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Top Democratic Legislators Lead the Money Race

Fund-raising: Among ballot issues, school voucher proposition is the most costly campaign.

October 07, 2000|DAN MORAIN and MIGUEL BUSTILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO — Democrats widened their lead over Republicans in the money race heading into the November elections, as Democrats leading the state Senate and Assembly raised almost $13 million, compared to Republican leaders' $2.8 million, according to campaign finance reports made available Friday.

In the most costly initiative contest, backers of Proposition 38, which would let parents use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, have raised $23 million this year, the reports show. Nearly all of it came from Silicon Valley venture capitalist Timothy Draper, who launched the initiative months ago.

Proposition 38's supporters have $4.3 million in the bank.

The anti-voucher campaign, financed largely by teacher unions and school employees, has collected $21.6 million. The California Teachers Assn. contributed almost $20 million of that. The anti-voucher forces have $5 million in the bank.

While both sides in the voucher fight are airing television ads statewide, another ballot initiative is beginning to stir interest, largely because of which industries are backing it.

The tobacco, alcohol, oil and agriculture industries are financing Proposition 37, a tax-limitation proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot. The initiative would reverse a state Supreme Court decision and make it harder for government to tax businesses to pay for damage their products cause.

Operating a low-profile campaign and calling themselves Californians Against Hidden Taxes, Proposition 37's backers had raised and spent $2.2 million as of Sept. 30.

The measure's top supporters include tobacco companies Philip Morris at $350,000 and R.J. Reynolds at $170,250, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. at $200,000, the California Wine Institute at $325,000, Anheuser-Busch at $100,000, and Chevron at $200,000.

The initiative would overturn a 1997 case in which the Supreme Court ruled against Sinclair Paint Co., which had contended that a state fee imposed on paint to identify sources of lead contamination and screen children for lead poisoning was unconstitutional.

The court disagreed, ruling that governments may impose fees on contaminating products to correct their adverse consequences on the health of Californians. Such fees can be imposed by a simple majority vote. If Proposition 37 passes, a two-thirds vote would be required.

"Oil does not want to pay to clean up MTBE in the water supply," said Lenny Goldberg, an opponent. "Tobacco does not want to pay for the cost of smoking, and alcohol objects to local permit fees on liquor stores that cause neighborhood disruption."

Opponents of the initiative reported raising $42,251 and spending $28,603. The foes include environmentalist, labor, public health and local government interests. The largest donor, a political action committee of the League of California Cities, gave $16,651.

In the fight for the Legislature, Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) reported having $5.7 million in cash at the end of the latest filing period. He has raised $6.7 million so far this year.

Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) had $2.3 million in cash at the end of the latest filing period, Sept. 30, and has raised almost $6 million this year.

By contrast, Assembly Republican Leader Scott Baugh of Huntington Beach had $800,000 in his campaign bank accounts, and has raised $1.3 million this year. Senate GOP leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga has raised $1.5 million, and has $226,000 in the bank.

Individual lawmakers have raised additional sums--in some instances more than $1 million. However, the main job of the leaders of the two houses is to raise money to ensure that their parties gain seats or at least hold their current seats in the November election.

Democrats hold 25 Senate seats to the Republicans' 15. Democrats hold 46 seats in the Assembly, compared to 32 for the Republicans.

In the Assembly, Hertzberg is out-raising Baugh in part by tapping into business, a traditional Republican source of campaign cash, while also drawing from Democratic allies such as organized labor and trial attorneys.

For example, the California Cable Television Assn. has given $52,000 to Hertzberg and $38,000 to Baugh. Hertzberg has raised $60,000 from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, operators of one of the state's largest casinos. The tribe, located in Palm Springs, has given $25,000 to Baugh.

The California Correctional Peace Officers' Assn., the union that represents prison guards, has given $66,000 to Hertzberg and $81,000 to Burton. The guards have given Baugh $30,000.

The California Republican Party is more flush than its legislative leaders, having benefited from fund-raisers put on by Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The Republican National Committee also has given the state party more than $2.5 million in recent weeks, Altogether, the state GOP has raised $6.4 million this year, compared to the state Democrats' $3.9 million.

With a month left in the campaign, however, the California Democratic Party has $2.2 million on hand, compared to the state GOP's $1.9 million.

*

Times staff writer Carl Ingram contributed to this story.

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