Prop 33

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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 MapLight.org 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

Consumer Group Fighting Insurance Rates Draws Fire

By Will Evans, The Bay Citizen

A consumer group that has reaped millions of dollars in fees from insurance companies thanks to a state initiative it wrote is facing a new wave of criticism from Democratic and Republican political consultants and lawmakers.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Consumer Watchdog leaders deliver signatures for health insurance measure in May. (Consmer Watchdog campaign/Flickr)

Critics note that the advocacy group, Consumer Watchdog, profits from the special insurance regulation process it not only created, but dominates. The consultants argue that the group is trying once again to use a ballot initiative to generate more revenue.

“It’s one of the all-time great scams,” said Republican consultant Rob Stutzman, who is working with an opposition research firm but wouldn’t say who is paying for the effort.

Other consumer advocates defend the system and the group.

“Insurance companies do not like effective advocates,” said Mark Savage, senior attorney for Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports.

Scrutiny of Consumer Watchdog has intensified as it battles Proposition 33, an industry-backed measure on car insurance, and pushes its own proposition for the 2014 ballot, which would create similar regulation of health insurance rates that could earn the group even more money. Continue reading

Prop. 33 Asks Voters to Reconsider How Auto Insurance Discounts Work

By Erik Anderson, KPBS

Prop. 33 backers say many drivers would be eligible for discounts; opponents are skeptical. (Photo: Magie Mbroh)

Prop. 33 backers say many drivers would be eligible for discounts; opponents are skeptical. (Photo: Magie Mbroh)

California voters are getting a chance to tweak the state’s car insurance rules when they consider the fate of Proposition 33. The November ballot item asks voters to change the way car insurance rates are calculated in California. The measure proposes tweaking current rules to allow companies to consider a driver’s insurance history when setting how much they will pay.

It is not a new idea. In fact, Proposition 33 is similar to Proposition 17, a measure voters rejected just two years ago. Under Prop. 33 people who have had car insurance continuously for five years can get a discount. People who have an interruption in coverage would face much higher car insurance fees. In an effort to separate itself from the failed Proposition 17, Prop. 33 adds some exceptions that include the military, workers who have lost their jobs and children living with their parents.

It is a message the “Yes on 33” camp is putting on television spots hitting the airwaves on stations around California, according to Rachel Hooper, a consultant for the campaign. One ad features several drivers including a young woman who calls it a great idea for all drivers. Another person in the ad says Prop. 33 rewards drivers for maintaining car insurance. Continue reading