Political Finance

A couple of supporters wrote to ask how this line in a recent WSJ op-ed — “Teachers were the fourth-largest campaign contributors to California’s legislative races in 2020 behind energy, prison guards and healthcare” — fits with our assertion that GFC is the largest bundler of direct donations to legislators and candidates for the legislature. The answer is that the author included independent expenditures (IE’s), which are not donations but rather expenditures for communications advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. There is a big difference.

Eg, in 2020 the prison guards union independently spent $1.3 million on mailers, canvassing, phone banks and social media in an unsuccessful effort to unseat Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer. Though IE’s weren’t successful in that case, occasionally they can make a difference in elections. But even when they do, once spent they are generally less influential with lawmakers. That’s because lawmakers constantly need direct donations, and not only because funds they control are more effective in campaigns (that year GFC bundled $33,000 for the victorious Mr. Jones-Sawyer) but also to build influence inside the legislature. That’s one reason several lawmakers who had been beneficiaries of IE spending by the California Medical Association nevertheless voted for AB 890, a bill vigorously opposed by CMA to liberate nurse practitioners.

Direct donations are more valuable to legislators and candidates, and because they are limited by law in amount, GFC has an edge in bundling them through its network of donors and chapters.

PS: The op-ed is about a proposed ballot measure to establish a constitutional right to a high-quality public education. While ballot measures are not our focus, such a right would help us in the legislature and we will be rooting for it to pass.