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October 15, 2012

1)  California Unions Hate All Hedge Fund Managers... Almost. 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.

2)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from October 9-15:

*  Seven Years Later, UFT Charter School Proves a Point. The lesson isn't that unions shouldn't run charter schools, but that they should have more respect for those who do.

Broward Runoff Pits Santeramo VP vs. Whistleblower. Stakes high, turnout low.

The Chicago Strike in a Large Nutshell. 600,000 seats for 450,000 students.

Property of the Union? Is insurance claims history subject to the Fifth Amendment?

Term Limits for School Board Members? Local option makes for an interesting election.

3)  Quote of the Week. "The end attempt is to shut out other teachers' groups and exclude them from all-district events." - Charles Brooks of the independent Missouri State Teachers Association. The Columbia Missouri NEA won an election for exclusive representation of the school district's 1,311 teachers. About 700 were NEA members. NEA received about 56% of the vote. (October 12 Columbia Daily Tribune)


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