The CRP will find itself in a tricky position explaining how it can oppose Proposition 1A after it already gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger $650,000, much of which is going toward the pro-1A effort. Schwarzenegger laid claim to that money in January and February ($1.3 million shows up on the secretary of state's Web site, but the transfers have been double-posted, according to Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Julie Soderlund).
CRP spokesman Hector Barajas already faced questions of this sort from Los Angeles talk-show hosts John and Ken on Wednesday, who grilled Barajas on KFI-AM about how his party could give so much money that ended up supporting Proposition 1A. John and Ken held a protest in front of the California Republican Party headquarters in Burbank, largely due to that money transfer.
Barajas later said by phone that the CRP board decided to give Schwarzenegger $650,000 to pay for "the governor's activities, whether it's for conferences, his plane, his travel, other expenses." He said it was not earmarked for any one purpose.
He said the party routinely helps its governors and other elected officials. "Whether an individual is a fundraising machine or not, a partnership is a partnership. If we provide money for the governor so he can go out to conferences or promote his agenda, that's the function of the party."
Still, Barajas said that the state party's "sentiment seems to be against 1A."
The dilemma is reflective of the split within the CRP.
Many of its grassroots members oppose Proposition 1A, and most GOP lawmakers voted against it in the Legislature. But its top elected officials are the ones responsible for it. Schwarzenegger is spearheading the fundraising drive for the measure, while its legislative leaders struck the deal that put 1A on the ballot.
To the Republican lawmakers who voted for it, the most crucial piece was a permanent spending cap. But to get Democrats to go along -- and to discourage unions from defeating it on the ballot -- those Republicans had to agree to a temporary $16 billion tax hike, which is the poison pill for the party's activist Republicans who will likely vote Saturday to oppose Proposition 1A.
"Prop 1A is a sustained tax increase masquerading as reform in the hope that you will not notice the taxes," wrote GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman to the party urging it to oppose the measure.
But neither the billionaire Whitman nor Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has cut a check that could actually defeat the measure.
WATER RALLY: Schwarzenegger is scheduled to speak at the California March for Water rally today in Los Banos. Ex-Senate GOP leader Dave Cogdill is also scheduled to speak.
CARTOONS AND PHOTOS: Do you like Rex Babin's political cartoons? Or a Bee photographer's shot of your favorite (or least favorite) politico? Well, you can buy those photos or printed cartoons online now.
BIRTHDAY: This Sunday, Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, turns 69.
Compiled by Kevin Yamamura and Shane Goldmacher
Photo: Chairman of the California Republican Party Ron Nehring at the California Republican Party convention in February 2007. Credit: Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton