by Mary Jo Rossi, Media Consultant to Rains Lucia Stern, PC
The same “Tea Party,” anti-public employee groups who have been beating down police officer unions for the last several years are at it again. This time, they are circulating petitions for a 2012 statewide ballot initiative called the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act.”
On the surface, the initiative rhetoric would sound appealing to the average California voter. It cites the recent budget stalemates at the State Capitol as a reason to limit special interest influence by severely restricting campaign contributions from labor unions and large corporations to candidates and State Senators/Assemblymembers.
Even more worrisome is the initiative’s attempt to prohibit labor unions from collecting political funds from its members through payroll deductions.
If placed on the ballot and passed by the voters, this initiative would be devastating to police officer labor unions and all unions throughout California. Here’s what the initiative proposes to do:
1. Bans both corporate and labor union contributions to candidates;
2. Prohibits government contractors from contributing money to government officials who award contracts to the contributors;
3. Prohibits corporations and labor unions from collecting political funds from employees and union members using the inherently coercive means of payroll deduction;
4. And makes all employees’ political contributions by any other means strictly voluntary.
In short, if this initiative passes, police officer unions will not be able to collect political funds from their members, and will not be able to make contributions to help state or local police-friendly candidates.
The “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” is being sponsored by a new group called “Californians Against Special Interests.” By any other name, they represent the same groups and individuals who have been at the forefront of the movement for pension reform and lower wages for public employees. To date, they have raised over a million dollars to forward their initiative.
Some legal experts say that, if passed by the voters, this initiative would likely end up in court. The State’s Legislative Analyst and the Director of Finance have stated that “Federal courts generally have ruled that organizations and individuals have a constitutional right, under freedom of speech, to contribute money to political campaigns.” Yet, a court fight would likely cost big bucks for California’s labor unions, not to mention having to face increased criticism of public employee unions by voters throughout the State.
Here are a few things you can do to get the word out about this initiative:
1. Make sure your friends and family know that the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” is backed by the same individuals and organizations who are promoting wage cuts for police officers and deputy sheriffs.
2. Encourage them NOT to sign the petition. (California labor has recently launched a public relations campaign against the initiative because its petitioners have been using deceptive pitches to lure voters into signing the petition.)
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the initiative backers have until October 24th to collect 504,760 valid signatures of voters to qualify to be on the 2012 ballot. We will keep you informed about the status of this misguided effort.