“Whatever It Takes,” Says Munger on Campaign

Molly Munger addresses reporters.

Molly Munger, author of a proposed tax increase earmarked for K-12 schools. (Photo: Nicole Nguyen/KQED)

Attorney and education activist Molly Munger says she will spend as much of her personal fortune as needed to run a statewide campaign for her tax initiative to help K-12 schools.

“We are totally committed to spending whatever it takes to let the people of California know they have this opportunity this year,” said Munger in an extended interview in Sacramento on Friday.

Munger later said when pressed that this could, in fact, mean her fully bankrolling a fall political campaign.

The interview was for a coming radio profile of the 63-year-old wealthy Pasadena attorney, a chat in which she talked about the roots of her passion for improving schools and why she thinks that her proposal — a 12-year proportional income tax increase on the vast majority of the state’s taxpayers — can win.

But for the political insider world, there’s likely to be some notice of Munger’s newly firm promise to keep the dollars flowing beyond just the qualification stage of an initiative campaign.

The “we” in her answers, Munger said, refer to the resolve of both her and her husband, Stephen English. “We have the resources and we’re going to spend them.”

Just what resources she’ll need to hand over is pretty hard to guess, given the increasing likelihood of multiple tax initiatives on the ballot and a very long list of other initiatives that will likely also have a spot in front of the voters. The last tax hike proposal was the failed 2009 effort by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders for a temporary tax extension to help balance the state budget. That was admittedly a very different campaign, and state records show the effort cost just shy of $16 million. Private musings by political experts seem to suggest that a 2012 tax initiative, one coming in the midst of a crowded general election campaign (2009 was a special election) could cost close to double that amount. And even then, it may not win.

In public comments last month, Munger said that the effort would not be relying only “on our own resources,” but that others would be relied on, too. But on Friday, she admitted that she may end up being asked to go it virtually alone when it comes to the millions needed to run the campaign ahead.

Asked why so many political insiders — from Governor Jerry Brown’s inner circle to others — thought she’d step aside and not qualify her initiative for the November ballot, Munger said she didn’t know.

“I do know,” she then added, “they don’t know me very well.”

Listen to the radio version of this story below: