Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Proposition 32: Union and Corporate Political Donations

Oct 9, 2012

Proposition 32 would ban direct campaign contributions from unions and corporations, and ban automatic paycheck deductions for political purposes. But rarely do two competing sides disagree so sharply about a measure’s impact.

Supporters say it would level California’s political playing field by clamping down on special interest money. John Kabateck is with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business advocacy group. 

“Let’s give the average voter – the taxpayer, the small business owner – a voice. Stop the money in, favors out, pay-to-play way that things have been," says Kabateck.

All good in theory, says Philip Ung with the public interest group Common Cause – if Prop 32 were real campaign finance reform. But, he says, it’s not.

“We think it’s a group of partisans trying to use campaign finance reform to go after an opposition group or a group that they simply don’t like," says Ung.

He's talking about California’s powerful public employee unions, who collect their dues using the same automatic paycheck deductions banned by Prop 32. And Steve Smith with the California Labor Federation says the measure is riddled with loopholes for everyone else.

“What this would do is really tilt the balance of power even further toward those corporate special interests while shutting down the ability of working people to engage in politics," says Smith.

But former Democratic State Senator Gloria Romero, who’s clashed with unions over education policy, says Prop 32 is consistent, fair and democratic.

“It gives the power to the individual union member to decide for [themselves] how they want to spend their political dues," says Romero.

Both campaigns have raised tens of millions of dollars and are slamming each other with TV ads – unions on one side … wealthy donors and Super PACs on the other.