Political Money Monitor #9: February 13, 1998

Contents* Poll Shows Initiative Retains Commanding Support
* Teachers Union Commits Big Money to Defeat Initiative
* Federal Funds Used Against Initiative
* Contribution Caps Make Running for Office Pursuit of the Wealthy
* Teachers Union Attempts to Buy School Board Elections

Poll Shows Initiative Retains Commanding SupportA Field Poll of registered California voters in late January/early February found an overwhelming 71% support for Proposition 226. With results almost identical to a Field Poll conducted last December, support for the ballot initiative continues to be both bipartisan and strong among labor union members.

Explaining the popularity of Proposition 226, pollster Mervyn Field said, “A lot of voters don’t buy into the idea of putting money into a pot in which the rank and file don’t get a say.” Pointing out organized labor’s strong ties and penchant for giving to Democratic candidates and causes, Field added that union members “want their dues spent on things that will help them in organizing, wages and benefits. . . [They] aren’t necessarily sure that supporting Democratic causes are the way.”

Teachers Union Commits Big Money to Defeat Initiative
By a unanimous vote, the California Teachers Association (CTA) State Council recently voted in early February to spend $3 million of the union’s $11 million “Initiative Fund” on efforts to defeat Proposition 226. This is in addition to the $500,000 that has been transferred to the CTA by the National Education Association for the same purpose.

According to the California-based Education Intelligence Agency’s newsletter Communiqué, “A grant this size so early in the campaign can only mean the unions will spend a record amount, if necessary, to defeat the measure.”

The CTA State Council may allocate additional money to fund the anti-Proposition 226 campaign when they meet again in March.

Federal Funds Used Against InitiativeNational Labor Relations Board (NLRB) President William B. Gould IV, the head of the government agency charged with interpreting and enforcing federal labor law, publicly announced his opposition to Proposition 226.

During a February 4 speech in Sacramento, Gould declared, “As a Californian voting by mail. . . I shall cast my ballot against [Proposition 226] because I think that it is designed to deny unions and working families a voice in our society.” A press release announcing Mr. Gould’s opposition to Proposition 226 was prepared by the NLRB staff and distributed over the privately-operated PR Newswire service.

Mark Bucher, the co-chairman of the campaign to pass Proposition 226, sent a memo to congressional supporters to ask them to question Mr. Gould about his high-profile opposition against the Initiative and the “use of government resources to wage a political battle against payroll protection.” He added, “For a federal government employee to use his official position and taxpayer dollars to actively campaign against a proposed ballot measure is an outrage that Mr. Gould should be required to justify.”


Campaign Finance Factoids

Contribution Caps Make Running for Office Pursuit of the WealthyProposition 208, passed in 1996, set campaign contribution limits in California so low it was recently declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. Since Proposition 208 did not limit the use of personal wealth, it has led to an unprecedented number of wealthy candidates running for statewide office this year. According to Republican political consultant Steve Merksamer, “A lot of very good candidates have decided to opt out of the process because they can’t compete financially.” California Democratic Party advisor Bob Mulholland adds, “It appears the demand for campaign finance reform is actually pushing the political process to more wealthier candidates.”

Teachers Union Attempts to Buy School Board ElectionsIf you don’t like your elected officials, just buy new ones. Unhappy with the progress of contract negotiations with the trustees of the San Diego Community College District, American Federation of Teachers Guild Local 1931 put an ad in local publications seeking to recruit candidates to replace them. According to Guild President Jim Mahler, “It’s going to be hard for us to support incumbent board members when we’re still at an impasse. So we’re looking for new board members.” Since the union is often the heaviest campaign contributors in such races, Chancellor Augustine P. Gallego warns, “When you have faculty unions selecting candidates who will run for office, and the unions are the largest contributors to campaigns, you may eventually create a governing body that is more responsive to faculty union interests than the interests of students in the communities we serve.” Three of five board members are up for re-election this year, and the union reports receiving ” a couple dozen calls” on the ads.


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