Proposition 6 is an initiative to Repeal The Gas Tax. There is a lot of heated discussion surrounding it, but little of the conversation moves forward rationally. The matter would appear to be a surrogate for something different given the temperature of emotional reactions.

So who’s behind it, what is revealed by spending patterns in support and opposition?

Support of the Repeal measure looks different from spending on corporate-backed propositions, whether for or against. The list of donations consists of 21,951 line-items, of which 6,816 are unique donors: there are a huge number of repeat-donors, giving remarkably often (fig 1).

Figure 1

One gave to the cause 50 times; the average of these contributions was just $8.96. The cause would appear to be a populist crusade.

This proposition’s devotees are distinguishable as clear individuals, with 547 unique occupations listed. The typical parade of Big Donors with Big Influence, the tycoons, foundations, Big Business and PACs, comprise just 2% of supporters, those with no

Figure 2

listed occupation (entities). Among the remaining 98% of individuals, a majority of 52% (51% of the total) declare their occupation to be “Retired” (fig 2).

The grassroots campaign of Senator Sander’s, with its “$27 average donation” comes to mind. But this flock of seniors is donating an order of magnitude more on average per donation ($206 +/- $3,325), and so repeatedly that the average individual’s (including entity’s) donation totals $665 +/- $9,273. The appeal of the Repeal is to legions of grannies in Southern California (over-spending their Northern California counterparts 3:1, table 1), with a hairtrigger on Facebook’s donation button. Redolent of ElderAbuse, does she know her credit card is being run so frequently (kidding; the donations aren’t regular-enough on average to suggest fraud)?

Among entity-donors, the CA Republican party gives the most financial support at just shy of a half million dollars (all individual donors and entities are listed in table 2). Not far behind is the Howard Jarvis Association, utilizing at least three different PACs. One of these is helpfully labeled “Protect Prop 13”, suggesting a truth closer to how this proposition should be understood. It is a furious count-me-out/no-tax measure, unperturbed with its affect on public works or the future, unconcerned with its impact on roadways or infrastructure, or as in the case of prop 13, the viability of our very democracy in draining the public school system.

prop6SUP tab


Meanwhile opposition to the Repeal is an interesting amalgam of engineering, labour and construction interests, with a smattering of environmental groups for good measure. Gone are the individual employees and retirees too, with 88% of unique contributors being entities rather than individuals (table 3). A single PAC alone has given more in opposition to prop 6 than the collective entirety of those numerous individuals in support of the Repeal.

Prop6OPP table


The organizing power in service of individual over collective public expenditure is awesome to behold. As Alan Abramowitz points out, Donald Trump actually drew more donations in small denominations than Bernie Sanders did in 2016. The Republican grassroots populist machine is activated, and focused on this proposition as a surrogate of the 1978 Prop 13 tax revolt. Its other chief supporter is the Republican gubernatorial candidate, John Cox. The numbers show the partisan strength of this issue, enjoined as a Trojan horse to pull strongly tax-concerned partisans into the polling booth.