California Prop 32, Ballot Measure Aimed At Hobbling Political Power Of Unions, Defeated By Voters

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 01:  A security guard blocks a door as Occupy protestors and union members stage a demonstration outs
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 01: A security guard blocks a door as Occupy protestors and union members stage a demonstration outside of the Westfield San Francisco Centre on May 1, 2012 in San Francisco, California. Occupy Wall Street groups across the country have joined with unions during the May Day protests, a traditional day of global protests in sympathy with unions and leftist politics. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The controversial California ballot measure Proposition 32, which had the potential to significantly hobble the power of labor unions, was defeated by a margin of 56.1% to 43.9%.

Pitched by its supporters as a way to clean up the state's political process, Prop 32 would have prohibited both unions and corporations from using any money automatically deducted from an employee's paycheck for political purposes. This change would have had a much greater effect on unions than on corporations: while the vast majority of political funds used by labor groups come from paycheck deductions, corporations almost exclusively pay for their political activities through other means.

Since labor unions are one of the most powerful players in California Democratic party politics (and the California Teachers Association is the state's single largest political donor), support for the proposition largely broke down on partisan lines.

If Prop 32 had passed, unions would still have been able to raise money for political purposes, but they would have had to solicit voluntary donations from their members to do so--likely generating significantly less revenue.

"By soundly rejecting Proposition 32, the voters of our state said no to a deceptive initiative written by wealthy special interests, for wealthy special interests," Lou Paulson, chairman of the No on Prop 32 campaign, said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The measure became a national flashpoint for the battle over the political influence of unions, drawing a flood of money from across the country.

In October, an $11 million donation from a shadowy network of conservative groups linked to the billionaire Koch brothers and former Bush Administration advisor Karl Rove caused an uproar in state politics and drew allegations of money laundering.

In total, a whopping $135 million was spent by both sides on the issue, $60 million of which came directly from organized labor.

"We see this really as a way of silencing the voice of unions and working families," Screen Actors Guild President Gabrielle Carteris explained at an election night event in Los Angles. "We know that whatever happens, whether it's affecting us directly right now, it will ultimately not only affect us but also the rest of the country."

California voters have twice before rejected similar "paycheck protection" laws in 1998 and 2005.

Check out how all the other California ballot measures fared:

California 2012 Ballot Measures Results

HuffPost Los Angeles Associate Editor Anna Almendrala contributed to this report.