Fundraising, voter reg look good for McNerney

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – who’s running in the newly drawn 9th Congressional Districtraised $250,974 and spent $86,847.58 in the fourth quarter, finishing 2011 with $780,339.54 cash on hand and no debts.

Republican challenger Ricky Gill, 24, of Lodi – whom the National Republican Congressional Committee in August named a “Young Gun” for his aggressive organizing and fundraising – had gotten off to a hot start last year, raising more than $429,030 in the second quarter and more than $225,000 in the third quarter.

But Gill’s pace continued to slow in the fourth quarter: He raised a net of $124,188.65, loaned his campaign another $67,460.97 (bringing his self-financing total so far to almost $143,000), and spent a net of $1,910.14. He finished 2011 with $837,617.67 cash on hand but $142,839.73 in outstanding debts – a net bankroll of $694,777.94.

And new voter registration data released today by the Secretary of State’s office shows the new 9th District is 44.6 percent Democrat to 35.8 percent Republican; that’s an edge McNerney didn’t have in 2010 when seeking re-election in his old 11th Congressional District, which was 39.3 percent Republican to 39.0 percent Democrat.

Is the Young Gun getting outgunned?


Dems and DTS gain, GOP loses voter registration

California’s Democratic and nonpartisan voter registration have increased from the last presidential election cycle to now, while Republican registration has fallen, according to the new report from Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office.

The report shows that the 3.6 million voters who express no party preference now account for 21.2 percent of the state’s electorate, “a new all-time high” up from 19.4 percent (3 million voters) in January 2008, Bowen said.

The state’s 7.4 million registered Democrats – up from 6.6 million four years ago – now account for 43.6 percent of registered voters, up from 42.7 percent four years ago. Republican registration has dropped from 33.5 percent (5,197,897 voters) in January 2008 to 30.4 percent (5,170,592 voters) now.

“Republicans in California are a half percentage point away from an endangered species designation,” California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said this afternoon. “Year after year voters see the GOP shrink away from their responsibilities and abdicate leadership on the tough issues facing our state. The numbers come as no surprise.”

California Republican Party spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns argued that while Golden State voters aren’t self-identifying as Republican, they’re voting like Republicans on the issues.

“Despite the increased numbers of decline-to-state voters, the fact is that Californians have voted our way on ballot initiatives, including overwhelmingly rejecting the last eight tax increases on the ballot,” she said via e-mail this afternoon. “The Republican Party has more work to do to communicate that THOSE principles are OUR principles, and we need to connect those dots for the voters. But the fact that voters are voting the way they do on those ballot measures indicates that they actually agree more with Republican principles of fiscal conservatism, smaller government, and less bureaucracy.”

California law requires statewide voter registration data updates 154, 60 and 15 days before each primary election, and 60 and 15 days before each general election. One “off-year” update is released in February of years with no regularly scheduled statewide election.

California’s new top-two primary system – in which the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of what parties they belong to – applies to statewide offices, state legislative offices and House and U.S. Senate offices, but does not apply to the presidential election, county party committees or local offices. Only the Democratic and American Independent parties are letting no-party-preference independents vote in their presidential primaries.

The last day to register to vote in the June 5 primary election is May 21; the last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is May 29.


New 15th House District fundraising reports

I’d reported here weeks ago that former Obama Administration Ro Khanna of Fremont raised an eye-popping $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, his first quarter of raising money to run for the 15th Congressional District seat – even though he says he won’t challenge incumbent fellow Democrat Rep. Pete Stark and so probably won’t run until 2014.

Today was the deadline for filing year-end campaign finance reports, so now we can see how others in that district did.

Stark’s campaign raised $88,156 and spent $52,803.50 in the fourth quarter, finishing 2011 with $579,826.10 cash on hand and no debts.

Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell – another Democrat who hopes the newly drawn district’s lines and the top-two primary system can make him into a giant-killer – raised $65,357.36 and spent $44,410.41 in the fourth quarter, finishing 2011 with $89,072.87 cash on hand and no debts.

And state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who hasn’t committed to whether she’s running this year or not, raised $161,835 and spent $14,116.55 in the fourth quarter, finishing 2011 with $147,718.45 cash on hand and $22,714.56 in debts – a net bankroll of $125,003.89.

Republican Independent Chris Pareja of Hayward – who ran against Stark in 2010 as a write-in, backed by some Tea Party elements who felt Republican nominee Forest Baker wasn’t conservative enough – told me this afternoon that his campaign has been “in exploratory mode,” has not yet passed the $5,000 threshold that triggers the need for a quarterly report, and won’t start fundraising in earnest until February.


Emken names team to bankroll her run vs. DiFi

Republican candidate Elizabeth Emken of Danville today rolled out the finance committee members she hopes will help her raise the wherewithal to take on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this year.

“Last week, Elizabeth kicked off her campaign and received very enthusiastic support from around California. Since then, we’ve put together some of the state’s most successful Republican fundraising professionals to form her finance team,” Emken campaign manager Jeff Corless said in a news release. “Feinstein’s weakness has landed her on the national target list, and Elizabeth Emken’s finance team shows we’re very serious about raising the funding needed to contest this seat. We’re looking forward to a vigorous campaign in the coming months.”

Here’s the team:

    Joanne Davis, finance director – Davis most recently served as chief financial officer for Carly Fiorina’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Barbara Boxer in 2010; earlier, she raised tens of millions for candidates and causes including President George W. Bush, the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, the Republican National Committee, the California Republican Party, gubernatorial candidates Bill Simon and Richard Riordan, then-Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    Charissa Abbay-Gonzales, Los Angeles/Central Coast regional finance director – Abbay-Gonzales is president of On Target Fundraising and Events, with past clients including the gubernatorial campaigns of Meg Whitman, Richard Riordan and Bill Simon.
    Jennifer Fitzgerald, Orange County regional finance director – Fitzgerald is the founder and CEO of CL7 Communications, Inc., a political communications and fundraising firm, with past clients including Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meg Whitman’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. John Campbell, Rep. Ed Royce and the California Women’s Leadership Association.
    Jean Freelove, San Diego regional finance director – Freelove has been San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ fundraising adviser for seven years and also has raised money for various state lawmakers, city councilmembers and county supervisors. She was part of Carly Fiorina’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign and now assists the National Republican Senatorial Committee and House Speaker John Boehner with San Diego-area fundraising.

I haven’t yet seen Emken’s year-end FEC report, for which the filing deadline is later today, but her camp advises me not to expect much because she was in exploratory mode until just last week; today’s finance-team rollout marks the start of her concerted fundraising effort. Then again, Emken already had formed a campaign committee, hired staffers and launched a website at the end of November, writing on the GOP information clearinghouse FlashReport.org that she’s “running for U.S. Senate because my children need me to.”

Spokesman Tim Clark told me in November that Emken – who lost $200,000 of her own money on her June 2010 House GOP primary bid, in which she finished fourth in a field of four – isn’t planning to self-finance this campaign. Since then, Mark Standriff – formerly the state GOP’s spokesman – has taken over Emken’s campaign communications.

Emken isn’t the only Republican candidate in the race: Santa Monica businessman Al Ramirez rolled out his exploratory committee just last week. Ramirez got about 2 percent of the vote in the 2010 GOP primary seeking the nomination to unseat Boxer – a very distant fourth behind Carly Fiorina, Tom Campbell and Chuck DeVore – but told the Los Angeles Times last week that he now has more experience and better relationships with state party leaders.

Feinstein, 78, won a 1992 special election to the U.S. Senate and then was re-elected in 1994, 2000 and 2006, but her poll numbers portend a somewhat tougher fight in 2012. And although Feinstein’s campaign reported a $9.2 million bankroll as of Sept. 30, some or even most of that money may have been embezzled by Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee, who was arrested in September by the FBI.


Pete Stark jabs at Gingrich with ‘NEWT Act’

Rep. Pete Stark gave Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich a political poke in the eye today by introducing a bill to close a loophole that lets certain self-employed people – including lobbyists – lower their Medicare payroll tax liability by calling their earnings profits or dividends rather than wages.

Pete StarkStark, D-Fremont – the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, which oversees Medicare – calls it the Narrowing Exceptions for Withholding Taxes Act.

Yes, that’s right: The NEWT Act.

The bill, Stark says, was inspired by Gingrich’s recently released 2010 tax returns, which showed he used the loophole to save an estimated $69,000 in Medicare taxes.

“It seems Gingrich is continuing to do his part — in his own infamous words — to let Medicare ‘wither on the vine.’” Stark said in a news release. “By taking full advantage of a tax loophole often used by wealthy self-employed lawyers and lobbyists to slash their tax liability, Gingrich is happy to undermine Medicare. This tax dodge throws cold water on his feigned concern for the future of Medicare.”

This provision passed the House of Representatives in 2009 as part of HR 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010; at the time, the Joint Commission on Taxation estimated that closing this loophole would save taxpayers $11.2 billion over ten years.

Newt GingrichAll earners are subject to a 2.9 percent tax on wages, which helps fund Medicare, but employee-shareholders at S corporations can use an existing loophole to shield earnings from the Medicare tax by classifying them as profits or dividends instead of as wages. For 2010, Gingrich reported $444,327 of his earnings as wages from Gingrich Holdings, Inc. and Gingrich Productions. By classifying another $2.4 million in profits or dividends he avoided paying an estimated $69,000 in Medicare taxes.

Stark’s NEWT Act would expand the income categories that are subject to Medicare payroll taxes so employee-shareholders of S corporations could no longer avoid paying this tax by reporting artificially low wage income and correspondingly higher dividends or profits. Certain employee-shareholders of S corporations would have to calculate their Medicare payroll tax obligation based on their share of the S corporation’s profits or dividends, not just income reported as wages. The individuals subject to the provision are the employee-shareholders of a professional service business where the principal assets of that business are the skills and reputations of three or fewer individuals.

The bill targets the S corporations that have been identified as the most likely to abuse the system, Stark said: professional service businesses engaged in health, lobbying, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, brokerage services, or investment advice or management.

The Government Accountability Office estimates that in the 2003 and 2004 tax years, individuals who used S corporations underreported more than $23 billion in wage income; the median misreported amount was $20,127.

Stark’s news release cited a New York Times article to illustrate that it’s a bipartisan problem: Former U.S. Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards used the same method to avoid $591,112 in Medicare payroll taxes over four years in the late 1990s.


Fremont teen questions President Obama

My colleague Rob Dennis is writing the story on a student from Fremont’s Kennedy High School who took some time out from his advanced-placement government class today to pose a few questions to the leader of the free world.

Adam Clark, backed by some of his classmates and his teacher, Olivia Santillan, took part in a Google+ “Hangout” with the president, a virtual interview streamed live on YouTube. Here’s the archived video; the Fremont kids’ segment starts at about 30:19: