From SJ Merc, Internal Affairs column, March 14, 2010:
A new report from the Fair Political Practices Commission — California's elections watchdog — mines years of campaign and lobbyist reports and turns up this nugget:
Over the past decade, 15 special-interest groups have spent more than $1 billion in an all-out bid to influence the state's affairs. They spent that money to sink ballot initiatives and boost candidates. They fed it directly to political parties' war chests. (Democrats came out slightly ahead of Republicans.) And they spent hundreds of millions wining and dining lawmakers and other state officials.
Almost a fifth of the cash came from one group: the politically powerful California Teachers Association ($211.8 million). The teachers union was followed by an affiliate of the Service Employees Union International ($107.5 million), a pharmaceutical industry group ($104.9 million) and two deep-pocketed Indian tribes ($83.6 million and $69.3 million). Rounding out the top 15 are some other big names, such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Chevron, AT&T and Philip Morris. (For the full report, go to www.fppc.ca.gov/reports/Report38104.pdf.)
So when we talk about special interests influencing state governments, remember: it's the teachers and other unions who have provided the most grease to Sacramento. Is it any wonder Sacramento provides teachers and unions with special benefits unavailable to most private sector workers? I'll end with this gem from the article:
"The conclusion is inescapable," reads the report's executive summary. "A handful of special interests have a disproportionate amount of influence on California elections and public policy."