Special Interests Spent $1 Billion|(With a B) to Shape Policy in California

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Fifteen special interest groups have spent more than $1 billion in the last decade to influence California lawmakers and voters, the state’s watchdog agency said Wednesday. The interest groups include six corporations, three Indian tribes, two labor unions and four business associations, according to a report by the Fair Political Practices Commission called “Big Money Talks.”



     “This report leaves little doubt where the vortex of political power lies in this state,” according to the 67-page report. “The numbers tell the story. And there is no end in sight to the spending binge by special interests.”
     Five special interest groups spent more than half of the billion dollars since 2000, according to the report:
      -The California Teachers Association, $211.8 million.
      -The California State Council of Service Employees, $107.4 million.
      -The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, $104.9 million.
      -The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, $83.6 million.
      -The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, $69.2 million.
     Pacific Gas & Electric, Chevron, AT&T, Philip Morris USA and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians round out the top 10 biggest political spenders in California over the last decade, the report states.
     “By spending huge amounts of money, (special interests) send an unmistakable message to political opponents and elected officials alike: ‘We’re ready, willing, and able to spend millions – you don’t want to fight us,'” the report said. “What is good for the people of California matters less than what hurts or helps the individual interests of these groups.”
     The report broke down how the groups spent the $1 billion between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2009:
      -More than $660 million was spent for state and local ballot measures, including $125 spent by Indian tribes on gambling ballot measures.
      -More than $80 million went to state and local candidates.
      -More than $30 million went to political committees. $17.7 million was given to Democrats, and $13 million went to Republicans.
      -More than $250 million went for lobbying the state Legislature.
     “The conclusion is inescapable: A handful of special interests have a disproportionate amount of influence on California elections and public policy,” the report stated.
     Southern California Edison, the California Hospital Association, The California Chamber of Commerce, the Western States Petroleum Association and Aera Energy made up the last five of the list of 15.

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