A Weary State is Left Facing Hefty Price Tag

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With the most expensive election in California history ending in the failure of all eight ballot initaitves, voters and lobbyists are wondering whether the millions of dollars poured into Tuesday's special election was money down the drain.

More than $400 million was spent proposing, campaigning and opposing the eight measures, according to the California Secretary of State's Web site.

The totals include money spent on lobbying, campaigning and advertising by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's camp, lobbyist groups, unions and companies in their efforts to endorse or oppose the initiatives.

Among the top spenders were pharmaceutical companies over prescriptions drug discount programs outlined in Propositions 78 and 79, and public unions battling Proposition 75, which would have required unions to obtain written consent from each member before making political contributions.

"It is a total waste," said Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. His organization alone spent just under $3.3 million opposing the initiative, but Pulaski said they had no choice but to spend the money.

"It was essential for us to defend ourselves against this attack," he said.

Pulaski said he holds Schwarzenegger responsible for the costs incurred by the state, which total about $50 million.

Other union representatives agreed that they would have preferred that Schwarzenegger had never called for the election, but nevertheless

considered the amount spent on opposition efforts a good investment.

"It was money well spent once the election was called," said Cathy Campbell, vice-president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. "Calling for the election was unnecessary and expensive at a time when our state is struggling just to pay its bills."

Even some proponents of the failed propositions thought their efforts and money proved fruitful.

"We thought a lot of good came from it," said Albin Rhomberg, a spokesperson and adviser for the Yes on 73 campaign. "It's the first time ever an initiative of this sort came on the ballot and ours came out with the highest number of "yes" votes," he said. "It's somewhat encouraging."

Proposition 73 would have required parental notification before physicians could perform abortions on minors. The initiative failed with the smallest margin of difference out of the eight propositions.

Rhomberg said that compared to Planned Parenthood, one of the leading opponents of Proposition 73, efforts to support the measure, which emerged through grassroots efforts, had fewer resources and limited time to prepare the measure for the ballot.

The $50 million cost of administering the election was paid for by counties, with the promise of being paid back by the state, said Rodney Brooks, chief of staff for Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. Brooks said he doubts the county will be fully reimbursed of the $3 million it spent on the election.

"It will cost local government. There will be money that comes out of our pockets," he said. "I don't think (the propositions) provided any sort of change, or insight or address any pressing needs for Alameda County residents or for all of California."

Money Spent Per Proposition

• Proposition 73: $3.6 million

• Proposition 74: $56 million

• Proposition 75: $82.3 million

• Proposition 76: $71.3 million

• Proposition 77: $50.4 million

• Propositions 78 and 79: $108.7 million

• Proposition 80: $35.0 million

Source: Calculations based on the California Automated Lobbying and Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Search System, California Secretary of State Web site

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