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Prop 32: Campaign Finance Reform, Or Union Buster?

Danny Lee |
September 25, 2012 | 1:53 p.m. PDT

Senior Staff Reporter

Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy
Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy
Proposition 32 would ban unions and employers from subtracting money from employee's paychecks to pay for political contributions, such as donations to campaigns. The change would apply to contributions made to state and local candidates, ballot measure committees and independent expenditures.

What Supporters Are Saying

Prop 32 proponents say the measure is needed so employees won't have money deducted from their paychecks for political purposes without their permission. It would also weaken the power that both corporate and union special interests have in deciding an election through their contributions to politicians, they say.

Supporters raise concerns about politicians serving the special interests that helped put them in office. They say the growing power of special interests is to blame for the state's current budget deficit, citing the large pensions given to "bad teachers we can't fire" as an example of this influence, according to the Voter Guide.

From the North County Times:

"Since union dues are also collected by the employers -- withheld from an employee's paycheck and given to the union -- the idea that the unions can use those dues for political advocacy without a member's formal consent seems to us unfair in the extreme.

Proposition 32 corrects that imbalance while doing nothing to stifle unions' political voices -- despite claims to the contrary.

Prop. 32 simply institutes an opt-in system for each employee's political donations."

What Opponents Are Saying

Those against Prop 32 --mainly unions -- say the measure is not as balanced as it claims to be. They argue that employers rarely rely on payroll deductions for political cash, so Prop 32 would have a greater limiting effect on unions who need this source to draw campaign contributions. A vote in favor of Prop 32 would have an adverse impact on teachers, firefighers, police officers and nurses.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"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."

Who's Pouring Money Into The Prop?

So far, opponents of the measure have outraised supporters by a wide margin, having received nine donations of at least $1 million. Here is a list of who is making the largest contributions.

Supporters of Prop 32

American Future Fund

Thomas M. Siebel, First Virtual Group chairman

A. Jerrold Perenchio, Chartwell Partners LLC

Opponents of Prop 32

California Teachers Association/Issues PAC

California State Council of Service Employees Issues Committee

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO

California Professional Firefighters Ballot Issues Committee

Service Employees International Union Local 1000 Issues PAC

Click here for full Proposition coverage or see the complete California Voter Information guide here.

Reach Senior Staff Reporter Danny Lee here; follow him on Twitter here.



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