Legal Reforms In California Threatened By Campaign Finance Initiative

Friday, September 1, 2006 - 01:00

A November ballot initiative in California threatens Proposition 64, the landmark business law reform overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004.

The initiative - Proposition 89 - would virtually block future legal reforms and set the stage for nullifying even earlier reforms, such as the State's 20-year-old joint and several liability law.

Proposition 89 is not a civil justice measure, but an across-the-board, anti-business scheme posing as election reform.It would cripple the business community's ability to participate in the political process in California by

  • prohibiting a corporation from directly or indirectly contributing to an independent expenditure election campaign, which is the only constitutional way a company has to make its views on candidates known to voters. In recent years the Civil Justice Association of California has sponsored independent expenditure committees which countered trial lawyer candidates and help send pro-legal reform lawmakers to the State Legislature.
  • placing a $10,000 corporate contribution limit on supporting or opposing initiatives. In 2004 voters passed Proposition 64, a major legal reform that stopped extortion lawsuits under state business law. Corporations raised $15 million for this win.Plaintiffs' lawyers spent about $5 million in their losing campaign. Had Proposition 89 been in effect, the same businesses would have been limited to well under $5 million in contributions, and the measure would have been defeated - if it would have been put on the ballot at all.
  • Personal injury lawyers and other plaintiffs' lawyers are largely unaffected by Proposition 89's limits.

    In summary, Proposition 89 would, in the legal reform arena, mean unilateral disarmament for business in the very political areas where gains have been won and balance restored. More information on Proposition 89 is available at www.noprop89.org.