Separated at Birth: Brown and Munger

Are Jerry Brown and Molly Munger brother and sister?

No, but their ballot initiatives are.

Yes, the tax-raising ballot initiatives from civil rights lawyer Molly Munger and Gov. Jerry Brown are considered competitors in a bitter political contest for money and support.

But when you look at the construction of the measures, what's most striking about them is the similarity of their origins.

Both initiatives were drafted by the same election law firm. Much of the thinking and construction of the policy comes out of work done by longtime operatives associated with the California Teachers Assn. The original pollster for Munger's measure works for CTA, which is an official backer of Brown's initiative. And while the measures are using different petition circulators, the individual signature gatherers on the street are carrying both petitions together on their clipboards, with Brown's right on top of Munger's.

The similarities extend to the measures themselves. For all their much noted differences, both measures are temporary taxes. Both raise income taxes. And both would create new problems for state budgeting by creating new locked-in mandates that would survive even after the temporary taxes stop. Both measures are narrow and don't seek to alter the fundamental governance of the state. Both are sold as school funding measures, but would have modest effect on the schools; none would bring California even to the national average in per-pupil funding.

Brown and Munger also have a key biographical detail in common: they are children of men whose success has made it possible to be in this fight. Brown's father Pat was a popular former governor; it certainly didn't hurt to have the Brown name in running successfully for the governorship twice. Munger's father Charlie is Warren Buffett's partner; it is Munger's money -- not her career spent working on behalf of California's children -- that makes her a player in the money-driven initiative game.

Expect this political contest, which is already nasty, to get nastier. As any student of civil wars knows, people often fight hardest against the opponents with whom they have the most in common.

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