Campaign finance: Arnold, Anthem & much more

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California Dream Team ballot measure committee put $500,000 last Friday to the campaign for Proposition 14, the “top-two” open primary measure forced onto the ballot by state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, now Schwarzenegger’s nominee for lieutenant governor – and a measure wildly unpopular with both the Republican and Democratic establishments. A day earlier, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave $257,328.40 to support the measure.

Palo Alto physicist Charles T. Munger Jr., son of Warren Buffett’s billionaire investor partner, last Tuesday put another $370,500 into his “Voters First Act for Congress” ballot measure, bringing his total out of pocket since October to just over $3.1 million. The proposed constitutional amendment would remove authority for setting California’s 53 Congressional district boundaries from the state Legislature, and would give that authority instead to the same Citizens Redistricting Commission that will soon be setting state Legislative boundaries (as required by 2008’s successful Proposition 11). He’s the only major donor to the campaign, and had until last Monday to gather and submit 694,354 registered voters’ valid signatures; county voter registrars and the Secretary of State’s office are now in the process of verifying them.

Anthem Blue Cross has been the target of a lot of political scorn since it announced insurance premium hikes of up to 39 percent a few months ago, but it’s still doling out money in Sacramento: The insurer last Thursday gave $2,000 to Garrett Yee, a Demcoratic primary candidate in the East Bay’s 20th Assembly District (the seat from which Alberto Torrico is term-limited out this year); $1,900 to incumbent Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana; and $1,000 to incumbent Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres.

Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner put another $196,680 into his own campaign last Monday, bringing his total out-of-pocket spending to $19,396,680 so far.

Former state Senate President Pro Tem and current Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata’s Hope 2010 ballot measure committee last Tuesday put another $40,000 into Californians for a Cure, the committee formed by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Heart Association to support the proposed tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research measure Perata helped author. This brings Hope 2010’s total ante to $320,000 so far. They have until May 17 to gather valid signatures from at least 433,971 registered voters in order to place the measure on November’s ballot.

Former state Controller and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate Steve Westly gave $5,000 last Wednesday to Californians for a Fresh Start, the committee pushing a proposed ballot measure for November that would replace the separate eight- and six-year term limits on future state Senators and Assemblymembers, respectively, with a 12-year limit on combined service in either or both chambers. The lion’s share of that measure’s financial backing (at least about $871,000 so far) has come from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO.

On the celebrity watch, television producer (“Alias,” “Lost”) and movie director (“Cloverfield,” “Star Trek”) J.J. Abrams and wife Katie McGrath of Pacific Palisades – who gave $50,000 last November to state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign – gave $13,000 last week to Democratic state Attorney General candidate Kamala Harris’ campaign. Harris’ campaign also picked up $1,000 last Wednesday from San Francisco Giants former president and general managing partner Peter Magowan.


Maldo’s Lt. Gov. campaign has little in the bank

State Sen. Abel Maldonado’s drive toward confirmation, which got hung up by Assembly Democrats on Thursday and reset for another 90 days by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday, hasn’t helped him land a lot of contributions to his campaign for that office.

After Schwarzenegger nominated him in late November to fill the rest of former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi’s term, Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, announced his intent to seek election to a full term of his own in June’s GOP primary and November’s general election. Of course, now that the governor has withdrawn and re-submitted his nomination, it seems he’ll have to simultaneously convince the Assembly to support him and convince the public to vote for him in the primary.

“Abel Maldonado for Lt. Governor 2010” qualified as a committee Jan. 19, according to records filed with the Secretary of State’s office, even as Maldonado and Schwarzenegger were starting to ramp up public awareness and pressure on the Legislature in advance of this week’s votes. Yet the committee has received only three major contributions totaling $23,400 so far: $6,500 from Michael Fox of M.E. Fox & Co. Inc. in San Jose on Jan. 19; $11,900 from the California Professional Firefighters PAC on Feb. 1; and $5,000 from former Assemblyman and former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Brooks Firestone of Solvang on Feb. 1.

Maldonado’s state Senate campaign account showed $9,106 cash on hand at the end of 2009, and no major contributions since then.

Not that his GOP primary rival, state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, has been making bank, either. Aanestad’s campaign committee reported $97,499 cash on hand as of the end of 2009, but he’d put in $50,000 from his own pocket in December and the only major contribution since then has been $5,000 from The Dentists Insurance Co. this Thursday.

The money is bigger on the other side of the aisle. Democratic primary candidate state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, reported $957,381 cash on hand at the end of 2009, while Democratic primary candidate Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles City Council member, reported $341,341 cash on hand; neither has raised many big contributions since.


A Maldonado re-vote?

It’s still at least theoretically possible for Assembly Democrats to beat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at his own game and reject state Sen. Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor.

The Assembly voted 37-35 yesterday on confirming Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, as lieutenant governor. Assembly Democrats contend this is a rejection, as Maldonado didn’t get 41 votes to confirm. Schwarzenegger and Maldonado interpret the state constitution otherwise, arguing that the Assembly must act by majority either to confirm or reject Maldonado, or else Maldonado can just be sworn in 90 days after his nomination.

This no doubt has the California Supreme Court’s justices rubbing their temples in anticipation of a possible intervention so politically charged that it’s sure to leave everyone unhappy.

But that need not necessarily come to pass. The governor’s office confirmed to me today that under this interpretation, the Assembly could vote again between now and Feb. 21 – the 90-day mark – to either confirm or reject Maldonado with 41 votes. And seven Assembly members didn’t vote yesterday.

One will remain on the sidelines no matter what. Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, was on the campaign trail yesterday and absent from the vote, but issued a statement saying he would have abstained anyway. (Ed. note at 4:10 p.m.: Trevino informs me DeVore “actually was present on the Assembly floor for the morning vote. He was only gone for the afternoon session. Doesn’t affect his purposeful abstention, though.”)

“One year ago, I resigned as Assembly Minority Whip because I would not support the budget deal that led to the failed Proposition 1A — which would have been the largest state tax increase in American history. Senator Maldonado, by contrast, played a decisive role in putting 1A before the people. I won’t reward bad behavior with high office. It is in that spirit that I abstained from this vote.”

Today, campaign spokesman Joshua Trevino told me DeVore will abstain if there’s a re-vote.

“As he just told E.J. Schultz at the Fresno Bee (via Twitter), the GOP Assembly caucus has decided to support Maldonado. If Chuck votes no, it will be more a hit at them than the nominee per se. An abstention registers disapproval of the nomination without expressing direct disapproval of his fellow Republicans. It also serves as a de facto no when the affirmations are tallied.”

Two Assembly Democrats – Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, and Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista – opposed Maldonado in an earlier round of voting, but didn’t vote in the final tally. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that they would again oppose Maldonado in a re-vote. That would make it 37-37 – still four votes shy of a majority to confirm or reject.

Three Assembly Democrats – Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate; Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina – were present but didn’t vote. Assemblywoman Wilmer Carter, D-Rialto, was absent.

I queried all four about what they would do if there’s a re-vote. Carter spokeswoman Ellen Braunstein responded to my query just before noon: “I haven’t been able to contact the Assemblymember yet, and will wait for her response.”

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the other three have responded yet. Perhaps they were busy having their heads knocked together by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Speaker-elect John Perez and/or California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, all of whom might like to see them fall into the party line to sink Maldonado once and for all.


LtGov hopefuls Hahn, Maldonado hit Oakland

State Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nominee to fill the vacant lieutenant governor’s office – attended the governor’s appearance this morning at the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, and spoke with a few reporters outside beforehand.

eoak1211arnold01.jpgAsked about ongoing student protests against ever-rising fees at the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges, Maldonado said they’re right to be angry.

“We’ve let partisanship get in the way of what’s good for the state of California,” he said, adding students should be sent a message that there’ll be cuts in top education executives’ pay if fees are to increase; he said he worked with the UC Regents as “a hawk on executive compensation three or four years ago.”

He and Schwarzenegger were in town to tour the food bank while touting a “Million Meals Initiative” in which surplus money from the California Governor & First Lady’s Conference on Women will be donated to provide more than a million meals to needy Golden State families, and to draw attention to their plight.

He said he knows “nothing helps the cuts that we’re making” in California’s social-services safety net as a result of the budget deficit, and that no officeholder relishes making such cuts.

Neither Democrats nor his fellow Republicans have been thrilled by Maldonado’s nomination. Democrats have questioned the cost of holding a special election to fill his state Senate seat, and less publicly, their ability to win that seat as well as the wisdom of giving a Republican lieutenant governor the incumbent’s advantage going into next year’s election. Republicans have blasted him for his votes in favor of Democrat-written budgets and a minimum wage hike. The Legislature has until Feb. 22 to confirm him, and Sacramento remains abuzz with rumors of what’ll happen.

“This is what people are upset at, the politics,” he said, inviting his fellow lawmakers to give him an up or down vote based on his qualifications, not on political machinations.

Janice HahnHolding fundraisers Thursday a few miles away in downtown Oakland, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn – a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor – was inclined to agree.

“I don’t know why the Legislature would necessarily want to pick a fight with the governor on this issue” (of Maldonado’s confirmation), she said during an interview immediately after a luncheon fundraiser at Levende East – even if confirmed, Maldonado will face the voters later next year anyway, she noted. “He’s handpicked by Schwarzenegger, and I think that says it all.”

The “to-confirm-or-not-to-confirm” flap isn’t putting her off her own campaign message, Hahn said, which is that she’s the only local official in this race; all the other candidates on either side of the aisle are state lawmakers, and “the last time I checked, they had a 13 percent approval rating.”

Hahn’s rival for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor is state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter. Besides Maldonado, the other Republicans seeking the job are state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, and state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced. (UPDATE @ 7:15 P.M.: D’oh! Denham’s out of the race. That’s potentially bad news for Maldonado; if confirmed, he’d have wanted Denham and Aanestad to split the conservative vote in the GOP primary, giving him room to squeak past both as the lone moderate.)

“I think I’m going to be an outsider, I think I’m going to be more of a reformer,” she said, noting that although she’s not nearly as well known outside Los Angeles she’s getting warm receptions all over the state because “I am sharing their pain on how they feel about Sacramento.”

“They’re very angry the guys in Sacramento came and took our local money, and I share this bond of anger,” Hahn said. “They want their cities to be able to provide the services that provide for a quality of life.”

She said she can accomplish that by making the California Commission on Economic Development – which the lieutenant governor shares – into a higher-visibility, more proactive agenda-setter for improving Californians’ lot, even while she stands against fee increases as a member of the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees.

Oakland City Attorney John Russo arranged Hahn’s fundraising sweep through the city. Sources say about 25 people attended Hahn’s $150-a-head breakfast Thursday morning, and I saw about 40 at the $300-a-head lunch, including Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente; San Francisco attorney Melinda Haag, rumored to be announced soon as the Obama Administration’s pick as Northern California’s next U.S. Attorney; Oakland Police Officers’ Association President Dom Arotzarena; Clear Channel Outdoor Vice President Michael Colbruno, a Democratic activist; East Bay Young Democrats President Rebecca Saltzman; and Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin. I hear Russo is hosting a smaller, $1,000-a-head event for Hahn at his home tonight.


Hahn to raise LtGov $$$ in Oakland, Florez in LA

A1361-047As the jibber-jabber over whether to confirm Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor continues (the LA Times’s George Skelton says today that it’s a must for Democrats), the Democratic contenders in next year’s election are continuing to raise money full steam ahead.

In fact, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn will be here in Oakland this Thursday, Dec. 10, for a pair of fundraisers orchestrated by Oakland City Attorney John Russo. First there’s a breakfast event, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the Cathedral Building Gallery at 1615 Broadway, at $150 a head; later, from noon to 2 p.m., it’s a luncheon at Levende East, 827 Washington St. in East Oakland, at $300 a head.

Russo’s invitation says that Hahn, a councilwoman since 2001 and part of a Los Angeles political dynasty – she’s the sister of former mayor James Hahn, daughter of former county supervisor Kenneth Hahn and niece of former city councilman Gordon Hahn – “is a courageous leader who provides a voice for those that most need to be heard.”

He praised her work against gangs, for modernizing LAX and to cut truck pollution at the Port of Los Angeles, and said she understands ho government affects “real people and small businesses.”

“I have worked with Janice Hahn for many years. I know she will be a great ally and supporter for Oakland. Janice will bring the leadership to Sacramento that local communities actually need,” Russo wrote. “I believe Janice Hahn will bring necessary change to the state capitol. Please join me in supporting her. Come meet her for yourself.”

Dean FlorezMeanwhile, Hahn’s rival for the Democratic nominiation, state Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, D-Shafter, is working Southern California for much bigger bucks. His fundraiser one week from tonight, on Monday, Dec. 14, at the Regency Club in Los Angeles is co-hosted by Hollywood luminaries such as Martin Sheen, Jerry Zucker and David Geffen; tickets start at $2,000 and range up to $13,000 for event co-chairs.

Three days after that, on Thursday, Dec. 17, Florez’ fundraising tickets are more modestly priced but the visuals should be much better – it’s “One HOT December Night” of salsa dancing at trendy nightclub The Mayan in Los Angeles, with tickets running from $20 up to $6,500.

Florez was elected to the state Senate in 2002, and served in the Assembly for four years before that.