Tag Archives: Prop 30

PAC at the heart of Dark Money Scandal Shuts Down

PAC received $11 million of anonymous money for Prop 30 and Prop 32.

by Brian Leubitz

It turns out that everything comes around in the end.

The political arm of the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) filed official termination papers on Monday, six months after agreeing to hand over $300,000 in campaign cash to state officials for accepting what turned out to be the largest anonymous donation to a political effort in California history. (KQED / John Myers)

If you don’t remember exactly what happened, check the dark money tag. Long story short, a few payments, totaling over $10 million, were dropped into the SBAC accounts right before the November 2012 election to fight for Prop 32 (unions) and against Prop 30 (Brown’s tax measure). Common Cause filed a complaint, and the FPPC eventually came down with the biggest fine ever.

Now, the fine would have worked out just fine if those meddling good government types hadn’t gotten in the way of the profligate spending right before the election. That fine is just another cost of buying an election, if you have that kind of money. But, in the end, the problem was that the money played directly into the campaign message that the Prop 32 opponents (including me) had been stating for the past 6 months. While the SBAC was able to spend a lot of money right before the election, it could be argued that the earned media was just as valuable for the other side.

Closing down a PAC isn’t really that big of a deal, because it isn’t hard to open another one. If Joel Fox or his compatriots have any big plans, there is no doubt that a similar group will be up and running in a few days. Nonetheless, it does mark something of a turning of the page on the 2012 election.

Dark Money Details: Props 30,32, and the future of secret cash

Charles Schwab with Mayor Gavin Newsom$10 million disappears in right-wing money laundering operation

by Brian Leubitz

How go those Gap jeans you are wearing today? And your Charles Schwab account is growing, I’m sure. And, of course, you totally bought Eli Broad’s support of Gov. Brown’s tax measure, right?

Well, welcome to the world of dark money, a bizarro land where people get to say and do very different things. Reports released by state investigators show a complex money laundering scheme involving several shady right-wing money movers and organizations, all to help hide the donors of about $25 million intended to fight against Gov. Brown’s tax measure, Prop 30, and for the anti-labor measure, Prop 32. While many of the names will be unfamiliar, some of them are pretty much household names. But these are people that don’t really want the attention, they just want to get their way. Because they are rich and that is what happens.

So, a pair of Republican consultants, Tony Russo and Jeff Miller, went about laundering the money through a vast network of Koch brother connected organizations in order to hide the true source of the money. Just to be clear, there is a word for that here in California: illegal.

The Fisher family, of the clothing firm Gap Inc., contributed more than $9 million. San Francisco investor Charles Schwab gave $6.4 million, and Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad sent $1 million.

The money went to a Virginia nonprofit that would use it to pay for the ad blitz and be allowed to keep the contributors secret. Nonprofits, unlike political action committees, are not required to identify their donors under federal law. … But things went from bad to worse. Although Russo handed over $25 million, only about $15 million ended up back in California. And when the money surfaced, it sparked an investigation by state authorities, who last month levied $16 million in penalties against the Arizona group and three others.(LA Times

Somewhere along the line, Sean Noble, a Koch-affiliated operative, decided that he actually wasn’t into sending the last $10 million back to California through their little washing machine. The attention had gotten to be too much. The fact that Russo claims he still doesn’t know what happens to that cash is something of a funny post script.

But the real fight is over the large penalty handed down to the Small Business Action Committee(SBAC), the California PAC that spent the money attacking Prop 30 and supporting Prop 32. The FPPC levied a “disgorgement” penalty that requires the group to pay to the state an amount of money equal to the dark money that they accepted. Of course, the SBAC is fighting the fine, and the result of that fight could mean a lot for how ballot measures are run over the next few years.

Perhaps if voters had easy access to more information, they could simply vote against any initiative campaign that was using the shady money. But in the real world, cash is still king.  If the fine is upheld, dark money could stall at the state border. If it is overturned, expect the secretive cash to become an even bigger (yet still overwhelmingly shady) tool in initiative campaigns.

Photo credit: Mayor Gavin Newsom on Flickr. Mayor Newsom (a prominent supporter of Prop 30) appeared with Charles Schwab at the opening of the Charles Schwab flagship space in San Francisco.

First of the Dark Money Donors Becomes Clear

Money laundered from engineering trade group to a campaign against Prop 30 and for Prop 32

by Brian Leubitz

This was bound to happen at some point, the first of the donors to the so-called “Small Business Action Committee” that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30 has been outed by reports.

An engineering trade organization that advocates for privatizing government work has been tied to the group behind the $11 million dark money donation that prompted a legal showdown in California last fall.

The $400,000 that can now be traced back to a group called the American Council of Engineering Companies in California (ACEC-CA) may not be the biggest of disclosures, but when it comes to dark money in politics, any transparency at all is a revelation.

Campaign finance reports released last week in California show that the Sacramento, Calif.-based ACEC-CA wrote two checks to the conservative group Americans for Job Security in 2012, one in July for $150,000 and one in September for $250,000, which were described in disclosures to California’s Secretary of State as intended for “issue advocacy.”(TPM)

Now, the biggest checks were still written by a man we know all too well, Charles T. Munger, the son of Warren Buffet’s business partner. But, we may yet learn a few more names about who else laundered a bit of cash to support Prop 32’s anti-labor agenda.

It’s Time For A Pundit Reckoning

Nationally, Nate Silver called 51 states and DC. In California, the polls accurately predicted the passage of Proposition 30 despite weeks of gloomy coverage from supposed experts who were apparently basing their entire narrative on a “tightening” of the polls happening after Labor Day-as if that was abnormal.

Or maybe it was that it was a tax measure polling under 50? Well, it was a school measure in the lead. So, the expertise there should have discerned which was a controlling factor, or, failing a conclusion, fallen back on the polling data, especially after premier instate pollster The Field Poll showed it up big last week.

Nope. They wanted to not only write their story about Prop 30 losing-and stories about the contingency plans school districts were making, a sort of fiscal equivalent of “it bleeds it leads”-but they wanted to write the political eulogy of Jerry Brown. They wanted to write the “Dems in disarray” story when Gavin Newsome made a factually accurate but politically selfish statement about the effect of Prop 30’s allegedly impending failure.

And they were almost gleeful early Tuesday night when it was behind in the early returns-again, showing their stupendoes non-expertise on this when they should have known that the result was far from certain with no results in from Alameda, LA, and SF counties.

This is just the “mainstream” and allegedly non-partisan press. The Jarvtards in the remnant formerly known as a political party that is the California GOP must be freaking out. They started the modern anti-tax measure with their self-immolating, selfish, corrupt, and myopic Prop 13. Now they must wonder whether Prop 30 is the beginning of a nationwide trend saying, “we’ve cut enough from our kids, our firefighters, and our future.” Now it’s time for the 1% to have less gold leaf on their yachts so we can train our children to work in the economy they so wildly benefit from.

Propositions have been the bane of California for so long. Proposition 13 spelled the beginning of the Me Generations Randian solipsism. Prop 187 showed the true lack of colors of the pathetic band of deadenders formerly known as a political party that is the California GOP. Proposition 8 was based on terrible slanders and showed just how dangerous direct democracy can be not just to the budget, but even to fundamental rights.

So it is only fitting somehow that it is a Proposition that turns the tide. Prop 13’s game-rigging two-thirds majority rules have one only exception: a statewide vote. And yesterday, Californians took advantage of that, using this terrible system against itself. We might even have made it moot by putting the Democrats beyond the minority blocking veto in the legislature. Just like all Americans, California voters have had enough obstruction.

But Dan Walters and the gang are just going to keep making false equivalencies between unions and corporations, Democratic politicking and Republican obstruction and cheating, between taking $100 from someone making $40,000 a year and someone making $4,000,000 a year because they are so cowardly, so afraid of the right-wing noise machine (assuming they are not part of it) claiming that they aren’t objective (the first commandment of J-school) that they will bend beyond the breaking point to retain a patina of objectivity.

California and the nation as a whole has rejected this approach wholesale and that is the lesson of this election. It wasn’t a statement that we are an entirely liberal state or country, but a statement that we want results and we don’t care much about what approach is used as long as it works. Obstruction gets nothing done, ever.

FPPC Reveals “Money laundering” – Real Source of Secret $11 Million

Koch Brothers affiliated SuperPACs behind donation

by Brian Leubitz

When the American Future Fund contributed $4 million to a committee supporting Prop 32 and opposing Prop 30, voters knew the money was connected, in some vague sense, to the Koch Brothers. That group at least had some history to look back upon, and while the relationship wasn’t perfectly clear, the Koch connections were there.

However, when an $11 million check floated down from a hitherto obscure group, “Americans for Responsible Leadership,” (ARL) the source was a complete mystery. The group also was in a fight against Top 2 primaries, and some of the board had GOP connections. But, the source of the money was far from clear.  The Fair Political Practices Commission, California’s campaign finance regulator, sued for information on where the money came from.  ARL fought like the dickens, even taking the court to the United States Supreme Court before reluctantly handing over the information this morning.

And here’s what we have: 2 more “non-profits”

The state’s campaign watchdog agency accused an Arizona nonprofit of “money laundering” to donate $11 million this month and announced that two other nonprofits – Americans for Job Security and The Center to Protect Patient Rights – routed the money.(SacBee CapAlert)

Needless to say, FPPC Chair Ann Ravel was none too impressed with this development and called the arrangement money laundering. Here’s an FPPC quote about it:

“Under California law, the failure to disclose this initially was campaign money laundering. At $11 million, this is the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history.”

But just who are these groups anyway? Well, OpenSecrets has a pretty nice writeup about the Center for Patient Rights:

And if its donors are unknown, so is much else about CPPR. According to its own 2010 tax return, which was filed last November, it is run by Sean Noble, who is listed as its director, president and executive director. Noble describes himself on his Twitter account as a “PR/Political consultant, conservative strategist/operative, former GOP Hill chief of staff, blogger, proud father, fighting for liberty.” Noble was chief-of-staff to former Republican Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, for whom he worked for 13 years, and since then has worked as a political consultant and in public relations. …

Noble did not return our calls seeking comment. But in a piece last year, Politico described Noble as a “Koch operative,” referring to the wealthy conservative brothers from Koch Industries who have been instrumental in funding a conservative network of groups. … (OpenSecrets)

And guess who received over $11 million in support from CPPR in the 2010 cycle? Why, none other than the American Future Fund. And everything comes back around. Quite the campaign finance merry-go-round in support of a measure that purports to be campaign finance reform.

However, as leading good government groups, like the League of Women Voters and Common Cause have said, Prop 32 is not real political reform. And so instead, strange money continues to flow to fight for a deceptive measure, and against a measure that is vitally important to our schools. Layer after layer…

Note: Brian Leubitz, the editor of this blog, works for the No on 32 campaign. Please like the campaign on facebook or follow on twitter.

Barking Out the Vote with Sutter Brown

Yes, I admit it, I’ve been a Sutter Brown fan for years now, well,  since he set up shop on Facebook at least.  He’s the First Dog here in California and he’s been touring the Golden State to “Bark out the Vote” for Prop 30.  It’s brilliant really, who doesn’t want to meet Sutter, a well behaved Corgi who has a great sense of humor, is humble and yet takes the people’s business very seriously.

Photo source Sacramento Bee

And today my daughter and I were lucky enough to meet Sutter on one of his stops through California to support Prop 30.  

Sutter arrived to a gift from the Sharon Quirk-Silva campaign which he loved quite a bit.

And not only came to support Prop 30 but took to Sharon right away, letting her hold him for the group photo!

There was quite a turn out to help the Quirk-Silva campaign walk precincts and carry her to victory on Tuesday.  The California Assembly could definitely use someone like Sharon and I am sure Sutter’s Dad wouldn’t mind another Dem in the legislature.  Woof, woof.

But I can tell you, when Charlotte met Sutter, they were fast friends.

And the next thing you know, Sutter has a new body man, Charlotte was clearing the perimeter of dropped food, making sure there were no stray dogs in sight and procuring Sutter some water when he was parched from all the excitement!

But being the sensible dog that he is, Sutter knew when to rest and when to work.  He was gracious and took many photos with his adoring fans and was kind enough to pose with Charlotte.

I don’t have any photos, but he slipped in some sloppy kisses with her too, he must know that she’s an animal love and wants to rescue dogs when she grows up and is trying to figure out a way right now how she can raise money to rescue dogs right now, even though she is only 9.  I’m encouraging her to maybe find a way to use her artistic skills as a means to raise funds to help rescues.  And she also wants to start her own Dog Walking business as well, she’s already called it “Pups and Pals”.

Sutter is an inspiration, to young and old and he’s pounding the pavement to help not only his Dad pass an important Proposition, but to help kids like Charlotte get more funding to her schools.  Charlotte just knows she loves Sutter’s big smile and friendly disposition and just how darn cute he is.

Thank you Governor Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown for lending us Sutter, to steal our hearts and remind us that politics shouldn’t be so serious all the time.  From one of my favorite photos (The infamous Eye Booger assist from Mom) to all the Sutter Cuteness in the State Capital, we love that you have let us into Sutter’s world and shown us that there is lots of joy in advocating for the big and the small 🙂

Hanging out in Dad’s office!

Sutter approves this message 🙂

Dictating a letter, so much to do!

And thank you Sutter for being a good sport, it was our pleasure to meet you today!

Field Poll Sticks A Knife In Media’s Prop 30 Narrative

Already leading by a minimum of 4 points in every poll ever conducted, Prop 30 scored a huge win today showing itself up 48-38 in the premier in-state poll, the The Field Poll just 5 days out from the election. Pundits like Dan Walters and the Political blog at the LA Times have been drinking Republican spin about how they plan to help out the Governor if Prop 30 fails. All kinds of stories have been filed about Brown’s “muddled message.”

Perhaps all of this hinges on the conventional wisdom that tax measures polling under 50 lose. Yet, education and school measures are usually successful. And signs are that a wave of voter registration has upped the Democratic-leaning electorate likely to support Gov. Brown’s Prop 30. Even Gavin Newsom bought into this enough to criticize the Governor’s message.

None of that, nor the raw data of every poll taken has stopped the pundits from their attacks. Will any of them say they were wrong?  Nope. They’re pundits. They’re paid to be wrong.

Joe Matthews: $11Mil Dumbest Donation Ever

Calls out Yes on 32/No on 30 “Small Business Action Committee” for hypocrisy

by Brian Leubitz

 Share on FacebookJoe Mathews
You may have already heard the news about the $11,000,000 donation from the “Americans for Responsible Leadership,” a group that refuses to discloses its contributors. In fact, last week we posted about the Sacramento Bee calling out both the group that gave and received the anonymous cash.

However, Joe Mathews, a noted California political journalist and analyst, points out how the secretive money puts the lie to the notion that Proposition 32 is about campaign finance reform.

Seriously, do you remember a more counterproductive donation than this one? In this case, the $11 million is being given in such a way that it destroys whatever chances Prop 32, the measure that anonymous donors are supposedly supporting, might have had of passing.

Prop 32 is being sold as campaign finance reform. An anonymous donation steps on that message; the huge, overwhelmingly negative publicity the donation has drawn to 32 has to be worth more than the $11 million. And in a larger sense, the donation exposes the core of what’s wrong with Prop 32 and other attempts at what is sometimes called “Paycheck Protection” as a way to blunt union power. … Instead, they are giving and accepting an anonymous donation, an act that will confirm the worst stereotypes about critics of public employee unions. If the backers of Prop 32 want true political reform, and less domination by public employee unions, they should give the $11 million back. Right away.(emphasis added, Fox and Hounds Daily)

As Mr. Mathews states, the secretive $11,000,000 tells a lot more about what Prop 32 really is. It is a measure to silence working Californians, while allowing for the proliferation of secretive SuperPACs like the “Americans for Responsible Leadership.”

Read the full column at  Fox and Hounds Daily.

Note: Brian Leubitz, the editor of this blog, works for the No on 32 campaign. Please like the campaign on facebook or follow on twitter.

New Ads from Yes on 30 and No on 32

Campaign heats up

by Brian Leubitz

While the focus of the nation may be on the presidential debate tonight, the election is in full swing here in California. And today we see new commercials from both the Yes on 30 (revenue) and No on 32 (Special Exemptions) campaigns.

First, the Yes on 30 ad:

Here’s the No on 32 ad:

For California progressives, the choice is clear. Yes on 30 enables us to move forward without the further drastic cuts, and No on 32 protects the voice of working Californians.

Note: Brian Leubitz, the editor of this blog, works for the No on 32 campaign. Please like the campaign on facebook or follow on twitter. You can also get your No on 32 T-shirt here.

Prop 30 in Biblical Terms

Gov. Makes a Pitch for tax measure

by Brian Leubitz

You won’t find a slew of biblical references on Calitics, but that will change for today. Gov. Brown pitched his revenue measure in a WWJD kind of way:

“For those who’ve been blessed the most, it’s only right, and I think the way to go to say, ‘Give some back temporarily, for the next seven years, until our economy finally gets back,’ ” Brown said at a news conference in Oakland, where he accepted a $1 million contribution to his tax campaign from the influential California Nurses Association.

Later, the Democratic governor invoked the New Testament explicitly.

“Those who we’re asking to pay more, I think they can,” he said. “And I think it says in the New Testament, ‘For those whom much is given, much will be asked,’ and that’s what we’re doing today.”(SacBee)

This is really one of the big Right-vs-Left fights in America right now. Those who claim to honor their religion, but then ignore the parts that are expensive or inconvenient, and those who see the morality of a more equal society. Religion needn’t be a big part of that, but there are parts of the Bible which specifically speak to these issues.  It is hardly a new thing for them to be ignored, after all, hypocrisy abounded in the feudal era with respect to the Church.

And so, here we are again, looking to find a way to fund our long-term needs. I can’t imagine that calling into question the sense of charity of the Rich is the way to win this fight for the long haul. But it might score a point or two in this battle.