Business Cutback on Contributions

The balance of power in the Legislature isn’t going to be affected much by the recent decision of the California Retailers Association to halt campaign contributions because of the recession. 

Nor will the go-slow, keep-a-wary-eye-on-the-cash-register mode adopted by the California Chamber of Commerce, which worries the recession could sharply reduce the contributions it receives from its 17,00 members many of whom are mom-and-pop businesses. 

“We’re dependent on the economy for our contributions,” said Rob Lapsley who coordinates how the chamber’s political action committees spend their money. “It’s still uncertain how the slow economy is going to impact things.” 

Last year, the chamber contributed some $2 million to initiatives, candidates and independent expenditure committees. The retailers gave significantly less. 

As a comparison, California State Council of Service Employees Small Contributor Committee spent $5.3 million from January to October 18 of last year. A second Service Employees International Union committee spent $4.6 million, nearly $3 million to convince voters to pass Proposition 93 in February, which would have relaxed legislative term limits. 

Laborers spent $837,000 in 2008, giving $275,000 to the state Democratic Party. That doesn’t include the California Teachers Association, the California State Employees Association and several other well-financed unions.  

Business groups routinely complain that unions, both public employee and otherwise, have guaranteed sources of income for campaign spending by having such contributions be a requirement for membership. 

With comfortable Democratic majorities in both the 80-member Assembly and 40-member Senate – 51 and 24, respectively – the unions have more spending obligations both to preserve that majority and build on it. 

Because of the safe seats created by the last redrawing of legislative district lines, business groups are often reduced to supporting a moderate Democrat in the primary rather than a Republican, knowing that the GOP candidate can’t best the lop-sided registration. 

That is one reason the chamber spent $170,000 to support Proposition 11, approved by voters in November to strip lawmakers of the job of drawing their own district boundaries. The chamber’s hope is that more competitive districts will lead to more moderate, more business-oriented lawmakers. 

But, at the moment, regardless of the level of chamber, retailer or manufacturer contributions there will be a Democratic majority in the Legislature and, as one lobbyist put it, “that means bad things will happen to business either way.” 


Filed under: Fundraising

1 Comment »

  1. So, what you are saying is the purple-shirted,
    non-English speaking janitors, bed-panners, and the like are fronting for a union that spent $10 million of their money? And that’s just in 2008. Imagine the good in the world they could have accomplished instead of becoming the biggest political lapdog in Sacramento. Maybe they can schedule their Capitol visits on their furlough days.

    Comment by Les Hartwick — 2.02.2009 @ 10:09 pm

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