Federal Politics

Published — November 9, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Californian spends $44 million, loses ballot initiative fight

Taxes, charter schools, unions on state ballots

Introduction

Marijuana legalization, gay marriage and a state version of the DREAM Act are this year’s ballot initiative winners. But those who gave the largest sums to state referenda poured tens of millions of dollars into their cause — and lost.

Molly Munger was the largest individual donor to a state ballot initiative, giving about $44 million to support a proposal to raise revenue for schools and early childhood education in California, according to the California Secretary of State.

Seventy-two percent of California voters rejected Proposal 38, which was backed by the Pasadena civil rights attorney.

Munger’s father is Charlie Munger, the billionaire vice chairman of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment firm. She co-founded the Advancement Project with her husband Steven English (who chipped in $3.3 million for Prop 38). In 2000, the group won a billion-dollar lawsuit over inequitable school-construction practices in California.

Munger’s millions equal 5 percent of all federal Head Start money California received in 2009 for its early childhood education programs. A $44 million gift to Los Angeles’ Head Start agency would equal a fifth of the federal grant the city received last year.

Munger outspent her brother, Stanford physicist Charles Munger Jr., a Republican activist who shelled out $23 million on ballot proposals. Munger Jr. opposed Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative that sought to raise revenue for schools by upping the sales tax and levies on the state’s wealthy residents.

The measure passed with 53 percent of the vote.

Munger Jr. also supported an effort to restrict unions from using members’ dues payments to fund political activities. It was rejected by 56 percent of voters.

In Michigan, the owner of North America’s busiest international crossing spent nearly $32 million to hinder construction of a second, government-funded bridge across the Detroit River, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Billionaire Manuel Moroun’s DIBC Holdings Inc., which owns the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Canada, was the sole funder of referendum Number 6 called “Let the People Decide.” When Michiganders went to the polls, 60 percent favored the new bridge.

Another subsidiary of Moroun’s financial empire, Liberty Bell Agency, Inc., spent $3.5 million to support a tea party-backed initiative that would have required a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise any taxes. Seventy percent of voters rejected the proposal.

Moroun and the Mungers spent roughly $100 million on state ballot initiatives. The total tops the combined output of the two top donors to federal super PACs for the 2012 election, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, who gave nearly $81 million through Oct. 17.

In Michigan, a ballot initiative to put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution drew $22 million from unions around the country. Roughly half came from the Detroit-based United Auto Workers, the National Education Association and its state affiliate. Voters rejected the initiative, which garnered $25 million in opposition spending from Chamber of Commerce-affiliated groups in the state.

Adelson and his wife, Simmons and the No. 4 federal super PAC donor, Joe Ricketts, sent $2.6 million combined to Michigan to stop public employee unions’ most aggressive attempt to secure bargaining rights this year.

Unions won on their other major priority, the repeal of the state’s far-reaching emergency manager law. The law allowed Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint a “financial czar” in several cities and school districts to fire elected officials, privatize city services and abolish collective bargaining agreements.

The repeal passed by a 52-to-48 margin.

The ballot effort garnered roughly $2 million in spending, almost entirely from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

In Washington state, a successful effort to expand charter schools garnered $11 million in spending — $4.5 million from Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Alice Walton, of the Wal-Mart family fortune, sent $1.7 million from Bentonville, Ark., according to the Washington Secretary of State.

Also in Washington, the successful effort to legalize marijuana raised a third of its $6 million from Peter Lewis, the CEO of Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. California-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps All-One-God-Faith Inc., also chipped in on the campaign.

In June, the company’s CEO, David Bronner, put his money where his mouth is. He locked himself inside a cage full of marijuana plants and parked it outside the White House to protest laws banning hemp production.

While the D.C. Fire Department sawed through the bars to apprehend Bronner, he sat inside preparing his usual breakfast: hemp oil slathered on French bread.

Voters in three states — Maryland, Maine and Washington — approved laws allowing same-sex marriage. In Minnesota, voters rejected a proposed amendment to the constitution to restrict it. The ballot victories mark a shift away from trends in the last few elections. In 2004, 11 states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

Voters in Maryland affirmed a 2011 law modeled on the federal DREAM Act. Fifty-eight percent of voters supported the law, which allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition for college, provided they attend a Maryland high school and offer evidence that they or their families have paid taxes.

Chris Young contributed to this report.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Martin Shellabarger
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J. Stevenson, what are you drinking? Trump has more lobbyists in his administration than probably any other president. Trump is totally “for sale”, and the corporations know it. Grow a brain!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.