The standard for bringing suit would be astonishingly low. Plaintiffs would not need to show that they've suffered injury before obtaining an injunction.
"They don't have to show they relied on the label or bought the product. Kind of remarkable," said attorney Michael Steel of the San Francisco law firm Morrison & Foerster, which likely would defend such suits if voters approve the measure.
For plaintiffs' lawyers, there is a sweetener: Targets of the lawsuits would be responsible for covering the cost of "attorney's fees and all reasonable costs incurred in investigating and prosecuting the action as determined by the court." Innocent guy that I am, I asked how such a scheme could be constitutional.
"There is no constitutional protection against being ... abused," Steel answered, though at first he didn't use the word "abused." My innocent ears still hurt.
In any campaign, the winners include consultants, ad producers, pollsters, researchers and lawyers who make up the initiative industry. This year, they should be especially thankful for Charles Munger Jr. and Molly Munger, whose father, Charles Munger Sr., is the billionaire partner of Warren Buffett.
They seek to reshape the state, though in different ways. Molly has spent $32.9 million to promote her Proposition 38, which would raise taxes by $10 billion a year to fund schools. She spent $11 million in a separate campaign that aired ads critical of Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, which would raise taxes by $6 billion for state services including schools.
Unlike Molly, Charles Jr. is tax-averse and has spent $35 million to defeat Brown's Proposition 30, and promote Proposition 32, which would cripple labor's ability to raise campaign money.
The Munger clan has spent $79.4 million on California politics this year. Think about that. Billionaires are spending that kind of money to defeat the president of the United States.
Not to be trite, but Hiram Johnson never could have imagined what direct democracy would become when he envisioned the concept a century ago. Don't get me wrong. Initiatives are not the devil's spawn. But when rich donors and consultants nuzzle up to one another, initiatives generally are the offspring.
Contact dmorain@sacbee or on Twitter @DanielMorain.
THE SACRAMENTO BEE