Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who is laying the groundwork for a campaign for governor next year, said Wednesday that his personal assets total less than $5 million and that he cannot self-fund a campaign.
Kashkari, who is expected to join former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, in the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, said he has met with nearly 700 potential donors throughout the country. He said Brown is "going to have more resources than all the Republican candidates combined" but suggested some donors may be willing to contribute to improve the party's standing in a Democratic state.
"A lot of donors think that Jerry Brown is, if not impossible to beat, very hard to beat, but a lot of donors say we need to make the Republican Party the party of economic opportunity," Kashkari said in an interview.
Kashkari played a central role in implementing the $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program during President George W. Bush's administration. He said that if he runs he will do so to "shine a spotlight on the millions of people who are being left behind," focusing on poverty and education.
"I want the Republican Party to be the party that's really fighting for the poor, the party that's really fighting to give minority groups a fair chance," he said. "But again, the solution is not more welfare, the solution is not social programs, the solution is real economic opportunity, empowering people."
Maldonado and Donnelly have both had difficulty raising money. After finishing the first half of the year in debt, Maldonado has reported raising about $150,000 since July, while Donnelly has reported raising about $123,000.
Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but the third-term Democrat is widely expected to run. He has raised more than $14 million for the effort so far. The opponent Republicans fielded against Brown in 2010 was Meg Whitman, who spent $144 million of her own money in a losing effort.
Kashkari left his job at Pacific Investment Management Co., a Newport Beach investment firm, in January. He said the company paid him "competitive wages" and that his tax rate is around 50 percent.
"I pay a heck of a lot of tax," he said.
Kashkari has not yet opened a campaign account. He is paying a group of advisers with his own funds. He declined to say how much he has spent.
Following meetings in Sacramento this week, Kashkari said he will visit with Bush in Dallas on Monday. He said he consulted with the former president about a year ago, when he was first considering running.
"I think he's going to be fired up about my focus on poverty reduction and empowerment of those being left behind," Kashkari said.
PHOTO: Neel Kashkari, then interim assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability, speaks during an event for the Institute of International Bankers on Oct. 13, 2008, in Washington. AP file photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari