By Hillel Aron
Propositions 20 and 27 in California, come down to a battle between two eccentric billionaires. Well, one billionaire, Haim Saban, and one bow-tie-wearing physicist son-of-a-billionaire, Charles T. Munger, Jr.
Munger's dad is VP of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet's holding company. As Buffet's number two man, he's worth $1.7 billion (about half of what Saban, the pro-gerrymandering billionaire we explained here, is worth).
Some Munger dough makes its way into Junior's bank account. So, as an anti-gerrymandering crusader, he gave $7 million to Proposition 20. Why?
Munger Jr. is a researcher at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. He's a frequent donor to the California Republican Party, and has given to John McCain.
The conventional wisdom on Munger is that he comes by his anti-gerrymandering ideals earnestly. As the New York Times points out:
“I would've been very welcome in Republican circles if I decided to go chuck 10 million in a bunch of races up and down the state to fight for Republican control of Congress,” Mr. Munger said. “It isn't a worthy ambition compared to doing this.”
Is Munger is as independent as he seems? Probably not. Does it matter? Probably not.
The voters should thank him for tackling gerrymandering, which has left California with the Ribbon of Shame congressional district (see it here) and Howard Berman's congressional district, which he and his pals designed into the shape of a Man in Scarf Wearing a Pilgrim Hat.
As noted in this post explaining “Gerrymandering FAQs,” the U.S. is the only westernized democracy that lets its politicians draw the voting districts, manipulating the borders to get just the right mix of voters — and then run in their custom-designed districts.
Prop. 27, which Haim Saban is bankrolling, will give the California legislature back its powers to create nutty-shaped districts to then run in, wiping out a voter-approved 2008 reform that stopped them from gerrymandering.
Prop. 20, which Munger is bankrolling, does the opposite of 27. It takes another big whack out of gerrymandering, by removing the power to draw U.S. Congressional districts in California from the legislature (those folks with an approval rating of 11 percent).
Prop. 20 will give that duty to a citizen commission.
Munger won't be on it.