Green Room

California Unions Hate All Hedge Fund Managers… Almost

posted at 4:20 pm on October 15, 2012 by

The November ballot in California has its usual complement of initiatives attracting vast swaths of money. The state may be a budgetary basket case, but the political advocacy business is booming.

Two of the 11 measures are getting the most attention and, indeed, share many of the same donors. The folks who support Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike initiative, are opposing Proposition 32, yet another initiative attempting to limit the political power of public employees unions in the state. In California, the “no” side has historically had the advantage and the trend seems to be holding. The “yes” sides of both initiatives are currently polling below 50 percent.

It’s clear that both sides of the Prop 32 campaign are going after the so-called “low information voter” or, as I like to call it, “the ignorant bloc.” You have to be only mildly informed to see the cynicism involved in two special interest groups deciding on “special interests” as their battleground issue.

Prop 32 supporters promise to end the reign of special interests in California by banning payroll deduction of political contributions by corporations and unions. Sounds great, except almost no corporation extracts political contributions from paychecks, and the U.S. Supreme Court has already spoken – in the negative – on limiting what individuals can spend, or what groups can spend independently. Prop 32 backers know they have created the broadest possible ban that hasn’t yet faced Constitutional scrutiny. That such a measure more greatly affects unions than corporations is a feature, not a bug.

On the flip side, it is quite astonishing that the unions opposing Prop 32 have chosen the power and influence of special interests as their theme as well. The unions are outspending their laundry list of corporate fat cats by a margin of five to one. The California Teachers Association by itself is outspending them by two to one.

There are nine active political action committees formed to oppose Prop 32. All but one is sponsored and funded by labor unions. The lone exception is the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, whose year-to-date contributions total $365.82.

When you dig through the 296 contributions to the No on 32 campaign, you are hard-pressed to find significant donations by any individual or group that is not a union. One ostensible exception is the $100,000 contributed by the John A. Perez Ballot Measure Committee – that is, unless you happen to know that John A. Perez is California’s Speaker of the Assembly and the former political director for the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

But there is a sizable $500,000 contribution to the No on 32 campaign from one Thomas F. Steyer. Who is Thomas F. Steyer? Believe it or not, he’s a billionaire hedge fund manager.

That’s right, the No on 32 campaign is running ads identifying “hedge fund managers” as those behind the Yes on 32 campaign, while paying for those ads with the substantial help of its own hedge fund manager.

At the rate we are going, California will soon consist solely of public employee unions, politicians, industries that service ballot initiative campaigns, and Disneyland. And Mickey Mouse has a second home in Florida.

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That’s one of the things that is so great about unceremoniously firing your original country-wide fat cat cookie-cutter Union and kicking them to the curb like the detritus they are and starting your own Union/Association with a wholly separate PAC that includes strictly voluntary participation in the PAC — you own them all. Every single one of them from the president down to the last member of the board. And — everything stays local.

From dues to PAC donations to trusts to investments to bank accounts — to the petty cash. The whole enchilada. Aside from overhead — nothing gets spent — nothing gets donated — on anything political or otherwise without unanimous approval of the board and/or majority approval of the general membership (depending on the expenditure).

The entire membership even votes on political endorsements before we ever make them — after the candidates seeking our endorsement have a ‘town hall’ style interview with the Union board and any general members who care to attend.

And there’s so very much more wonderfulness in owning your own Union too. It’s awesome.

FlatFoot on October 15, 2012 at 5:01 PM