As the role of money in politics continues to increase, one proposition facing California voters aims to limit contributions from certain groups. Yet opponents say that special exemptions in the law leave the political process open to outside influence.
Proposition 32 would stop unions and corporations from using payroll money for political purposes and prevent them from making direct contributions to candidates and their committees.
“This is an excellent move for California,” Kris Hunt, executive director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, said. “Unions always talk about special interest groups, but they are also special interests. Unions can still collect money if this bill is passed but employees will get a say, otherwise they would be forced.”
Contra Costa Taxpayers Association is one of many groups in support of the measure. Hispanic 100, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing free enterprise principles, is also in support of Prop. 32.
“The main aspect of the bill we endorse is the worker’s right to choose. This law will allow people to choose whether or not they want to fund political campaigns each year. We think individuals, employees have a better idea of where to vote,” Theresa Hernandez, a board member of Hispanic 100, said.
Unions would be able to fund through super political action committees, which would be exempt despite the passage of the bill.
“My brother is in a union and he asked that they stop taking a part of his dues for political contributions. They told him they would take away his two weeks of leave/vacation if he opted in for that,” she said.
While corporations and unions are limited in the campaign contributions, Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts toward political ads as long as a political party or candidate is not directly linked.
It is currently legal for corporations and unions to spend from their general treasuries in order to finance political communication.
Other individuals and nonpartisan groups believe that Prop. 32 would weaken union power and fails to address key campaign finance issues.
“In reality it only affects one group,” John Logan, associate professor and director of labor studies, said. “Corporations don’t raise money through payroll deductions, unions do.”
Opponents of the bill argue that unions don’t contribute money from their own treasuries directly to candidates anyway.
“Ninety-five percent of corporate money spent in politics does not go in direct contribution to candidates, it goes into independent expenditures and it goes on ballot initiatives,” Logan said.
Prop. 32 also lacks the depth to touch on the real issues of campaign finance, according to Chris Carson, campaign finance program director for the League of Women Voters. The measure does not go far enough to address the real issues of campaign finance.
“This is the third time this proposal has been put on the ballot and this time around they’re calling it reform. Not everything that’s labeled reform is reform,” Carson said.
Loopholes in the bill that would exempt wealthy individuals “is just a bunch of smoke and mirrors,” according to Hernandez, who stated that either way both sides would be able to fund whatever they want through Super PACs.
“If you really want to understand the proposition, just look at the people who are supporting it,” Paul Murre, California College Democrats president and senior political science major at SF State, said.
The California Republican Party and billionaire businessman Charles T. Munger, Jr., who donated almost $36 million to support the measure, are just two in support of the Yes on 32 campaign.
The contemporary landscape of campaign finance has allowed groups indirectly affiliated with candidates or political parties to fund anonymously. Because of this, the ban Prop. 32 would place on funding from unions or corporations is a dubious one, according to Logan.
“The impact of Prop. 32 would be to eliminate one side only, the unions,” Logan said. “And to have the Super PACs, billionaires and wealthy business interests to be completely unaffected.”