Prop. 32 Campaign Having Trouble with the Facts

Just looked up chutzpah in the dictionary. The definition says “see the Proposition 32 campaign in California” (well it does in my dictionary anyway).  Presumably the dictionary is referring to the latest Yes on 32 ad deceptively titled “Dishonest.” No, it was not a confession, but it should have been.

Prop. 32 is the November ballot measure pushed by the rightwing cabal that was behind two previous losing California initiatives to eliminate the influence of unions and working people in state politics.

At least in those two previous efforts, Prop. 226 in 1998, and Prop. 75, one of disgraced former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election measures in 2005, the proponents were forthright in their anti-union aims.

This year, recognizing voters had no interest in a full frontal attack on workers and their unions, and cynically seeking to exploit growing public disgust with the corruption of our political process by special interest money that mostly comes from big corporations and the very wealthy, the Prop. 226 and Prop. 75 hucksters have sought to conceal their real goal.

Prop. 32 pretends to block political spending by both corporations and unions. But their shameless deception has been exposed by the opponents of the initiative, principally nurses and other union members who understand the consequence of giving corporations a free pass to further dominate public policy in a state where they already outspend unions by some 15-1 in politics.

But also by most of the media in California. Newspapers opposing Prop. 32 include the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, Ventura County Star, La Opinion, Contra Costa Times/Oakland Tribune, Merced Sun Star, Santa Cruz Sentinel, and Woodland Daily Democrat, among others.

The Mercury News editorial explains the prime chicanery:

It is a deceptive sham that would magnify the influence of wealthy interests while shutting out many middle-class voters. Here's how the scam works: It does ban corporations as well as unions from using paycheck deductions for political purposes, but corporations don't do that. Their political donations come straight from the treasury or executives. By contrast, paycheck deductions are the primary method California's 2.5 million union members use to fund political spending.

As the Ventura Star put it most succinctly:

“Fraud” and “sham” are strong words, but they come to mind when talking about this initiative.

Case in point, the latest video ad, presumably care of the $20 million billionaire Charles Munger Jr. and the $4 million the Koch brothers-aligned America Future Fund handed to the Yes on 32 crowd.

The ad calls opponents of Prop. 32 “dishonest” for the temerity of noting the loopholes and exemptions in Prop. 32 for Wall Street bankers, hedge fund managers, insurance executives, and billionaire-funded Super Pacs, and repeats the deceitful claim that Prop. 32 will “stop special interests from buying votes.”

Then, as if it has not unveiled enough whoppers, the ad calls on voters to “join reform groups in supporting Prop. 32.”

Who are the reform groups it lists?

  • “Citizens for California Reform,” a secretive political action committee which hides its donors, but which has been linked to state Republican interests.

  • “Small Business Action Committee,” which is more linked to big corporations, rightwing interests, and was aligned with GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman in 2010, as noted by the California Labor Federation.

  • “National Federation of Independent Business,” which, a Huffington Post article has noted:

lobbies on issues that favor large corporate interests rather than small-business interests; its thoroughly partisan agenda; and the millions it receives in secret contributions from groups associated with Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers.”

  • “California Taxpayer Protection Committee,” another secretive committee, but whose blood lines can be seen in a mailer in the November 2010 California election opposing Prop. 24 which would have closed some corporate tax loopholes, and Prop. 25 which allows the state legislature to pass budgets by majority vote rather than the restrictive two-third requirement favored by rightwing anti-tax groups, like…

  • “Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association,” the people who brought us Prop. 13 which is the leading cause of inadequate state funding for education and other local needs.

The real advocates of campaign finance reform, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and Public Citizen, to name three, all oppose Prop. 32 , as in this ad by the League.

As the San Francisco Chronicle aptly noted in its No on 32 editorial:

The most telling way to assess the motive and the effect of this initiative is to follow the money. The bulk of the financial backing for Prop. 32 has come from conservative ideologues who have made no secret of their desire to tamp down the clout of labor unions.

Thus the real story of Prop. 32, as the Los Angeles Times editorial agreed:

Those who have seen its list of backers will not be surprised to learn that it would have a devastating effect on labor unions' political fundraising efforts and only a trivial impact on corporate spending.

A list of Prop. 32 backers who have financed a massive and growing war chest stoked by billionaires like Munger,  ex-Oracle CEO Thomas Siebel who has held fundraisers for Mitt Romney, and William Oberndorf, a major GOP funder and advocate of for-profit schools; Wall Street investors, big developers, and the far right, like the America Future Fund and Howard Ahmanson, a major backer of the notorious anti-gay initiative Prop. 8.

Keep these folks in mind the next time you see an ad from the Prop. 32 charlatans.

This article originially appeared on Daily Kos.