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Friends of Calif. School Ballot Items Raise $19.5M in Under a Month

For my story about education-related ballot items published online Wednesday, it was impossible to avoid discussing California, where voters will deal with Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, both designed to boost K-12 spending by billions of dollars. Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is behind Proposition 30, while Molly Munger, an attorney and civil rights activist, is the prominent backer of Proposition 38.

Apparently there are other hefty numbers now associated with those ballot items, only this time they deal with fundraising. MapLight, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that tracks campaign finance numbers, has a new report saying that from Sept. 1 to Sept. 23 alone, To Protect Our Schools And Public Safety (Brown's committee campaigning for Proposition 30) raised $10.3 million. That makes Brown's committee the second-highest-ranking ballot-related committee in terms of fundraising.

The third-ranking committee by fundraising is Munger's More Money for Our Local Schools, Not Sacramento, which rang up $9.2 million through September so far. One important caveat here, however, is that Munger (who is the daughter of Charlie Munger, a business partner of Warren Buffett) has provided the huge majority of the $28.2 million raised by the pro-Proposition 38 forces. Her donations to the cause are just a shade under $28 million.

But remember, the numbers for those two education ballot items are just for three weeks in September. The total fundraising for the pair, combined? A whopping $66.3 million through Sept. 23, MapLight reports, with Brown's tallying up the bulk of that number with $38 million.

Only $2.4 million has been raised to oppose Proposition 30, while just a dribble of campaign cash ($32,250) has been raised to stop Munger's effort.

Topping the fundraising list, by the way, is a group opposing Proposition 32, which would prohibit unions from using money deducted from employees' pay for political purposes, and prohibit them from contributing to political campaigns. The California Teachers Association has contributed the most, $16.7 million, to the campaign against this ballot item.

For comparison's sake, voters in Florida, also a relatively large state, albeit markedly smaller than California, will cast their ballots in November on Amendment 4, which would bar or limit property taxes and increase tax exemptions for first-time home buyers. (Remember, Florida has no state income tax.) So far, proponents of Amendment 4 have spent a little over $3.5 million to support it, according to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. No money has been raised to fight it, the center reports.

If you're interested in a comparison with a candidate, not a ballot item, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., whose race could help decide the partisan control of the Senate, had raised about $12.8 million through her campaign committee and a political action committee combined, as of mid-July. Her Republican opponent, Todd Akin, has raised about $2.3 million this cycle.

As I explained in my story for print, the name of the committee championing Proposition 38 is appropriate, since part of the argument for Proposition 38 is that it will channel the money it raises for new income taxes directly to schools, and not send it to "Sacramento politicians." But Brown's proposition is already baked into the budget cake, since the state budget he signed assumes Proposition 30 will pass on Nov. 6. If it doesn't, get ready for a tidal wave of K-12 education cuts in the middle of the school year amounting to roughly $4.8 billion.

One other interesting nugget that MapLight pulled out of the data stream is about former Golden State Gov. Gray Davis. Davis has contributed $2,000 to support Proposition 30. Davis, a Democrat, was successfully recalled as governor in 2003. Education issues top his self-selected list of gubernatorial achievements, and he highlights the "largest five-year increase in total education funding," totaling $9.6 billion. So his contribution is not a surprise.

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