The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 6, 2012
Firefighters group gives $1 million to fight campaign finance measure

Here comes the big money.

The union coalition fighting a Nov. 6 measure aimed at restricting unions from collecting campaign cash from their members has received a $1 million dollar donation, according to records filed with the state.

Meanwhile, the campaign backing the initiative, which would end using payroll-deducted monies for political purposes, has received a $500,000 contribution from the head of a Palo Alto holding company, state records show.

California Professional Firefighters Ballot Issues Committee made the million-dollar donation late last month to defeat the initiative, sending a seven-figure signal that labor interests have put the initiative squarely in their cross hairs.

Donations to fight the measure have reached about $8 million so far.

On the other side, Thomas M. Siebel, founder and chairman of First Virtual Group, gave $500,000 to the measure's "yes" campaign four months ahead of the election.

Monday's donation brings the funds raised to support the initiative to a little over $4 million.

Siebel has given to a variety of Republican campaigns over the years. In 2005, he donated $50,000 to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team, which was created to advance five ballot measures, including a "paycheck protection" initiative that would have prevented public employee unions from using union dues for political campaigning without members' affirmative consent.

After labor interests waged an all-out battle against the proposals, voters rejected all five in a special election, handing Schwarzenegger a stinging political defeat.

The initiative on this year's ballot would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, although both could still fund independent expenditure campaigns to support candidates.

The measure would hit labor interests harder, however, because it eliminates their primary method of raising political spending money -- payroll deductions. Corporations, by contrast, raise the bulk of their political funds from top executives and corporate treasuries.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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