The California Fair Political Practices Commission released a report titled “Big Money Talks” that revealed the California Teachers Association was the largest political spender in the state over the last decade, dropping $211.8 million on ballot initiatives, candidates for state and local office, and lobbying.
The amount was almost twice as much as the second-ranked interest group, the California State Council of Service Employees, which is the political arm of the state SEIU chapters.
The commission is unusually blunt about the effect this money has on the political process in California:
California’s Top 15 special interest groups often win by spending money to defeat ballot measures — which has the effect of maintaining the status quo. Their willingness to spend vast sums of money gives them the ability not just to drown out others, but to exercise powerful political leverage. By spending huge amounts of money, they send an unmistakable message to political opponents and elected officials alike: “We’re ready, willing, and able to spend millions — you don’t want to fight us.” What is good for the people of California matters less than what hurts or helps the individual interests of these groups.
The FPPC is even less optimistic than I am about the situation. “This report leaves little doubt where the vortex of political power lies in this state. The numbers tell the story. And there is no end in sight to the spending binge by special interests,” the authors wrote.