By Jon Ortiz
Published: Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 – 7:17 am
Sacramento boasts a cottage industry of political message massagers, but when a chance to become the spokesman for a controversial initiative on the coming November ballot surfaced last year, none of the local firms stepped up.
The group backing Proposition 32, which would fundamentally alter California’s campaign financing, turned to 28-year-old Jake Suski, a GOP operative who has tasted victory and defeat in a relatively brief but wide-ranging political career.
“Mostly the latter,” Suski said in a recent telephone interview.
But get used to seeing his name.
Suski will be chief spokesman for the Yes on Prop. 32 campaign; he’s one of several professionals crafting strategy for a measure that unions view as an attack on their very existence.
The initiative’s foes say the proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot is the latest installment in a national effort by conservatives and pro-business leaders to kneecap organized labor.
It would ban corporations and unions from contributing to candidates. It also would forbid spending any money they receive from payroll deductions for political purposes.
Unions unleashed a $45 million maelstrom on a similar measure in 2005 intended to end public employee union payroll-deducted political contributions. Supporters mustered just $8 million.
Proposition 75 lost by nearly a half-million votes, with 53.5 percent of the electorate rejecting it.
Seven years earlier, voters junked a similar measure that would have applied to private- and public-sector unions.
“This has been attempted multiple times and failed,” said Richard Temple, a Sacramento political consultant who wasn’t approached by the Proposition 32 campaign. “There just hasn’t been very aggressive campaigning on the ‘yes’ side.”
Temple, whose clients include labor and business interests, said unions nevertheless have some reason for concern. Those earlier measures went to voters during the dot-com boom and before the housing bubble burst. Now the state is mired in an economic slump with high unemployment. Voter approval of state lawmakers is abysmal.
Although it bans both unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted money for political purposes, the provision would hit unions harder than business interests because payroll-deducted dues are organized labor’s chief vehicle for raising political cash. Corporations fill their war chests with money from company resources and individual executive donations.
“This is a different environment than in the past,” Temple said, and the proponents “were more clever by putting the corporate stuff in there. I would think it’s a little unclear how voters will react this time.”
In response, labor organizations have already anted up $18 million for a campaign to defeat the measure. Supporters, many of them the same donors who backed the 2005 proposal, have given about one-fifth that amount, $3.45 million.
A prime reason for the disparity is that business interests aren’t eager to tangle with labor over the issue, Temple said. Some employ unionized workers. Others cater to them.
“So a whole bunch of people just want to stay out of the way of this one,” Temple said.
Ken Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said the campaign pulls together two dominant themes in American politics: the power of labor unions and retribution.
To read entire story, click here.