News

Redistricting fight

Three years after Democrats in California and Washington D.C. raised more than $10 million dollars to kill Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s redistricting ballot measure, the opponents of the governor’s new redistricting proposal are out of money and more than $300,000 in debt.

Proponents for Proposition 11, meanwhile, are awash in campaign cash, with more than $2 million in the bank, and have employed a diverse team of political consultants. Among them is the consulting firm of Alice Huffman, president of the California State Conference of the NAACP, which has endorsed the Yes on 11 effort. Huffman’s firm, AC Public Affairs, has received more than $158,000 in payments from the Yes on 11 committee, according to records filed with the Secretary of State.

Records show the No side with just $16,000 in cash, and $322,000 in unpaid bills.

“We’re going to need some more resources into the campaign to get our message out,” said No on 11 spokesman Paul Hefner. “We’re not going to come close to what the governor and his band of corporate billionaires are going to come up with. They’ve got every Republican consultant on the planet on the payroll, and spending money on private jets and glamour photography. None of those things are in our budget.”

Proposition 11, which is on the November ballot in California, would take control of drawing legislative districts away from the Legislature. Unlike Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 77, which was defeated by voters in 2005, Prop. 11 leaves the drawing of Congressional districts in the hands of the Assembly and Senate.

The decision to leave the Congressional map-making process unchanged seems to have frozen money against the plan from Washington. In 2005, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spearheaded a multi-million dollar effort to defeat the measure, with a $4 million contribution from billionaire Steve Bing.

In addition, state leaders led by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and then-Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, led a parallel effort though the state Democratic Party to defeat Proposition 77. In the end, the No campaign had more money than they needed, and Nunez received a $4 million refund check from the Democratic Party.

This time, it has fallen to Perata to lead the No campaign essentially on his own. And while opponents are prepared to be badly outspent during the campaign, the latest SurveyUSA Poll shows the measure has only 27 percent support, compared to 25 percent of voters who say they’ll vote against the measure. Nearly half of those polled are still undecided on the measure.

With a poorly-funded No campaign, that gives Proposition 11 a fighting chance, but Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo says proponents will have their work cut out for them. “The early measures are always very inconclusive on measures that are not kitchen-table issues for voters like redistricting,” he said. But he added, a low percentage of Yes voters “is always kind of ominous. Usually initiatives have to start out with a big lead to withstand the No campaign against it.”

The Yes side, meanwhile, has enlisted a team of political consultants, many of whom have ties to Schwarzenegger. So far, the Yes on 11 campaign has spent more than $510,000 on political consultants alone. Goddard Claussen has received more than $160,000. Mercury Public Affairs has received more than $43,000. Meridian Pacific, which is spearheading grass-roots and coalition building, has received more than $20,000 in payments so far.  Johnson Clark received more than $21,000 from the committee, but campaign sources say Claussen has essentially taken over the function Johnson and Clark were playing with the campaign.

In all, 19 different people or groups have been paid as consultants for the Yes on 11 campaign.

Mendelsohn said the core group of consultants is relatively modest, given the initiative’s broad coalition of support. He said the fees being paid to consultants were relatively modest. Mendelsohn and Claussen are co-managing the campaign; Meridian Pacific is coordinating grass-roots efforts on the Republican side and Steve Smith is leading the media and left-of-center coalition efforts.
Records show the No committee has already racked up $322,000 in debt and only has $16,000 cash on hand heading into the campaign’s final stretch. Hefner acknowledged the campaign would be outspent, but downplayed the No campaign’s money woes, saying “campaign reports are just a snapshot in time.”

“Luckily for us, the more they campaign for Proposition 11, the less people seem to like it,” Hefner said.

Perata also controls the Voter Education and Registration Fund which has more than $500,000. Yes on 11 campaign consultant Adam Mendelsohn cautioned Perata against using that money for the No on 11 campaign.

“The idea that money raised to register Democrats would be used to pay back your political consultant is abhorrent,” Mendelsohn said.
Many of the big donors to the No on 77 effort are more ambiguous about Proposition 11. Both the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union were staunch opponents of the governor’s special election agenda that included Proposition 77. But this time, both SEIU and CTA are neutral on Proposition 11, drying up a major potential source of campaign funds for the No side.

The No on 11 Campaign has spent the bulk of its money on political consulting and slate mailers, records show. Of the $353,000 in cash payments so far, more than $185,000 has been spent on slate mailers and $100,000 on political consultants. The campaign has also fallen behind on $322,000 worth of bills, including $275,000 for various slate mailers, $25,000 to Polka and $14,500 to Progressive Strategy Partners, the firm of Los Angeles-based consultant Rose Kapolczynski.


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