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Jonathan Kraut: Proposition 32 clears politics of distractions

Democratic Voices

Posted: August 21, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 21, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

I thought I better air out the pros and cons of Proposition 32 now so that there is still time for thought and discussion.

Believe it or not, it is only about five weeks away from our true election day. The county will mail out absentee ballots about 30 days prior to the Nov. 6 presidential and local election. The Santa Clarita city clerk reported that about 76 percent of votes cast in our fair valley this spring were absentee. This means that many in Santa Clarita will be voting in the first weeks of October.

So if you haven’t heard, Proposition 32 is a big, big deal. If this statewide measure is passed, it strips the ability of corporations and labor unions from contributing to state and local campaigns and candidates.

OpenSecrets.org reports that from 1989 through 2012 just the top 140 contributors, mostly corporations and labor unions, have donated a staggering $2.3 billion to political campaigns. Then you have the “revolving door,” where lobbyists are being hired as part of an elected’s staff and officials after leaving office are being hired as lobbyists.

This proposition would not only make illegal direct participation in many state and local political activities by labor unions and corporations, but would ban the practice of labor unions allocating union dues toward political concerns unless union members authorize these actions in writing. Up until now bosses, often without direct member consent, may direct the automatic dues collected from its members to anywhere the union bosses desire.

Prop 32 would also ban political contributions by contractors who are employed by or under contract with local and state governments.

Imagine if we Californians decide to impede the political power and influence held by the unions and corporate interests. What if big pharma, big oil, the unions and insurance companies get their wings clipped and can no longer openly fly around the heads of our leadership in Sacramento? Imagine if the money that is paying for those false, misleading and simplistic political ads on TV dries up. What if only half the slanderous hit-pieces and personal attack ads show up in the mail on the eve of election day?

Of course loopholes eventually will be found, but at least big money and the unions will be forced to reorganize and pause to invent new ways to manipulate our elected officials. And naturally the elected will scramble to create new avenues to ingratiate themselves with corporate power and cash.

But Prop 32, for a while anyway, will be a real game-changer.

On the surface, Prop 32 promises to de-flower lobby influences that use greed and favors to divert political will away from the people’s work. One would think that the opposition of this super-funding by the lobbies, whom politicians now rely on to “get out their messages,” would be a largely Democratic view. It also would be logical to anticipate that those who defend any action that restricts freedom of speech and limits the expenditure of monies, i.e. the free-market Republicans, would fight Prop 32.

But in fact the alliances appear to be reversed. Many Democrats, commonly aligned with the “people” and labor unions, are fighting this one. Many Republicans, who embrace expanded freedoms from government restriction, are in favor of diffusing the power of unions and corporations.

In this case, the more liberal forces, who typically embrace government oversight to prevent abuses by corporate money, are largely opposed to this measure because it removes the leverage enjoyed by liberal-labor alliances for so many years. Wealthy businessmen are coming out in favor of 32, willing to mute the voice of unions at the expense of limiting corporations.

This proves that ideology doesn’t really matter when it comes to politics — rather, what seems to matter is an entity’s self-interest.

I say vote for Prop 32 to destabilize corruption and deflect the power wielded by the money that buys the ads that influence our votes. Californians might once again vote based on the intellect and character of those running for office. Maybe when the money that buys the distractions, manipulations and innuendo gives way, a clearer picture of what, whom, or why to vote will emerge.

Jonathan Kraut serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum, and SCV Interfaith Council.

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