District Council 57

Wealthy Donors Behind Ballot Measures No Match for AFSCME Power

Money talks, but AFSCME walks! And the power of our members at phone banks and walking neighborhoods to speak with union families about this election is the secret to our success November 8. Still, a look at political donors to statewide ballot initiatives is revealing.

Consider Prop. 54 (AFSCME Council 57 opposes), which is bankrolled to the tune of $10.6 million by a single individual, Charles Munger, Jr., the son of a billionaire who funds initiatives that further his own conservative political agenda. Prop. 54 would prohibit the legislature from passing any bill unless it’s been published online for at least 72 hours prior to the vote, supposedly so “special interests” have less power to influence legislators. It is really intended to thwart bi-partisan efforts to negotiate during legislative sessions, which is crucial to the legislative process. The California Chamber of Commerce and its members, which include big tobacco, oil and drug companies, are the main supporters of Prop. 54. This Sac Bee op-ed by Steven Maviglio explains why Prop 54 is a special interest ploy.

After much discussion, AFSCME Council 57 took a position to support Prop. 61, which would limit the price California pays for prescription drugs to no more than the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs (VA) pays for them. Within just the last two weeks, twenty-seven pharmaceutical companies pumped $22 million to fight Prop. 61. The New York Times reports that the Drug Industry has spent $109 million to kill Prop. 61 over the course of this election. The latest surge of spending follows polling that suggests the measure is ahead among likely voters.

AFSCME Council 57 supports Yes on Prop. 59, which is one of four initiatives that face no financial opposition according to MapLight, a group committed to reporting money’s influence on politics. Prop. 59 is an advisory measure that would encourage California lawmakers to use their authority to help overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the case known as Citizens United. This decision allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, as long as they did so independently of organized campaigns. This has resulted in the rise of nasty and controversial campaign pieces directed at candidates, with no traceable origin of the hit pieces. Supporters of Prop. 59 have raised a little more than $440,000—a far sight less than Munger’s $10 million individual contribution to Prop. 54.

AFSCME Council 57 members have been volunteering by the hundreds across our communities to have voter conversations about state propositions as well as local candidates and measures. These one-on-one interactions provide valuable information about the issues and candidates that mailers and ads don’t. These efforts also help build unity between our members and other families around California, something which corporate interests will never truly have.

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