Prop Zero
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When $6.3 Million is Chump Change

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    NEWSLETTERS

    When is $6.3 million not a lot of money? When you're a governor with an initiative on the November ballot.

    New campaign reports show Gov. Jerry Brown raising $6.3 million for his temporary-tax ballot initiative in the first half of the year. His campaign has $5 million on hand.

    That's not much when it comes to California ballot measure campaigns. Indeed, in recent cycles, $5 million is about what it takes to have just one week's worth of ads in all California markets.

    Brown likely will need to be on the air for a much longer period of time, since his initiative's main competitor, Molly Munger, has personal wealth upon which to draw.

    I'd guess that Brown will need at least $20 million, and probably closer to $30 million, to get his message out and have a real chance of winning. And getting there won't be easy.

    He's raising money for an initiative that would raise taxes on precisely the demographic -- the very rich -- who have the money to give to initiative campaigns. And he's raising money from people and interests who are already being tapped for the presidential campaign or other initiative campaigns.

    There is one bit of good news. Brown has avoided the kind of criticism Gov. Schwarzenegger received for his fundraising for ballot initiatives.

    Yes, such fundraising is problematic -- because it takes governors away from doing the work of governing -- and potentially compromising. But in California's system, when almost any policy changes requires a vote of the people, a governor -- or any elected official who wants to have an impact -- should never stop raising money.

    Gov. Brown has a long summer of donor phone calls and fundraising events ahead of him.

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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