Jon Coupal

Prop 32 and California’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the Political World”

Proposition 32 is the most important political reform measure to be placed before California voters in decades. If passed, it would surpass Governor Scott Walker’s successful ballot measure in Wisconsin last year. Moreover, it would be the “shot heard ‘round the political world” as it would fundamentally change the way special interests are required to operate in the realm of California politics.

Today, we live under a corrupt system of government in California. Public employee pensions and benefits are wreaking fiscal havoc on the Golden State and have already begun to bankrupt a growing number of municipalities.

Nevertheless, our elected officials continue to fund those lavish unsustainable benefits because the special interests line their pockets with political contributions. Watchdog groups such as Maplight.org reveal that 79% of donors to California state legislators now live outside of the district, thus representing the special interest over the constituents’ interests. According to the San Jose Mercury News, approximately 40 of legislative bills in 2010 were written by lobbyists and outside interests – and those bills were twice as likely to become law.

That would change under Proposition 32, which prohibits government contractors from making contributions to the very elected officials who approve their contracts. It bars corporations, unions, and government employers from collecting political contributions through involuntary payroll deduction. And it requires employers simply “ask first” before taking an employee’s hard-earned money and spending it on political contributions on the employee’s behalf, on issues they don’t support.

Opponents of the measure falsely claim that Prop 32 would give special exemptions for corporations and businesses, allowing them to give money directly to candidates on the state and local level. Not true.

That myth comes courtesy of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a far-left operative who has made a career of granting overly generous ballot titles and summaries to her left-leaning friends. Case in point: Proposition 30’s false and misleading ballot summary, which claims new tax revenue will go to schools; it won’t. Independent media and the California School Boards Association confirm the money goes into a general slush fund that politicians can spend at will.

In fact, Proposition 32 is equally hard on corporations. My organization, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation, knows all too well that corporations wield undue influence by giving money to elected officials and ballot propositions. These corporations are often among the top-15 campaign contributors in California.

The truth is that while Proposition 32 levels the playing field, it does not prohibit individuals, or groups of individuals (organized as corporations or unions), from engaging in political activities such as running ads in support or opposition to Propositions or candidates.  But that’s no exemption; it’s called the First Amendment.

The question is: why do the special interests hate Proposition 32 so much?

One labor union alone collected nearly $200 million in dues in 2009 (an average year, by all accounts) to spend on influencing elections in California – that’s more than $1,000 per year out of teachers’ paychecks each year. Prop 32 would curb that require unions to raise money the old-fashioned way: by asking for it. In a post-Prop 32 world, union bosses would have to persuade their members to give voluntarily for political causes – a principle that supports the rights of individual workers to participate in the political process as they choose.

Special interests are afraid – very afraid – of Prop. 32. If you don’t believe me, just follow the money. Labor unions – the biggest special interest in California – have spent nearly $70 million on this ballot measure to propagate lies and to protect the monopoly on power they already have in Sacramento and are growing in local jurisdictions throughout the Golden State.

Proposition 32 reduces the power of unions and corporations who put their interests first, and it levels the playing field and curbs special interests in California.

Jon Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

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