Irons in the fire

Oct 31, 2012

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, named after the ant-tax crusader who pushed Proposition 13 in 1978, is viewed primarily as a fighter against costly government. But there's a lot more going on here.


From the LAT's Anthony York: "But in addition to the group's battles against taxes of all kinds, the name of 1978's Proposition 13 author serves a variety of deep-pocketed interests in need of a populist sheen. Far from its humble activist roots, the organization renowned for its quest to protect pocketbooks and foil government waste has turned tax fighting into big business for a handful of political strategists who make their living on its name."


"The nonprofit, which claims 200,000 donors and eight full-time employees in a small Sacramento office, has an annual budget of more than $5.7 million, according to 2010 tax records, the most recent available. Critics of the group say its imprimatur is often for sale to the highest bidder."


"Chris Bertelli, a Republican education advocate, tangled with the association over a ballot-measure endorsement. "They sent us a letter saying they had not taken a position, but they could if we gave them enough money," he said."


That Phoenix-based based group that fueled the fight against the governor's tax initiative had its day in court Tuesday, and California's Fair Political Practices Commission got a tentative go-ahead to look into the outfit. A final decision comes later.


From Juliet Williams in the AP: "A Sacramento County Superior Court judge issued a tentative ruling Tuesday allowing California's political watchdog to investigate the donors behind an $11 million contribution from an Arizona nonprofit to a California ballot measure committee, saying that Californians would suffer "irreparable harm" if it were not investigated."


"The Fair Political Practices Commission filed a lawsuit earlier this month after the Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership made the $11 million contribution to the Small Business Action Committee PAC, which opposes Gov. Jerry Brown's November tax initiative and supports another initiative that would restrict unions' ability to raise money."


"In Tuesday's ruling, Judge Shelleyanne Chang said ARL will have 24 hours to comply with the FPPC's request to review its financial documents. The ruling is considered tentative until a hearing set for Wednesday. The judge says the FPPC has authority to audit the group's records to see whether it triggers any California election laws that require disclosure of the funding sources."


Speaking of outside money, congressional and legislative races in the Inland Empire are awash in independent expenditures that even exceed the candidates' own spending.


From the Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller and Ben Goad: "Industry groups, wealthy activists, unions and other interests have pumped almost $10 million worth of independent expenditures into Inland Southern California congressional and legislative races since the June primary, an unprecedented amount that in some cases dwarfs what candidates’ own campaigns have spent."


"Through Monday, almost $6 million had been spent in the region’s House contests. One-half of that has been in Riverside County’s 36th Congressional District, where no less than a dozen Super PACs have pummeled voters with TV ads and waves of mailers in the nationally watched race between Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, and challenger Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs."


"More than $3.5 million, meanwhile, has gone into the region’s legislative contests. More than half of the total has been spent in Riverside County’s 31st state Senate District, which is shaping up to be one of the most expensive campaigns in California as Democrats seek a two-thirds supermajority and Republicans try to stop them."


The Demcrat-controlled state Senate seems likely to get a two-thirds majority of Dems in the Nov. 6 election. So will that really make a difference in the way things operate in the upper house?


From Ben Adler at Capital Public Radio: "This could be the year California Democrats finally reach the goal they've long strived for: a two-thirds supermajority in the State Senate.  We took a look at that possibility on Monday.  It turns out people from both parties don't think Sacramento's legislative landscape would change that much.  And the biggest impact on next year's atmosphere at the State Capitol will likely come from something else entirely."


"This story is based on a hypothetical - but not a far-fetched one.  Most California political watchers agree that when the next legislature is sworn in later this year, Democrats will likely have a two-thirds supermajority in the State Senate.  The question we ask here is: so what?  And the answer - even from Democrats - is probably not very much."


Many people who were foreclosed upon during the housing crisis are apparently buying houses again, with the help of the FHA.


From Pete Carey in the Oakland Tribune: "The ability to get an FHA loan so quickly after a foreclosure could be welcome news to thousands of people who lost their homes during the housing bust. In the coming 12 months, about 22,000 Bay Area foreclosures will hit the three-year mark."


"While mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make people wait seven years after a foreclosure, the FHA will approve loans after three years, providing the buyer has established good credit and the ability to pay the mortgage."


"There's definitely a movement of folks who have had a foreclosure to re-emerge and re-engage in the market," said Dustin Hobbs of the California Mortgage Bankers Association. He said brokers around the state have picked up on the trend. "It helps the housing market," said Guy Schwartz of CMG Financial in San Ramon, which handled the Davis' mortgage."




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