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Chart: July contributions in support of Prop 64 SACRAMENTO � Campaign contributions are pouring in to two committees formed to support passage of Proposition 64, the November ballot initiative aimed at restricting suits under the state’s unfair competition law. The two committees � California Motor Car Dealers Association Fund to Stop Shakedown Lawsuits and Californians to Stop Shakedown Lawsuits � received more than $2 million during the first six months of the year. At least $1 million more came in during July, according to filings with the Secretary of State. All told, the committees have received about $10 million since their inception last year. That’s a hefty chunk of change, but nowhere near the $60 million spent by business interests four years ago to beat back Prop 30, the third-party bad faith measure. “We have a budget designed to bring a win,” said Civil Justice Association of California President John Sullivan, whose group is pushing the changes to Business & Professions Code � 17200 suits. “It covers all the basics.” Less clear is the amount of money that opponents, particularly plaintiffs lawyers, plan to spend. No campaign committee has been formed specifically to oppose the initiative, though several existing funds could be tapped. One is the Consumer Attorneys Issues PAC, which ended the first six months of 2004 with $803,994. That money is “at their disposal to spend on Proposition 64,” said Thomas Hiltachk, a Sacramento attorney specializing in the crafting of initiative campaigns. But the fund has received no contributions over $5,000 this calendar year. The bulk of the $73,505 received to date came in donations of $100 or less. That doesn’t mean that the committee can’t and won’t drum up larger donations in the months leading up to November. Three other committees � Consumer Attorneys Independent Committee, the Consumer Attorneys PAC and the California Alliance (a coalition of consumer attorneys, conservationists and nurses) � had little cash on hand as of June 30, but together have spent about $1.5 million this year on legislative races, polling and voter registration. “I think it’s really going to come down to a political decision by trial lawyers evaluating whether any amount of money can defeat the initiative,” said Hiltachk, a Republican who has done work for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration. So far, anyway, it seems lawyers may not think much money is needed to persuade voters to vote no. One group, Election Watchdog, has $150,000, with plans to spend half that opposing Prop 64 and the other half supporting Prop 72, which would require more businesses to provide health insurance. Election Watchdog is affiliated with Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit chaired by insurance gadfly Harvey Rosenfeld. The $150,000 came in the form of a grant from the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which won a 17200 case against HMOs over false advertising. Election Watchdog spokesman Jamie Court said his group could collect another $100,000 for the Prop 64 fight from environmental, civil rights and public interest groups opposed to the measure. Indeed, it is representatives from groups like the California League of Conservation Voters and the California Nurses Association who are signing ballot arguments against Prop 64, rather than plaintiffs lawyers. That’s no accident. “We don’t want to be tarred with baggage from the trial lawyers,” said Court, who recently joined Sullivan for a radio talk show about the measure. “I think trial lawyers are very interested in this,” Court said, “but it doesn’t drive a stake through the heart of their interests. That’s why they’re not spending. Probably at some point they will spend some of their money, but that’s their business.” James Sturdevant, president of Consumer Attorneys of California, said the group is content to let environmental and public interest groups carry the ball. Some time closer to the election, consumer attorneys may decide to get involved, “but we don’t have any plans to do so at this point,” he said.

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