Charles Munger Jr

Charles T. Munger, Jr.

By Steven Harmon
Bay Area News Group
Posted: 02/01/2013 10:15:07 AM PST
Updated: 02/01/2013 05:04:51 PM PST

SACRAMENTO — Labor’s heavy lift on two campaigns paid big dividends last fall.

While the wealthy Munger siblings famously poured a combined $83 million into losing causes, labor unions flexed their financial muscle to capture two campaigns with about the same amount — $85 million, according to the final round of the 2012 campaign finance reports, which were released late Thursday.

Labor went all in, spending $65 million to defeat Proposition 32, which would have stripped their political clout by outlawing the collection of union dues for political campaigns. That money enabled unions to put together a field program with volunteers blanketing the state, creating what union leaders say was a ripple effect that led to the stunning victory by Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike measure, Proposition 30.

Labor added more than $20 million to the Proposition 30 campaign and claim that the fervor behind those two campaigns helped Democrats capture super majorities in the Senate and Assembly.

“It was an extraordinary year in terms of the breadth of losses for the right wing in California,” said Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation. “It’s what I call the Proposition 32 ripple effect.”

The most prolific spender among unions — in keeping with history — was the California Teachers Association, which spent $36 million — of which $19.3 million went against Proposition 32 and $10.3 million to support Proposition 30.

Brown’s Proposition 30 campaign spent just under $40 million. His financial backers spanned the full political spectrum, from unions to insurance groups, from Indian tribes to oil companies.

The business committee, SBAC, spent $70 million in its effort to shoot down Proposition 30 and in backing Proposition 32. The business group took a controversial $11 million donation that the state’s watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, said was laundered through three out-of-state Republican organizations.

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