Molly Munger, a civil rights attorney and the primary advocate behind Proposition… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)
SACRAMENTO — It was starting to look as though there would be no serious campaign against Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan until two groups lobbed direct hits at the measure in recent days with millions of dollars' worth of television ads.
The attacks against Brown's plan to temporarily boost levies on state sales and upper incomes are coming from taxpayer groups and from backers of another tax-increase proposal on the ballot. They're funded by a pair of siblings with very different political goals.
Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford University physicist and Republican activist, has given close to $22 million to the group behind one of the ads, a political committee formed to take down the governor's measure, Proposition 30.
INTERACTIVE: 2012 California Propositions
His sister Molly Munger, a Pasadena civil rights attorney, has spent $31 million on the campaign for a different set of taxes to raise money for public schools, Proposition 38. Her campaign has been on the airwaves for weeks but on Tuesday launched its first ad that takes on Brown's plan directly.
Although their ideological roots differ, both attacks take aim at "Sacramento politicians" and say the governor's tax increases would not guarantee more money for schools.
Proponents of the governor's initiative responded to the opposition ads in a statement Tuesday, calling both Mungers "billionaire bullies" trying to buy the election.
A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed Brown's measure with 55% support, down from 59% in May. Molly Munger's Proposition 38 enjoyed far less support, with 34% of voters surveyed saying they would support her plan.
Last week, the Brown campaign began airing a commercial featuring state Controller John Chiang saying the estimated $6 billion raised by the governor's plan would be in a virtual lockbox, dedicated to increasing funding for public schools.
An analysis of the initiative by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says that about 40% of the money would be earmarked for schools, and the governor and state Legislature would decide how to spend the rest. That disparity is at the heart of both of the new attack ads.
The No on 30 group's ad says the governor and his allies are using "smoke and mirrors" to fool voters into believing his initiative will raise money for schools. "We'll never know where the money really goes," the spot says, without mentioning that schools would receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year more than they will if the measure fails.
Existing state law dictates that schools and community colleges receive about 40 cents of every dollar the state takes in, which would translate into billions more for schools over the seven-year life of the measure.
The new ad from the Molly Munger campaign echoes the accusation of deceit. "Prop. 30 says they send new money to our schools, but fact checkers say that's misleading," her ad states, citing a Sacramento Bee article.
The Bee article never questioned that the governor's measure would send some additional money to schools. It said the Chiang commercial misleads voters into believing that all of the new money would be for education.
Neither proposition says that all of the money it raises goes to schools.
Proposition 38, which would hike income taxes for virtually all taxpayers for the next 12 years, would send 60% of the estimated $10-billion yield to schools through 2017. Preschool and early childhood programs would receive 10%, while 30% would be used to pay down state debt.
Molly Munger's measure would do nothing to block the roughly $5.5 billion in cuts to public schools and universities that will automatically take effect if Brown's proposal fails. Those cuts were built into the budget he signed this year.
In addition to money for schools, the governor's initiative would guarantee some funds for local governments, to help pay for his prison "realignment" program that made counties responsible for housing many nonviolent offenders.