Measure to curb union, corporate clout qualifies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Republican interests have qualified a ballot measure that would severely curb the political influence of public and private employee unions while depriving Democratic political candidates of a major source of campaign cash. The measure, which bans political contributions through payroll deductions, qualified Tuesday (December 6) for the November 2012 statewide ballot. With labor’s primary funding source under attack, the measure sets up an expensive campaign season ahead for both sides.

Funded in part by wealthy GOP donor and Stanford University physicist Charles Munger Jr. and backed by former Secretary of State George Shultz, the measure bans corporation and union contributions from collecting political funds from employees and union members through payroll deduction.

Opponents say the initiative has no practical impact on corporations because businesses don’t often collect political funds from employees. But it would ban labor unions from its common practice of using payroll deductions to collect political funds from members – a move that would hamper Democrat-friendly unions from funneling money to political causes.

Labor leaders are already gearing up for a multi-million dollar battle to prevent what they say is a corporate attempt to limit the free speech of working- and middle-class people. He noted that taxpayers have already bailed out banks and financial institutions under the Troubled Asset Relief Program to deal with the subprime mortgage crisis.

Along with banning payroll deductions, the measure prohibits corporate and labor union contributions to candidates. Businesses will still be able to contribute unlimited amounts to independent expenditure committees, and union members can still make contributions to political action committees directed by their labor groups.

The initiative also prohibits contractors from contributing to government officials who award them contracts, and it makes other employee political contributions voluntary.

Backers of the measure have raised more than $1.7 million, according to the most recent campaign finance report. Opponents have raised about $737,000.
Voters rejected similar efforts billed as paycheck protection on the ballot in 2005 and 1998.

Associated Press

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