So, just who is Charles Munger, Jr., the bow-tied source of a blizzard of money that has blanketed California politics, and Republican politics, in particular?
Professionally, Munger is a physicist by education and employment. He received a Ph.D in Physics from Stanford University, and plies that trade at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center., But that isn’t where he came to his great wealth.
Politically, he is a Republican of the moderate persuasion, and chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Party of Silicon Valley (Is that anything like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Is there another Santa Clara County Republican Party?).
Biographically, he is the son and namesake of Charles Munger, Sr., “an American business magnate, lawyer, investor, and philanthropist.”
Charles, Sr. is, to put it mildly, fabulously rich. Like, “rich as Croesus“ rich. He is vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet is the chairman) with an estimated net worth of $1 billion dollars, which is why Jr. is so rich: the apple didn’t fall far from the family money tree (except that Sr. made his money whereas Jr. had it handed to him).
It would be an understatement to say Munger Jr. makes a lot of political contributions. According to California Watch, between 2000 and 2011, he made political contributions totaling $14,093,488.
But that was just a warm-up. Since january 1, 2012, Munger has plowed $42,698,795 into his political projects.
Literally, a mountain of money.
Munger, Jr. would maintain he is trying to build a Republican Party that can compete in California. Or to re-structure California politics so that the state GOP can be competitive. Maybe both.
A compelling case can be made, and will be made right here, that the application of the Munger Jr. bankroll has accomplished the opposite. Munger’s successes have actually diminished the party.
Proposition 20, his attempt to create a fair re-districting process, would up creating a “non-political” citizens redistricting committee that the Democrats had no problem politicizing and imposing legislative and congressional districts that helped Democrats and hurt Republicans.
Another big idea was to replace the traditional primary system where political parties chose their own nominees with the jungle primary system used in Louisiana, in which the top-two vote getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.
In its first outing last year, Munger’s scheme led to several November races in which limited party resources were wasted in general election battles between Republican candidates in districts that were going to elect Republican anyway — and correspondingly starving resources from competitive races.
While Munger’s top-two folly wasn’t the sole reason in Republican ills last November, it has created tilted an already-uphill playing field even more steeply against Republicans.
In last year’s primary, Munger — an elected county GOP chairman, mind you — spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defeat an incumbent Republican Assemblyman (Allan Mansoor). Quite an accomplishment for an elected county Republican chairman.
We could go on. And we will in the weeks and months ahead.
An important question on the mind of many California Republican activists is whether they agree with all or some of Munger’s goals? For some, especially current and potential candidates, it’s a more practical consideration than philosophy.
We are in favor of an informed debate on the outsize role this single individual is playing in determining the destiny of the party. Those who cast their lot with him should do so knowing who they are allying with — and other party leaders and activists should have the same awareness of who those individuals are.