The hired guns who orchestrated the defeat of several key ballot initiatives shared in the glory Wednesday as California's business community won major victories in Tuesday's elections.
The main winner was Woodward & McDowell, a political consulting firm in Burlingame that engineered the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 128, the "Big Green" initiative that sought to cleanse the environment of cancer-causing chemicals and pesticides.
"We've won a lot of big ones in the past, but this one may be the biggest," said Richard S. Woodward, who directed the "No on 128 campaign" that outspent the measure's supporters by a margin of about 2 to 1. Woodward's allies spent close to $12 million.
Another winner was Cavalier & Associates, a Sacramento firm headed by Charles L. Cavalier. The firm spearheaded the effort to defeat Proposition 130, the "Forests Forever" initiative.
The measure, which was narrowly defeated, was designed to ensure the safety of the state's remaining redwoods. Voters also rejected a timber industry-sponsored initiative, Proposition 138, which was designed to blunt the impact of Proposition 130.
Business and agricultural interests spent an estimated $57 million on Tuesday's initiatives.
Typically, as much as 15% of those expenses go to professionals--the hired guns who call the shots during the campaign. (Once they are done working on one set of initiatives, these firms prepare for new elections and go on to other political consulting jobs.)
The main battleground in Tuesday's election was Big Green, which had widespread support in the entertainment industry. One ad hoc industry group, the Entertainment Industry Support Coalition for the Environmental Protection Initiative, raised about $1 million to support Proposition 128.
Big Green was opposed by the state's chemical, oil, timber and agricultural interests. They argued the measure would harm California's business climate and would be costly and ineffective.
The proposition's opposition hired Woodward & McDowell to coordinate their effort. Eventually, the major newspapers in California, including the Los Angeles Times, editorialized against Big Green.
Woodward & McDowell is a seasoned campaign firm whose most recent efforts helped raise the state's gasoline taxes. Jack McDowell, one of the owners, is an ex-newspaperman who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting during World War II.
In an interview, Woodward said the effort to link liberal Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) to Proposition 128, labeling it the "Hayden Initiative," was highly effective and helped turn the public tide against the measure.
Polls showed the public overwhelmingly supported Big Green just a few months ago.
"I think by calling it the 'Hayden Initiative,' it caused a lot of people to look at this again," Woodward said.
Woodward & McDowell also linked up with Cavalier & Associates to defeat Proposition 130, another politically charged issue that was opposed by the state's timber industry. Those supporting Proposition 130 included Disney Co. President Frank Wells and wealthy investor Harold Arbit.
Charles Cavalier said an 11th-hour telephone campaign was a key to the narrow victory. The campaign reached about 75,000 undecided voters and "made a big, big difference," he said.
A self-described "government junkie," Cavalier is a former legislative staff member in Sacramento who has been running initiative campaigns for about 10 years. He stayed up all night monitoring the election returns, he said.
The liquor industry found itself fighting Proposition 134, the so-called nickel-a-drink tax, and promoting Proposition 126, a liquor-tax increase that the industry regarded as less onerous. Both measures were roundly defeated.
The liquor industry financed a group known as the Taxpayers for Common Sense and hired PBN Co. in Sacramento, a public relations firm, to help coordinate the opposition to Proposition 134.
"The liquor industry's full attention has been focused on this issue, I can assure you," said John Jervis, a PBN executive. "This (Proposition 134) was the biggest alcohol tax increase ever proposed by any state."
Grape growers and rice farmers, who supply the alcohol industry, also joined in the Proposition 134 opposition. About $18 million was spent to defeat Proposition 134 and another $4 million to promote Proposition 126.
Ome campaign management firm that lost--but did not appear to care much--was Dolphin Group, which worked to support Proposition 135. That measure, the agriculture industry's answer to Big Green, was promoted as ensuring safe pesticide use without harming the economy.
But when Big Green went down to defeat, Proposition 135 lost its import, said Lee H. Stitzenberg, chairman and chief executive of Dolphin Group of Westwood. "No one here is crying," he said.