2010 shows more than 100,000 workers have some of their wages deducted to support their corporation’s political contributions. However, that number includes workers nationwide, not just in California.

It is legal to deduct from employees’ paychecks to support political contributions, as long as every employee gives their approval, Cate said.

He pointed out the measure also prohibits government contractor contributions to elected officials.

However, the “No” side points out business Super PACs and “thousands of big businesses” are exempted from the measure’s provisions.

Jim Groth, a Chula Vista teacher and member of the board of directors of the Prop 32-opposing California Teachers Association, told KPBS corporations outspend unions 15-to-1 in political contributions.


“This is really an attack on the middle class, it’s an attack trying to silence to middle class,” Groth said. “It is putting corporate interests first.”

But Cate said if passed, Prop 32 would prevent the “last minute deals we always see in Sacramento,” where, he said, unions buy key votes.

“It’s obvious the status quo is not working in Sacramento,” he said. “The other side is not offering the types of reforms we need in Sacramento.”

Groth said union members can choose whether to belong to a union, and if they do belong, they can still opt out of political contributions.

“What they have to do is fill out within CTA (California Teachers Association), you fill out one form, one card, and that takes care of it,” he said.

He said despite the proposition’s “paycheck protection” name, it was not initiated by unions to protect their paychecks.

“This proposition is coming from millionaires and billionaires who have exempted themselves from this Proposition 32 so they can write the rules in Sacramento and they can continue with what they’re interested in,” he said.

Cate said it’s “patently false” that union members can choose whether to be in a union. He also said there are “no exemptions” in this bill.

He said the Sacramento Bee has said the measure goes as far as is constitutionally allowed to limit union and corporate contributions.

Groth said unions are important to issues like class size reduction, education budgets and patient loads for nurses.

More than $100 million has been spent on the measure—$68.8 from the “No on 32” campaign donations, mostly from unions, and $59.4 million from the “Yes on 32” campaign.

John Ortiz, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, told KPBS some of that “Yes” money may be connected to Tea Party funders David and Charles Koch. The largest "Yes" donor, Charles Munger, Jr., is the brother of Molly Munger, who is behind Proposition 38.

The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows 53 percent of California voters oppose Prop 32, while 39 percent support it.

Corrected: September 21, 2022 at 11:33 AM PDT
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.