Los Angeles Times
Friday, May 22, 1998
CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / PROPOSITION 227
Tycoon Gives $1.5 Million to Measure's Opponents
Univision TV chief's donation will fuel bilingual education
ad campaign. Rival accuses him of trying to preserve his Spanish-language
By NICK ANDERSON, Times Staff Writer
The head of Univision Communications, one of the most prominent Spanish-language
media companies in the United States, has given a whopping $1.5 million
from his own pocket to fight California's anti-bilingual education initiative,
a campaign finance statement filed Thursday shows.
by A. Jerrold Perenchio, which is among the largest personal donations
in the history of state initiative politics, enables anti-Proposition 227
forces to air a significant amount of English-language television advertising
in the final weeks of its underdog effort to defeat the June 2 ballot measure.
The $1.5 million
is about twice what Ron K. Unz, a millionaire software businessman from
Palo Alto, says he has spent from his own funds in favor of the initiative.
what [Perenchio] has done is, he's given our campaign its only hope of
being able to talk to voters," said Richie Ross, a political consultant
for Citizens for an Educated America. The campaign debuted an English-language
TV commercial statewide last week that attacks Proposition 227 as costly
for taxpayers and bad education policy.
who lives in Bel-Air, has been listed among the nation's richest people
for more than a decade. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $1.5
billion in October. Perenchio, the chairman and chief executive officer
of Los Angeles-based Univision, has also been a major donor to Gov. Pete
Wilson, who on Monday endorsed Proposition 227.
would end most bilingual education programs in California public schools,
prescribing instead English-intensive instruction for about 1.4 million
students with limited English skills. It also would allocate $50 million
a year for 10 years to literacy programs for adults who pledge to teach
English to children.
to the Perenchio donation, the anti-Proposition 227 campaign is benefiting
from a barrage of editorials against the initiative televised by Univision
stations throughout the state--on average, four times a day. The network,
which reaches more than 1 million households in California, is not required
to give the pro-Proposition 227 campaign equal time.
said Perenchio would not comment. Anne Corley, Univision vice president
of public relations, said the company's position is that Proposition 227
is "a simplistic answer to a very complex issue that ends up being
bad public policy."
the initiative would foist a state mandate on local school officials for
"an untested teaching method."
Unz, whose campaign
is named English for the Children, suggested that the company's, and Perenchio's,
motives are more cynical: to preserve the Spanish-speaking market.
whose financial interests are served if Latinos don't learn English in
California?" Unz said. "We're talking about someone whose net
worth . . . is based on people watching Spanish-language TV."
Unz said he
plans to launch his own English-language TV commercial by today in the
Los Angeles area, a spot that will depict the initiative as an effort to
give the children of immigrants more opportunities in life.
227 campaign had collected about $3.3 million in donations from March 18
to Saturday. Perenchio's was the largest single cash contribution. Unz
said his campaign has raised "a couple hundred thousand" dollars
recently in addition to nearly $750,000 that he has contributed.
Steven A. Merksamer,
a Sacramento lawyer and expert on initiative politics, called Perenchio's
donation an "extraordinary amount of money," particularly from
an individual, in an initiative campaign.
one of the sponsors of Proposition 223, which would limit spending on school
district administration, announced plans to launch a television advertising
the "95-5" initiative--so named because it seeks to allocate
at least 95 cents of every dollar in the public education budget to direct
school spending--have already begun at least two TV commercials. One features
a state PTA spokesman denouncing the measure as bad school policy; another
alleges that the measure would benefit Los Angeles schools more than schools
elsewhere in the state.
223 campaign reported raising and spending more than $2 million this year
as of Saturday. Most of the money came from groups representing school
administrators and school employees other than teachers, according to a
spokeswoman. The pro-Proposition 223 campaign reported collecting more
than $860,000 for the year up to Saturday. Included in that sum was a $50,000
donation from Perenchio.