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Murky money makes Proposition 32 go-round

November 05, 2012|By Carla Hall
  • Multitasking on the campaign trail: A man hands out signs at a rally in support of Proposition 30 and against Proposition 32 on the campus of Los Angeles City College. A mysterious nonprofit poured $11 million into the campaigns against 30 and for 32.
Multitasking on the campaign trail: A man hands out signs at a rally in support… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

Backers of Proposition 32 have relentlessly promoted the fiction that the measure would stop special-interest money from flooding California political campaigns because it would stop unions and corporations from deducting money from members’ and employees’ paychecks for political funds.

That won’t make special-interest money disappear. All that will do is cripple unions’ ability to raise money for political purposes, and leave corporations essentially unfettered to spend what they want influencing elections. That's because corporations don’t usually raise political funds from employees. (And few hit up their employees for paycheck contributions.) Instead, corporations typically tap into their profits to fund political donations.   

That misdirection is bad enough. Worse is that the campaign to push Proposition 32, the very measure that is supposed to stop special-interest money, has itself benefited from a flood of -- special-interest money.

And Monday we learned that the donors behind a whopping $11-million contribution that went partially to the yes-on-Proposition 32 campaign -- funneled through a nonprofit with the fuzzy name Americans for Responsible Leadership — are just a cadre of equally fuzzily named nonprofits.  (And this was only revealed after Americans for Responsible Leadership initially fought fiercely in court to keep secret its own contributors.)

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Here’s what we know of the money trail:  It passed from Americans for Job Security -- a nonprofit closely linked to several of George W. Bush’s top political advisors -- to the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which is closely tied to the secretive billionaire Republican donors Charles and David Koch. Then it passed to the Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership. And finally it ended up in a California campaign committee, the Small Business Action Committee PAC, which is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 and supporting Proposition 32.

Can you say "Committee for the Efficient Laundering of Campaign Money"?

The California Fair Political Practices Commission can.  The political watchdog agency referred to the transfers as campaign money-laundering.

Even knowing as little as we do about the sources of all this money, we know this: It’s come largely from out of state, and its provenance is murky. And it’s been donated in part to fuel a campaign for a ballot measure supporters vow will make fundraising transparent and return legislators’ focus to local voters.

That’s preposterous.  And Proposition 32 is not worthy of anyone’s vote.

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Endorsements: The Times' recommendations for Nov. 6

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