Capitol Alert

Money from Jerry Brown, others pours into anti-Prop. 53 effort

Gov. Jerry Brown, in his office at the State Capitol in June. Brown has given millions to the effort to defeat Proposition 53 on Nov. 8.
Gov. Jerry Brown, in his office at the State Capitol in June. Brown has given millions to the effort to defeat Proposition 53 on Nov. 8.

The campaign against Proposition 53 has sharply picked up its fundraising in recent days, with Gov. Jerry Brown putting millions of dollars into the effort to defeat the Nov. 8 measure that would require a vote on state revenue bonds and potentially cripple the Brown-championed Delta water tunnel and bullet train projects.

Through Tuesday, the no-on-53 effort had raised $5.6 million since Oct. 12, significantly more than campaigns for or against any of the other 17 measures on next month’s ballot during that time. The infusion gives the measure’s opponents – Brown, construction unions and Indian tribes – a clear financial advantage over proponents heading into the final weeks of campaigning.

The no-on-53 campaign already is airing TV ads against the measure. Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for opponents, said the additional money will allow Brown and other members of the anti-53 coalition to step up the advertising as voters cast ballots by mail.

“There are 17 measures on the ballot and it’s really difficult to break through all that noise,” Maviglio said. “The more voters find out about it the less they like it.”

Proposition 53 supporters have raised almost $4.8 million, all of it from Stockton-area agribusinessman Dean “Dino” Cortopassi and his wife, Joan. This month’s infusion brings opponents’ contribution total to $11.4 million.

“It sounds like the opposition is panicking because they know the proposition is resonating with Californians,” said Marie Brichetto, a spokeswoman for proponents.

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The constitutional amendment would require revenue bonds above $2 billion to be approved by voters. Cortopassi has said the measure would help put the brakes on out-of-control state debt, but critics say the proposal would put vital projects at risk.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, in its review of the measure, said most state revenue bond projects likely wouldn’t reach the $2 billion threshold triggering a public vote. Two that might: the project to build twin tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the high-speed rail system if they rely on revenue bonds.

Of the top no-on-53 donors in recent days, the campaign Monday reported receiving $2.4 million from Brown’s 2014 re-election committee. That is in addition to $1.7 million the committee gave the campaign earlier this month.

Brown’s spending to defeat Proposition 53 nearly equals how much the governor has invested in passing Proposition 57, the parole overhaul measure he sponsored that has received $4.14 million from Brown’s ballot measure committee.

Cortopassi, in a later statement through the yes-on-53 campaign, criticized Brown’s donations to defeat his measure.

“It’s unfortunate that Governor Brown, who campaigned on giving voters more say, is leading the effort to oppose (Proposition) 53, which would give voters a voice on the state’s largest megaprojects,” said Cortopassi, who helped raise money for Brown’s 2006 campaign for attorney general.

Other big-dollar donors to no-on-53 in recent days include two tribes with casinos, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Lytton Rancheria near Santa Rosa, Silicon Valley venture capitalist L. John Doerr, insurance giant Mercury General Corporation, and publisher Larry C. Flynt.

Through Tuesday, supporters and opponents of all measures on next month’s ballot had reported raising about $360 million since Jan. 1, 2015.