'Paycheck Protection' Initiative just another scheme to further erode union voices in politics...
By Ernest A. Canning on 8/20/2012, 8:35am PT  

Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning

California’s Proposition 32 --- the so-called "Paycheck Protection" Initiative --- is nothing less than a cynical attempt by "the one percent" to manipulate the revulsion now felt by "the 99 percent" towards the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United ruling in order to solidify the ability of corporate wealth and power to destroy any semblance of government of, for or by the people.

The text of the initiative, set for this November's ballot in the Golden State, reads as follows:

"Prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Applies same use prohibition to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors. Prohibits union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees. Prohibits government contractor contributions to elected officers or their committees."

In a video decrying the ballot measure, the "No on 32: Stop the Special Exemptions Act" campaign, describe it as "Miracle-Grow for...billionaires and their super PACs"...

The initiative was drafted by the Lincoln Club of Orange County --- the same group of right-wing mega millionaires and billionaires whose political hit piece, Hillary: The Movie became the centerpiece of the Citizens United ruling and the ensuing, democracy-destroying flood of dark money into our political system. Its top "$50,000 and over" donors represent a list of the state's wealthiest corporatist Republicans.

Although corporations enjoy a 15-to-1 advantage in political donations over organized labor, according to Open Secrets.org, CA's Prop 32 lumps these two very different forms of organizations under the same "special interest" umbrella.

Under the guise of ending the corrupting influence of "special interest" monies, Proposition 32's wealthy backers seek to eliminate the ability of organized labor to fund campaign ads for political candidates that would otherwise compete with the dominant corporate message, while providing loopholes that are large enough for "the one percent" to haul a trainload of politically corrupting gold bullion from Ft. Knox to Sacramento...

'Wolf in sheep's clothing'

Citizens United is immensely unpopular.

Polls taken in 2010, shortly after the five member, right-wing majority on the Supreme Court handed down their ruling, revealed that 80% of Americans opposed their decision. A poll taken in Massachusetts earlier this year found that 81% of citizens in The Bay State oppose the Citizens United decision.

Earlier this year, California became the 6th state to call for a constitutional amendment that would, essentially, repeal the infamous decision. Some states, like Vermont, have not only sought to overturn Citizen’s United but also seek a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the concept of "corporate personhood" and establish that money is not "free speech," as now recognized by the Supreme Court.

Against this backdrop, the wealthy backers of Proposition 32 knew very well that they could not simply come out and tell people that they wanted the ability to buy our government without fear of organized union opposition. So they resorted to deception.

They begin their Prop 32 deception with a "Declaration of Purpose" section [PDF]. The craftily drafted initiative rails against the corrupting influence of "special interests." It lumps unions with corporations --- as if, despite a 15-to-1 corporate political spending advantage, these two very different forms of organizations were operating on a level playing field.

The wealthy proponents then add several sections which purport to prevent corporations and unions from using monies deducted from employee compensation for political purposes. However, as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik recently observed, those restrictions only apply to contributions to candidates. They do not apply to monies used to corrupt the initiative process, including, ironically, the monies contributed by wealthy donors to the Prop 32 initiative that Hiltzik suggests would more aptly be described as the "Rich Persons and Corporations Empowerment Act."

Those donors, according to Hiltzik, included billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, the former Chairman and CEO of Univision, who, from 2001 to 2011, contributed "$16.9 million to Republican and mostly conservative interests."

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Perenchio is the 6th largest contributor to Super PACs during the 2012 election cycle, including $2 million donated to Karl Rove's American Crossroads and $500,000 to Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC.

The presence of a media mogul on the list of Prop 32's top donors should surprise no one. Corporate television networks, now raking in millions in the fall-out of Citizens United, are the primary beneficiaries of our irrational and corrupt electoral system. It is a system which places a premium on the 30-second televised propaganda slots (aka political ads) that, along with a corporate media substance deficit disorder, have come to dominate our political discourse.

That corruption is nowhere more acute than in the Golden State. According to California Watch, over the past dozen years, more than 1/3 of the $3.67 billion dollars used to manipulate the political thinking of the state's 38 million people has come from the state's top 100 political donors.

Silicon Valley billionaire Thomas Siebel, who contributed $500,000 to the Prop 32 campaign, "donated $250,000 to American Crossroads" in 2010, according to Hiltzik. Billionaire founder and chairman of Public Storage, B. Wayne Hughes, who contributed $200,000 to the Prop 32 campaign, gave $3.5 million to American Crossroads in 2010 and "nearly $2.3 million to California political entities in the 2001-11 period, exclusively Republican."

While Prop 32 prevents unions from utilizing dues automatically deducted from employee payroll to political candidates, this has only a negligible effect on corporate campaign spending. "When corporations can just write a check from their general treasury, the idea that this is a meaningful restriction is ridiculous," U.C. Irvine Law Professor Richard L. Hasen told Hiltzik. When it comes to corporate campaign contributions, employee payroll deductions are "a drop in the bucket."

And, as Hiltzik revealed, even that "drop in the bucket" does not apply to "LLCs, partnerships and real estate trusts. If you're a venture investor, land developer or law firm, Proposition 32 doesn't lay a finger on you."

But the crafty drafters of the deceptive, union-busting initiative did not stop there. They added this provision:

This section shall not apply to...an employee's voluntary deduction for the benefit of a charitable organization organized under Title 26 United States Code section 501(c)(3).

That exemption reveals that the real purpose of Proposition 32 is to eliminate the ability of labor unions to utilize any portion of union dues, ordinarily deducted from their members' paychecks, to finance political donations; yet preserve the ability of mega-billionaires like Charles and David Koch to funnel as much money as they deem necessary to purchase "the best democracy money can buy" via ostensibly charitable 501(c)(3) front groups like the Koch-connected Americans for Prosperity Foundation or Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.