The ballot initiative that you are likely to hear more about this fall than any other is one that purports to be designed to limit the influence of special interests in California politics. Its primary goal is to hogtie labor unions by forcing them to get written permission from members before spending any money on political campaigns, but that objective is obscured by presenting the initiative as a political reform measure.
It proposes to prohibit unions and corporations from directly contributing to candidates for state office and to political parties. But, as anyone who's been even casually following the presidential campaign so far this year knows, the real money in politics these days is in the Super PACS, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.
The natural outcome of banning corporate contributions to candidates would be to divert even more corporate money into Super PACs, or what have long been known in California politics as "independent expenditure committees." The initiative would not do anything about the fundraising and spending by independent expenditure committees, and indeed it could not under the rules laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision.
That isn't stopping the promoters of the union-stifling initiative from trying to capitalize on the growing public distaste about the role of Super PACs in American politics, as Brian Brokaw of the group formed to oppose the initiative, called Alliance for a Better California 2012, discovered the other day.
He pointed out in an email to reporters today that when one does a Google News search for Super PACs, the second item that pops up is a paid ad from the initiative campaign that says, "Super PAC reform."
The initiative would no nothing of the sort. To suggest that it would is as deceptive as packaging an attempt to muzzle labor unions through an initiative that bills itself as campaign finance reform.