The Shadowy Figures Trying to Permanently Steal our Elections

I am a nurse and I know how wealth is valued over the health of my patients with today’s recreation of an aristocracy born of speculation and no sense of community values.

The San Francisco Chronicle today disclosed that corporations outspend unions by at least 3-1 to dominate elections and public policy in California, according to a nonpartisan group called California Common Sense.

Since 2000, business interests alone have poured an obscene $1.7 billion into California campaigns to sway candidate and initiative campaigns. Imagine a world in which that money might have gone to our schools, or healthcare, or creating jobs, and you get a sense how wildly corrupted our political system has become, aided by disgraceful court rulings that big money equals free speech.

That substantial current advantage is apparently not enough for the giant corporations, billionaires, and clandestine super political action committees that are funneling tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to pass the deceptive and dishonest Proposition 32 which would effectively end the ability of unions to compete at all in the electoral arena.

California nurses urging a “No on 32” vote during Hayward picket Saturday.

And, while unions have also been forced to spend a lot of money to protect the rights of California workers to have a collective voice in Sacramento, it is the heavy spending campaign of those who already have such pervasive influence on our elections who believe no one should be allowed to stand in their way.

The high rollers have already unleashed at least $44 million into the campaign for Prop. 32 to further tile the playing field in elections in their favor.  

Here’s the prime sources of that tidal wave of cash:

  • Charles Munger, Jr., $23 million. Munger, a Stanford physicist who aspires to be the kingmaker of Republican politics in California, presumably derives most of his overflowing war chest from his father, Charles Munger, Sr., vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, and one of the richest men in the world. Insurance, including Geico, is a primary source of Berkshire’s activity, and thus the Munger wealth.  

  • Wall Street bankers, venture capitalists, and other speculators, $6.7 million.

  • American Future Fund, $4.08 million. AFF is a far right political action committee backed primarily by oil and energy interests is linked to the notorious Koch brothers.

  • Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership, $11 million.

Despite their profligate spending in trying to bludgeon voters with their ample wealth, none of these major donors has been willing to come out of the shadows to talk publicly to Californians about why they think only corporations, super PACS, and billionaires should have a voice in politics.

The most recent in this rogues gallery, Americans for Responsible Leadership, has been attracting some, for them, unwelcome notice in recent days with California reporters digging to uncover any information about why an Arizona group would spend $11 million to further stain California’s already corrupted political process.

Like the other clandestine super PACS, ARL hides its donors, prompting California Common Cause to ask the state Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate if ARL, and the so-called Small Business Action Committee PAC, the direct recipient of the cash, are violating state campaign disclosure laws. Common Cause lobbyist Phillip Ung:

Voters, the media and watchdog organizations are sick of seeing out-of-state donors drop lots of last-minute money… We think they should stay out of California's business.

Who exactly is this shadowy group. Two recent reports provide a few clues.

California Watch discloses that ARL is led by Robert Graham, who calls labor unions “the parasite that is killing our jobs.” Such anti-union rhetoric probably will help his campaign to become chairman of the Arizona GOP.

Graham also ran an unsuccessful campaign in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, as a relative unknown, notes California Watch. He has a company called Freak Show Racing. And he is the author of “Job Killers,” a book about “How Labor Unions are Destroying American Jobs and the Economy.”

Graham said in a video promoting the book:

Striking labor unions out of the business model is imperative to the economic success of today’s ever-changing marketplace, then, and only then, will we truly be able to free ourselves of the parasite that is killing our jobs.

Arizona political analyst Michael O'Neil told California Watch:

It sounds like they are a front organization, and the real question is where do they get their money from.

The Arizona media is just as perplexed, as noted in this column by Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts:

…who, you might ask, are the Americans for Responsible Leadership? I can't tell you. Americans for Responsible Leadership are also Americans Who Believe That You Don't Need To Know Who They Are, You Just Need To Vote How They Want. And so, they have thus far funneled $450,000 into the campaign to kill the “top two” primary initiative, according to documents on file with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. And an additional $500,000 into defeating Proposition 204, the sales-tax hike for education and roads.

The only other clue on hand is from an October 2011 video produced by ARL gushing over anti-union heart throb New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and pleading with him to run for President.

The presence of ARL in this election, along with the Koch brothers, and other well heeled national donors to Prop. 32,  illustrates the national stakes of the Prop. 32 campaign.  If they can win in California, they believe, the suppression of workers' rights, perhaps best illustrated in the Koch-funded attack on workers in Wisconsin, will get a major national boost.

It’s up to all of us to make sure they don’t succeed.

This article originally appeared on Daily Kos