At the turn of the 20th century, social commentator Will Rogers quipped, “Politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated.”
One look at the astronomical dollar signs dedicated to the 11 California propositions on November’s general election ballot and it’s evident money is an essential component of political involvement.
Charles Munger Jr., a physicist and Republican activist, has contributed upward of $70 million to various propositions, according to MapLight.org, a nonprofit watchdog organization dedicated to revealing the influence of money in politics. Munger’s contributions include a donation of about $35 million to defeat Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax plan, Proposition 30, which seeks to raise taxes on earners above
$250,000 to fund schools and address state budget deficits.
Munger also donated about $36 million to support Proposition 32, which if approved, would curtail unions’ abilities to contribute toward political candidates.
Finally, Munger, the son of a Berkshire Hathaway executive, contributed about $600,000 toward Proposition 40, which seeks to redraw state senate districts. His contribution represents the majority of the total funds ($695,000) dedicated toward support of the proposition.
More than $2.3 million has been raised in opposition to Proposition 40, which would keep the newly drawn districts in place. The opposition to the proposition received $1.7 million from the California Republican Party, which has officially endorsed support of the initiative.
Charles Munger’s sister, Molly Munger, a civil rights attorney based in Southern California, contributed $44 million to the support of Proposition 38, which proposes a competing alternative to Brown’s tax plan, providing revenue raised through increased taxes directly to schools instead of via state coffers.
Opponents of Proposition 38 have raised a comparatively meager $42,000 with the top donor listed as the California Chamber of Commerce.
Proposition 37, which would require food companies to label items sold to consumers that are made from plant or animals with genetic alterations, has a large financial discrepancy between support ($8.4 million) and opposition ($45 million).
Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology company that has engineered the seeds of agricultural products to resist pesticides the company also manufactures, has contributed about $8.1 million to opposing the initiative.
Other companies, such as Dupont ($5.4 million), PepsiCo. ($2.1 million), Grocery Manufacturers ($2 million) and BASF Plant Science ($2 million) also made multi-million dollar contributions to defeating the proposition.
On the other side, Mercola.com Health Resources LLC was the largest donor at $1.1 million in support of Proposition 37.
Proponents of Proposition 31, which would implement a number of changes and restrictions to the state budget process if approved, received about $4.4 million, while opponents garnered just under $600,000.
Proposition 35, which seeks to increase penalties for human trafficking, has had no contributions in opposition. Chris Kelly, who ran for California Attorney General unsuccessfully in 2010, has given $2.3 million in support of the proposition.
Finally, Thomas Steyer, a prominent financier, poured $28.5 million into support of Proposition 38, which would require multi-state businesses to pay income taxes based on the percentage of the sales in California. The revenue would be dedicated to clean-energy projects.
General Motors contributed $20,000 in opposition to the initiative.