Goose those political donations

William A. Lowell is a West Sacramento retiree who is active on local issues

In 1998, Proposition 226—which would have required all employee unions, public and private, to get each member’s consent before using any of their dues for political purposes—failed. Now, Lewis Uhler’s initiative attempts to do just that, only to public-employee-union members’ dues alone.

Should this initiative succeed in next November’s special election, the next move probably would be to extend the same restrictions to nonpublic-employee unions, thereby fulfilling the original intent of Proposition 226.

While that “divide and conquer” strategy may sound reasonable to nonpublic employees and others, everyone—especially corporate advocates of this proposition—should ask themselves: Why we aren’t applying the same logic to corporate political donations? Why not require the annual written consent of each corporation’s stockholders before corporate agents and CEOs are allowed to use any portion of what probably would be stock dividends for political purposes?

Truly, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, at least when it comes to the use of money to fund politics.

In his drive for corporate donations to finance measures on the special-election ballot this November, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has raised unprecedented amounts of money. How much of that cash would the governor be prohibited from spending were a Uhler-type law in place for corporate donations? After all, there are surely corporate stockholders who do not agree with the political positions being supported by the leaders of those bodies and who would refuse to sign a release for the use of corporate funds to support those positions.

While we’re at it, such a law restricting the use of corporate political donations also should prohibit excessive bonuses and dividends to corporate executives and CEOs immediately prior to or after they’ve made such political donations personally. After all, we wouldn’t want corporate agents to circumvent the law by funneling corporate money through their private accounts to political candidates or campaigns that their stockholders might not support.

The bottom line is that our governor has no room to criticize any public-employee union—or any private-employee union, for that matter—as a “special interest” group, as long as he’s taking money from “special interests” himself. At least let him acknowledge the corporate donations as coming from “special interests” and support fair and balanced regulation of campaign contributions.