California Independent Spending For and Against Candidates: Unions, Indian Tribes, Individuals, and Corporations

People have wondered what politics will be like after Citizens United, and in particular (1) whether large business corporations will start spending a lot of money speaking out in favor or against candidates for office and (2) how much corporate and union spending for or against candidates will increase relative to each other. As it happens, though, 26 states already allowed such speech even before Citizens United, so we have some data about what might happen.

In particular, the California Fair Political Practices Commission has published a report that is quite critical of independent expenditures, but which also reports a good deal of data about them. To be sure, California is doubtless different from other states in important ways, and federal elections may be different still. Nonetheless, I think the reports might be a helpful source of data (and I’d welcome pointers to other such reports from other states).

The report goes into particular detail on the top 10 funders of the top 25 independent spending committees (who account for $37M of the $88M independently spent to support or oppose candidates for office from 2001 through 2006). They were:

  1. Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, $6.2M.
  2. Angelo Tsakopoulos, $6M.
  3. Cal. Teachers Association/Association for better citizenship, $4.8M.
  4. Cal. State Council of Service Employees, $3.6M.
  5. Cal. Correctional Peace Officers Association, $3.5M.
  6. Morongo Band of Mission Indians Native American Rights PAC, $3.4M.
  7. Cal. State Council of Service Employees Small Contributor Committee, $3M.
  8. Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, $2.5M.
  9. SEIU Local 1000 Candidate PAC, $2.3M.
  10. Consumer Attorneys Independent Campaign, $1.7M.

So there’s lots of union money ($17.2M), tribal money ($9.6M), individual money from two spenders who (see below) were a business partner of the candidate and the partner’s daughter ($8.5M), and money from consumer lawyers, which might have come from professional corporations (hard to tell) ($1.7M). But ordinary business corporations aren’t by themselves providing enough funding to register on the top 10.

I also looked at just the top 10 independent spending committees, and drawing inferences about the funding. This money broke down into

  • Corporate: $6.85M
  • Union: $16.6M
  • Individual: $8M
  • Indian tribe: $10.75M

Now many people might well be troubled by all this independent spending; I think it should be constitutionally protected, for reasons I’ve blogged about before, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. My point is simply that the California experience — idiosyncratic as it may be in certain ways — casts doubt on the ready assumption that the main beneficiaries of Citizens United will be the Exxons of the world. The biggest single corporate spender I could find, for instance, was ChevronTexaco, which spent a bit over $300K, much less than the biggest union spenders spent.

Here are more details on the top ten independent spenders:

(1) “Californians for a Better Government, A Coalition of Firefighters, Deputy Sheriffs, Teachers, Home Builders and Developers,” which spent nearly $10M on behalf of a candidate for treasurer, Phil Angelides. More than 80% of this apparently came from two individuals, the candidate’s former business partner and the former business partner’s daughter. “Other contributions came from the California Teachers Association and the Professional Firefighters.”

(2) “Alliance for a Better California, Educators, Firefighters, School Employees, Health Care Givers and Labor Organizations,” which spent $5.25M supporting Angelides and opposing Schwarzenegger; $4.75M of this came from the California Teachers Association, California State Council of Service Employees Committee, and SEIU Local 1000.

(3) “First Americans for a Better California Independent Expenditure Committee,” which spent $4.25M supporting Cruz Bustamante for Governor; all this money came from Indian tribes.

(4) “JOBS PAC – A Bi-partisan Coalition of California Employers,” which spent nearly $4M on various races, at about $200K per contest. This seemed to likely be corporate money; $675K, for instance, came from ChevronTexaco, PG&E, and Ameriquest Capital.

(5) “California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) Independent Expenditure Committee,” which spent $3.5M on various races, at about $115K per contest. This was union money.

(6) “Morongo Band of Mission Indians Native American Rights PAC,” which spent nearly $3.5M supporting four candidates in different races. This was apparently tribal money.

(7) “Strengthening Our Lives Through Education, Community Action & Civic Participation, A Coalition of Labor Organizations – Candidate PAC,” which spent $3.3M on nine different races. Union money.

(8) “Team 2006, Sponsored by California Sovereign Indian Nations,” which spent $3M on nine races. Tribal money.

(9) “California Alliance for Progress and Education, An Alliance of Professionals, Employers and Small Business,” which spent nearly $3M on 12 races. Probably corporate money.

(10) “Working Californians,” which spent over $2.5M on two races. Apparently union money.