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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.

Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Abel Maldonado, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General, ballot measures, campaign finance, Don Perata, Kamala Harris, redistricting, Steve Poizner | 4 Comments »

More health insurance oversight? Poizner says no

The national healthcare reform just signed into law by President Barack Obama will be a huge boost for low-income Californians and people of color now suffering a disproportionate lack access to care, but further state-level reforms are urgently needed, according to the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based public policy and advocacy group.

The new law “doesn’t go far enough,” Greenlining health program manager Carla Saporta said in a news release. “We urgently need to pass state-level legislation such as AB 2578 so that we have the same sort of strict regulation of health insurance rates that California has now for auto insurance. Surely our health is at least as important as our cars.”

AB 2578 – which in a previous incarnation as AB 1554 passed the Assembly in 2007 but died in the Senate Health Committee, and as AB 1218 was nixed by the Assembly Health Committee last year – would force insurance companies to justify rate hikes to state regulators and require the state Department of Insurance or Department of Managed Care to approve any rate hikes over seven percent per year.

As Democrats declared victory this week in Washington, the Assembly Health Committee passed AB 2578 on Tuesday; Greenlining says continuing public anger over huge rate increases by insurers such as Anthem Blue Cross has helped the bill, too.

“Lack of health coverage is a true emergency for communities of color,” Saporta said. “Latinos, for example, have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group, African-Americans are more than half again as likely to be uninsured as whites, and Asian and Pacific Islanders are more likely than whites to forego routine and preventative care due to costs. National health insurance reform will do a lot to help fix this, but the measure President Obama signed doesn’t do nearly enough to control insurance rates. Our communities urgently need the added protection that AB 2578 will give, and we hope the legislature will pass further consumer protections as well.”

Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento – a Democratic candidate for state Insurance Commissioner – is a driving force behind this bill. Republican gubernatorial candidate and current state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has said he favors better state regulation of insurers rather than the federal regulation contained in this week’s new health reform law. And Poizner has voiced outrage at Anthem Blue Cross’ rate hike.

But Poizner doesn’t support this bill, campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen said today.

“He believes that additional bureaucracy envisioned in the bill doesn’t deal with the fundamental problem of health care — rising medical costs. Steve is committed to lowering healthcare costs, but President Obama demonstrated with his healthcare bill that he is not the least bit interested in lowering healthcare costs for consumers,” Agen said in an e-mailed reply to my query. “Steve wants greater choice and competition in the healthcare marketplace through measures like reducing the number of mandates, increasing the use of electronic medical records, and giving consumers the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines. He believes measures such as these, rather than more government incursion into our healthcare system, will make healthcare more affordable for California’s citizens.”

Posted on Friday, March 26th, 2010
Under: 2010 governor's race, healthcare reform, Steve Poizner | 2 Comments »

Poizner-Whitman debate redux

Did you see the big Steve Poizner-Meg Whitman Republican gubernatorial debate last night? No? Well, why the heck not?

Video clips at Ustream

I didn’t see any major flubs or triumphs. Once Whitman remembered to use her mic, she seemed at ease, as did Poizner. Each laid out the platform – tax cuts, spending cuts, downsizing, whatever business wants – and tried to get to the other’s right. See here for more details.

So, in the absence of any KOs, let there be spin!

From Poizner communications director Jarrod Agen:

“Steve Poizner demonstrated tonight why he will win on Election Day – because he is the only candidate offering conservative reform. Steve is the only candidate who supports cutting taxes across the board, the only one willing to address illegal immigration, and the only candidate with a clear plan to revitalize our economy. Steve Poizner’s 10-10-10 economic growth plan will revitalize California’s economy and bring jobs back to our state by cutting taxes across the board by 10% and cutting the capital gains tax by 50%.”

From Whitman communications director Tucker Bounds:

“This was an enormous victory for our campaign tonight. Meg wanted to highlight her policy proposals and depth on the issues. We had hoped for a policy debate, and that’s exactly what happened. Tonight she showed exactly why her policy agenda is continuing to connect with California’s voters. In addition to articulating her vision for California, Meg did an excellent job of holding Steve Poizner to account for his previous positions. This debate underscored exactly why Meg is the strongest candidate to face Jerry Brown and the Democrats in the fall.”

And from California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring:

“The first gubernatorial debate of 2010 in California just concluded and the clear loser was…Jerry Brown. Both Republican candidates made it clear that this state has serious problems that will take serious people like Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman to solve them, not a career politician with a 40-year track record of failed policies and broken promises.

“I’m especially pleased that the first Republican debate provided an intelligent discussion filled with thoughtful solutions. It’s too bad the Democrats’ only hope for a debate during the primary campaign will be Jerry Brown arguing with himself again.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
Under: 2010 governor's race, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner | No Comments »

Campaign update: Gov, AG, Senate and more

Rolling into this weekend’s California Republican Party convention, it seemed this was a much better week for Steve Poizner than for Meg Whitman in the Republican gubernatorial primary. He got endorsements from the California Republican Assembly and conservative mainstay Congressmen Tom McClintock and Dana Rohrabacher; she got bogged down in bad press over refusing to talk to reporters and then turning a town-hall meeting into a carefully scripted infomercial. On the other hand, a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday on behalf of Daily Kos showed Whitman supported by 52 percent of likely voters in the GOP primary compared to Poizner’s 19 percent. So for whom was it truly a good week?

Steve CooleyThe run-up to the convention saw a flurry of endorsement roll-outs, but perhaps nobody has had ‘em so hot and heavy as Attorney General candidate and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley. This week he announced the endorsements of the California Police Chiefs Association (in the GOP primary – the CPCA picked Alberto Torrico in the Democratic primary); former governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian; and former state GOP chairmen Mike Antonovich, Dr. Tirso del Junco, Mike Montgomery and Frank Visco.

(UPDATE @ 12:19 P.M.: I’m now told that, in yet another case of multiple endorsement, the CPCA has endorsed Ted Lieu in the Democratic AG primary, too.)

Carly FiorinaRepublican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina announced her campaign’s regional grassroots co-chairs. In the Bay Area, one is Laurel Pathman of San Jose, who seems to be senior manager of commercial and government contracts at Sunnyvale-based Cepheid, which deals in genetic testing technology; I can’t find much else about Pathman online besides her signature (#86) on a 2008 petition supporting controversial evangelical pastor John Hagee. The other is Shahin Shabahang of Los Altos, an attorney at San Jose-based Pedersen, Eichenbaum, Lauderdale & Siehl, which is the in-house staff counsel of the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies.

Janice HahnEven as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom formally announces his bid for lieutenant governor (note the updated Web site!), the candidate who has been leading that Democratic primary so far, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, is campaigning practically in his backyard. She’s keynoting the monthly luncheon of the National Women’s Political Caucus’ Marin Chapter at noon today in San Rafael. Hahn picked up the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday, but I’m sure Newsom’s entry into the race – in which Hahn had been seeming to trounce state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter – made this week pretty grim at Hahn HQ.

Nadia LockyerOn the local front, Alameda County Family Justice Center Executive Director Nadia Lockyer this week scored the endorsement of the Alameda Labor Council AFL-CIO in her bid for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 2 seat. But not every union member in the county will be behind her: One of her rivals, Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling, announced his endorsement by Hayward Firefighters Local 1909.

Posted on Friday, March 12th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Attorney General, Carly Fiorina, Gavin Newsom, Janice Hahn, Lt. Governor, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner | No Comments »

Torrico leads in tribal casino campaign money

I was talking with someone the other day about Indian gaming in California – about how it remains wildly lucrative and politically influential, and about how nascent casino developments like the one right here at the East Bay’s Point Molate are likely to keep it a hot issue in the next few years.

Gaming tribes have always been a formidable force in campaign contributions, so I figured I’d check the candidates for attorney general – whose office includes the Bureau of Gambling Control that ensures tribes comply with their gaming compacts – and the candidates for governor, as the governor has authority to negotiate those gaming compacts with tribes.

Attorney General candidate and Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, has received the most in this election cycle of any candidate – $74,124.82 – in either of these races, by far. Next-closest in either race is Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current state Attorney General Jerry Brown, who got $47,000; next closest in the AG’s race is Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who got $36,400.

None of which is all that surprising: Torrico until recently chaired (ed. note – 2006-2008, until his ascension to Assembly Majority Leader, though he serves on the committee still; my bad) the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, which has dominion over Indian gaming matters, and now he’s running for another post with important Indian gaming oversight duties. Lieu is a member of that committee, too. (State Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, is vice chair of the Senate Governmental Oversight Committee; tribes gave him $26,400 for his run for AG.) And Brown’s hoping to go from one post crucial to Indian gaming to another.

Four candidates for AG reported no Indian gaming contributions at all – Democrats Kamala Harris and Chris Kelly, and Republicans Steve Cooley and John Eastman (though both the Republicans entered the race recently and haven’t filed campaign finance reports yet other than late and $5,000+ contributions requiring immediate disclosure).

In total, it looks as if tribes have spent almost $229,000 on these contests so far, but it’s still a long way to the primaries in June.

For the full breakdown of what Indian gaming money has gone where, follow me after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Alberto Torrico, Assembly, Attorney General, campaign finance, Indian gaming, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Meg Whitman, Pedro Nava, Steve Poizner, Ted Lieu | 2 Comments »

Meg Whitman launches first TV ad

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman launched the 2010 race’s first television ad today, a 60-second spot called “Confidence” to run statewide on broadcast and cable channels:

What, no sheep?

“This is just the beginning. We will be introducing Meg, her leadership experience and her vision to Californians all over the state,” Whitman campaign manager Jillian Hasner said in a news release. “We’re not waiting until our opponents and their special-interest allies attempt to distort Meg’s message; this campaign is under way.”

The ad, you’ll notice, doesn’t mention GOP gubernatorial primary rival Steve Poizner at all – no “tearing up” happenin’ here, at least not yet.

Whitman’s campaign wouldn’t say today how much this ad buy cost: “It’s significant, but we’re not providing specifics,” spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said. The former eBay CEO has committed $39 million of her personal fortune to her campaign so far, while Poizner has anted up $19.2 million of his own for his campaign.

UPDATE @ 12:46 P.M.: This just in from Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen:

“If Meg Whitman was confident, she would take questions from reporters and debate Steve Poizner in front of the Republican Party at next month’s convention. There is an anti-Republican trend in Meg Whitman’s campaign as she refuses to use the word ‘conservative’ in the ad and she’s been attacking the basic conservative principle of cutting taxes across-the-board. Steve Poizner is the confident candidate in this race and the only candidate calling for tax cuts for every business and individual in California.”

Posted on Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Under: 2010 governor's race, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner | No Comments »

Poizner says the polls don’t mean anything yet

Poizner at Livermore CoC 1-11-10When I watched Steve Poizner pitch his platform to the Fremont Chamber of Commerce in early October, he was in third place behind GOP primary rivals Meg Whitman and Tom Campbell.

As he pitched his platform to the Livermore Chamber of Commerce this morning – three months later and another $15 million committed from his own pocket – he’s probably in third place still. But to hear him tell it, he’s got ‘em just where he wants ‘em.

“The polls aren’t really ans issue for us right now because we know most of the state has never heard of me,” he told me after the forum with local business owners – perhaps a difficult admission for one of California’s eight statewide constitutional officers to have to make.

Whitman has spent an “unprecedented, huge sum of money early” on a barrage of radio and television (sorry, my bad) ads to build her name recognition, and that’s why she leads in the polls for now, he said.

But a huge percentage of GOP primary voters – 44 percent, by the Public Policy Institute of California’s numbers early last month – remain undecided.

Poizner meanwhile has been running like a jackrabbit up and down the state doing small-venue meetings like this mornings with chambers of commerce and other community groups to build some from-the-ground-up goodwill and name recognition. He said he’s launching his own TV blitz soon, and he’s confident many of those undecideds – and even some of those saying they support Whitman or Campbell – will rally to his story: a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has taught school, worked on homeland security strategy in the Bush White House, and has “right-sized” one state department already as Insurance Commissioner.

“Meg and I are really different and most people don’t realize that yet,” he said, adding voters have “had enough of celebrities, they’ve had enough of rookies.”

Hmmm. We’ll know for sure in five months.

My article has the policy highlights from Poizner’s visit to Livermore today, but among other tidbits, he spoke about fixing California’s “completely mismanaged” public schools by wresting control over curriculum, teaching methods, textbooks and teacher hiring away from Sacramento in favor of local control, much as charter schools do.

And although he said he favors building desalinization plants to ease California’s long-term water outlook, the Delta pumps must be turned back on in the short term, he said. He believes the 10th Amendment’s protection of states’ rights makes a federal judge’s decision to silence the pumps unconstitutional, he said, and he would pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help California get a waiver from the Endangered Species Act to allow the water pumping, as was done for New Mexico in 2003: “If I were the governor, I’d be camping out in front of her office.”

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2010
Under: 2010 governor's race, Steve Poizner | 1 Comment »

Ruminations on Steve Poizner’s investment

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s announcement that he’s putting another $15 million of his personal fortune into his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination got me thinking about all the money he’s shelled out in recent years.

Poizner in 1995 founded SnapTrack Inc., which pioneered technology putting global positioning system receivers into cell phones; he was the privately held company’s CEO until he sold it to Qualcomm in 2000 for a reported $1 billion. The current size of his fortune isn’t known, but he says he’s not a billionaire.

By my count, he spent $14,855,086.55 on his 2006 race for Insurance Commissioner, and $5,750,731.63 in his unsuccessful race for the 21st Assembly District seat in 2004. He also put $2.25 million into 2005’s unsuccessful Proposition 77, a redistricting measure, and $3.3 million into the campaign against the unsuccessful Proposition 93 of 2008, which would’ve tinkered with term limits.

That’s $26,155,818.18. Add in the $19.2 million so far for the gubernatorial race – $4.2 million earlier, and then yesterday’s commitment – and that’s $45,355,818.18 that Poizner has spent out of his own pocket on California politics since the start of 2003.

Does that make him a record-setter? Nope.

Real estate heir/movie mogul Stephen Bing has spent $56,158,544.14 on California campaigns since 2003, the lion’s share of which – $49,558,000 – was in support of the unsuccessful Proposition 87 of 2006, which would’ve imposed a tax on oil produced in the state to fund alternative energy research and development.

As for candidates, Democrat Al Checchi, defeated by Gray Davis in the 1998 gubernatorial primary, spent more than $40 million out of his own pocket in that race alone. And Steve Westly put $35.2 million of his own money into his losing battle for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, four years after he’d spent $5,193,000 into winning the state Controller’s office.

So Poizner’s spending isn’t unprecedented — yet. Neither Checchi nor Westly nor Poizner in previous campaigns faced a candidate more affluent, more able to self-fund than himself, as Poizner now faces in Meg Whitman.

Whitman was President and CEO of eBay from March 1998, when it had 30 employees and annual revenue of about $4 million, to March 2008, when it had about 15,000 employees and annual revenue of about $8 billion. Her net worth has been estimated at about $1.3 billion. She has put $19.02 million into her own campaign so far, and says she’s ready and willing to spend $50 million.

Money talks; as Checchi, Westly and Bing will tell you, it doesn’t always win. But if Poizner and Whitman actually match their self-funding pace through June’s primary, it could be a one-on-one clash of the moneyed titans unlike California has ever seen – with the winner then pivoting to show down against one of the most well-known and prolific fund raisers that Democrats could possibly field.

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner | 4 Comments »

Poizner antes up $15 million for gov race

In what’s turning out to be a self-funded showdown for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman this year has put $19.02 million into her campaign and already is airing an ad blitz to raise her name recognition.

Meanwhile, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner had anted up only – only! – $4.2 million, leading some to wonder when he was going to pull out the stops and take to the airwaves in a meaningful way.

Well, wonder no longer. Poizner announced this morning that he’ll be contributing $15 million to his campaign, and that as governor he’ll slash California’s welfare spending by more than half. Nice symmetry, no?

His e-mailed statement:

“California is in deep trouble and I truly believe there could be no better time to run for Governor. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really fix and reform our state. As we look towards 2010, I know the Republican primary will be won based on which candidate presents clear, specific, and conservative solutions for solving California’s economic problems. I will communicate my message of bold 10 percent tax cuts, a 10 percent reduction in state spending, creating a $10 billion rainy day fund, and I will cut our welfare spending so that it is in line with the national average or better. We have 30 percent of the nation’s welfare recipients and only 12 percent of the population. That’s change for the better and a message that I am confident will resonate with Republican voters.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza says the third GOP gubernatorial contender, Tom Campbell, may be considering switching over to the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, where he would face former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner, Tom Campbell | 1 Comment »

Strange bedfellows in California water wars?

What do Congressional Republicans, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and GOP gubernatorial candidate and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner have in common? All advocate a waiver of the Endangered Species Act to help ease California’s water crisis.

The Act is the basis on which water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River has been severely curtailed, in protection of a species of fish called the delta smelt. Farmers, urban water utilities, environmentalists and everyone else who uses water have faced off over the dwindling supply.

Poizner, speaking to a small-business roundtable at the Fremont Chamber of Commerce today, called upon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – whom he noted is the first Speaker of the House from California – to support Republican legislation that would grant California a waiver from the Act to speed irrigation of parched Central Valley farms. Pelosi supported such a waiver for New Mexico several years ago but won’t do the same for California now, he charged. (Actually, what House Republicans wanted brought to the floor this summer was a wholesale suspension, not a temporary waiver, of the Act as it pertains to Delta pumping.)

Feinstein called for such a waiver too as she announced Wednesday she’s working on comprehensive Delta restoration legislation. A Republican Senate amendment for a waiver hasn’t had much luck.

Progressives see such a waiver as an end run around environmental protection laws to benefit big agribusiness, which could do more economic harm than good.

In a related matter, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, on Wednesday blasted House Republicans for opposing his H.R. 2442, the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act of 2009, which would add six water recycling projects for the Bay Area providing 7.2 million gallons of non-potable water per day for landscape irrigation, parks and so on – thus freeing up other water for agriculture and drinking. “When it comes to providing clean water to California, congressional Republicans have now shown their true colors. The legislation that the House voted on today would supply California with much-needed funding for alternative water supplies — but congressional Republicans just said no.”

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2009
Under: Dianne Feinstein, Environment, George Miller, Nancy Pelosi, Steve Poizner, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | 4 Comments »