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Fast and Low

It's how California unions like their politics.

12:00 AM, Oct 14, 2005 • By BILL WHALEN
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But more dubious is a union-paid media campaign that has resorted to dishonesty. Such an example is a television ad entitled "Record," paid for by the teachers' union. It alleges that Prop. 74, the teacher-tenure measure, "allows a principal to fire a teacher without giving a reason or even a hearing." In truth, Prop. 74 wouldn't change the current laws that give teachers hearings and appeals. Schwarzenegger's camp called on CTA and television stations to yank the ad. CTA's response: fight fire with fire. The Alliance for a Better California, a front group for the anti-Schwarzenegger forces, promptly called on Team Arnold to pull a 15-second ad which claims that Prop. 76, the budget reform measure, would actually increase school funding (it might or it might not, depending on how one interprets a breakdown by the California Legislative Analyst's Office).

SPEAKING OF INCREASES, there's the matter of higher dues and how union bosses will have to defend their actions should Schwarzenegger prevail on Nov. 8. Earlier this year, CTA imposed a three-year "special assessment" ($60 a year for each member) to raise a quick $50 million to pay for its initiative fight. However, court documents released earlier this month show that CTA already has blown through that budget and is in the process of taking out a $40 million line of credit to last through the early November--that in addition to an already existing $20 million line of credit.

Perhaps they should have used the cash to simply buy votes, rather than spend the millions borrowed and tithed pounding Schwarzenegger with attacks ads. Those ads accuse the Governor of lying and having a hidden right-wing agenda. But they might yet backfire, if all the negativity (a) makes Schwarzenegger a more sympathetic underdog or (b) further disenchants an already dispirited electorate that will not vote in large numbers.

California's electorate last fall was 45 percent Democratic and 37 percent Republican. A more realistic scenario for November 8 is something closer to 41 percent Democratic and 39 percent Republican. It would be ironic if a labor media campaign meant to turn out its core support instead kept voters home. In which case it won't be hard to find the losers in the special election--just look for the union label.

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.