While Californians recently celebrated the centennial of their states full-bodied system of citizen initiative and referendum, the Associated Press pushed a story headlined, Corporations, wealthy dominate initiative process.
Insurance, oil, pharmaceutical and utility companies, the article explained, are among the well-funded interests that have spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years to promote their causes through California initiatives.
Reporter Judy Lin gave specific examples:
In 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric spent $46 million promoting Proposition 16, a measure to make it more difficult for localities to go into the utility business, thus competing with the company. PG&Es massive bankroll swamped the opposition by an incredible margin of 161 to 1.
Another measure on last years primary ballot, Prop 17, was funded almost entirely by $14.6 million from Mercury Insurance. The measure sought to allow auto insurance companies to offer discounts to their continuous customers.
In 2008, T. Boone Pickenss company contributed over $22 million to Proposition 10, outspending the ballot measures opponents 100-to-1. The initiative encouraged use of natural gas, which certainly would benefit the billionaires business interests.
A 2006 ballot measure advancing a severance tax on oil production with the goal of funding alternative energy programs, Prop 87, was bankrolled with nearly $50 million dollars from real estate heir and Hollywood producer Steven Bing.
What the AP story by Ms. Lin did not emphasize, however, was that each of these big-spending corporate/rich-dude campaigns culminated in the same result: The voters defeated their ballot measure.
The millions spent didnt sway the people.