California News

Prop. 32 opponents call it deceptive, point to loopholes

Monday, July 23, 2012

Good government groups are joining forces with powerful public employee unions to oppose Proposition 32, which aims to curtail big money influence at the state Capitol.

The alliance calls the November ballot measure deceptive and does little to stop unlimited spending by independent groups called super PACs.

"Proposition 32 is not at all what it seems," said Trudy Schafer of the League of Women Voters. "It promises political reform, but it's really designed by its special interests to help themselves and harm their opponents."

This is the third attempt by Orange County Republicans to go after the influence of labor groups, but this time they've broadened the restrictions to include corporate money.

Prop. 32 would ban both corporations and labor unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes and contributing to state and local candidates. It also prohibits government contractors from donating to officials who award contracts.

The newly formed alliance, though, points out a loophole that allows limited liability companies, or LLCs, and trusts to donate because they're technically not corporations.

However, Prop. 32 supporters say their measure will change the way business is done in Sacramento.

The independent California Fair Political Practices Commission found more than $1 billion have been spent by special interests to influence decisions over the last decade. The California Teachers Association was at the top, doling out $211 million. The pharmaceutical industry, utilities and gas companies are also listed in the top 15.

"Each of these reforms applies to unions. It applies to corporations and it makes no exceptions," said Jake Suski of Yes on Proposition 32.

Pressed further, though, Suski acknowledged that some LLCs might fall outside the definition of a corporation.

"Whether an LLC is or isn't a corporation is up to the courts to decide, but Prop. 32 defines it very clearly as any corporation under state or federal law," Suski said.

This could be an expensive fight. Labor unions have already spent more than $8 million to fight the measure. Business interests have raised half that so far.

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