"California organized labor carries the biggest stick in Sacramento. They have given a total of $4.85 million or 11.9% of the $41 million given to Assembly candidates from January 1, 2015 through April 9, 2016," stated David Kersten, president of the Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy.
This marks a real departure from the federal level, where business groups and corporate contributions are more dominate.
"Most Californians don't know that organized labor is the most powerful special interest in Sacramento. They see it in their rising tax bills, but polling and focus groups shows they usually blame the business lobby for undue influence in the political process. The data shows that is not actually the case--the unions, particularly the public employee unions are running the show in Sacramento," Kersten said.
The analysis examined campaign contributions given to all California State Assembly candidates and found that there were 34,404 total contributions given totaling $40.86 million since January 1, 2015 through April 9, 2016.
California organized labor organizations gave a total of $4.85 million or 11.9% of all contributions, and dwarfed all other contributors in terms of the amount of contributions given and the concentration of money for a single powerful interest group.
The next most significant category was the only companies whose major contributors gave a total of $300,000--which is only 1/16 of what organized labor gave over that period.
Organized labor has a tremendous ability to influence the election process through campaign contributions, and appears to do so at a much more significant rate than the business community in California in terms of concentration of power and influence.
"This data helps shed some real light on why the cost of government continues to rise in California and few politicians in the California Legislature want to do anything about it," Kersten said.
"We are still drilling down in the data but there does not appear to be any real difference in giving by organized labor by candidate party affiliation. The non-public safety unions give to the Democrats, and the public safety unions give to the Republican candidates." Kersten stated, noting that there are likely some exceptions to the rule.
One major issue with the current system is that the left-leaning advocacy groups who usually look at this data hold the business groups accountable, but don't ever report the significant influence of the public employee unions who are the biggest contributors, Kersten said, citing the Berkeley-based Maplight as an example of a left-leaning group that does not report any useful summary data on giving by labor organizations in California politics, but have no shortage of data on contributions by the business community.
The Kersten Institute is completely independent so we don't have to worry about upsetting business or labor groups "we just seek to provide the facts," Kersten said, noting that more analysis needs to be done because its a long way until November when most of the money will be given.
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