Leaders and activists representing good government advocates and labor organizations today officially lauched their fight against a campaign finance reform measure on the November ballot, depicting it as unfair and fatally flawed.
The measure, Proposition 32, eliminates payroll-deducted monies from use for political purposes by unions and corporations. It also bans campaign contributions by either interest group, although both could continue spending unlimited sums on independent expenditure efforts.
Union representatives at a downtown Sacramento press conference said the measure would devastate organized labor, however, because unions depend on payroll deductions for their political funding. Corporations play in politics with money donated by company executives and from corporate treasuries.
The measure's backers have said that Prop. 32 is an even-handed reform that would limit influence over California politics by both labor and business.
"If Proposition 32 passes, it will silence our voice," said Emily Lo, a member of Davis Professional Firefighters Association Local 3494.
Trudy Shafer of the League of Women Voters and Derek Cressman of Common Cause both blasted the measure as misleading. Cressman said that the initiative wouldn't affect businesses that aren't structured as corporations, such as limited liability companies, and does nothing to keep executives from writing big checks to politicians.
Jake Suski, spokesman for the union-backed Yes on 32 campaign, said that the measure doesn't restrict workers' free speech at all and is written to mirror federal campaign contribution law.
"Proposition 32 does nothing to silence workers," Suski said during a telephone interview this afternoon. "It goes as far as the law allows."
The measure doesn't prevent workers from contributing by any other means than payroll deductions, but even then only with their expressed and annually-renewed permission. If the set-it-and-forget-it revenue stream is dammed, it will be much harder for unions to raise funds because many workers who contribute now won't opt in annually.
Suski said the measure "gives (workers) ownership of their own money,"
As to whether the measure would cover donations of non-corporate entities, Suski noted that the federal government considers some LLCs to be corporations, depending on their tax status. (Click here for the 2011 Federal Election Commission's Campaign Guide. Scroll down to page 28, "Contributions from Limited Liability Companies.")
If voters OK Prop. 32, Suski said, "it really is going to be up to the state" to define what businesses come under the measure's provisions.