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Senate contender touts tax pledge, flat tax plan

Former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has sought to amp up his U.S. Senate campaign in the past few weeks by focusing on the reddest of GOP red meat: taxes.

Tom Del BeccaroHeading into the state GOP’s convention Sept. 18-20 in Anaheim, Del Beccaro staked out his place to the field’s right side by challenging his GOP rivals – Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside; fellow former state party chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills – to join him in taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. As of Wednesday, they’ve not done so.

Crafted by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the pledge commits a candidate or officeholder to oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses, and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

This week, Del Beccaro rolled out his plan for a flat tax, which includes replacing current personal income tax brackets with a flat 15.5 percent rate on wages and salaries, capital gains, dividends, interest and inheritance; replacing current corporate taxes with a 15.5 percent net business income tax with immediate expensing for business purchases and deductibility of wages and salaries; and eliminating all itemized deductions while doubling the standard deduction.

He touted the plan at fundraising events this week in Riverside, Newport Beach and Diablo, accompanied by his economic advisor Stephen Moore, co-founder and first president of the conservative Club for Growth.

In an interview Thursday, Del Beccaro said he’s working with the Committee to Unleash Prosperity – a conservative group founded this summer by Moore, two-time Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, economist and CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow, and economist Arthur Laffer – to preach the flat-tax gospel in the Golden State.

“A simple flat tax takes government out of the business of picking winners and losers and will allow the economy to grow,” he said, declaring it the best way to help those still struggling in the Great Recession’s wake. “We’ve tried just about every spending mechanism possible and they’re still falling behind …The key is economic growth – otherwise people get stuck where they are.”

Critics of flat-tax plans argue they penalize the poor, in that everyone must spend on the same necessities of life – housing, food, clothes, health care and so on – but those earning less have less money left over after those necessities with which to pay taxes. That is: a 10 percent tax would be a much bigger proportional hit for someone earning $50,000 per year than for someone earning $5 million.

Del Beccaro said that’s why his plan would exempt a family of four up to a household income of $48,000: “It gives them a start.” He also said talk of redistributing wealth via progressive taxes to close the vast income and wealth gap that has opened in recent decades is divisive and unproductive.

“Class warfare is never good, pitting one group of Americans against another is terrible,” he said. arguing that wealth inequality is a product of economic stagnation and overreaching government. “The key is always economic growth.”

Two prominent Democrats – California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana – also are running in next June’s top-two primary to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. A fourth prominent Republican, Santa Monica businessman and two-time former senate candidate Al Ramirez, is exploring a run.

Del Beccaro said he’d gladly debate his plan with any of his rivals from either party. “They’re running for the office, I’m running for the ideas. … I’m trying to elevate this into an actual discussion.”

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CA17: Khanna & Honda spar over campaign money

South Bay congressional candidate Ro Khanna and Rep. Mike Honda are challenging each other to put their money where their mouths are – or rather, to give up some of that money.

Khanna, a Democrat from Fremont, sent a letter Thursday to Honda, D-San Jose, asking the congressman to shun any independent expenditure committee or super PAC support in the 17th Congressional District race.

“I was encouraged to see your Tweet yesterday about your co-sponsorship of House Joint Resolution 25, to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United. We are in complete agreement on this important issue. Unlimited spending by outside special interest groups is polluting our politics,” Khanna wrote.

“Let’s stand together with the other candidates in this race and take the same People’s Pledge Senator Elizabeth Warren and her opponent did to keep independent expenditures out of their race in 2012,” he wrote. “Senator Warren and Scott Brown agreed to pay a penalty of 50 percent the cost of any TV, radio, or Internet advertising by an outside group – whether that ad supported the candidates themselves or aimed to attack their opponent. The money would be donated to a charity chosen by the other candidate. I believe we should embrace this landmark agreement and expand it to include direct mail expenditures as well. By saying no to all forms of advertising from outside groups, we are taking real stand against Citizens United.”

It worked well in that Massachusetts Senate race, Khanna noted.

“I hope you will take this pledge with me – and join me in asking any other candidates who may enter this race to do the same,” he wrote. “As the heart of Silicon Valley, the 17th District is our nation’s capital of innovation. We have a real opportunity to lead on this issue, too.”

Khanna already has pledged not to accept any direct contributions from PACs or federally registered lobbyists – though it’s not as if a lot of that money would be raining down upon him anyway as he challenges a seven-term incumbent. The same goes for independent expenditures and super PACs: While some might come Khanna’s way, Honda probably would benefit more, and so would lose more by taking this pledge.

Khanna’s campaign started this year with $1.97 million cash on hand while Honda had $622,000 banked, so this might not be an easy principle for Honda to stand on.

Then again, Honda has been outspoken in his opposition to Citizens United and the rampant independent spending it has bred:

Honda tweet

Doug Greven, Honda’s campaign manager, responded to Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan on Thursday night. Apparently Honda won’t commit to a pledge against IE and super PAC funding, but Greven made a counter-offer:

In the true spirit of keeping undue influence out of this election, we propose limiting contributions to all candidates in this race to an amount that puts millionaires on a level playing field with ordinary folks: $570. This is the same limit as local elections in the city of Fremont, in our district.

We propose that all campaigns refund contributions to any donors who have already given more than this limit of $570. Your campaign can start by refunding the $11,000 in contributions from the five donors who have already requested a refund because Ro misled them. He had asked for their max-out contributions to run for an open seat, then used their money to run in a different district — against Mike.

Then your campaign can continue by refunding contributions to Marc Leder (gave $5,200 to Ro) who hosted Mitt Romney for the fundraiser where he made his 47% remark, and Peter Thiel (gave $2,500 to Ro) who has given millions to the Club for Growth in order to elect far-right conservatives like Ted Cruz.

We look forward to your response.

Asked whether this means Honda won’t consider the anti-IE pledge, Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied, “Any serious proposal to change campaign financing in this race would need to include reducing the amount that can be given directly to any campaign.”

Seeing as how the first part of this proposal would entail Khanna’s campaign jettisoning the vast majority of the tremendous bankroll it has raised, I feel confident in guessing the answer will be: “Fat chance.”

UPDATE @ 8:41 A.M. FRIDAY: Cowan replied to Greven late last night.

Hi Doug,

I appreciate your note, but I think it’s off topic.

Yesterday Congressman Honda tweeted that he supports amending the US Constitution to reverse Citizens United. Ro agrees.

Citizens United ruled that corporations are people and that individuals have the right to spend unlimited money to influence elections. I think you are aware that reversing Citizens United has nothing to do with the issues you raised in your note.

Does Congressman Honda support reversing Citizens United or doesn’t he?

Does he think the reversal of Citizens United should apply to all candidates, or would he write exceptions into the United States Constitution?

We have a real opportunity in this race to stand up against special interests and do something that the voters are demanding: change business as usual in Washington. I hope that Congressman Honda will reconsider his position and join Ro in this pledge.

Yours Truly,
Leah