Prop 32 Cheat Sheet: Ban on Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction

Prop 32, known as the Stop Special Interest Money Now Act, would introduce three key reforms to California's campaign finance rules.

First, it would ban the use of employee payroll deductions for "political purposes." According to the legislative analyst's office, "political purposes" would include campaign contributions, independent expenditures, and other spending to influence voters.

If you are a regular full-time employee, then your company probably takes deductions from your paycheck for federal and state taxes, Social Security, and the like. Union members also see a deduction for their dues. Currently, unions may use that money for political purposes in addition to their regular activities, such as collective bargaining. This part of the measure appears to have the greatest impact on unions, since, as the legislative analyst estimates, few corporations finance their political activities this way.

Second, Prop 32 would forbid corporations and unions from making direct contributions to state and local candidates or the committees that fund them. A similar rule already exists at the federal level.

Third, the measure would make it illegal for government contractors to contribute to elected officials who have a hand in awarding them a contract, at least while that contract is under consideration or is in effect.

Voting YES means that you would like to approve the new restrictions on political spending for corporations, unions, and government contractors.

Voting NO means that you reject the measure in its entirety.

Unions: Unions are free to fund political campaigns using the dues they collect from members. While some members pay their dues directly to the unions, others have it deducted automatically by their employers, which then transfer the funds to the union. If Prop 32 passes, unions would not be allowed to use that second source of funding on political activities. While nothing in the measure prevents voluntary political contributions from members, union representatives have claimed the measure would all but eliminate their political spending.

Corporations: The ban on using payroll deductions for political purposes would likely have little effect on corporations, since they tend to use other sources, such as profits, to make campaign contributions. Though both unions and corporations would be prohibited from donating directly to candidates, they would still be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on independent expenditures and Super PACs.

Government Contractors: Companies that want to work on a government project would not be allowed to donate to the politicians who award the contract, at least during the bidding period and for the life of the contract.

Political Campaigns: At the federal level, it's already illegal for unions and corporations to give money directly to candidates. Prop 32 would apply the same rule to state and local candidates. Candidates would still be able to raise funds through individuals, small businesses, and others. Corporate support could continue, but it would have to come through independent expenditures and Super PAC spending.

State Budget: State and local governments could see a combined cost of more than $1 million a year to investigate violations and respond to requests for advice, according to the legislative analyst.

Prop 32 is supported by Citizens for California Reform, Democrats for Education Reform, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the National Federation of Independent Business - California, and others. Major financial backers include:

  • Charles Munger, Jr.
  • Thomas M. Siebel
  • William E. Bloomfield, Jr.
  • A. Jerrold Perenchio

In general the major unions oppose the measure, as does the League of Women Voters. Top donors to the No on 32 campaign include:

  • California Teachers Association
  • California State Council of Service Employees
  • California Professional Firefighters
  • Service Employees International Union Local 1000

Politicians take millions from corporate and special interests, so they end up working for their donors instead of voters. Prop 32 will stop these donations from special interests.

Prop 32 does not have any hidden loopholes or exemptions. It cannot put restrictions on Super PACs or independent expenditure committees, because those are protected by the Constitution.

It will guarantee every dollar given for politics is voluntary by stopping special interests from using payroll deductions for political purposes.

It will stop politicians from giving government contracts to their political donors.

It will not take money out of politics, since it does nothing to control the amount of spending by Super PACs and independent expenditure committees.

It exempts thousands of big businesses like Wall Street investment firms, hedge funds, developers, and insurance companies, all of which have been major donors to California political campaigns.

It unfairly targets unions, since hardly any corporations use payroll deductions for political contributions.

It will lead to an unbalanced political system, since corporate interests will continue to have the same level of funding and unions will see their political power reduced.

Top Photo: 401(K) 2012/Flickr/Creative Commons License


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Corporations don’t use payroll deductions for political purpose. That’s like saying, “we’re going to crack down on counterfeiting by collecting all the 3 dollar bills printed.” Sounds good however, counterfeiters don’t print 3 dollar bills.
It doesn’t stop any corporation from using unlimited profits to contribute to state or local campaigns. And the Supreme Court already confirmed that Corporations have the same rights as individuals and therefore, can contribute unlimited funds to any campaign.
Labor rights aren’t etched in stone. They were won through politics and collective bargaining. So if you’re the 99% that have to work for a living say, “good bye” to, vacation leave, health insurance, 8 hour work day, minimum wage, work place health and safety laws, overtime pay, unemployment, child labor laws, meal breaks, nurse patient ratios just to name a few.


When a government takes resources from its people supposedly for the good of all and then uses that money for a special interest group in exchange for the support of that group we say that the government is corrupt. It is difficult to look at the activities of the California legislature and find it to be anything but corrupt.

Sometimes the source of corruption is large corporate interests and sometimes it is public sector unions. Even if Proposition 32 is not a perfect solution, it will weaken the power of one of the corrupting groups on our elected decision makers. We have to start to clear the haze some so that we are better able to see clearly the other things that must be done. That's also why I believe that Proposition 30 is such a bad idea. It does nothing more than make a bad and deteriorating situation more comfortable for a while.


Prop 32 is another attempt of the 1% to exercise more power over the rest of the 99%. Vote No on Prop 32


Prop 32 emasculates corrupt politicians and their public-union overlords. By any standard, it is the perfect solution.


Ok.. for one thing it is illegal for UNIONS to use UNION dues for political contributions.. please you need to research this more and correct your statement.. This is why the N.A.L.C. created a "payroll deduction" way to contribute.. which is not a part of our Union Dues.. It is a whole separate allotment on its own.. Please correct your page. thank you!


Ok.. for one thing it is illegal for UNIONS to use UNION dues for political contributions.. please you need to research this more and correct your statement.. This is why the N.A.L.C. created a "payroll deduction" way to contribute.. which is not a part of our Union Dues.. It is a whole separate allotment on its own.. Please correct your page. thank you!


If I read it correctly, Unions can still use the money to create ads (called Independent Expenditures). Both Corporations AND Unions will simply no longer be able to give money directly to a candidate (who can then put it in their pocket). It eliminates CORRUPTION, not advertising.

Also, many Unions collect fees to support the collective bargaining process, but then increase those required fees to pay for government campaigns (ads, not contributions). This measure would make campaign fees voluntary to the individual.


I think people should be looking at the larger picture in terms of the affect this will have on our political system. We all know that various groups and some wealthy individuals use whatever resources are at their disposal to try and influence the decisions made by our legislature to make things in some way better for themselves, to give them an advantage, and/or to avoid additional costs etc. being foisted upon them. One thing which is very clear to everyone by now, or at least it should be, is that for the most part big business and wealthy individuals have almost a death grip on our political system and are able to manipulate it to their own benefit almost at will. One of the very few counterparts to these extremely influential, power mongering groups, are the unions which represent the collective interests of the common workers. By banding together, the common workers are able to push their own agenda and prevent big business from trampling over them. Now I grant you that I agree with the premise that unions should not be able to take monies directly out of paychecks to use in political efforts without the specific informed approval of the individual involved, but I do not think it is necessary to pass a State law to make this happen. The unions themselves have internal rules they must follow and if members want the rules changed within their own groups then that is where they should effect such change. Putting this on a State ballot unfairly provides millions of others the opportunity to dictate how a union must run itself, when those decisions should be left up to its own members. The bottom line is that any law that is going to limit the political spending of unions is going to result in large political gains being made by big business, which does not ultimately have the best interests of the common worker at heart. Just how much more power do you want business to have? When exactly does all the money really begin to trickle down if the common worker does support the interests of the larger business? Everyone keeps saying it is going to happen but the reality as far as I am concerned is that it never does and most likely never will. Unions are one of the last lines of defense that the common worker has so if you cripple them, you cripple all of the common workers, and with no opposition big business will really be able to do whatever it wants to and do it far more cheaply because it only takes a few million to pass a proposition that remains largely unopposed. Wake up people and understand that big business largely controls the media, and it in turn is used each and every day to influence you, confuse you, and in the end to get you to vote against your own best interests. The liberal press everyone talks about is largely non-existent and big business has spent the last 25 plus years loading our judiciary with business friendly judges so once they get whatever they want passed by the legislature, there is little chance that these laws will be struck down through judicial interpretation finding them to be unconstitutional etc. In reality it probably doesn't matter at this point and this particular proposition is just icing on the large cake the powers that exist have already baked for themselves, and they don't need it, although they would surely like to have it. I say don't make it even easier for them than it already is and vote no on 32. Let the unions do their own thing and let their own members be the police within their organizations, not a State full of non-members. This is nothing more than an end around blitz being made against unions in an effort to prevent them from flexing what little political muscle they still have left, and they have even got union members themselves set to vote against their own best interests. All I can do is shake my head and keep crying out the truth but nobody is listening it seems. Anyway...I have always tilted at windmills in an effort to see that justice and fairness are served and as futile as my task might be, I am going to keep on doing it. Get out there and vote people, and do it now!