Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 23, 2012
Barack Obama caps day of fundraising in Bay Area

REDWOOD CITY - President Barack Obama, back in donor-rich California to raise money for his re-election campaign tonight, told supporters in the Bay Area that the economy has improved during his first term but that he still has "a lot more to do."

"We're not satisfied," the Democratic president told about 1,100 supporters at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City.

The event, for which tickets started at $250, followed a $35,800-per-plate dinner at the Atherton home of Levi Strauss heir Doug Goldman, capping a day of fundraising in Colorado and California.

Obama told a cheering crowd in Redwood City that he expects the campaign to be "tougher than the last one."

In heavily-Democratic California, Obama leads Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, by 11 points among likely voters, 50 percent to 39 percent, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released tonight. The state is unlikely to be contested in the November election, but both Obama and Romney are doing significant fundraising here.

"It is good to be back in California," Obama said, less than two weeks after his multimillion dollar fundraiser at actor George Clooney's Los Angeles house.

Obama said the nation's economic crisis "didn't happen overnight, and it's not going to be solved overnight."

He said, "We've got more work to do. We know that."

The crowd cheered when Obama mentioned his support for gay marriage, defending his vision as one for all people, "no matter who you love."

About half of likely California voters say Obama's recent announcement that he supports gay marriage has had no effect on their view of him, according to the Public Policy Institute of California poll. One quarter of likely voters say it makes them think more favorably of the president, and one quarter say it makes them think less favorably of him.

"It is nice to have someone take a stand," said Megan Maxwell-Bey, who came with her husband and two young daughters to watch the protesters and cheer Obama from outside the fundraiser.

Maxwell-Bey and her husband, Anthony Bey, said they voted for Obama in 2008 and will vote for him again. The economy is improving they said.

A small crowd of protesters demonstrated outside the theater, including members of the Raging Grannies, a progressive group.

"Tax, tax, tax the rich, make them pay their share," they sang.

Many members of the group voted for Obama in 2008, and they will vote for him again this year, said Ellyn O'Toole, 65, of San Mateo.

But the retired nurse is concerned about the influence of money in politics and about Social Security and health care.

"We actually support Obama," she said, "but we want to move him in a more progressive direction."

May 23, 2012
Poll: Jerry Brown's job approval rating slips

The honeymoon is ending for Gov. Jerry Brown.

For the first time in a major California poll since Brown took office, a plurality of likely voters disapproves of the job he is doing, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released this evening.

The margin is pencil thin - 43 percent disapprove to 42 percent approve - but follows more than a year of relatively favorable marks for the Democratic governor. In April, Brown's job approval rating among likely voters was 47 percent.

Brown's dip in public opinion was registered in the days immediately after his announcement last week that California's budget deficit had grown to $15.7 billion, up from $9.2 billion in January.

"There are things that, as governor, you don't have any control over, and in particular the economy seems to have either stalled or worse over the last few months," poll director Mark Baldassare said. "People are getting worried again."

Despite their dimmer view of Brown, likely voters remain supportive of his November ballot initiative to raise taxes - 56 percent to 38 percent, according to the poll. That level of support is slightly higher than in April.

The initiative, a major part of Brown's agenda this year, would raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

May 23, 2012
Charles Munger's push for Beth Gaines becomes campaign issue

Competing radio ads spotlight wealthy Stanford physicist Charles T. Munger Jr.'s deep-pockets support for incumbent Assemblywoman Beth Gaines against challenger Andy Pugno in a Placer County-based Assembly district.

Spirit of Democracy, an advocacy group funded largely by Munger, has poured more than $175,000 into a radio and mail promotional campaign for Gaines this month. Pugno is attempting to create a backlash by painting the GOP activist as a liberal.

Munger is a major GOP donor and was a key financial backer of redistricting reform. He has pushed to moderate the Republican Party by downplaying divisive issues such as abortion, gun rights and same-sex marriage.

Munger's sister, civil rights attorney and Democrat Molly Munger, is pushing a measure for the November ballot that would generate about $10 billion annually by raising income taxes on a sliding scale for all but the poorest California workers for 12 years.

In his 60-second radio ad for Gaines, which began running last week, Munger's Spirit of Democracy touts the Rocklin Republican -- who has pledged not to raise taxes -- as a fiscal conservative:

"Feeling like an ATM for government?" Munger's radio ad says. "You have a friend in Republican businesswoman Beth Gaines for state Assembly. 'I'm appalled at the way state government handles our tax dollars,' she says. And it's not just talk."

Pugno counters with a 60-second ad, beginning this week, that promotes himself as a conservative who served as lead attorney for Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

"Don't let a liberal Bay Area billionaire buy the election for Beth Gaines," Pugno's ad says.

Commenting this week about the Munger-funded radio ad, Pugno said it demonstrates that the GOP activist "does not want a strong, effective conservative holding this seat."

Dave Gilliard, Gaines' political consultant, said the campaign has no idea why Munger is supporting Gaines, but added, "Perhaps he has a problem with trial lawyers?" The jab is a reference to Pugno's ownership of a small law office.

Munger's group and other independent expenditure committees can spend unlimited sums for political advocacy but are barred by state law from coordinating their efforts with a particular candidate.

Richard Temple, campaign consultant for the Spirit of Democracy group, said that Pugno's attack on Munger is laughable because the latter is a Republican leader in California who has done more to elect GOP candidates than "Andy Pugno will ever dream of doing."

Temple said that Munger's Spirit of Democracy is looking to assist in races "where there's a dramatic difference between the two candidates on their ability to be a good legislator and also (where) they have a broader appeal that will attract voters, not only Republican voters but independent voters so that we can broaden the Republican Party appeal."

* Updated at 3:35 p.m. to add quotes from Richard Temple and from Andy Pugno.

May 23, 2012
Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst moves $2 million into PAC

MC_RHEE.02.JPGStudentsFirst, the education advocacy group formed by former Washington D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, has poured $2 million into a campaign committee created to influence state legislative races ahead of the June 5 primary.

The "Parents and Teachers for Putting StudentsFirst" committee reported its first contribution late Tuesday, spending more than $400,000 on television buys, polling and consulting services to support Democrat Brian Johnson, a charter school executive running in the open 46th Assembly District. That Southern California seat has become a hot spot for political spending, as pro-charter interests supporting Johnson battle the California Teachers Association.

Rhee, who is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (no relation to Brian Johnson), expanded StudentsFirst's California presence last summer, hiring lobbying firm Gonzalez, Quintana & Hunter and opening a committee to make candidate contributions. A spokesman for StudentsFirst, which is a nonprofit, declined to identify specific donors to the group.

The organization has aimed to raise $1 billion to further its efforts of countering the influence of teachers unions in campaigns and state policy.


Michelle Rhee sets up California PAC, hires Sacramento lobbyist

PHOTO CREDIT: MIchelle Rhee speaking at a May 2010 Sacramento Press Club event. Manny Crisostomo, Sacramento Bee.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect a $350,000 television buy included in the campaign report.

May 23, 2012
AM Alert: Obama, Boehner hit Bay Area's campaign ATM

VIDEO: Dan Walters, in the latest video report, talks about Proposition 29, which would raise cigarette taxes $1 a pack.

President Barack Obama is back in California for the second time this month, scheduled for two campaign fundraisers this evening in the Bay Area.

First up, dinner in Atherton where tickets cost $38,500 a pop, then a reception at the Fox Theater in Redwood City, where tickets start at $250 and Ben Harper is scheduled to play. Obama won't be venturing any farther east than that before Air Force One heads out on Thursday.

The president raised almost $15 million for Democrats earlier this month at a Los Angeles fundraiser hosted by George Clooney.

Phillip Reese and David Siders have details of presidential fundraising in California in today's Bee.

Meanwhile, Republican House Speaker John Boehner will be in the Bay Area himself tonight at a fundraiser co-hosted by California Reps. Jeff Denham, Dan Lungren, Wally Herger and David Dreier. Tickets top out at $35,800 for the reception at Stacey and Tom Siebel's Woodside home.

Back in Sacramento, Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, joins the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California as its officials unveil a report assessing the impact of Obama's health care overhaul on California's Latinos. That presser starts at 11 a.m. in the Capitol's Room 127.

Meanwhile. the word of the day -- outside the dome, at least -- is "science."

Intel Corp. is sponsoring a science fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Capitol's south steps, while the California Association of Professional Scientists is hosting the 24th annual State Scientist Day over on the west steps from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

CAPS' event features lots of third- to sixth-graders checking out insects, an earthquake machine and other cool stuff. At noon, Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, gets the nod for honorary state scientist for her resolution declaring the annual event.

LEGISLATURE: Budget panels meet in both houses to consider Gov. Jerry Brown's revised proposals. Click here to read the Senate's schedule, and click here to read the Assembly's.

BAKE SALE: Looking for baked goods? You'll find them on sale on the north steps from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Proceeds benefit Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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