The Blog at CTA

$11 Million in Masked Political Contributions Could Land Someone in Jail

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state’s political watchdog agency, and Attorney General Kamala Harris are reportedly considering whether to file charges against a shadowy Arizona Super PAC that funneled $11 million into a California business political action committee in efforts to defeat Proposition 30, the governor’s revenue measure to aid schools, and boost Proposition 32, the cynical “political reform” measure that would exempt – among other entities – Super PACs from its strictures. The story is reported by Kevin Yamamura in a CapitolAlert posting.

Meanwhile, the attorney for the Arizona Super PAC -- Americans for Responsible Leadership and The Center to Protect Patient Rights – claims that the PAC’s “settlement” letter width the FPPC does not represent an admission of guilt in civil or criminal proceedings:

"While these letters relate to Cal. Gov. Code § 84302 and 2 CA ADC § 18432.5, we want to make it clear that they have been sent pursuant to a settlement agreement width the California Fair Political Practices Commission and that neither ARL nor CPPR admit any wrongdoing or that the letters are required by applicable law," Attorney Michael D. Bopp wrote. "Further, ARL and CPPR reserve the right to contest any further proceedings that relate to the contributions discussed in the aforementioned letters."

Read the entire post at California officials consider civil, criminal action in mystery donation case.

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Super PAC Admits Money-laundering in $11 Million Effort to Defeat Prop. 30, Pass Prop. 32

Under pressure from California’s political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), an Arizona Political Action Committee has admitted that it took $11 million from another Super PAC, effectively “laundering” the money that it then contributed in an effort to defeat Proposition 30, the governor’s school revenue measure, and to pass Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act that would help wealthy special interests increase their political power.

According to the FPPC,  the Arizona-based Super PAC Americans for Responsible Leadership “today sent a letter declaring itself to be the intermediary and not the true source of the contribution.”

In a news release, the FPPC further said that the Arizona PAC “identified the true source of the contribution as Americans for Job Security, through a second intermediary, The Center to Protect Patient Rights. Under California law, the failure to disclose this initially was campaign money laundering. At $11 million, this is the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history.”

Ironically, Proposition 32 – one of the campaigns that benefited from the laundered $11 million contribution, bills that initiative as “campaign reform.”  But the measure would in fact exempt Super PACs from its regulations, making it even easier for organizations like the Arizona money-launderers to hide the sources of their funding and to increase their influence in the state capitol.

The other measure the laundered funds aimed to defeat, Proposition 30, would block $6 billion in devastating automatic or “trigger cuts” to schools and raise income taxes on the state’s wealthiest taxpayers.

The FPPC investigation was sparked by a call to action by California Common Cause, a non-partisan organization that, like the League of Women Voters, is opposed to Proposition 32 because it is “phony” reform aimed at helping wealthy special interests at the expense of middle class voters.

Read the full text of the FPPC news release 

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Prop. 30 "Best Option"; Prop. 32 "Reeks," LA Times Columnist Declares

Looking for sage advice on how to vote Tuesday on California’s ballot measures? One need look no further than Monday’s offering by LA Times Columnist George Skelton.  Skelton (pictured at left) is the award-winning journalist who’s been covering political shenanigans for decades from his perch in Sacramento.

Skelton has looked over each ballot measure closely and critically. Most importantly, he’s summed it all up quickly and succinctly, particularly Prop. 30, the governor’s revenue measure to aid public education, and Prop. 32, the cynical Special Exemptions Act aimed at silencing the voices of union members and other middle class voters while boosting the political power of wealthy special interests.

Writes Skelton about Proposition 30: “It isn't about "Sacramento politicians. It's about whether to cut $5.9 billion more out of public education, from kindergarten through the universities. A yes vote means no cuts. A no vote brings out the machete….The measure isn't perfect, but it's the best option for now.”

Opines Skelton about Proposition 32: “The measure is cynically billed as ‘The Stop Special Interest Money Now Act.’ It's actually about one crowd of interests on the right attempting to cripple a rival interest, labor, using $11 million in secret laundered money. It reeks.”

Read the entire column at Last Minute Advice on State Ballot Measures.

 

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Ballot Opportunities, Threats Unite Teachers, Other Working Women and Men

Photo above:  (from r.) Backed by California Labor Federation Leader Art Pulaski, Elementary Teacher Toby Boyd and SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker, CTA Pres. Dean Vogel thanks phone bank volunteers on Saturday at the Sacramento City Teachers Association for their efforts to pass Proposition 30, the governor’s revenue measure for schools, and to defeat Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act that would increase the political power of wealthy special interests.

Photo left: (from l.) CTA Pres. Vogel, SEIU President Walker, SCTA President Scott Smith, and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Officer Art Pulaski spearheaded the phone banking at Sacramento City Teachers Association Saturday morning.

During their remarks Saturday morning to volunteers at the Sacramento City Teachers Association.CTA Pres. Dean Vogel, SEIU Local President Yvonne Walker, and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski cited a positive result of the challenges facing working women and men:   The opportunity to secure desperately needed new state revenues offered by Proposition 30 and the dire threat to working women and men posed by Proposition 30, the Special Exemptions Act, have solidified labor in California.

CTA President Vogel said that those who have attacked unions width ballot measures such as Proposition 32 won’t stop their efforts, and it would be “insane” for labor not to maintain the close ties that have been forged in this campaign.

SEIU President Walker noted that labor had not worked this closely together ever before.

The mood at the SCTA campaign headquarters was upbeat, just days before the election.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski put it this way: “You can’t defeat the heart and soul of the people who are fighting for justice.”

 

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Educators express concern if the billionaires prevail at the polls

Mark Acker, Mona Davidson, Richard Razo

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Lawmakers Review, Then Denounce Prop. 32 as Deceptive Power Grab by Special Interests

Following their constitutional responsibilities, legislators on Tuesday morning held an informational hearing on Proposition 32, the CTA-opposed Special Exemptions Act that aims to gag the voices of educators and working women and men while allowing special interests even more power to shape government to their wills.

During a joint hearing at the state Capitol of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments and the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committees, chaired respectively by Sen. Lou Correa and Assembly Member  Paul Fong, lawmakers pressed proponents of the measure to reveal the source of the funding behind the proposition, something they could not do.

Proposition 32 Proponents John Kabateck , the executive director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and David Wolfe, a representative of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, were unable to respond to lawmakers’ inquiries about the special interests supporting the measure because current law – and the provisions of Proposition 32 – do not create that kind of transparency.  (Wolfe spoke in place of former Sen. Gloria Romero, who has scheduled to address the panel but demurred due to a “scheduling conflict.”)

Legislators noted that a Super PAC tied to the radical Koch Brothers had reportedly contributed $4 million to help underwrite the measure.  The law does not require the PAC to disclose who its contributors are or where the money came from.

“It is clear that unions use payroll deductions help finance positions, and corporations don’t – they just use general fund money,” declared Assembly Member Sandre Swanson.  “Proposition 32 would tilt the balance of political participation toward corporations because they are financed differently than unions….If this is simply an attempt to develop a political advantage, then voters need to take that into consideration when making their decision.”

Early in the hearing, Assembly Member Susan Bonilla leaned on Proposition 32 backers to make it clear that current law already provides employees width an opt-out provision so that no payroll-deducted funds are used for political purposes widthout their consent. “Union membership is voluntary, … [and] no one is involuntarily having their moneys used for political purposes,” she stressed.

Lawmakers chided both Kabateck and Wolfe for pretending to speak for union members, saying unions do, and business representatives do not. “It smells funny that the business group and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Union are ‘speaking up’ for union members…..unions represent their members – you don’t.”

Union members have voices, lawmakers said, and they can vote out their leaders if they are unhappy width their union’s positions.

Kabateck asserted that unions were blocking regulatory and education reform, and blamed unions for the demise of a bill he said would have gotten teachers convicted of crimes out of the classroom.

Assembly Member Tony Mendoza noted that he himself was a former teacher, and he knew the opposition to the bill (SB 1530 Padilla) “wasn’t about keeping bad teachers in the classroom.  It was about due process…that assures that [as a teacher] you’re not singled out by some principal who doesn’t like you. Those reforms [in that bill] didn’t protect educators…..”

Opponents of the bill, including Trudy Schafer of the League or Women Voters, and Derek Cressman of California Common Cause, insisted that Proposition 32 is masquerading as political reform but is nothing of the sort: “Proponents have tried to make it attractive by dressing it up as campaign reform…. Many leading political organizations dedicated to good government and consumer advocacy are all opposed. Like the League….they came to the conclusion Proposition 32 is not what it seems. It promises political reform but really aims to help its supporters and harm opponents….It earns the name of the Special Exemptions Act because its restrictions don’t apply to a wide number of organizations.”

“They came after us in 1998 and 2005.   This is the third go ‘round trying to do something to worker s in this state,” thundered Willie Pelote, testifying on behalf of the American Federation of State County, and Municipal Employees, which represents both public sector and private sector workers.

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Columnist Slams Prop. 32, Special Exemptions Act, as "Bogus" Campaign Reform

A noted columnist for the Sacramento Bee has denounced Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act, as "bogus" political reform that aims to undermine the ability of organizations like the California Teachers Association to protect public education, students, their members, and middle-class Californians by blocking the organizations from fully participating in the political process.

Dan Morain, in Money flows to lawmakers as final votes loom, notes that political contributions have a major impact on elected officials' decisions, and he cites contributions by corporations, political giving that won't be regulated by Prop. 32.  He fears voters will be fooled into supporting Prop. 32 by believing it is real campaign reform.

"The link between donations and legislative action is clearest at the end of a session. Politicians and the moneyed interests that enable them cannot help themselves. It will take an initiative to fix the problem, although Proposition 32, the bogus campaign finance overhaul on the Nov. 6 ballot, isn't the answer," writes Morain in his August 29 column.

"Without a doubt, voters disgusted width the political system will be tempted to embrace Proposition 32. A cynical initiative gussied up to look like tough campaign finance reform, Proposition 32 is the latest effort by union foes to limit labor's ability to raise and spend money on California campaigns," Morain emphasizes.

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Case Study in Corporate Political Spending: Tobacco Companies Kill Cancer Research Act

The backers of Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act on the June 5 primary ballot, were asking voters a simple question: are you willing to levy a $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes to provide more than $700 million annually to help find a cure for cancer?

At first, 65% of state voters believed that was a good idea. But then big tobacco spent more than $50 million (as reported by Joe Mathews in the Daily Beast), and what seemed like a good idea morphed into just another tax that would create another state bureaucracy and ship jobs out of state.

The supporters of the measure had much less in the way of financial resources to counter the attack.

When the smokescreen cleared after election day, that $50 million in television and other advertising won the day for tobacco interests, who prevailed width a 50.3% margin, width fewer than 30,000 votes separating the two sides.

Proposition 29 went in the popular imagination from an important life-saving measure to another tax-and-spend job killer – all in the course of three months and at a cost of $50 million in  corporate political spending.

The take-away: should corporate interests win their battle to pass the Special Exemption Act in November, things will get worse. They will be able to put anti-worker and anti-middle class measures on future ballots, engage in massive spending to “redefine” these initiatives as something good, and further expand their power. These corporate special interests already outspend defenders of working women and men and the middle class by a ratio of 15 to 1.

Don’t let smoke get in your eyes. Find out more about at Behind the Special Exemptions Act.

Proposition  Title

Yes Votes

%

No Votes

%

Yes 28 Limits on Legislators' Terms in  Office

3,013,466

61.1%

1,922,334

38.9%

No 29 Tax  on Cigarettes for Cancer Research

2,508,139

49.7%

2,537,022

50.3%*

*Source:  California Secretary of State Debra Bowen
Spending Against  Proposition 29 as of March 2012: $12,088,658* - note that spending reports for the period through June 2012 are not yet posted.
*Source:  Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)

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Think Politics is Ugly Now? Imagine a World Where Wealthy Special Interests Have “Immunity”

Two newly filed articles– one in the Sacramento Bee (Dan Morain: Corporations misfire against Wall Street 'tycoon') and the other in the Bay Citizen (Beverage lobbyist funds 'community' campaign against soda tax)  – detail how wealthy corporate special interests are able to use their political contributions to protect their financial interests.

Now imagine a world in which they have even more clout – and where working women and men and the organizations that represent them have less.

Holy “Super-Pac”!  Welcome to the world of the Special Exemptions Act. That teacher- opposed measure on the November ballot would restrict how organizations representing middle class working people can collect funds for political purposes, including electing lawmakers who believe schools are woefully underfunded.

Should that ballot measure pass – over the objections of educators, firefighters, police officers, and good government groups – it would further tilt the political playing field in favor of these wealthy special interests.

More information about the Special Exemptions Act can be found at Behind the Special Exemptions Act.

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