With six big ballot measures and some of the state's most prolific campaign fundraisers involved, you'd think it would take a lot of bandwith to monitor the political cash being amassed for the May 19 special election.
But you'd be wrong, as it's largely playing out along expected lines: one side has money... and the other side, it seems, doesn't.
Still, the acceleration of campaign fundraising by the main backers of the budget ballot package is worth noting. Led by Governor Schwarzenegger and a strange bedfellows coalition of big business and educators, the main campaign committee now reports donations of almost $3.7 million over the last six weeks.
Tops on the donor list is former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio, a longtime Schwarzenegger campaign donor, who dropped $1.5 million into the campaign late last month. But more recent big players are also worth noting. Last Friday, official campaign finance reports showed a $500,000 check written by Chevron and a little more than $250,000 from political switch-hitter Reed Hastings. Hastings, the founder of online video rental giant Netflix, is a former member of the state Board of Education and has a track record of contributions to both the GOP governor's causes and to a bevy of California Democrats.
The big contribution most noted in political circles was last week's $350,000 check from the California Teachers Association. As the predominant power in state politics, the CTA is never shy about putting up money for the causes it believes in. Of course, the last time the governor was talking about budget reform... in 2005... it was the CTA's money that largely was responsible for the campaign that kicked him in the teeth.
But this is a different battle, especially because the CTA is a big supporter of Proposition 1B, the $9 billion supplemental funding measure for public schools. However, Prop 1B only takes effect if Proposition 1A, the spending cap/rainy day fund, also passes.
The teachers will no doubt focus much of their attention on 1B; in fact, they've already ponied up more than $2.8 million in a committee set up for that measure alone. But they can't ignore 1A, and have also contributed almost $400,000 to the Schwarzenegger alliance effort.
Meantime, there's pretty much zippo reported so far in the way of money in opposition to any of the six budget-related ballot measures. Tops in cash seems to be the campaign opposing Proposition 1E, the temporary transfer of mental health money to the state's general budget needs. That campaign reports a little more than $120,000 on hand.
The opponents to Prop 1A, which include well-known groups like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, have yet to report any significant cash contributed towards their fight. That's only further feueled the popular parlor game of political insiders -- namely, that one of the two mega-rich GOP gubernatorial contenders, Steve Poizner or Meg Whitman, might drop some cash into a "no" effort -- thus making a big splash in the news and showing some independence from Schwarzenegger for the conservative base of the GOP.
So far, it hasn't happened. Of course, it's worth noting that the leaders of the opposition effort believe they could run a targeted campaign of radio ads and mailers that could have a huge influence in what might be a low-turnout election.
But for now, the folks with the biggest megaphone are those aligned with the governor.