Wednesday, April 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Voters want a level playing field

TomEliasW

By
From page A6 | November 08, 2012 | Leave Comment

If there was one big reason why “paycheck protection,” on Tuesday’s ballot as Proposition 32, failed for the third time in the past 16 years, it was this: The concept by itself is simply unfair.

Like its predecessors in 1996 and 2005, Proposition 32 aimed to deprive labor unions of their voice in California politics while not touching corporations or the billionaire political class that has become increasingly active in recent years.

This time around, paycheck protection tried to hide behind a bit of a fig leaf, but it just didn’t work. Even the television commercials aired by the extremely well funded “yes” campaign had holes in them wide enough to drive several trucks through, holes obvious to anyone paying the slightest attention.

The fig leaf was this: Rather than just banning unions from using member dues for political purposes unless members sign off for it every year, as both previous paycheck protection bills tried to do, this one also included a provision banning direct contributions from both unions and corporations to political candidates.

So there was the surface appearance of even-handedness. But reality is that most corporate and individual donations don’t go to candidates anymore, anyhow. Especially since the 2010 Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court — the one letting corporations spend unlimited amounts on politics — most corporate campaign money has gone to so-called “independent expenditure committees.” These are nominally beyond the control of candidates, even though many prominent ones in the last few years have been headed by immediate past aides of the politicians those so-called “Super PACs” support.

The intent, then, was to deprive labor unions of much of their political capital while letting corporations and the ultra-rich keep pouring as much cash as they like into their own causes and candidates.

The primary funding for the measure came from billionaires, who also give large sums to Super PACs because state and federal laws limit direct donations from individuals to candidates.

One way to equalize this would be to put corporate shareholders — even those who own stock indirectly through mutual funds or pension funds — on an equal footing with union members. Let both classes of citizen (yes, some people fall into both classes) have the power to withhold their money from political uses. If union members get the power to restrict use of their dues, shareholders should be able to say no to political spending by companies in which they invest, in proportion to the shares they own.

So far, no one has attempted an even-handed initiative like this, one with the potential to dramatically reduce political spending on all sides.

Proposition 32 backers, including the state Chamber of Commerce, clearly knew this idea has great public appeal; hence the design of the fig leaf they deployed this time.

But plenty of others saw through it instantly. And the many TV commercials for 32 that were funded by the likes of the Kansas oil-baron Koch brothers, producer Jerry Perenchio, billionaire heir and physicist Charles Munger Jr. and venture capitalist Tim Draper were almost laughably amateurish.

“No loopholes, no exceptions,” one ad blared, over and over and over. But the loopholes were obvious to anyone who looked beyond the mere text of the commercials. There was plenty of room for corporations and the extremely wealthy to keep donating as and where they like. Even labor unions easily could have found loopholes via tactics like creating social action committees to spend the union dues money that now goes to politics. Those committees could put out cause-oriented advertisements that just might happen to favor causes and candidates favored by Big Labor.

This was a classic case of the sort of lawmaking ineptitude and prevarication that gives ammunition to critics of the initiative movement, folks who say there are always flaws and loopholes.

But this putative measure lost, like about 83 percent of all initiatives historically do. Which means the voters aren’t as dumb as some in politics think and the initiative process worked just fine, as it generally does. They saw through this one despite the blizzard of ads for it, and the only group that will ever profit from it all is political consultants, who often get a percentage of every advertising dollar their clients spend.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

 
New mosaic mural reflects Peña family history

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

UC Davis biodigester hungers for food scraps

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Penalty decision looms in Winters homicide case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Hay bales burn east of Davis

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Woman killed by train ID’d

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Pro-Russian insurgents hold journalist captive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Fire damages Woodland home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

 
Register to vote by May 19

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sign up for enviro organizations during Earth Week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Bible fun featured at Parents’ Night Out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Davis businesswoman presides over conference

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Birch Lane sells garden plants, veggies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Team Blend hosts fundraiser for Nicaragua project

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

 
Davis Arts Center: See ceramics, join the Big Day of Giving

By Erie Vitiello | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Fire crews gather for joint training

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Odd Fellows host culinary benefit for nonprofit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

400 bikes go up for bids at UCD auction

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Sunder hosts campaign event for kids

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Church hosts discussion of mental health needs, services

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

UCD to host premiere of autism documentary

By Cory Golden | From Page: A4

 
UFC hears from two local historians

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Fundraiser benefits Oakley campaign

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
UCD professor to talk about new book

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Fly Fishers talk to focus on healthy streams, rivers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Train to become a weather spotter

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Learn survival skills at Cache Creek Preserve

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Veterans, internees may receive overdue diplomas

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

UC Davis conference showcases undergraduate research

By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Conservation District celebrates its stewardship efforts

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Slow Food tour showcases area’s young farmers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

 
.

Forum

Even a safe house needs boundaries

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
I support Sunder for board

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Will anyone notice?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
My votes reflect city values

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

 
A plea on the Bard’s birthday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

DHS thunders back to win an epic DVC volleyball match

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
DHS/Franklin I goes to the Blue Devil softballers

By Chris Saur | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis gets to Grant ace and rolls in DVC crucial

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Walchli is under par in another Devil victory

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Seniors send Blue Devil girls past Broncos in a lacrosse rout

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
Baseball roundup: Rangers rally to beat A’s in the ninth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Sharks go up 3-0 with OT win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

 
.

Arts

 
Five Three Oh! featured at April Performers’ Circle

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Celebrate spring at I-House on Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Music, wine flow at Fourth Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Biscuits ‘n Honey will play at winery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Catharine ‘Kay’ Lathrop

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6