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2006: The year of the odd alliance

The cast of characters at Monday’s press conference was unusual, to say the
least.

The participants represented each of the major factions in last year’s
special election: the drug companies, big-business Schwarzenegger allies and
unions.

But this time they were all on the same side. They all opposed Proposition
89, which would create publicly financed campaigns in California.

“It’s a murderers’ row of political spenders in California,” says Common
Cause’s Ned Wigglesworth, who supports Proposition 89.

If, as the saying goes, politics makes for strange bedfellows, then
California’s 2006 elections are one giant slumber party.

Held in the twelfth-floor suite of Frank Schubert, a GOP consultant that
directed the pharmaceutical industry’s $80 million campaign last year, the
event was organized by Democrat Gale Kaufman’s political shop, which led the
union effort against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election.

The featured speakers: Schwarzenegger ally Allan Zaremberg, president of the
California Chamber of Commerce, and Tim Cremins, a union lobbyist for the
Operating Engineers.

The event was typical of the atypical political alliances that have formed
this year. Democrats are aligned with Schwarzenegger on the governor’s
signature bond package. Everybody is supporting Jessica’s Law. And unions
are dumping millions into the bond campaigns, while girding to launch an
independent-expenditure effort to dislodge Schwarzenegger as governor.
But nowhere are the strange alliances more apparent than in the campaign
against Proposition 89, where business and labor interests that
traditionally have been in conflict are now coordinating.

Proponents of publicly financed campaigns say it is just a sign that
powerful interest groups are protecting their influence through campaign
contributions turf.

“The power and corruption of money in politics is overwhelming,” says Rose
Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, which
authored the measure.

But Vincent Sollitto, spokesman for the Chamber, says the business-labor
alliance “highlights the professionalism of these organizations for their
ability to put past conflicts behind.

“Rebuilding California’s infrastructure and preventing its political system
from being hijacked by a few extreme interests, such as the nurses and the
trial lawyers, are things that have united business and labor,” says
Sollitto.

But the odd coalitions stretch much further than just those campaigns.
The Chamber and the California Teachers Association (CTA)–traditional
adversaries–are not only teaming up to beat Proposition 89, but also the
next ballot measure, Proposition 90, which would limit the right of
government to use eminent domain.

In fact, the reliably pro-Democrat CTA and the pro-Republican Chamber are
actively supporting seven–a majority–of the same propositions in November.
More curiously, the groups are not at odds on a single one.

Both the Chamber and the CTA support all five pieces of Schwarzenegger’s
infrastructure-bond package, Propositions 1A through 1E.

At the center of many of the year’s unusual coalitions is Schwarzenegger, a
Republican who has embraced much of the traditional Democratic agenda in
2006, making new friends on the Left and enemies on the Right.

As a result, the state Democratic Party has endorsed eight
Schwarzenegger-supported November ballot measures–the same number the
Republican Party has endorsed.

Even Phil Angelides, Schwarzenegger’s Democratic challenger who has worked
to cast himself as the anti-Arnold, supports seven of the same measures as
the governor.

Here’s a rundown of some of the intriguing alliances of 2006:

  • Proposition 90: A litany of the state’s political players–developers,
    teachers, business, local government–all are opposing this eminent-domain
    measure, saying its scope goes well beyond eminent domain. “It’s actually
    very simple,” says Yes on 90 spokesman Kevin Spillane. “The opponents are
    people who make money on eminent domain and exploit the status quo.”

    At the same time, this is the one ballot measure that Schwarzenegger has yet
    to take a position on, despite the fact that some analysts say it could have
    the most far-reaching impact of any November measure. Angelides opposes the
    measure.

  • Proposition 84: This environmental bond has split legislative Republicans
    from big-business backers. The Chamber and Western Growers Association
    support the measure, but legislative Republicans–often the top boosters of
    the Chamber’s priorities–do not. Of the 44 state officeholders listed by the
    campaign as endorsers, 43 are Democrats and one is Schwarzenegger. The only
    other notable Republican to back the measure is San Diego Mayor Jerry
    Sanders.
  • Proposition 1A-1E: The Schwarzenegger-supported infrastructure-bond package
    has put the governor on friendly terms with many of the powerful union
    groups in the state, most notably the building and construction unions,
    which are dedicating their limited resources to the bond campaign. The
    teachers union, which spent more than $50 million opposing Schwarzenegger
    last year, already has invested $5 million in the education bond,
  • Proposition 1D, at the same time it considers funding an independent
    expenditure to support Angelides. The bonds also have Schwarzenegger slated
    to make joint appearances with legislative Democratic leadership in early
    October–a boost for his bipartisan bona fides–while Assembly Speaker Fabian
    N

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