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E-215 - Thursday, August 1, 2019
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RECENT AURAL PLEASURE:
IN TODAY'S NOONER:
It's Thursday and it's August already. That means you have eleven days before the Legislature returns for its final month and one day before the weekend begins!
I'll be all campaign finance today, with a Cadiz spritzer.
BEJUULED: You may think I spend too much time talking about JUUL and that I feel passionately about the issue of vaping. I really don't. I write about it because it's a story of policy, politics, and money, with much happening behind closed doors. To me, it's more like figuring out a Thursday NYT crossword puzzle.
I wish I could say that political Visine has made things crystal clear this morning, but it is now following lots of research and phone calls yesterday. Let's just say that many of us are puzzled and can't get several of the clues. Let's go back to what we know.
JUUL Labs, Inc. reported contributing $100,000 (last item) to the California Voter Project, and listed EIN 46-1518000. I errantly said this has been amended--it has not. That employer identification number (equivalent of an SSN for an organization) traces to the CVP I wrote about yesterday.
It sort of made sense, as the contribution was to an nonprofit organization to conduct voter registration and information efforts outside of "campaigns," thus the usual rules of large contributions to committees did not apply.
That is, except that EIN 46-1518000 is a defunct organization, according to former president Robert Kaplan and treasurer Rebecca Olson. I am told that the account has been closed and there has been no activity recently. That would be consistent with IRS data searches for that EIN.
However, there is another California Voter Project registered with the FPPC that has as its treasurer David Gould, a well-known campaign treasurer based Long Beach. That committee has not filed any reports in recent years, which could be because it is instead operating in the nonprofit world.
Since Nooner Premium went out, Gould has responded that he knows nothing about it and neither he nor the principal of that PAC knows of it...
It appears that whoever filled out JUUL's Major Donor report listed the wrong EIN. The officer who signed the report is JP Scholtes. Scholtes has been legislative and compliance officer for JUUL since March, before which he was senior counsel for Altria (parent of Philip Morris, now 35% owner of JUUL) for five-and-a-half years. He's based in Washington, DC and I've tried to reach him through several channels.
The questions are:
I have talked to lots of folks and have reached out to far more via email and phone (what's that?) but am not getting answers except for those people explicitly NOT involved.
As I said yesterday, I have seen nothing illegal in this mystery but I'm all Scooby Doo on this one and it certainly feels like one of those van rides.
Meanwhile, as if perfect timing for these kinds of issues, Laura Davison reports for Bloomberg that a federal judge has overturned an IRS rule that allowed political 501(c)(4) organizations to keep their donors secret.
Like the Census citizenship question, the judge's ruling is not on substance, not rather procedural grounds. Montana-based U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled that the Administrative Procedure Act, which allows interested parties to weigh in on administrative determinations, was not followed.
CAMPAIGN SEMI-ANNUAL REPORTS: Last night was the deadline for the semi-annual campaign finance reports. I provided a spreadsheet of select races to Nooner Premium this morning. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but the work with the reports was truly late night/early morning work only possible because of Premium subscribers.
I have, however, added links to many of the candidates listed on the district pages directly to the Secretary of State page of each candidate, and will continue to add them. It's a laborious process, as even the Secretary of State's page of candidates doesn't have links (likely because the candidate didn't file an SOI) and thus require manual searches.
In the five Assembly seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat in 2018 (AD16, AD38, AD40, AD74, AD76), the new incumbents are doing very well, averaging $466,696 net cash-on-hand. In AD77, where Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego) switched from Republican to Democrat in January, the money has followed in Sacramento where Democrats have a chokehold fundraising advantage over Republicans. Here are the numbers for that district:
In the most competitive Senate races, we have:
In SD21, another competitive race, incumbent Scott Wilk (R) ended June 30 with $445,212, while his three competitors did not have reports.
Because of special elections, the parties have newer reports closing July 13. They reported net cash of:
Here are some interesting balances in "parking lot" accounts. These are generally when legislators leave office or move to Congress and can't take their $$$ with them. As long as there a future race that they "could" run for, they can establish an account for that and pay for political expenses reasonably related to a possible future run (i.e. travel to a state party convention) or make charitable contributions. In theory, they can return the funds to donors, but it's exceedingly difficult to do so in a large campaign committee.
Make sure these folks are on your #CAKEDAY card list!
Obviously, there's likely other interesting issues that I'll find and bring to you over the next few days. With 100 state races next year, it's a beast!
Let me know if you see any errors. This involves a lot of staring at reports and spreadsheet work, meaning there will invariably be some. I've caught a few and update them as soon as I find them on the Nooner Premium spreadsheet that's hosted in the subscriber section.
CADIZ WATER PROJECT: Yesterday, Governor Newsom signed SB 307 (Roth), which requires the State Lands Commission to review the natural and cultural impact of the Cadiz Water Project conveyance of water via pipeline from underground reserves to the Colorado River Aqueduct, which is owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Newsom issued a rare signing message with the bill showing the controversial nature of it.
I need not rehash what I've written on May 17 but if you'd like more background, you can find it there. This is another of the big conflicts between California's political leadership and the Trump Administration. While the Obama Administration was seeking additional environmental impact study since it passed over federal lands, the Trump Administration maintains that since the 31-mile pipeline path it along an existing railroad right-of-way, not additional scrutiny is necessary.
CAKEDAY after the jump...
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Andy Kelley, and Chris Wilson!