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California ballot initiatives yield the best laws money can buy--literally.

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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-30-12 04:21 AM
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California ballot initiatives yield the best laws money can buy--literally.
California ballot measures draw free-spending billionaires

By Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO | Mon Oct 29, 2012 6:37pm EDT

(Reuters) - A handful of individual super-donors, business groups and unions have poured more than $350 million into California ballot initiatives ahead of the November 6 election, underscoring the extent to which the state's system of "direct democracy" has morphed into a big-money battleground.

Some of the spending is directly tied to the financial interests of the donors. Food and agriculture interests, for example, have spent $43 million so far to defeat a proposition that would require labeling of genetically modified foods, according to non-partisan researcher Maplight, which uses state data for its calculations.

In other cases, long-standing political divisions are at play: the most expensive single battle is over Proposition 32, which would ban payroll deductions for political activity and strikes at the core of labor unions' power. Unions have led a "no on 32" campaign that has raised $68.8 million.


Propositions were added to the California political mix in 1911 by reformist leaders who wanted voters to be able to stand up against special interests - mainly railroads, at that time.


Today though, many of the measures are sponsored by groups that could themselves be called special interests. Almost no proposition gets on the ballot without the use of professional signature gatherers, which can cost several million dollars. Many millions more are usually needed for ad campaigns to generate voter support for passage.


"The proposition system is working exactly the way it is supposed to, which is to give a direct democracy vote to the people of California in opposition to organized, rich interests, who are opposing them," said Steyer.


Indeed, ballot propositions have become a preferred means for legislating in a state where Democrats have enough political strength to crush conservative policies, but lack the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass tax hikes.

A tax measure by Governor Jerry Brown, Proposition 30, is a case in point: when he was unable to persuade any Republican legislators to support his plan, which would avoid further school funding cuts by increasing the sales taxes and raising income tax on those earning more than $250,000, he took his case to the voters.


Funding for the 11 ballot measures on the ballot topped $353 million last week, Maplight calculated, adjusting to avoid doublecounting contributions to committees active on more than one issue.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said that one of the rules of thumb of propositions is that it is easier to buy failure. Overall, only a third of ballot measures pass.
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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-30-12 03:17 PM
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1. It sucks! nt
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