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Ballot Bullies: Why Are Big Tobacco, Pharma and Plastic Doubling Down in California’s Election?

Photo by Pandora Young

Photo by Pandora Young

A New Series

Much will be written about this tumultuous election year but when the dust settles after November 8, voters in some states may discover that candidate personalities will have mattered less than the laws they themselves passed (or rejected) in public referendums. No more so than in California, whose 17 ballot measures address everything from taxation and public health to crime and punishment.

This week Capital & Main writers will examine several of those measures in order to take a hard look at corporate influence over California’s ballot-box legislation:

  • Judith Lewis Mernit traces the progressive origins of California’s long experiment in direct democracy and how corporate interests have learned to love it.
  • Dean Kuipers looks at the perennial muscle of the tobacco industry, exercised this year over Proposition 56, which seeks an additional $2 tax on each pack of cigarettes.
  • Judith Lewis Mernit writes about the deceptive setup that might cause California voters to veto a state law to ban single-use plastic bags even though 60 percent of those polled support it.
  • Jim Crogan tallies up the enormous contributions Big Pharma has made to oppose Proposition 61, an initiative to control state agencies’ prescription drug costs.
  • Plus illustrations by Lalo Alcaraz, videos and infographics.

To date tobacco, pharmaceutical and plastics interests alone have spent nearly $200 million trying to have their way with California. In two weeks voters will decide what they got for their money.