Koch-Related Money Doubles Anti-Union Prop. 32 Campaign Funds

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The California Teachers Association has contributed $16.1 million to oppose Proposition 32, with the knowledge that if the ballot measure passes in November, it might very well be the last time it has that kind of money to put in a political campaign.

Last week, a group with ties to the conservative billionaire Koch brothers kicked in $4 million in support of Prop. 32, the “Paycheck Protection” initiative, and they are guaranteed to still have deep pockets whether it passes or not. Charles and David Koch are primary bankrollers of the Tea Party and climate change skeptics.

While the proposition’s primary goal is to cripple union influence in politics—under a pretense of political reform—in the words of the League of Women Voters, it also “was intentionally written to create special exemptions for billionaire businessmen and business special interests, giving them even more political power to write their own set of rules.”

Opposition groups, mostly unions, have contributed more than $28 million to the campaign. The Koch contribution brought support for the measure about $7 million.

The Kochs are no strangers to California politics. Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources contributed $1 million to the 2010 campaign for Prop. 23, an initiative that would have blocked key provisions of the landmark 2006 global warming bill AB32. 

Prop. 32 would put restrictions on unions’ ability to use payroll deductions to raise funds for political purposes. Additional elements of the proposition limit both unions and corporations from making contributions to candidates and their political committees, and restrict government contractors from donating money to an elected official they have or might have a contractual relationship with.

The $4 million contribution to the Yes on 32 campaign is from the California Future Fund for Free Markets, a new group whose single donation is from the American Future Fund. The American Future Fund is one of several outfits that receives funding from the Center to Protect Patient’ Rights (CPPR), a secretive foundation believed to be funded by the Kochs that contributes to a range of conservative causes far removed from patient rights.

According to Republic Report, Koch campaign commercial operative Sean Nobel managed the foundation. Koch ally Heather Higgins was one of its original board members, and CPPR fundraiser Cheryl Hillen was director of fundraising for the Kochs’ Citizens for a Sound Economy.     

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the CPPR doled out $44 million to 22 groups in 2010, and the Amercian Future Fund topped the list at $11.7. Other sources have put the foundation’s expenditures at $55 million. The grants are made under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which allows cloaked contributions to “social welfare” groups that are meant to be largely outside the realm of politics.   

Voters rejected measures similar to Prop. 32 in 1996 and 2005. Early polling this year showed support for the measure above 60% but slipping in recent weeks.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Who's Funding Prop 32, Prohibiting Contributions Through Payroll Deductions? (KCET)

Prop. 32: Group Linked to Koch Brothers Gives $4 Million (by Anthony York, Los Angeles Times)

Late Contribution Report (California Secretary of State’s Office)

Mystery Health Care Group Funneled Millions to Conservative Nonprofits (by Viveca Novak and Robert Maguire,

Koch Operative Steered $55 Million to Front Groups Airing Ads against Democrats (by Lee Fang, Republic Report)

Covert Operations: The Billionaire Brothers Who Are Waging a War against Obama (by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker)

Leave a comment