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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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4th Republican considering U.S. Senate run

Santa Monica businessman Al Ramirez is mulling a run for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, hoping the third time will be the charm.

Al RamirezRamirez placed fourth out of five in 2010’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, taking 1.8 percent of the vote; GOP nominee Carly Fiorina lost to incumbent Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., by 10 percentage points that November.

Ramirez ran again for U.S. Senate in 2012’s top-two primary against incumbent Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. In a field of 24 candidates – including 14 Republicans – Ramirez came in eighth with 2.3 percent of the vote; Feinstein stomped Republican Elizabeth Emken by 25 points that November.

Friday, as the California Republican Party kicked off its fall convention in Anaheim, Ramirez said “he’s in the early stages of forming a new exploratory committee” – read as: lining up contributors – for another run as Boxer prepares to retire.

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside; former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette; and former state GOP chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills already are in the race, as are two Democrats – state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana.

In a brief telephone interview Friday, Ramirez said he’s not worried that adding another Republican to the field would further split the GOP base to Democrats’ advantage.

“All of them have failed getting out of the gate,” he said of his Republican rivals, adding support for them is “soft,” with many supporters still “willing to jump off that train” in favor of a stronger candidate – which he believes he is.

There’s a “lack of role-model-caliber leadership in the Latino community,” he said, but his business record and staunch conservative principles make him “someone that people can look up to,” he said.

Also, his father – though grappling with Parkinson’s disease – encouraged him to run again. Ramirez said his father watched this week’s Republican presidential debate and said Ramirez could’ve been on that stage too; when Ramirez replied that would’ve requiring winning in 2010 or 2012, his father replied, “That’s not stopping Carly.”

“My dad didn’t raise a quitter,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez, 46, is a senior-ranking executive for a privately held, Los Angeles-based cloud services company, leading its government markets and strategic defense systems efforts.

“You never lose when you serve your country and seeking this office is worth the challenge to insure that the values that make America great are restored and preserved for the next generation.” Ramirez said in his news release, adding he racked up some grassroots endorsements in 2012 as people got to know his stances on the economy, natural resources and national defense.

“Most of all, the reason I am considering running again is because we need leadership to restore law and order to the immigration crisis burdening our taxpayers,” he said. “The lawless tragedies we’ve seen speak for themselves. Ending welfare abuse and sanctuary city policies that jeopardize the public safety of innocent American families is long overdue.”

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Reactions to SCOTUS’ Obamacare ruling

The Bay Area’s voices in Congress are predictably ebullient about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“This is a tremendous victory for improved health care and clearly validates the Affordable Care Act. This means that 6.4 million Americans in 34 states will continue to have access to health insurance subsidies. I could not be more pleased.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the millions of Americans who now have affordable health care – many of them for the first time in their lives – because of Obamacare.

“It is long past time for Republicans to end their efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and join us in fulfilling the promise of quality, affordable health care for all.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the health of our country. Despite the best efforts of congressional Republicans, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land, a fact reaffirmed by this decision. It’s also working. Thanks to the ACA more than 16 million Americans have gained coverage and the nation’s uninsured rate is at its lowest level ever.

“I am hopeful that the attempts by Republicans in Congress to kill the ACA will end and we can finally move forward to do the big things our constituents sent us here to do: grow the economy, create jobs, and advance equality.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“Today’s historic decision will uphold the ACA and continue to provide coverage to millions of Americans who have come to depend on the law to treat their illnesses and pay for their medications. For too many generations, the issue of health care created panic, anxiety, and dread. Marketplaces can continue to enable families and individuals who are uninsured to buy quality, affordable coverage. It is time for us to understand that the ACA is the law of the land and here to stay. Instead of working to dismantle this important law, we should be working to spread the benefits of ACA to each and every American.”

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena:

“Today, the Supreme Court has once again ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, upholding that all Americas, no matter where they live, can access premium tax credits for quality, affordable health care.

“Since the ACA was passed, we have spent far too much time fighting over the law, both in Congress and in the courts. This ruling should settle once-and-for-all that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

“With today’s decision now behind us, and the ACA standing on firm constitutional ground, we need to begin working across the aisle to build on the law’s important reforms so that all Americans can have access to quality, affordable health insurance.”

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton:

“All Americans should have access to quality and affordable health care when they need it, and today’s Supreme Court decision reaffirms that health care will be available to millions of people. This is an important victory that keeps health care accessible for more than 6 million people, including many lower and middle income families, who would not otherwise be able to afford insurance.

“In California, and in my district, we are seeing that the Affordable Care Act works. Hardworking families are receiving quality health care coverage through the state exchange. With this Supreme Court decision, we should move forward and look at ways to make improvements, instead of wasting time and resources to tear down a law that is providing millions of people with life-saving health care.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“This is yet another landmark victory for millions of Americans who have been able to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The Court has now ruled that the law is not only constitutional, but that it’s legal for Americans in states using the HealthCare.gov exchange to continue to benefit from federal tax credits to help pay for health insurance.

“More than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law, and the nation’s rate of uninsured is at the lowest level ever. Coverage is affordable, with 85 percent of enrollees claiming tax credits. Consumers are enjoying greater competition and choice, Medicaid expansion is helping millions of low-income Americans obtain care, and young adults are getting covered.

“Today’s decision further affirms the Affordable Care Act will remain woven into the fabric of America’s health care system.”

The House Republican leadership is predictably perturbed.

From Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“ObamaCare is fundamentally broken, increasing health care costs for millions of Americans. Today’s ruling doesn’t change that fact. Republicans will continue to listen to American families and work to protect them from the consequences of ObamaCare. And we will continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The only thing that is more disappointingly flawed than today’s decision on what Obamacare actually meant is Obamacare itself. Obamacare remains a failed law that was forced through Congress on a partisan vote, and its consequences are being felt today. The law is increasing health care costs, reducing choice, and has led to fewer jobs, and today’s ruling doesn’t change that.

“Throughout the country, the American people are suffering because of the limits this law places on receiving high-quality care from doctors that patients choose, not the government. One thing that today’s ruling does confirm is that we must repeal and replace this fundamentally flawed law. The House will continue to work toward a patient-centered solution and to help those who have felt the hardships this law has caused.”

And California’s candidates for U.S. Senate in 2016 weighed in, too.

From former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“One thing is for certain: If the Republicans in Washington haven’t believed Obamacare was right, then they should have long ago come with a single, practical alternative. Between now and the election, they better do just and convince Americans why their alternative is better. If they don’t, they will be handing the election to Hillary.”

From Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana:

“I applaud and agree with the court’s decision to rule in favor of an individual’s ability to receive tax credits from the federal health insurance exchange, a program that has supported so many Americans and their families. I’ve said this before: we are dealing with families, not concepts. Millions of families rely on the federal marketplace to purchase affordable health insurance, and I am relieved that they will be able to continue to do so.

“With today’s Supreme Court decision behind us, it’s time for Congress to get back to work. The Affordable Care Act is settled law, and this ruling reaffirms that families are in control of their own health care.”

From California Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“The Affordable Care Act delivered access to quality, affordable health coverage to millions of Californians who otherwise would not have been able to afford insurance. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in King v. Burwell ensures that millions of families can keep their affordable health insurance. Because of this ruling, health insurance continues to be accessible to every American, making our entire nation healthier and more prosperous.”

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Endorsements, pledges in 2016 U.S. Senate race

Candidates in California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race continue to roll out their endorsements and commitments.

Rocky ChávezAssemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, announced Tuesday that he has the endorsements of 22 GOP assemblymemebers including Republican Leader Kristin Olsen.

“Rocky Chávez is the leader we need in Washington,” Olsen, R-Modesto, said in Chávez’s news release. “He has incredible experience in keeping our nation safe as a Marine colonel who served 28 years. He knows how to support our nation’s veterans, having served as California’s Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Finally, he knows the importance of a good education and has fought to improve California’s schools as a member of the state assembly.”

Meanwhile, former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette announced Tuesday that he has taken the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” offered by Americans for Tax Reform. The pledge commits him to oppose any and all efforts to increase marginal income tax rates for people or businesses, and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of tax deductions and credits unless they’re matched dollar-for-dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Tom Del Beccaro“California has the highest tax, regulations and debt burden of any state in the country,” Del Beccaro said in a news release. “That burden plays into California’s high unemployment rate and leader of poverty in the nation. No sensible candidate for U.S. Senate for California could advocate for even more taxes. I call upon Kamala Harris, Loretta Sanchez, Rocky Chavez, and anyone considering a run, to join me it protecting California tax payers from further tax increases.”

Del Beccaro favors a flat tax – a single, low rate for everyone, regardless of income – which he says would decrease the size of the IRS while boosting economic activity, creating jobs and reducing poverty. Critics say a flat tax would shift much of the nation’s revenue burden to middle- and lower-income Americans – who already spend a larger percentage of their income on necessities like food, housing and health care – while letting the rich pay far less.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Del Beccaro “has been a proponent for tax reform from the moment he came on the scene.”

Kamala HarrisAnd the Service Employees International Union California announced Tuesday that the 700,000-member union has endorsed Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, in this race to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next year. The huge union made its choice in a town-hall process in which all members had a chance to hear from and evaluate candidates’ policies.

“We know she’ll be a tough fighter for working families in Washington, the same way she’s shown courage and commitment to stand up for hard-working Californians as Attorney General,” union president Laphonza Butler said in a news release. “SEIU’s endorsement means our members will put our boots on the ground to deliver votes across California and put our hearts into a winning campaign to put Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.”

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Club for Growth founder joins Del Beccaro team

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Del Beccaro has added renowned conservative economist Stephen Moore, co-founder and first president of the Club for Growth, as an economic advisor to his campaign.

Steve MooreMoore’s addition helps Del Beccaro burnish his conservative bona fides, at least economically speaking – a clear effort to distinguish himself from the other Republican in the race, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, who’s seen as relatively moderate.

“I am honored and excited to have Steve join my team,” Del Beccaro, a former California Republican Party chairman from Lafayette, said in a news release. “He has fought for strong, sensible economic policies for years. Steve is a leading voice for the pro-growth policies that this country and California sorely need.”

Moore, in the same release, said Del Beccaro “has great economic ideas, especially in the area of taxes. He is a thoughtful proponent of the flat tax, which would create one low, flat income tax rate for everyone, regardless of income.

“This simplified, lower tax system would not only decrease the size and power of the IRS, but will also provide a much needed boost to the economy, create jobs and reduce poverty over time,” Moore said.

Moore, 55, was a budgetary affairs fellow at the Heritage Foundation from 1983 to 1987 before serving for a year as research director of President Ronald Reagan’s Privatization Commission and then starting a 10-year stint as a fellow of the libertarian Cato Institute. He also worked as senior economist of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee under Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas.

He co-founded the Club for Growth to support conservative congressional candidates – often mounting primary campaigns against more centrist Republicans – in 1999 and served as its president until 2004, when he was ousted by its board. He then founded the similar Free Enterprise Fund, but left in 2005 to serve on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board. He was a partner in Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics, but then rejoined the Heritage Foundation at the start of 2014.
http://www.arduinlaffermoore.com/

A Field Poll released Wednesday found 58 percent of likely voters are undecided about who they’ll back in next year’s Senate race. California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, had 19 percent support; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, had 8 percent; Chavez had 6 percent; and Del Beccaro had 5 percent.

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Ex-GOP chair forms Senate exploratory committee

Former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro has formed an exploratory committee for the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Tom Del BeccaroDel Beccaro, 53, of Lafayette, was among the first possible candidates to express interest in the race after Sen. Barbara Boxer announced last month that she won’t seek another term. “This next step allows me explore these possibilities further and raise a limited amount of money to help with that process,” he wrote Tuesday morning on Facebook.

He sees his run as a means to discuss important conservative issues, he told the San Diego Union Tribune on Monday.

“The combination of the California state and federal economic policies, including lopsided income tax codes and environmental policies that have gone too far, are resulting in economic stagnation for too many Californians,” Del Beccaro told the Union Tribune. “We need a better balance of regulations and pro-growth policies designed to encourage the private sector to promote economic growth throughout the state. If I run, I intend to offer those policies.”

Del Beccaro chaired the state Republican Party from 2011 to 2013, a period that proved financially difficult for the GOP.

The only well-known declared candidate so far is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, are running too though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, opened an exploratory committee for this race last week.

A Field Poll released last week found 21 percent of likely voters would be inclined to vote for Del Beccaro, while 46 percent would not be inclined and 33 percent had no opinion. The early poll was largely based on name recognition – not a strong point for a former party official who has never run for elected office before. By comparison, 49 percent said they would be inclined to vote for former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while 39 percent were not inclined and 12 percent had no opinion – but Rice says she’s not interested in running.