SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown is making a priority of beating a November proposition on funding of state mega-projects, including offering intimate gubernatorial dinners to donors who help fight the measure, the state Democratic Party is telling potential contributors.
Proposition 53 would require statewide voter approval on projects that would require more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds to fund. That would cover pending Brown proposals for high-speed rail and for two giant tunnels to carry Northern California water south.
So far, fund-raising mainly is pitting Dean Cortopassi, the affluent Stockton farmer and factory-operator who organized the petition drive bringing Proposition 53 to the ballot, against an array of more prominent opponents. Those include the governor, the state Democratic Party, the state Chamber of Commerce, and construction-industry groups.
Proposition 53 opponents describe the initiative as targeted against Brown’s proposed $15.7 billion water tunnels in particular, a charge Cortopassi denies. As of mid-August, Cortopassi and his family had provided all $4.5 million given the pro-Proposition 53 campaign. While both the state Republican Party and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association have endorsed Cortopassi’s measure, it’s not clear how much they can devote to campaigning for it in a fraught election year.
Asked about campaign plans, Cortopassi says he hopes for grass-roots support. Despite Cortopassi’s deep pockets, campaign spokeswoman Marie Brichetto describes his effort as “David vs. Golaith,” given the forces allied against the measure.
On the opposition side, builder trade groups and an organization representing the pharmaceutical industry – which has critical legislation before the governor – have supplied $1 million to the No on Prop 53 campaign committee.
No on Prop 53 committee spokesman Steven Maviglio promises a high-profile campaign against the measure. Except for the stand taken by the state Republican party, the coalition against Proposition 53 is much the same as the one that won support for two victorious financial propositions in 2014, also backed by Brown, said Michael Soller, spokesman for the state Democratic party.
If the 2014 ballot coalition “was a blueprint for how we could work together to get things done, we’re going to work together to stop something here that’s going to hurt California communities for decades to come” if it passes, Soller said.
Although Brown has taken a position, he has not publicly campaigned against the measure. And while the governor has a campaign war-chest of nearly $20 million that he could devote to this or any other political cause, he has not done so to date.
A fundraising letter by state Democratic Party financial chief Angie Tate on Aug. 9 calls defeating the Stockton farmer’s initiative a priority for Brown and the state party, along with passing a parole measure promoted by Brown.
Sent to lobbyists and other potential donors, the letter raised eyebrows for what some saw as an offer of access, during a time when Brown would have the year’s legislation on his desk for approval or veto: “The Governor will be hosting a series of small dinners in August and September to thank those that are able to help on his priorities,” Tate wrote.
“It’s an example of what is wrong with the process,” Brichetto, the pro-53 spokeswoman, said in an email regarding the fund-raising offer of dinner with the governor. “Prop. 53 will give voters a voice and that’s exactly why they are fighting so hard to stop it.”
Asked for comment Thursday on the donor-dinner offer, Dan Newman, a Brown spokesman, said Brown considers each bill on its merits, and no events have been scheduled.
Both Brown and Cortopassi cite general financial principle for their stands on the measure. Brown said earlier in the year he was “strongly opposed” to Prop 53 on the grounds it would hinder needed infrastructure repairs, and reconstruction after natural disasters. Cortopassi says the measure would bring needed transparency to state funding of big projects.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.