Once again, Californians are being asked to diminish unions' power by restricting their ability to raise campaign money. Once more, initiative promoters are trying to mislead voters by claiming to offer campaign finance reform. But just as they did in 1998 and 2005, voters should reject the deception by voting down Proposition 32, a transparent power grab that purports to "stop special interest money."
Prop. 32 would ban unions and corporations from using automatic paycheck deductions to raise money for political purposes. That might sound reasonable, except that it's loaded. Unions rely on payroll deductions, not corporations. Unions would be restricted from raising money from their 2.5 million members, but corporations and rich individuals could continue spreading money around the Capitol and city halls.
Prop. 32 has bright and shiny provisions designed to lure unwary voters. It claims to ban union and corporate donations directly to candidates. In fact, it might limit some corporate campaign money, but only on the margins. Corporations, like unions, increasingly dump their millions into supposedly independent campaigns to support and oppose candidates.
Prop. 32 would do nothing to curb independent expenditures. Nor would it increase transparency of campaign money. It offers no additional tools to help the Fair Political Practices Commission investigate corruption. It makes no attempt to deal with ballot measure spending.
The full implications of Prop. 32 are not known. The measure would ban donations to candidates from government contractors. The definition extends to public employee unions because they have contracts with the state.