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Big money put toward California ballot initiatives

5:06 PM, Oct 26, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Six of the 11 statewide ballot measures Californians will be deciding next month have very wealthy people bankrolling one side.

New campaign finance reports compiled by MapLight.org found among the biggest donors:

Molly Munger has contributed $44 million to her own Proposition 38 to fund public schools through an income tax increase.

Her brother Charles has given $36 million to defeat his sister's rival, Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure; he also hopes the money will help win approval for Prop 32, which curtails labor unions' influence in politics

Venture Capitalist Tom Steyer has spent $29 million of his own money for green energy projects spelled out in his Proposition 39.

Mercury Insurance founder George Joseph has pumped $16 million into Prop 33, which changes how car insurance rates are calculated.

The U.S. Supreme Court said it's okay to give unlimited amounts of money to ballot measures.

"I think it's telling voters that the initiative process isn't for everyone," California Voter Foundation spokesperson Kim Alexander said. "When you see this many wealthy people crowded all on one ballot together, putting in great sums of money, it's really unprecedented."

California Common Cause took a lot of money from Charles Munger during a previous election because it couldn't get government reform through the Legislature.

The group said someone has to pay for all those ads and campaign efforts.

"To qualify a ballot measure takes an incredible amount of energy and money to actually gather the signatures needed and required by the Constitution," California Common Cause spokesperson Phillip Ung said.

But, money doesn't always win. The California Voter Foundation said voters only approve a third of initiatives because it's harder to convince people to vote yes.

"You can buy your way on to the ballot, but you cannot buy the voters votes," Alexander said.

The Humane Society of the United States, though, got Prop. 2 passed in 2008 largely on a grassroots effort and now hens must have more room in cages.

By Nannette Miranda, ABC7

The Associated Press

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