By Brian Brokaw, Alliance for a Better California 2012
The Lincoln Club of Orange County - the driving force behind the so-called "Stop Special Interest Money" initiative on the November ballot - is hosting one of the nation's leading campaign finance reformers at its annual black tie fundraising gala on Saturday night: Karl Rove.
That's right. Just one day after a mystery donor who will forever remain anonymous contributed $10 million to Rove's Crossroads GPS - the King of Super PACs himself is coming to California to spread his gospel of good government reforms.
And his Lincoln Club hosts, who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to place the phony reform initiative on the ballot (along with the previous two attempts in 1998 and 2005), have certainly paid close attention to Rove's Super PAC tactics ever since the Citizens United decision led to their explosion onto the national scene.
The initiative's proponents claim that their measure bans both corporate and union contributions to candidates, prohibits campaign contributions from government contractors, prohibits corporations and unions from collecting political funds from employees and members via voluntary payroll deduction, and makes all employee political contributions by any other means strictly voluntary, requiring annual written consent. Sounds fair and balanced, right?
Take a closer look - this measure creates a giant loophole that allows corporations to make unlimited political expenditures supporting or opposing candidates, without restrictions, and unlimited contributions to ballot measures - while silencing unions.
The measure says it will stop corporations and unions from collecting political funds through payroll deductions -- but corporations almost never use payroll deductions to collect funds to support or oppose candidates or ballot measures; they use their corporate profits. Corporations already spend 15-times as much as unions spend on political contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Unions, of course, collect dues from members through payroll deduction to represent those members in bargaining, advocacy and politics.
That brings us back to Rove and the Lincoln Club. That huge loophole in the measure would allow corporations to spend without any limits using a web of shadowy front groups, big business associations and corporate Super PACs.
In other words, if the initiative passes - Super PACs modeled after Rove's, along with their anonymous $10 million donors - will become the law of the land here in the Golden State.