On California initiatives, money talked, the public interest walked

By:  Michael Hiltzik

It was obvious from the start that the cascade of corporate cash into ballot initiative campaigns in California this year would be overwhelming. The reality did not disappoint.

That reality had to please the biggest spenders, notably the insurance companies and agents who defeated propositions 45 and 46, two pro-consumer healthcare measures. The industries spent some $100 million to kill the propositions, and they have a right to consider it well-spent.

Other corporate spenders didn't fare so well, and it's worth examining why. The major difference between the success of the statewide campaigns against propositions 45 and 46 and the failure of several other campaigns in which big money took an interest is that the others were municipal elections. Let's take a look.

The giant oil company Chevron mustered more than $3 million to oust four progressive members of the City Council in the Bay Area city of Richmond (population 107,000), where one of its largest refineries is located. All four candidates, who have been harshly critical of Chevron over the years,were victorious.

The size of Richmond made it hard for Chevron to hide its influence, which also encompasses the sponsorship of an ostensibly objective local news website, theRichmond Standard -- especially after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appeared at a local rally to decry the corporate spending.

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