Against: It silences the voices of working people
Every so often in California politics, a ballot measure comes along that is so deceptive that it takes one's breath away. Prop. 32 is such a measure, one that would have a disastrous impact on our democracy and on the issues about which Californians care most.
The initiative masquerades as an attempt at even-handed campaign-finance reform that would reduce the influence of powerful special interests in Sacramento. Few would argue that this is a laudable goal, but Prop. 32's special exemptions would increase the influence of business interests and wealthy individuals, while silencing teachers, nurses, firefighters and law-enforcement officers.
Prop. 32 promoters say that the measure treats corporations and unions equitably, but by prohibiting payroll deductions to collect political contributions, Prop. 32 would all but eliminate unions' voice. Unions rely on payroll deduction to raise funds for politics; corporations use profits.
Yet the initiative places no meaningful limitations on spending by wealthy business interests. The measure would prohibit direct donations to candidates and parties from corporate general funds, but this is not how most business interests exercise influence in Sacramento. It would not stop corporate Super PACs from contributing to candidates, nor does it limit corporate spending on ballot initiatives.
Business interests already hugely outspend unions in Sacramento. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the biggest corporate players in California politics over the past decade spent more than $700 million on candidates, initiatives and parties. Prop. 32 doesn't address that. Calling out "restrictions" on corporate spending is a ruse; in practice, Prop. 32 would have no effect on spending by wealthy business interests.
Unions also are very active in California politics, spending $284 million in the past decade. Under Prop. 32, virtually all of that money would disappear overnight. But unlike corporations, unions do not lobby for special tax breaks or for weaker labor or environmental regulations. Instead, Prop. 32 drastically would limit the ability of unions to advocate for issues affecting their members and all Californians, such as clean air and water, education funding, homeowner rights and banking regulations, emergency response times and unfair corporate tax giveaways.
Finally, Prop. 32 places no restrictions on political spending by wealthy individuals. Over the past decade, the top 50 wealthy political contributors spent more than $231 million on California elections. Two of the top three billionaire spenders in California are major contributors to the Prop. 32 campaign.
Prop. 32 won't get the corrosive effects of money out of politics. Its special exemptions would only enhance the ability of billionaires and big businesses to dominate our elections. That hurts Californians.
Prop. 32 in brief
Restricts political fundraising by prohibiting payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Prohibits unions or corporations from contributing to candidates and candidate-controlled committees.