Campaign Donations


Who Were the Big Winners and Losers in Frenzied Spending on State Initiatives?

By Lance Williams, California Watch

Molly Munger donated $44.1 million to pass Proposition 38, a measure to raise taxes for public education. The initiative failed.

Multimillionaire activists, big labor unions and major corporations combined to pump more than $363 million into political fights over 11 propositions on Tuesday’s state ballot, a California Watch analysis shows.

Prop. 38 backer Molly Munger. (neontommy/flickr)

Prop. 38 backer Molly Munger. (neontommy/flickr)

That’s about $20 in political spending for each of California’s 18.2 million registered voters.By law, state ballot initiatives are exempt from the tough donation limits that otherwise apply in California elections.

In contests over proposed tax increases, car insurance rates, criminal justice reforms and political spending by labor unions, donors with deep pockets took full advantage.

Forty-seven donors – individuals, companies and political committees – donated more than $1 million apiece on initiative campaigns, a review of campaign finance data provided by shows.

Seven donors each gave $11 million or more.

The unprecedented spending spree was a sign of just how far the 101-year-old California initiative process has strayed from its origins. In the beginning, initiatives were a Progressive-era reform devised to allow ordinary citizens to sidestep a legislative process controlled by monied special interests. Continue reading

Mystery $11 Million Campaign Donation May Lead to Formal Investigation

By Julie Small, Polly Stryker and Lisa Aliferis

(Jupiter Images)

(Jupiter Images)

Later today the agency that enforces California’s election laws is expected to decide whether to investigate a mysterious $11 million campaign donation from out of state. It’s unclear why the Arizona group — Americans for Responsible Leadership — contributed the whopping sum to weigh in on propositions in California. The money went to the Small Business Action Committee which is campaigning on two fronts: fighting to defeat the Gov. Brown backed Proposition 30 tax initiative that would fund education; and to pass Proposition 32 which would ban payroll deductions for political donations.

The potential investigation concerns whether the original, anonymous donors were making a donation to a general pool — or specifically to fund Prop. 30 or 32 campaigns.

Federal law permits anonymity for some types of donors in national races … But California law is different.

The Committee’s spokeswoman Beth Miller insists there’s “nothing untoward” about the donation. “We don’t know who contributed to Americans for Responsible Leadership,” Miller said. “What we do know is that they are a bonafide organization.”

But Gov. Brown doesn’t buy that. “It’s completely clear that the ‘No on 30’ committee has some knowledge of who these people are,” he said. “They didn’t just pick an envelope out of their mailbox with 11 million it.” Continue reading