Ballot Measures, Recalls and Permanent PACs

Often we’re asked by GFCers whether they should help finance a statewide ballot measure. Our response is two-fold:

  1. Success of any ballot measure is greatly influenced by the “Title & Summary” that describes the measure to voters and is written by the Attorney General, which is a partisan position. Eg, in deference to public employee unions, in 2014 then-AG Kamala Harris savaged the Title & Summary of former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s proposed pension fund reform ballot measure. Current-AG Rob Bonta is just as much a long time ally of public employee unions and other special interests.
  2. Ballot measures neither prevent the legislature and governor from taking additional steps of consequence (e.g., read here about steps taken by the legislature and governor after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978) nor ensure the measure will be properly implemented (e.g., Proposition 63, a 2004 measure that boosted tax rates to finance mental health programs).

In our view, money would be better spent financing a permanent good-government PAC that makes independent expenditures and is run as professionally and ruthlessly as special interests run PACs. E.g., see here for recent independent expenditures against the recall of Governor Newsom by such PACs. Those spenders (e.g., the California Building Industries Association and the California Prison Guards Union) are making a bet that Mr. Newsom would be grateful to those who helped him should he prevail, and if he doesn’t, in most cases the spenders know the opponents would be favorable to their interests or amenable to future support. Given our focus on the legislature, which is a necessary but not sufficient participant in the state’s governance and where direct donations (as opposed to independent expenditures) are more valuable, we’d certainly enjoy the formation of such a PAC.

Ballot measures and recalls come and go. Permanent PACs are here to stay.