Governor’s Tax Imperiled by Fighting with Molly Munger?

Brown-Munger

While many are focusing on the Presidential Election or the local school board and parcel tax elections, Proposition 30 may have the single greatest impact locally, not just on K-12 education but also higher education.

A complication is a competing tax measure from Molly Munger.  Most analysts downplayed the impact when polls showed that the wealthy attorney Molly Munger, who has spent more than $30 million on her campaign, was only getting in the low 40s in support as opposed to 51 percent for Proposition 30.

But that calculus is being turned on its head as Ms. Munger launched an attack at on the governor’s measure calling the governor’s campaign “misleading” and she said in an interview with the the Sacramento Bee that the Proposition 30 campaign was “pursuing an ‘impostor strategy’ by claiming the mantle of boosting school funding and sidestepping Sacramento politicians.”

The LA Times reported on Thursday, that one of Molly Munger’s closest allies called for a truce between the two sides.

The Times reported, “Carol Kocivar, president of the California State PTA, said Brown and Munger should meet sometime next week ‘to reach agreement on ways to de-escalate the recent situation.’ “

“We are deeply concerned about the escalation of back-and-forth political maneuvering, personal attacks, and accusations and reactions in the press from both Proposition 30 and 38 proponents about the latest TV ads,” Ms. Kocivar said. “All of us need to take a step back.”

However, the Position 30 campaign dismissed the call.

“Why would we meet with her?” said Dan Newman, a spokesman for the campaign. “We’re minding our own business, running a positive campaign and not mentioning any other initiative — while she’s spending millions in false attack ads against us.”

Ms. Munder’s campaign said “Molly would be happy to meet with Governor Brown.” However, the Times reported, “Spokesman Nathan Ballard said Munger would not drop her advertising critical of Proposition 30.”

Yes, that is the same Nathan Ballard who worked on the Measure X campaign ion Davis before going to San Francisco to work as former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesperson.

“If the Prop 30 campaign takes down their misleading ads, then we would certainly consider taking down our ad responding to them,” he said.

All of this has led the Sacramento Bee this morning, in a scathing editorial, to opine, “Munger’s attack on Jerry Brown’s initiative could kill both.”

“No one should doubt that Los Angeles civil rights attorney Molly Munger is passionate about improving public schools in California,” said the editorial noting her $31 million to promote Proposition 38 which would raise income taxes by about $10 billion a year to fund schools.  “That’s all within the bounds of the California initiative process, in which wealthy interests and philanthropists propose initiatives and try to convince voters of the wisdom of their concepts.”

What they call troubling is the fact that “Munger has spent an additional $3 million to attack Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative to raise taxes by $6 billion a year to fund a variety of state services, schools among them.”

The Bee writes, “While it’s not ideal tax policy, Proposition 30 is the linchpin of Brown’s plan to place California on less shaky financial ground.

“Without it, the governor and Democratic legislators have said, they will have no choice but to cut another $6 billion from the state budget. Public schools and the public university system would face the harshest cuts.”

“Recent polling showed Proposition 30 was ahead narrowly. But voters hate to raise taxes, even if taxpayers other than themselves are the ones who would pay those taxes,” the Bee continues. “If Munger persists in funding the ad criticizing Proposition 30, she almost certainly will sink Brown’s measure.”

In addition to the PTA, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is a prominent supporter of the Munger Initiative.  Mr. Torlakson called on Munger to cease the attack.

The Bee writes, “As The Bee said in an editorial on Sunday, Proposition 38 would be worth considering in another year. The $10 billion earmarked for public schools certainly is enticing.  However, the state has many needs. Proposition 30 would help meet those needs by starting to pay down the state’s bond debt, and funding criminal justice realignment, while also providing some money for public schools.”

They add, “If Munger persists in her strategy of attacking Proposition 30, Brown’s allies will feel compelled to go after Proposition 38, which already trails in public polling. Munger needs to step back from the brink.”

“Brown needs to do whatever he can to help make that happen. This murder-suicide will help no one, least of all the kids both sides claim to want to help,” they add.

The bottom line is that, while districts like Davis are asking its employees to take concessions, those in the position to help the district are engaging in ego wars.  This is not going to help anyone.

Remember, regardless of what happens in Measure E – if Proposition 30 goes down, our schools will take at least a six-month hit.  And that battle for concessions is one of the most heated in this election cycle.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 Comments

  1. Rifkin

    [i]”Most analysts downplayed the impact when polls showed that the [b]wealthy attorney Molly Munger[/b], who has spent more than $30 million on her campaign …”[/i]

    I don’t dispute your description of Miss Munger. However, I think it would be more accurate to describe her as [i]wealthy heiress Molly Munger.[/i]

    It’s not as if Molly made tens of millions of dollars as an attorney. All of her money comes from her father, Charlie Munger, Sr., who is the partner of Warren Buffett and the Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. (Berkshire has a market cap of $219.37 billion.)

    Molly is not the only Munger putting up her dad’s money to finance a proposition on our ballot. Her much younger half-brother, Charlie Munger, Jr., who is a moderate Republican, has contributed most of the money to support Proposition 32, a good-governance measure which the corrupt unions in our state are fighting with huge sums of money (now nearling $50 million). Charlie, Jr., who has his PhD. in physics from Stanford, works at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. [quote]New filings with the Secretary of State show that Republican activist Charles Munger Jr. gave a little more than $10 million to a committee that is supporting Proposition 32 ([url]http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2012/10/charles-munger-gives-10-million-for-prop-32-against-prop-30.html[/url]), the campaign finance measure on the November ballot.[/quote] In case anyone missed it, my column this week regards Prop 32 ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/prop-32-a-chance-to-clean-up-the-rot/[/url]).

    Surprising to me, there is at least one poll which suggests that Proposition 32 is going to pass ([url]http://www.cbrt.org/california-business-roundtable-and-pepperdine-university-school-of-public-policy-release-first-polling-results/[/url]). However, I have my doubts about the numbers in this July poll. Even though it was conducted by academics (at Pepperdine), it doesn’t sound to me like it is all that scientific in its methodology*. Moreover, since it was taken in July, the unions have spent tens of millions of dollars polluting the minds of voters too dumb to know this is a good proposition for our state.
    ——————–
    * [i]”About the methodology: M4 strategies conducted an online opinion poll of 800 likely California General Election voters from July 16 to July 17, 2012. Participants viewed the “ballot initiative” page and recorded how they are inclined to vote given the current information, including a review of the Title and Summary created by the Attorney General. … When taking the survey, participants were able, and encouraged, to review all of the qualified ballot initiatives before voting.”[/i]

  2. Rifkin

    FWIW, it seems to me that the September poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California ([url]http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_912MBS.pdf[/url]) is more credible than the Pepperdine poll. PPIC’s poll “found that likely voters narrowly oppose Proposition 32, with 49% saying they would vote ‘no’ and 42% saying they would vote ‘yes.’ The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.”
    ————–
    Methodology: [i]”Findings in this report are based on a survey of 2,003 California adult residents, including 1,602 interviewed on landline telephones and 401 interviewed on cell phones. Interviews took an average of 19 minutes to complete. Interviewing took place on weekend days and weekday nights from September 9 to 16, 2012.”[/i]

  3. David M. Greenwald

    “However, I think it would be more accurate to describe her as [i]wealthy heiress Molly Munger.[/i] It’s not as if Molly made tens of millions of dollars as an attorney. “

    That’s fine.

  4. eagle eye

    The Bee reported that Brown previously made numerous attempts to reach some agreement with Munger but to no avail. Thus apparently there is little interest in beating a dead horse again.

    Why are the Munger’s suddenly interested in education?

  5. Rifkin

    [i]”Why are the Mungers suddenly interested in education?”[/i]

    Molly Munger has been involved in education issues going a long way back. For example, she was an active opponent of Prop 209, which ended affirmative racism in California schools. I don’t know if her half-brother ever has been involved in public education questions. However, he has a history of backing government reform ballot initiatives, including
    Prop 20 of 2010 (which took away the power from the legislators to gerrymander Congressional districts) and Prop 11 of 2008, which created the re-districting commission (that Stan Forbes of Davis served on) for legislative re-districting.

    Ironically, the Democratic Party tried to portray Charlie Munger as an extremist partisan for pushing these sensible reforms. Yet since we have had re-districting, it is the right-wing Republicans who have been hurt most by them and who have since sued in courts to overturn this common sense.

    Again, the Democrats are trying to portray Charlie Munger as a radical conservative tool of corporate greed for supporting Prop 32. But in reality, California will still be overwhelmingly Democratic if 32 passes. It will simply be harder for the unions, which run the Democratic Party, to have as much power over elected officials.

  6. medwoman

    Rich

    [quote]Again, the Democrats are trying to portray Charlie Munger as a radical conservative tool of corporate greed[/quote]

    [quote]It will simply be harder for the unions, which run the Democratic Party, to have as much power over elected officials.[/quote]

    These quotes, juxtaposed, prompted me to ask you a question that has been on my mind with regard to your thinking for quite a while.

    What do you see as the difference between many people pooling their money, and voting for representatives to use that money for political purposes ( as unions do), and fewer extremely rich people raising similar amounts of money to use for political purposes ( as millionaires and billionaires and folks like those at Romney’s now famous gathering where he used the “47%” line, do with their money ?
    Or for perhaps a more direct comparison. what Meg Whitman attempted to do buy pouring millions of her own money into a campaign which would have obviously affected politics by getting herself elected. T

  7. Rifkin

    MEDS: [i]”What do you see as the difference between (what) … unions do) … (what) … Meg Whitman tried to … do with (her) money?”[/i]

    There is a difference if the rich person in question is attempting to buy an election for personal gain or not. I would suspect that in the case of Meg Whitman she was not trying to become governor of California in order to personally profit off of the policies she would have pursued in office.

    By contrast, the public employee unions directly and many other unions indirectly* give money to campaigns to change policies or keep in place policies that are designed to enrich them. In other words, their effort is to corrupt the political process. This makes them essentially the same as corporations (like defense contractors) or other special interests (such as farm groups) which give money to campaigns in order to get more back in return.

    As I have stated many times, I believe the best alternative would be to have publicly financed campaigns. A way we could pull that off, especially when a rich person like Meg Whitman runs for office, would be to have a 50% tax on contributions. If Meg gave her campaign $100 million, for example, she would be required to pay half of that in a ‘campaign contribution tax,’ which would go to her opponent. (My arbitrary cut-off for someone receiving public funds, including funds from a ‘contribution tax’ would be anyone polling at 15% or higher.)

    One thing that people who are on the left but not necessarily drinking the union Kool-Aide don’t think about enough is the fact that with or without all that union money corrupting California’s politics this will (due to demographics and culture) be a Democratic state. So for them, I think they need to ask if it makes sense that the money which would be going to protect the environment but instead is going to fund the pensions of highly paid Corrections administrators a good trade-off? Would we be better off padding the union jobs which take up all the money for mental health or better off actually having some of those funds to treat poor patients who are being denied? We used to fund higher education with about 15% of the state budget. Now we give higher ed about half as much as a share of the budget. By contrast, the percentages have reversed for prisons, doubling from 7.5% to over 15%. Maybe left-wingers who believe in the UC system might think that reducing the influence of the prison guards union over the Democratic Party would be a good idea? If so, they should vote for Prop 32.
    ———————–
    *The trade unionists in California generally are not public employees. However, they use corruption of public policy to get all of their money. The poor in our state are the principal victims of this corruption. The labor for building a new school is twice what it would be if truly private contractors were allowed to build schools. Our new water works will cost tens of millions of dollars more because of the requirements to hire union workers at union wages with union benefits under union work rules (which radically reduce productivity). That added cost of water won’t hurt wealthy doctors or lawyers or professors. They can afford the higher bill. That burden will mostly harm young families who are struggling to live in Davis and it may force some older people on fixed incomes to reside elsewhere in their golden years.

  8. medwoman

    [quote]There is a difference if the rich person in question is attempting to buy an election for personal gain or not. I would suspect that in the case of Meg Whitman she was not trying to become governor of California in order to personally profit off of the policies she would have pursued in office.
    [/quote]

    I agree with almost everything else you said in your response. I would be completely in favor of public funding of campaigns and see your proposition for a tax on the amount put into one’s own campaign as reasonable.
    This quoted paragraph I also believe is probably literally true in the example we both chose. However, I think it misses the mark overall. Having been in my lifetime, both quite poor ( certainly well below the poverty line) and now probably in the top 10 % ( not the top 1%) I have had the opportunity to see and understand the misconceptions that many in the middle class and certainly those in the upper echelon have about the poor.
    Here is where I think the problem lies. While the very rich do not need more money, and therefore are not acting to enrich themselves directly, the policies they favor and choices that they make favor the rich. I do not see it as fundamentally more or less harmful if you are benefitting yourself or your friends, or if your choices benefit those who are able to look and dress similarly to yourself. It is the same selfishness manifesting. And it is the same short sidedness.

    Like you, I am no fan of the California correctional officers administration and I think that unions can have a corrupting effect. But I also think inheriting, marrying into, or just plain making a fortune yourself also has a corrupting effect if their is no awareness that no one, and I do mean no one succeeds without the support of our overall system at some point. If you are poor, it really doesn’t matter to you whether it is an increased pension of a correctional officer or the corporate perks and deductions provided to the rich in the theory that they are “the producers” that is taking the money that could be spent on adequate food, or education, or health care. From the point of view of the poor, these two are equivalent.

  9. SouthofDavis

    medwoman wrote:

    > Having been in my lifetime, both quite poor
    > and now probably in the top 10 % ( not the top 1%)

    If you are a MD in California working full time with someone else in your household with a job you are probably closer to the top 1% than the top 10%. Acording to Wikipedia (that uses census data) a family income of about $160K will get you in to the top 5% and $250K (what a typical firefighter and teacher with 20+ years on the job will make in the Bay Area) will get you in to the top 1.5%.

  10. Mr.Toad

    “$250K (what a typical firefighter and teacher with 20+ years on the job will make in the Bay Area) will get you in to the top 1.5%.”

    Teachers at the top in SFUSD make about $80,000. you need to be pretty highly skilled to make $!70,000 from FDSF.

  11. SouthofDavis

    Mr Toadd wrote:

    > Teachers at the top in SFUSD make about $80,000.
    > you need to be pretty highly skilled to make
    > $170,000 from FDSF.

    The “average pay” for all SF Firefighter (not the 20+ year veterans) is $133,497 according to the link below and all the SF Firefighters I know (I’ve looked up what they make on line) make over $175K. The average firefighter pay in parts of the East Bay and some Peninsula cities is even higher. I have some friends tht teach in Woodside and Portola Valley (last time I looked the “average” teacher in Portola Valley made over $80K) that make over $200K as a couple and spend summers with their kids at her parents place on Nantucket and his parents place on the West Shore of Tahoe. I know teachers in Davis make less, but when the “average” pay for the over 1,000 firefighters in SF is over $130K (and they can “retire” at 50 and make over $10K a month for decades we have a big problem). Math does not care about politics and it is going to get ugly when all the promises we have made to cops, firefighters and teachers cannot be kept…
    http://www.baycitizen.org/local/counties/san-francisco-employees/

    P.S. Go to the link below and look at what teachers in San Mateo County in Hillsborough are paid (a lot of them make more than $80K):
    http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2011

  12. medwoman

    SouthofDavis

    “If you are a MD in California working full time with someone else in your household with a job you are probably closer to the top 1% than the top 10%”

    Yes, but I am not. I am the sole support for my family. And according to my recently released tax returns, rather than Wikidedia, I am in the top 10 ( or maybe even top 5) but certainly not approaching the top 1%.
    Also, I am hard pressed to see how your friends parents vacation homes have anything to do with the discussion of how much a typical teacher makes. It sounds as though you kind of tossed that in to demonstrate how some teachers live an opulent lifestyle. I am quite sure that having rich relatives is not representative of the typical teacher and would be irrelevant to their salary even if they all came from wealthy families.

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