It's historically been quite easy for me to decide how to vote on California's propositions each election cycle.
Proposition 32 however has me uneasy. After having read through it, I've come to the conclusion that a good metaphor for it is an ice cream sundae drizzled with urine. Let me explain.
Proposition 32 does two things. First, it bans automatic deductions by corporations, unions, and government of employees' wages to be used for politics. I'm very much for this, because I believe the withholding of wages for political purposes is a violation of an individual’s right to free speech (and probably association). This is the elegant sundae I've been craving for years.
The second thing it does is bans corporate, union, and government contractor contributions to state and local candidates, which is a huge violation of free speech; the piss drizzled on top.
If I vote yes, I limit the free speech of millions of people who wish to contribute to a candidate that shares their values. If I vote no, I preserve that right, but I also leave unchallenged unions' hold on millions of Californians' hard-earned money. I'm leaning towards voting no, but wanted to get some advice.
asked Oct 16 '12 at 12:20
JK Gregg ♦
For me, the deciding factor for California's Proposition 32 is the actual text of the proposition itself, as printed in the California Voter Information Guide distributed to all California voters. There are two provisions in the actual text of the proposition that I find particularly problematic. The first of these is the following, which expresses the whole essence of the proposition:
... no corporation, labor union, or public employee labor union shall make a contribution to any candidate, candidate controlled committee; or to any other committee, including a political party committee, if such funds will be used to make contributions to any candidate or candidate controlled committee.
This section prohibits corporations from contributing directly to politicians or their campaigns. As explained in the official Legislative Analyst's synopsis of the measure (as printed in the Voter Information Guide), Proposition 32 is compleltely silent about so called "indirect" contributions to independent political action committees (PACs). Legal decisions by the courts in recent years have disallowed government mandated limits on contributions to independent organizations set up to promote or oppose specific candidates or measures, as long as those organizations truly are independent of the candidates or measures and "not coordinated" with them (as "coordinated" is defined in the law). Because of campaign contribution limits in general, the PACs have actually become the dominant channel for major contributors to make their preferences known to the general public. By the principle of the right of freedom of speech, the law cannot interfere with contributions to independent PACs by major contributors. Proposition 32 does not (and cannot) change this.
Opponents of Proposition 32 have claimed that Proposition 32 creates "giant loopholes" for "special interests," but I do not find anything in the language of Proposition 32 that does any such thing. What Proposition 32 actually does is significantly curtail the power of labor unions to contribute directly to political candidates and measures (using funds deducted from workers' paychecks). From the intensity of the opponents' claims, both in the Voter Information Guide and in their paid advertisements against Proposition 32, it is very apparent that this step against the power of labor unions is the real reason for most of the opposition. If that was all that Proposition 32 would do, i.e., if it was just limited to correcting abuses by labor unions, I would find Proposition 32 easier to support.
But Proposition 32 is not limited merely to refining current labor law. Proposition 32 also seems to further tighten the prohibitions against corporations contributing to political candidates. In principle, corporations, too, have a right to freedom of speech, which includes the right to pay for a means of communicating their choices and preferences to the general public. In principle, Proposition 32's ban on such contributions is a major infringement of that right. (The rights involved are actually the rights of those who own and run the corporations and other enterprises, including labor unions.)
Proponents of Proposition 32 may believe that prohibiting corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates is a very minor issue in practice, since it is largely prohibited already. The real aim of Proposition 32, then, would seem to be the tightening of contributions by labor unions. In other words, Proposition 32 is fundamentally an anti-labor measure in its actual intent and effect. But I see a vote for Proposition 32 as an endorsement of the principle that corporate contributions directly to political candidates are bad and warrant prohibition. I see that as a very bad principle to endorse and further codify in the law. I cannot support a law that says, in effect, if corporations can't contribute directly to political campaigns, then labor unions shouldn't be able to do it, either. Instead, I would favor an approach that says: if it is ok for labor unions to contribute directly to political candidates and measures, then corporations should be able to do so, too.
There is a second problematic provision in the actual language of Proposition 32. So far, I have not seen this provision mentioned by any public commentators or analysts that I know of. I suspect they either didn't notice it or don't see it as important (bold emphasis added):
This measure shall be liberally construed to further its purposes. In any legal action brought by an employee or union member to enforce the provisions of this act, the burden shall be on the employer or labor union to prove compliance with the provisions herein.
This lannguage seems to say that if anyone is ever accused of violating Proposition 32, it will be his responsibility to prove his innocence, not the accuser's burden to prove the alleged violator's guilt. This is a principle of "guilty until proven innocent," which turns our present legal system on its head. I certainly will not knowingly endorse a principle of that kind if I am allowed any choice about it.
In sum, I see the opponents as correct in their claims about who is backing Proposition 32 and why, but very wrong in claiming that Proposition 32 contains any language that "creates loopholes" for big contributors*. The so-called "loopholes" are actually rights, which the courts have already upheld in forms such as the independent PACs. And the proponents of Proposition 32 are also correct, as I see it, in pointing out that independent PACs would still be available to labor unions, also, if Proposition 32 passes. Philosophically, I see what Proposition 32's backers are doing as just one more pragmatic attempt in a badly mixed economy to protect their valid interests by trying to compromise with the principles of their enemies. I cannot endorse such a compromise (if I have a choice). It will lead, over time, to further attempts to ban contributions to independent PACs, as well, which the opponents of Proposition 32 are already loudly screaming for.
*Note: In the Voter Information Guide, the opponents of Proposition 32 provide a website link for more information about what's wrong with the proposition. One section compares the actual language of the measure to its alleged effects. What I find in this comparison, however, is the same confusion about creating a loophole versus merely remaining silent about provisions of other existing laws and judicial rulings. (The website information also expresses the view that workers are weak while corporations are strong, and that the alleged "weak" deserve more freedom of financial expenditure than corporations. Objectivism, however, flatly rejects the idea that wealth is a form of political power. See "Economic Power vs. Political Power" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)
Additional note: Proposition 32 would add a new section to the California Government Code. This is not an amendment to the California state constitution, and it does not affect the federal laws that apply to candidates for federal offices such as the U.S. President, Vice President, Senators or Members of the House of Representatives. Proposition 32 would apply to state and local offices and measures only.