Big-Bucks Battle Over Prop. 226

$21.8 million spent in fight over unions dues

Over the next four days, California voters will be bombarded by pleas from backers and opponents of Proposition 226, who have already spent $21.8 million in a high- stakes power struggle between pro-labor and anti-union forces.

Proposition 226 is by far the most visible and most expensive battle in the June primary election war.

But initiatives to repeal the state’s bilingual schooling program, make it harder for the state to contract out for services and limit spending on administrators in public schools are also generating heat and increased financial support as the final days before the June 2 election tick down.

Proposition 226 would force unions to get the permission of their members to spend dues on political lobbying, which is mainly exerted on behalf of Democratic candidates and causes.

Polls show both sides about even. Heavy spending by the No side has driven support for the initiative from 72 percent in November down to 45 percent this month, according to a recent Field Poll.

Opponents, through their main committee, Californians to Protect Employee Rights, have raised $17.2 million, the vast majority from labor unions.

The main pro-226 committee, Californians for Paycheck Protection, had raised $4.6 million — more than $900,000 of it from outside California.

The list of contributors on both sides reads like an old Rust Belt labor fight transplanted to California.

The backers of Proposition 226 are mainly conservative business interests:

— $60,000 from the chairman of True North Partners, Bentonville, Ark.

— $50,000 from Richard Mellon Scaife, a conservative newspaper publisher in Pittsburgh, Pa.

— $50,000 from the chairman of the Brennan Industrial Group Inc., Akron, Ohio.

— $50,000 from the chairman of Federated Investors Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa.

— $25,000 from the Bristol- Myers Squibb Co., Princeton, N.J.

The conservative Claremont Institute received a grant of more than $100,000 from Indiana insurance tycoon J. Patrick Rooney, a backer of Proposition 226. The institute used it to pay for radio ads.

An additional $245,000 came from the Foundation for Responsible Government in Washington, D.C., which has ties to the Republican Leadership Council.

Governor Pete Wilson, chairman of the Yes campaign and a $550,000 contributor to it, is on the foundation’s board.

More than $60,000 in recent contributions to the Yes side came from 12 executives of NationsBanc Montgomery Securities in San Francisco, including CEO Thom Weisel.

Last-minute contributions will help pay for airing a new television ad beginning today.

Opposition money includes $2.8 million from the AFL-CIO; $620,000 from state Building Trades unions; and $3.4 million from the National Education Association and the California Teachers Association.

An additional $1.4 million came from the California State Council of Service Employees and $925,000 from the California Labor Federation.

Here’s a quick look at the other June initiatives:

An initiative to restrict administrative expenses at schools to no more than 5 percent of spending, Proposition 223 has drawn heat from school administrators and nonteaching school employees who see it as a threat to their livelihoods.

Foes raised more than $2 million during the March 18 to May 16 reporting period.

The pro side has not aired TV ads. Financial support from the initial sponsor of the measure, United Teachers of Los Angeles, shrank because of the union’s focus on Proposition 226.

Supporters received $434,500 during the March 18 to May 16 reporting period. One of the major donors was A. Jerrold Perenchio, chairman of Univision, a Los Angeles-based, Spanish-language TV network. He kicked in $50,000.

An initiative sponsored by state engineers, Proposition 224 would require competitive bidding for state engineering or design contracts over $50,000 but weights the bid process to favor state engineers.

Foes raised more than $4 million from mid-March through mid- May — most in small, individual donations from private engineers and design firms. Backers raised $696,430 during the same period.

About 700 individuals, mostly teachers, were the chief contributors against Proposition 227, which restricts the amount of bilingual education children in public schools receive.

Opponents also received a $1.5 million donation from Perenchio and $650,000 from the California Teachers Association for a total of more than $3.3 million over the past two months.

Most of the money raised by both sides has been spent on mailers and television ads.

Backers of the initiative raised $126,386 during the latest reporting period.



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