Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has spent this campaign season vocally advocating against one statewide ballot measure: Proposition 22, which would exempt app-based delivery drivers from AB 5, the law she wrote limiting when employers can classify workers as independent contractors.
But when it comes to her ballot measure committee – a relatively obscure fundraising mechanism that allows lawmakers to spend for or against ballot measures – she’s spent the lion’s share of funds on a different measure: Prop. 16, the measure that would reinstate affirmative action.
This month alone, Gonzalez has sent more than $200,000 from her committee to the Yes on 16 fund.
Gonzalez said the spending reflects two things: how personal Prop. 16 is to her, and a strategic decision because the companies boosting Prop. 22 have poured an unprecedented $200 million into it.
“With all the spending that Uber is doing, it’s almost more important to use my voice and time. It just seems more effective given the immense amount of money being spent in that campaign,” she said. “Prop. 16 is personal to me – to me as a human being more so than as an elected official. I feel personally really compelled to do everything in my power to help remedy that wrong. I have a daughter who’s Black and Latina; I understand and see firsthand the structural racism that continues to exist in California and it’s deeply personal to me.”
Gonzalez this week celebrated the removal of a statue of former mayor Pete Wilson from downtown San Diego, and noted that Wilson was the chief architect of the voter initiative that banned affirmative action across the state.
“Joy to the world! The Pete Wilson statue was taken down today in San Diego! Now, let’s taken down another of his racist policies by passing Prop 16!” she wrote on Twitter.
Ballot measure committees have been criticized by good government advocates because there are no restrictions on how much individuals or groups can donate to them – so they’re seen as an end-around campaign spending limits for the lawmakers who run them. In the last week alone, Gonzalez’s committee has received donations of $10,000 and $25,000 from law firms and labor groups – far more than those groups could donate to Gonzalez’s re-election campaign.
Gonzalez is not the only local politician with such a committee.
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins has also used her committee to boost Prop. 16, as well as Prop. 15, which would change how commercial property tax rates are calculated. Her committee has spent $50,000 on each measure. She’s also sent $2,500 to the Measure B campaign in the city of San Diego, which would create a new oversight body for the San Diego Police Department.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer also has a ballot measure committee, and though he’s taken positions on several statewide measures this cycle, he hasn’t spent any money for or against any of them. He’s instead raising money for a potential 2022 statewide ballot measure related to homelessness.
The committee so far has pulled in several donations far in excess of what campaign spending limits would allow anyone to give Faulconer as a candidate, including a $50,000 donation from a Palos Verdes businessman, $20,000 from Fresno-based Shiralian Enterprises and two $10,000 donations from Orange County developers.
“Mayor Faulconer launched his Rebuilding the California Dream ballot measure committee in January before the COVID crisis hit,” Faulconer’s political consultant Stephen Puetz said in an email. “We’re continuing to explore a statewide ballot measure related to homelessness that builds on the successful approach San Diego has used to become the only big city in California where homelessness is going down. We’re doing opinion research and outreach throughout the state to assess a potential measure’s viability.”