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Ad Watch: Competing claims on Proposition 32

Published: Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

The advertising war between Proposition 32's supporters and opponents symbolizes the big-money politicking that each side denounces.

Organized labor has poured more than $60 million into defeating the measure, which prohibits unions and corporations from giving directly to candidates, bans them from using payroll-deducted money for political activities and forbids contractors from giving money to politicians who decide on their contracts.

Wealthy individual donors have given the bulk of the money supporting Proposition 32. Of the $4.2 million given to the Yes on 32 committee, $3.9 million came from individual donors, including Charles Munger Jr., Jerry Perenchio and Thomas Siebel.

An independent committee that supports Proposition 32 and opposes Proposition 30, the Small Business Action Committee, has taken $35 million from Munger. It also took an $11 million donation from an Arizona nonprofit for which no donors have been disclosed. The maneuver leaves the source and motivations of the committee's second-largest financial backer unknown.

Here are some of the most common arguments in television, radio and print ads for and against Proposition 32, with analysis by Jon Ortiz of The Bee Capitol Bureau.

YES ON 32

CLAIM: Employers and unions can "rob" paychecks through payroll deductions and spend the money on politics "without your permission."

RATING: Outright lie.

California law allows workers to opt out of giving to unions' political causes in exchange for giving up their full membership rights, such as voting on contracts. Relatively few opt out.

CLAIM: Proposition 32 "stops campaign spending by special interests" and "cuts the political power of unions and corporations and gives it back to voters."

RATING: Somewhat misleading.

The measure doesn't put new limits on contributions from individuals or non-corporate business interests. Both groups could still contribute to independent political committees. Labor suffers far more under Proposition 32 because it eliminates their sole political fundraising vehicle - payroll deductions. Corporations get their funds from executive contributions and company resources. That imbalance would tilt political power toward business interests, since their traditional union rivals would be weakened.

CLAIM: Proposition 32 goes "as far as the law allows" to curb special-interest money.

RATING: True.

The courts have held that political contributions the measure doesn't address are constitutionally protected free speech.

NO ON 32

CLAIM: Proposition 32 exempts "oil companies, Wall Street and secret campaign super PACs."

RATING: Somewhat misleading.

Some of the state's most active corporate donors would come under the measure's provisions, such as Chevron and AT&T.

CLAIM: Proposition 32 is funded by the same special interests that it claims to politically weaken.

RATING: Somewhat misleading.

For the most part it is wealthy individuals, not corporations, who have contributed to pro-32 efforts. Those donations wouldn't be affected by the measure.

CLAIM: Proposition 32 will lead to a "proliferation of secret campaign super PACs."

RATING: Somewhat misleading.

While the measure will probably channel more money to independent expenditure committees, California's political donor disclosure laws will still apply. The measure's defeat wouldn't hinder the kind of murky out-of-state money accepted by the Small Business Action Committee.

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