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Corporations Don't Like A Law? Just Pay Millions For A Ballot Measure

Special interests that are thwarted in the California Capitol attempt an end-run around new laws they don't like: ask the voters to overrule lawmakers. (Image via iStock)
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Jeff Clayton remembers the day, two years ago, when California passed a law that would put his industry out of business in the state. The ban on money bail -- which Democrats advanced saying it would bring more fairness in the criminal justice system -- would devastate companies in the American Bail Coalition that Clayton heads.

He phoned a political consultant in Sacramento, who told him: "You guys are the plastic bag guys now," Clayton recalled.

Translation: If you want your industry to survive in California, do what plastic companies did after the state outlawed single-use plastic bags. Put up millions of dollars to ask voters to overturn the law on the ballot.

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So bail companies spent $11 million on a campaign to overturn California's ban on cash bail -- a gamble that paid off this week when voters defeated Proposition 25.

"The California Legislature tends to go too far at times," Clayton said. "As long as that stands, I think many businesses will be put in a position to have to do something like this."