California

2 minute read
Margot Hornblower/Los Angeles

When A. JERROLD PERENCHIO, an Italian-American Republican, poured $1.5 million into fighting California’s anti-bilingual-education initiative two months ago, it seemed an obvious ploy: Perenchio, as head of Univision, the major Spanish-language TV network, was seeking to curry favor with his audience. But Perenchio wasn’t alone. Millions of dollars are now being poured into pro-Latino causes by such corporations as AT&T, GTE, Miller Brewing and Kaiser Permanente. One grass-roots group, the Southwest Voter Registration Project, has received a $500,000 pledge from State Farm Insurance (to be paid over five years), and its recent “Feel the Power” convention was partly sponsored by ARCO (a company that was boycotted by Hispanics in 1994 after it supported Governor Pete Wilson, backer of the anti-immigrant Proposition 187). With Hispanics at more than a quarter of California’s population, these companies are seeking goodwill, but the impact of corporate generosity goes beyond customer loyalty. The funding of Latino registration and get-out-the-vote efforts is likely to benefit Democrats, particularly gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis, who is running on a ticket with Lieutenant Governor candidate CRUZ BUSTAMANTE, the first Latino speaker of the California assembly. An estimated 600,000 new Hispanic voters have registered in California since Prop 187, and, for the most part, they are not voting Republican.

–By Margot Hornblower/Los Angeles

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