Tag Archives: Koch Brothers

FPPC Levies Record Fines Against Dark Money Groups

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission today sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.

According to the Sacramento Bee:

In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California’s political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year’s ballot initiative wars.

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced the settlement with the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership, two groups based in Arizona that the FPPC describes as part of a network operated by the conservative Koch brothers.

The commission also sent letters to two California committees demanding they pay the state general fund more than $15 million they received from groups that didn’t properly report the source of their funds.

These groups used every dirty trick in the book to try to hoodwink voters into passing the pernicious Prop 32, a measure which would have silenced workers, and defeat Prop 30, the tax measure to fund our schools. Ultimately, they failed because voters saw through the façade.

Reaction was swift from union leaders to this landmark settlement.

California Labor Federation Leader Art Pulaski:

With today’s record fine, California sent a strong message to shadowy special-interest groups that we won’t tolerate illicit campaign donations that undermine our democracy. We applaud Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Chair Ann Ravel for aggressively pursuing this investigation and holding these out-of-state dark-money groups accountable for violating California law.

California Professional Firefighters President and Alliance for a Better California Chair Lou Paulson expressed outrage that the California-based Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) was the lynchpin for the illegal effort. SBAC was ordered by the FPPC to repay the $11 million it received from the out-of-state front groups.

The FPPC action offers final proof of an open secret: Corporate California is using dark money to try to game California’s election process. It’s clear there was a calculated effort by California political operatives to hide the involvement of California interests in the Prop. 30 and 32 campaigns. We’re appalled that the SBAC would be the conduit for this money-laundering scheme.

SEIU California President Laphonza Butler also applauded today’s action, yet noted more needs to be done to shed light on these dark money groups that try to rig elections in California.

With the identity of the secret donors still unknown, it’s clear that our campaign finance laws contain loopholes that allow shadowy front groups to deceive voters by hiding the source of campaign dollars. We call on legislators to strengthen campaign finance laws to prevent billionaires and corporate titans like the Koch brothers from using shadowy front groups to buy California elections.


LA Times will not be sold to the Koch Brothers

Oil magnates think Tribune newspaper business wasn’t economically viable

by Brian Leubitz

In the end, their desire to make a buck overcame their desire to control the press in LA, Chicago and other cities.

Billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch have scrapped their efforts to buy the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune Co. newspapers, a Koch Industries spokeswoman said.

*** **** ***

The Kochs’ decision not to pursue the newspapers was first reported by the Daily Caller, a news website founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, former advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The website, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the proceedings, said the Kochs conducted due diligence and determined that the newspapers were “not economically viable.” They have not been interested in buying the newspapers for “a couple months,” the website reported. (LA Times)

Well, I suppose they could have let the cat drift out of the bag sooner, but perhaps they enjoyed seeing progressive organizations get riled up on the matter. Or not.

Groups like the Courage Campaign and the California Labor Federation had been preemptively fighting any sale of the Times to the Koch brothers since word leaked out months ago. The Koch Brothers funding of anti-labor organizations worried many progressives that the sale would skew the editorial direction of the paper far to the right. Needless to say, many excited press releases went out today. Here is the statement from the Labor Federation:

“Today’s news that the Koch Brothers won’t buy the LA Times and others Tribune Co. newspapers is a major victory for proponents of a free and democratic press.

“For months, the California Labor Federation, media watchdogs and progressive groups have raised serious concerns about the effect of handing control of major news outlets over to the Kochs. The Kochs’ interest in the Tribune Co. was no doubt fueled by a desire to further their anti-worker, anti-environment agenda by using those media outlets as a megaphone for their extreme ideas.

“Journalistic integrity is vital to free society. The power of a free press is essential to providing the checks and balances needed to protect democracy. We’re pleased that the Tribune Co. won’t fall under the control of the Kochs, and we remain vigilant in our efforts to protect journalistic institutions from being corrupted by those who want to use them to serve their own agendas.”

10 Ways Proposition 32 Would Hurt California

This is an article written by Matt Fleischer for Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

California’s Proposition 32 proposes outlawing the use of automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes. Backed by such labor-hating billionaires as the Koch Brothers, Charles Munger Jr., and by anti-marriage equality crusaders like Howard Ahmanson and Larry T. Smith, the measure will decimate unions’ ability to participate in the political process-stripping them of their considerable clout in the state. But that doesn’t mean Prop. 32 is purely about union-busting. Instead, the measure provides its wealthy backers with a means to an end – to eliminate organized labor as the most significant obstacle to imposing a corporate and fundamentalist religious agenda on an otherwise stalwart progressive state.

Prop. 32 isn’t an end game. It’s the beginning of a much larger conservative agenda for California. The only way to truly understand the potential impact of Prop. 32’s passage is to analyze the agenda of its backers.

Here are the 10 most dire issues California can look forward to if Prop. 32 is to pass this week.

1. Toxic Sludge – The Koch Brothers’ $4 million donation to support Prop. 32 is often portrayed as purely ideological. But the Kochs are not disinterested players in the state of California. They own the pulp paper processing company Georgia-Pacific, which has 11 facilities in California and has spent much of the past few years lobbying to gut provisions of California’s Green Chemistry Initiative-a 2008 law protecting California citizens from exposure to toxic industrial chemicals.

2. Global Warming, Here We Come – Prop. 32 backers despise California’s landmark climate change prevention statute, AB 32. The Koch brothers’ most conspicuous foray into California politics – prior to their Prop. 32 support – came in 2010, when the Koch Industries subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, donated $1 million to support Proposition 23. Had voters ratified it, Prop. 23 would have overturned AB 32. Flint Hills didn’t chip in out of climate-change denial. The company has a substantial investment in Canadian tar sands oil, whose extraction and consumption creates a Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint. Robust clean emissions standards, Koch Industries complained on its website, “would cripple refiners that rely on heavy crude feedstocks.”

3. Offshore Drilling – With lessons of the BP spill two years in hindsight, the idea of offshore drilling in California has resurfaced. Koch Industries recently donated $5,000 to the Congressional campaign of Santa Barbara Republican Tony Strickland-who, in various campaigns over the years, has routinely advocated opening up waters off the coast of California to drilling.

Though they don’t yet appear to have their feet in the door financially, there’s no reason to doubt that, with their army of lobbyists at the ready and history of campaign contributions in the state, the Kochs wouldn’t maneuver to profit off of California’s offshore oil.

4. Bye-Bye Minimum Wage – Not only have Prop. 32 backers been deeply involved in efforts to obliterate living wage efforts in California, they even want to roll back the state’s modest minimum wage requirements. In 2006, Prop. 32 author Thomas Hiltachk and his law firm authored and pushed for the Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act. This progressive-sounding bit of legislation would have increased California’s minimum wage by a pittance – while eliminating overtime pay for many workers and freezing all future minimum wage raises without the consent of two-thirds of both houses of the California legislature.

5. School Vouchers – If there’s a unifying issue animating Prop. 32’s backers, it’s that nearly all want to shift public school money to private educational entities. By far the most radical is third-generation venture capitalist and “viral marketing” guru Timothy C. Draper-who thus far has given $100,000 to push Prop. 32. In 2000 Draper was the brains and the piggy bank behind Proposition 38-arguably the most extreme school voucher effort in recent American history.

6. Gay Conversion Therapy – Religious-right Prop. 32 billionaire backers Howard Ahmanson and Larry T. Smith are among the fiercest advocates in the country for gay conversion therapy for minors. Smith’s Family Action PAC helped lobby against SB 1172-the California legislative effort to ban gay-to-straight conversion therapy for minors – which passed in September. Smith fundamentally rejects the notion that parents forcing their underage children to endure conversion therapy could be psychologically harmful. On the contrary, he feels it’s a “parental right.”

Gut labor support for progressive candidates, and the Smiths of the world may have the resources they need to reverse SB 1172.

7. Will Make Prop 8 Will Look Like A Tea Party – California unions have been reliable supporters of marriage equality and LGBT rights. Unions donated nearly $3 million to fight Prop. 8 back in 2008. Should Prop. 32 pass, that support will be lost, and Prop. 8 backers Larry Smith, Howard Ahmanson and their compatriots will undoubtedly continue pushing their conservative religious, anti-gay agenda on the state of California and beyond.

“This is not just about California,” Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs told Frying Pan News. “Labor communities have been very supportive of LGBT rights in the workplace and in the political space. They are reliable allies. If 32 passes, California’s 2.5 million unionized workers won’t be able to contribute their money for political purposes out of state either. The next time there’s a fight in Washington over the Defense of Marriage Act, for instance, labor has less capacity to join us. California is a donor state. The whole chain is interrupted.”

8. Friends of the Minutemen – Prop. 32 backers have plenty of money to go around. This election cycle they’ve been funneling cash to the State Assembly campaign of Orange County Republican Allan Mansoor. Well before Arizona passed its anti-immigrant law SB 1070, then-mayor Mansoor authorized Costa Mesa police to run immigration checks on individuals suspected of crimes, as well as on unlicensed drivers. He even proposed authorizing local police to investigate federal immigration crimes. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Mansoor has close ties to the xenophobic Minutemen.

Mansoor isn’t the only California politician with Minutemen connections receiving support from Prop. 32 backers. San Bernardino Republican State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is the founder of his town’s Minutemen chapter. He also is leading the charge to repeal the Dream Act, which would allow high-achieving undocumented immigrants to access state scholarships for college.

9. The Poison Pill – Prop. 32 claims it will restrict union and corporate donations to individual candidates. But this provision of the bill seems to conflict with the recent Supreme Court Citizens United ruling. The Republican operative who authored the bill, Thomas Hiltachk, is no sloppy legal mind. One has to assume this conspicuous hole is intentional. Could it be that Prop. 32 was designed so that only a part of it could stand up to a constitutional challenge? Say, for instance, the one thing backers of Prop. 32 have historically been interested in-the end of union workers’ automatic payroll deductions?

“Prop. 32 has a separability clause,” says Alan Crowley, a labor lawyer with the legal firm Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld. “In theory, if a law is challenged, the parts that aren’t ruled illegal could go forward. Hypothetically that might be enforced.”

10. A Trojan Horse Onslaught – Prop. 32 is simply not what it says it is. It is a union-busting “paycheck protection” measure masquerading as campaign finance reform. This deception is intentional. In fact, it is the calling card of the political consulting outfit behind Prop. 32, the Dolphin Group. The firm has a history of launching “Trojan Horse” political campaigns in favor of Republicans and corporate interests, including starting Californians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions while working for Big Tobacco, and Coalition for a Sustainable Delta while working for farming interests trying to drain the Sacramento Delta dry. These Trojan Horse measures don’t have a very high success rate, as voters eventually catch on to the subterfuge. Should Prop. 32 pass, however, it will only embolden political consultants like the Dolphin Group to continue with their attempts to fool voters into voting against their interests.

(Hear Matthew Fleischer discuss Prop. 32 on the L.A. Redux podcast.)

After Election Day: Two, Three, Many Prop. 32s

This is an article written by Matt Fleischer for Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for regular in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13 – a ballot initiative that rolled back property taxes to 1975 levels and capped future increases at two percent. More destructively, it mandated that all future tax raises in the state be approved by the legislature by a two-thirds margin. The law presaged a wave of anti-taxation measures across the country that continues to define the political landscape we inhabit to this day. Ironically, while Prop. 13 was an effective carrier of the anti-taxation message, the rest of America soundly rejected the draconian policies Prop. 13 put into place to block the raising of tax revenues.

“The specifics of Prop. 13 were largely not adopted in other states,” explains Lenny Goldberg, Executive Director of the California Tax Reform Association. “Hardly any states enacted the two-thirds majority rule. And very few states treat taxes on commercial properties like Prop. 13 does. But in a broader sense, the anti-tax movement certainly took off from that point. There’s no question Prop. 13 made a huge contribution to where we are now.”

More than 30 years later, another California ballot initiative stands poised to fundamentally alter national politics. It will do so even if the details of its language are ignored elsewhere. Even, in fact, if it loses November 6. Proposition 32 proposes limiting “special interest” political donations to elections by eliminating mandatory union and corporate payroll deductions from being used for political purposes.

Unlike Prop. 13, however, which built grassroots support from the ground up in California, Prop. 32 is virtually identical to multiple “paycheck protection” initiatives that have been floated by national conservative groups since the early ’90s. Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Ohio, Michigan and Washington are currently the only states in America where paycheck protection measures have become law. A study conducted by the conservative Heritage Foundation shows that union donations to political campaigns in these states dropped 50 percent after the measures were imposed. Alabama, Arizona and North Carolina passed paycheck measures in 2011, but those measures are currently being held back by legal challenges.

According to John Logan, Director of Labor Studies at San Francisco State University, the first paycheck protection measure originated in the state of Washington in 1992. It passed, severely weakening that state’s unions. The measure’s admirers in other states were buoyed by this success. “By the late ’90s,” says Logan, “paycheck protection had become part of the national conservative movement.”

Indeed, the powerful conservative lobbying group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) drafted and endorsed paycheck protection model legislation on May 30, 1998. Months later, a virtually identical version wound up on the California ballot in the form of Proposition 226. It failed by a six percent margin.

“The defeat of 226 in California robbed the paycheck protection movement of momentum,” says Logan. Though conservatives continued pushing similar bills in the decade that followed, the measures were unequivocally defeated across the country.

That all changed, however, in 2010, when the financial crisis and accompanying nationwide budget deficits provided conservatives with the pretext they needed for an assault on unions – especially those representing public-sector employees.

“Six hundred and seventy new Republican legislators came into office after the 2010 election,” says Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy, which has done extensive research into ALEC and its political influence in Wisconsin and throughout the nation. “They took control of 26 states. But before they did they all went flocking to ALEC.”

According to Bottari, on December 3, 2010, incoming Republican freshman legislators attended a large ALEC gathering to coordinate strategies. “The primary issue,” she says “was these union-busting measures like right-to-work and paycheck protection. They got their marching orders and modified ALEC model legislation to local circumstances.”

However, Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of California’s Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute for Public Affairs, points out that, like Prop. 13, the idea of Prop. 32’s actual language being replicated across the country is unlikely.

“The notion that Prop. 32 will disadvantage corporations is so ridiculous it’s hard for me to imagine this strategy will catch on,” he says. “People aren’t buying it.”

Instead, argues Sonenshein, Prop. 32’s legacy-win or lose-will be the massive amounts of money spent by shady, anonymous political action committees to pass similar legislation. In the post-Citizens United world, where unlimited and untraceable donations from corporations and wealthy individuals have become a reality, conservatives and activist billionaires have shown they have the will and the resources to launch non-stop attacks on unions and progressive causes.

“Private entities are forcing labor to defend itself from a volume of money that is overwhelming,” he says. “Measures like 32 weaken labor for future elections and divert attention from other more proactive races unions consider important.”

Bottari agrees: “Part of the strategy nationally is to engage unions in a whack-a-mole game. Unions have a difficult time mobilizing support for other issues when they’re facing fights in all these states at the same time.”

In California, for instance, labor has not been able to provide the kind of support for Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which proposes increasing taxes on the wealthy to raise money for public schools, that it would have, had the dire threat of Prop. 32 not been present.

Prop. 32, therefore, is a win-win for its backers. With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling laying the legal framework, and a nearly unlimited supply of funding available from willing arch-conservatives like the Koch brothers, expect to see this trend repeated across the country. In liberal states like California, such efforts will handcuff progressive legislation from going forward. In less union-friendly states, these measures could win out over time.

“A bad argument repeated can ultimately be effective,” says Sonenshein. “The backers of Prop. 32 have the mindset that you just have to win once. If you keep putting it on the ballot, you may eventually find an election where labor simply isn’t as well organized to defeat it.”

In other words, even if Prop. 32 fails in California in 2012, the constant threat-and likely reality-of similar initiatives being repeatedly put on the ballot will tie down union resources and influence across the country. Win or lose, its impact will be felt around America for years to come.

Are Koch Brothers Behind $11M Gift to Prop. 32 Group?

This is an article written by Bill Raden for Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for regular in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

The most recent gusher of Super PAC cash to flow into California’s 2012 election cycle came last Tuesday in the form of an $11 million contribution that has prompted speculation about possible involvement of the Koch brothers. The recipient of the massive donation was the Sacramento-based Small Business Action Committee PAC and its No on Proposition 30/Yes on Proposition 32 efforts. The infusion made headlines, not only because of its generosity but because of its source – an obscure group called Americans for Responsible Leadership, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The idea of a previously bush-league, locally-focused Arizona PAC writing an $11 million check to out-of-state political campaigns raised an odor that could be smelled all the way to Sacramento. That’s where, it was reported Wednesday, that Ann Ravel, the California Fair Political Practices Commission chairwoman, ordered FPPC attorneys to demand that Americans for Responsible Leadership disclose the contribution’s original donors.

The FPPC sent the demand, with a Wednesday deadline, to the group’s Warrenton, Virginia lawyers – the up-and-coming Republican Super PAC specialists, Holtzman Vogel Josefiak PLLC. It is not yet known at the time of this writing whether the firm had complied.

Ravel’s action comes in response to a complaint filed October 19 by California Common Cause and its Vice President for State Operations, Derek Cressman.

The request that the FPPC act on what Common Cause believes may be the largest “secret political donation in California history” came about when Cressman noticed the uncanny coincidence that Americans for Responsible Leadership shared Holtzman Vogel Josefiak as the same attorneys as the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity PAC and Karl Rove’s Crossroads PAC.

“What we found is there is a Virginia law firm that seems to be ground zero for dark money all across the country,” Cressman says. “They’re tied to the Koch brothers, they’re tied to Karl Rove’s operation, and they’re also behind this Americans for Responsible Leadership group.” That common denominator, he explains, “gives a strong indication of where this money is coming from.”

The implications of those relationships are hardly news to veteran Arizona political operatives. Ever since ARL dropped its $11 million bombshell onto Sacramento, Phoenix has been humming with speculation that the money originated with the Koch brothers.

According to one scenario discussed by longtime observers of Arizona politics, who spoke on condition of anonymity based on the available facts, the Kochs may have wanted to anonymously dump another massive payload on the Yes on 32 campaign. To do so they would need an out-of-state entity in order to get around California’s reporting requirements. These observers conjecture that Americans for Responsible Leadership accommodated by passing the contribution onto SBAC PAC. The price for doing that-according to these observers-may have been to let ARL skim $350,000 off the top in order to fight one of ARL’s in-state bête noires, Arizona’s single open primary initiative, Proposition 121, a ballot measure that ARL fears would bump Tea Party candidates off the general election ballot.

Though Phoenix media consultant Joe Yuhas says he can’t personally confirm such speculation, he is quick to point out that two days after SBAC reported the $11 million contribution, the anti-Prop 121 Stop Top Two Committee revealed it accepted a single $350,000 contribution from ARL.

For his part, Cressman believes that such a scenario sounds “sort of right: It’s like, ‘Sure, you can run some money through us, but let us shave some stuff across the top to work on issues we care about in Arizona.'” It is, he says, “exactly how these deals go down.”

Yuhas, who works for the Phoenix-based media company Riester, is a consultant for both the Prop. 121 campaign and for Arizona’s Proposition 204; the initiatives would create a one-cent-per-dollar sales tax to benefit education. He is no stranger to ARL or its colorful chairman, Robert Graham.

Graham, who ran against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary and is currently making his second bid to become the state’s GOP chairman, is positively phobic when it comes to labor unions. Besides writing a book proclaiming the world would be better off without them, he made a promotional video in which he compares unions to parasites.

According to Yuhas, Graham was a prominent “supporter of Tea Party candidates in the most recent Phoenix municipal election in 2011.” In fact, he points out, “this is where Americans for Responsible Leadership first emerged. … They funded campaigns against mainstream candidates in support of Tea Party candidates.”

Sam Wercinski works with the Phoenix-based Arizona Advocacy Network to, as he puts it, “promote clean elections and accountability to the voters, not donors. He is well acquainted with Graham, ARL and the SBAC contribution rumors. “What I’ve heard,” Wercinski says, “is that Americans for Responsible Leadership has used Arizona sort of as a laundering site for money to then pour into California. … And Arizona got a slice of that, to then work against citizens’ initiatives.

What has struck Wercinski most about the stories is not that they exist, but their pervasiveness and consistency. “When you start hearing rumors from so many different sources,” he says, “you just have to wonder if this is true or not.”

Establishing the truth of such tales is now in the hands of Ravel and the FPPC. (Frying Pan News calls to Graham and his ARL co-founders, Eric Wnuck and Steven Nickolas requesting comment went unanswered at press time.) To Cressman, however, there’s a victory in the mere fact that the FPPC is taking an active interest.

“They’re acting on our complaint,” he exults, “which is huge.

Proposition 32′s Anti-Gay Warriors

This is an article written by Matthew Fleischer for Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for regular in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

Brothers David and Charles Koch, and other libertarian billionaire backers of Proposition 32, including Charles Munger Jr., like to wrap themselves in the toga of individual freedom. However, despite their supposed ideological fervor for personal liberties, they have allied themselves with some of the nation’s most vociferously anti-gay religious activists – all for a campaign to outlaw the use of automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes. Although it is not widely seen as a “gay issue,” Prop. 32’s passage could have far-reaching consequences for California’s gays and lesbians.

“If we lose organized labor as a funded political ally in California, the LGBT movement is in big trouble,” says Courage Campaign founder and LGBT activist Rick Jacobs.  “Would you rather have Howard Ahmanson thinking about your rights in the workplace, or organized labor? That’s what this is about. Mark my words, people like the Kochs and Ahmanson are not thinking about how LGBT people are welcome in the workplace and not discriminated against.”

Howard Ahmanson, the Prop. 32 supporter to whom Jacobs refers, is a wealthy heir who once told the Orange County Register his political aspirations for the country embraced “the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

In 2008 Ahmanson was one of the leading backers of the successful Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California where, briefly, it had been legal. He donated nearly $1.4 million to fight against marriage equality. That sum is even greater than the $1 million he donated to the American Anglican Council, a religious advocacy organization, in the early aughts-ostensibly to help undermine the tide of tolerance growing in the church towards LGBT participation. The Episcopal Church, which falls under the Anglican umbrella and to which Ahmanson belongs, was the first major Protestant denomination to allow the ordination of openly gay bishops.

It’s telling that for a bill advertised as a campaign finance reform measure, Prop. 32 wouldn’t have put the slightest dent in Prop. 8’s funding, had Prop. 32 been law in 2008. It would have, though, prevented more than $2 million in union donations from flowing to the marriage equality side.

Ahmanson isn’t the only Prop. 32 backer looking to stifle LGBT rights in California. Despite his fundamentalist politics, he may not even be the most anti-gay. That honor likely belongs to real estate investment magnate Larry T. Smith, who thus far has given $255,000 to Prop. 32.

A strong supporter of Prop. 8, Smith was recently among the fiercest critics of SB 1172-the California legislative effort to ban gay-to-straight conversion therapy for minors – which passed in September.

Smith fundamentally rejects the notion that parents forcing their underage children to endure conversion therapy could be psychologically harmful. On the contrary, he feels it’s a “parental right.”

“It in fact appears most of the evidence supports the thesis or the concept that that lifestyle is the result of early childhood experiences,” Smith told the Christian news site Onenewsnow.com. “If early childhood experiences tend to motivate a person in that particular direction, then it would seem reasonable … that proper therapy would help them get out of that particular lifestyle, which I don’t care where you stand – there’s no question that it’s unhealthy.”

In other words, there’s no question that being LGBT is “unhealthy” and a lifestyle choice, and that all you need is some behavior modification at a young age and everything will be good-like curing bedwetting.

Smith isn’t merely opining. He’s the billionaire founder of the religious-right political action committee Family Action-which, with the help of fellow Prop. 32 backer and Family Action board member Mark W. Bucher, helped qualify and pass Proposition 22, a 2000 law amending California’s Family Code to effectively ban same-sex marriage.

For more than a decade, the Family Action PAC has routinely funneled money to anti-gay conservative politicians across the state of California, including Orange County State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, whom Smith recently praised as “an effective voice for conservative values.”

Mansoor caught the attention of LGBT activists when he ran for a Costa Mesa city council seat in 2002 by posting homophobic comments and articles on the message boards of the website Concerned Costa Mesa Citizens. He also supports the claim that homosexual men commit acts of sexual child molestation at a disproportionately high rate.

Recently, Smith came out as an opponent of this year’s Assembly Joint Resolution 43 – otherwise known as the LGBTQ Bill of Rights. Proposed by Bell Gardens Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, the resolution urged Congress and President Obama to extend California’s robust LBGT civil rights protections against bullying, harassment in the workplace, and discrimination in pay, loan opportunities, housing, hiring and family leave, to gay and lesbians across the country.

“The California Legislature spends their time on trivia instead of dealing with the major problems that the state has,” Smith complained of AJR 43 to Onenewsnow.com. “And it also tells you how the special interests control the California Legislature.”

Smith’s definition of gay rights as a “special interest” should tell LGBT-rights supporters all they need to know about Prop. 32-whose website explicitly advocates “taking back California by reducing the influence of Special Interests across the board.”

LGBT activist Robin Tyler, an original plaintiff in the California Marriage Equality case and a member of the first lesbian couple to be legally married in California, sees Prop. 32 in the same vein as Prop. 8, and thinks its passage would have disastrous effects on the marriage equality movement in California.

“Prop. 32 is another glaring example of why Californians are being fooled into thinking that if they voted for stopping ‘special interests,’ they will be voting in their own favor,” she says. “Like Prop. 8, which misled the public who voted ‘Yes’ into thinking they were protecting their children, Prop. 32 once again misleads the public into thinking they are protecting themselves.”

Reached by phone, Larry T. Smith had “no comment at this time” on Tyler’s remarks or anything having to do with Prop. 32.

Should Prop. 32 pass, Smith, Ahmanson and their compatriots will undoubtedly continue pushing their religious, anti-gay agenda on the state of California and beyond.

“This is not just about California,” says the Courage Campaign’s Jacobs. “Labor communities have been very supportive of LGBT rights in the workplace and in the political space. They are reliable allies. If 32 passes, California’s 2.5 million unionized workers won’t be able to contribute their money for political purposes out of state either. The next time there’s a fight in Washington over the Defense of Marriage Act, for instance, labor has less capacity to join us. California is a donor state. The whole chain is interrupted.”

Disconnected From Reality: Prop. 32′s AT&T Ad

This is a video and article from Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for regular in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

Newspapers across California are calling out Proposition 32-a ballot measure that would outlaw using automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes. Editorial writers and columnists charge the initiative is dishonest for positioning itself as an anti-corporate campaign finance effort – even as supporters of the initiative have recently taken to union-bashing to frame their arguments. However, for a period of several months over the summer, Prop. 32 backers did their best to fool Californians with a disingenuous Occupy Wall Street-inspired “fight the power” advertising campaign. Let’s take a look at some vintage Trojan Horse political advertising.

0 minutes 05 seconds – Nice special effects. Michael Bay is impressed.

0:16 – Does that briefcase combination read “666”? Perhaps the flow of “special interest” money into politics is a deal with the devil. Only problem: The devil is wearing a wedding band. Given that such Christian conservative Proposition 8 backers as Howard Ahmanson and Larry T. Smith are among the primary bankrollers of Prop. 32, we’ll guess that, in this case, the devil must be gay-married!


0:19 – Here’s a funny story: Billionaire Thomas Siebel, the man credited with paying for this advertisement, runs a technology company called C3, which has Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham on its board of directors. So, yes, politicians do quite literally work for special interests-the interests behind Prop. 32.

0:26 – Charles Munger Jr. is personally spending more than $60,200 per day to pass Prop. 32.

0:32 – Prop. 32 backers love to demonize AT&T’s political spending. Probably because AT&T, (unlike, say, the Koch brothers, who toss comparable amounts of money around the political realm, almost exclusively to Republicans) actually support state Democrats in California. The Los Angeles Times story in question opens with a description of a fundraiser that raised $1 million for the California Democratic Party.

0:56 – Not going to stand up for AT&T on this one. However, it’s worth noting that the Koch brother-owned gypsum, pulp paper product and packaging company, Georgia-Pacific, is in the midst of lobbying to gut the regulations of California’s Green Chemistry Initiative-a 2008 law protecting California citizens from exposure to toxic industrial chemicals. Georgia-Pacific is an LLC (limited liability company), that, thanks to loopholes in Prop. 32’s language, won’t be hampered in the slightest by the initiative’s proposed restrictions. The Kochs have so far donated $4 million to support 32.

1:04 – We called AT&T to see if the company was for or against Prop. 32. Interestingly, the company’s Director of Communications, Lane Kasselman, told us AT&T has “no position” on the measure. Which seems kind of counterintuitive – if, as this ad suggests, the bill stands to completely cut off their access to channels of power in Sacramento. Wonder why is AT&T staying so neutral? Perhaps because 32 is a sham and won’t restrict its political influence in the slightest.

1:21 – Only individuals will be allowed to donate…plus LLCs, PACs, Super Pacs, 501(c)(6) corporate trade associations, politically motivated non-profits and corporations that don’t use automatic payroll deductions, which is all of them…You get the picture.

1:26 – “Special interest” count: Seven.

1:27 – Eight.

1:34 – Nine (16 if you include screen titles).

1:44 – Fade to black already. Whoever made this ad is the same kid in high school who had to triple-space and use size 14 font to finish his five-page papers.

1:50 – “Supported by small business owners, farmers, educators and taxpayers.” And by that we mean large corporations, chemical companies, management consultants and billionaires who don’t want to pay their taxes.

A Very Special Invitation

A special inviteThe Koch Brothers welcome their fellow billionaires to San Diego.

by Brian Leubitz (Note: I work for the Stop Special Exemptions Campaign. Cross-posted to DailyKos)

Hey, did you hear the one about the secret convention of billionaires in San Diego this weekend? It’s really quite the production. They’ll be showing pretty much everything off there is to be seen in a political operation. Well, except grassroots supporters who can’t afford the cost of entry.

Many of the dozens of rich conservative invitees are expected to write huge checks to a pool of cash distributed among Koch-approved groups, potentially boosting the Kochs’ 2012 spending plan beyond their historic $395 million goal. And it’s also a chance for the Kochs to show off their increasingly robust political machine, including a growing voter database project called Themis that played a major role in conservatives’ recent efforts in Wisconsin and in which POLITICO has learned Koch operatives have discussed investing $20 million. (Politico)

Anyway you slice it, these SuperPAC Billionaires are planning to use the Citizens United decision, and some of our other bizarre campaign finance regulations, to the fullest.

But guess what, while we can already expect to see plenty of this at the federal level, the SuperPAC Billionaires are looking to create some special exemptions for themselves right here in California.  This November, Californians will be asked on the ballot to approve the Special Exemptions Act, a system that has more holes in it than a good hunk of Emmental cheese.

It just isn’t what it seems. Rather than being a balanced approach to campaign finance reform, it tips the scales to the SuperPAC Billionaires and their friends. It gives them special exemptions from the restrictions imposed under the measure, so they can have even MORE power in Sacramento.

That’s why there is such a broad coalition of opponents to the measure. From good government organizations to environmental groups, organizations understand that the Special Exemptions Act is wrong for California.

I hope you’ll join the campaign today. You can also like the campaign on facebook or follow on twitter.

Big Money Doesn’t Like Being Held Accountable

Cross posted at Daily Kos:

Public policy battles that have nationwide ramifications tend to begin in California. The fight to eliminate the Defined Benefit Pension is no different.  The winners in the elimination of DBP’s aren’t workers (or taxpayers) but Wall Street with the fat fees a massive expansion of 401K’s would bring, and corporate boardrooms by weakening the nation’s leading shareholder activist organization, CalPERS.

From working for financial market and accounting reforms after the Enron scandal (and being a vocal supporter of more recent Wall Street reform), to cracking down on executive compensation abuse, CalPERS has been a leader in organizing shareholders against corporate malfeasance. And as a major healthcare provider, CalPERS spoke out in favor of healthcare reform. By challenging corporate power, it is not a stretch to state that CalPERS has created some powerful enemies.

In this age of economic uncertainty our policymakers should be looking to strengthen retirement security for all workers, but front group’s like Californians for Pension Reform (CPR) seek to further weaken it by muddying the debate.  

What is Californians for Pension Reform?

CPR’s president is Marcia Fritz and according to a recent California Watch article is a Democratic consultant. Although Fritz contributed to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Gavin Newsom in 2010, on Reason.org she equates engaging unions to, “toppling a communist government,” a hyperbolic quote more akin to Glenn Beck than a so-called Democratic consultant.

As a ‘Democrat’ Fritz is simply a tool to provide CPR with bi-partisan cover.  Their advisory board is entirely composed of Republican political operatives (More Detail). In fact CPR is such a conservative front group, that even their webhosting provider, (Warning: Sound effects and FRAMES!) WebCommanders is full of right-wing clients.  

Fritz in arguably a rookie mistake, bragged on video about CPR’s “very large grant” from an out of state foundation and stated, “the thing that they wanted, is to develop a solution that can be modeled in the rest of the United States.” CPR touts transparency, but when questioned by California Watch about the identity of this out of state donor, they refused to answer.

Who are they protecting?

With over 30-years of shareholder activism, CalPERS has a track record of successfully challenging the status quo in corporate boardrooms.

Last year CalPERS launched their Majority Vote Initiative directly challenging clubby corporate board elections. Outside the U.S., many companies already require ratification of director nominees by a majority vote.

From CalPERS:

The proposed majority vote policy backed by CalPERS would require the resignation of any director who receives a withhold vote greater than 50 percent of the votes cast.

“Too often board elections are more like a coronation than an election,” said Joseph Dear, CalPERS Chief Investment Officer. “The majority vote is an effective tool for holding directors accountable for creating shareowner value and encouraging better shareowner-director communication.”

Many recognizable public companies were against this proposal including Apple.  Apple shareholders in February though backed the CalPERS initiated measure.

Research into the “CalPERS Effect” has shown positive returns for investors. A noted 2006 study found a positive 25 basis point (.25%) benefit from the CalPERS program, which equals about $3.1 billion in wealth creation.

“Both social investors and corporate governance experts are concerned that corporate managements need to be held more accountable to shareholders – this study shows that CalPERS actually derived an investment performance benefit by doing so,” Lloyd Kurtz, Moskowitz Prize administrator and senior portfolio manager at Nelson Capital Management, an investment advisory affiliate of Wells Fargo.

With CEO’s receiving increasingly outrageous salaries and bonuses, often based on short-term gain rather than building long-term shareholder value, a strong corporate watchdog like CalPERS is an obstacle to continued looting by CEO’s.

So again who is Californians for Pension Reform really working for?

P.S. This short video interview of CalPERS Sr. Portfolio Manager for Corporate Governance details the current issues CalPERS is fighting for and why big money wants to weaken them.

Keep Special Interests at Bay in Los Angeles

          We know the Citizens United  v. FEC Supreme Court decision has unleashed a torrent of undisclosed corporate and union spending at the federal level.  It overturned a century of laws and decades of legal precedent.  Common Cause has decided to stand up and take action! Common Cause has joined forces with a number of other organizations to build awareness and educate citizens across  the country about the amounts of money corporations are emptying out of their own pockets to to steal our democracy. The goal of this new coalition is to strengthen the voice of the people and prepare to battle these corporations to save our democracy.

         So far, we have filed a complaint with the Department of Justice asking for an investigation of Justices Thomas and Scalia for attending a strategy session hosted by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch in Rancho Mirage, California, at the same time the Court was considering the case of Citizens United v. FEC in 2008.

         On January 30, 2011, Common Cause, along with over 30 organizations including the California Nurses Association, Courage Campaign, California Labor Federation, Greenpeace, held a peaceful public demonstration to  “Uncloak the Kochs” and turned out 1,500 protesters to Rancho Mirage, CA for the Koch Brothers annual meeting. This event in CA had legs – and people all over the country are starting to following the Koch Brothers money trail. From Wisconsin to Nebraska, people are starting to wake up to special interests stealing our elections.

         In Los Angeles, we’re preemptively stopping the Koch Brothers and other special interests from pushing money into our elections. We are working to strengthen campaign finance laws to keep special interest money at bay with our support of  Measure H, which will do two things:

1. Lift the cap on the public finance trust to create a more robust public financing system.

2. Ban prospective private companies with pending bids on city contracts from making campaign contributions.

         We are pleased to be standing with LA City Council President Eric Garcetti, City Council members Tom LaBonge, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Jose Huizar, Bill Rosendahl, the California Clean Money Campaign, the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, the William C. Velazquez Institute and others to pass Measure H on March 8.

         All politics is local and we believe that!  Ifnot, then when? When Los Angeles succeeds in passing Measure H, we will send an important message that we are taking back our democracy.  It does not belong to We the special, well-financed interests.  Our democracy belongs to We the People.