Re: California Political Action Budget
To: Hiram Drivell, Vice-President Governmental Relations, CONFAB Corp.
From: Morris Dewey, legislative advocate, Dewey, Cheatam & Howe.
Re: California political action budget
While keenly aware of the financial constraints facing CONFAB and other corporations in its sector, as your chief California lobbyist, I must respectfully request a significant increase in funds available for campaign contributions.
Based on the volume of fund-raising engaged in by California lawmakers, CONFAB’s current budget will be expended within the next several weeks.
I am also keenly aware that the 2008 legislative session here has been underway for a scant six weeks. However, the zeal with which these lawmakers pursue fund-raising appears to be boundless, constrained by neither conscience nor good taste.
This unfortunate situation is exacerbated by the quest of perhaps as many as one dozen Assembly members to replace the current speaker, Fabian Nunez.
As you may know, voters truncated Nunez’s political career in Sacramento by rejecting a February ballot measure that would allow him and other similarly situated legislators to remain in state office for several more years.
It is regrettable voters took such a myopic view. Had the measure passed, it would have led to less turnover in the Assembly and the Senate. That, in turn, would have sharply reduced the necessary investment levels of CONFAB and other parties committed to the creation of well-crafted legislation.
Indeed, the speakership turmoil and the concomitant uncertainty over policy decisions have compelled attendance at fund-raisers lobbyists of our firm’s caliber would normally eschew.
Last night, for instance, several fellow legislative advocates e-mailed me asking if I was attending a cocktail reception in which attendees were invited to donate $3,600, $2,500 or $1,000 to buttress the re-election efforts of Karen Bass, allegedly the first choice of Nunez to succeed him. Karen Bass, incidentally, wouldn’t give CONFAB a vote if you opened a 5,000-employee manufacturing facility in her district.
The prospect of attending that event was nearly as unappetizing as a Valentine’s Day breakfast with Nunez’s friend since childhood, Assemblyman Kevin De Leon. Again, a $3,600, $2,500 or $1,000 affair. With luck, the food might be more palatable than the candy hearts on the invitation.
Charles Calderon, a pliant Democrat and grasper for the speakership, hosts a $1,000-a-person cocktail reception on February 20. I regret to say CONFAB’s interests would be best served by attendance.
Indeed, the month of February may set an all-time record for fund-raisers – at last count more than 65 – and, as yet, legislators haven’t even take advantage of the extra Leap Year day.
This orgy of fund-raising occurs at a time when lawmakers purport to be weighing actions that will staunch the flow of red ink from California’s $129 billion budget. The Legislature has a February 23 deadline to act on some $871 million in spending cuts proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger for the current fiscal year.
Nearly half of those reductions would fall on public schools. By June, as you’re probably aware, the remainder of a projected $14.5 billion gap between revenue and spending commitments must also be closed. Would that comparable energy was expended on creative budget solutions as on solicitations for campaign cash.
As one wag said yesterday, the hole in the budget is almost as much money as legislators hope to generate in contributions this year.
Returning to the issue of CONFAB’s political action budget: On February 12 there were six events, which, at a minimum, cost $7,100 to attend. On the 13th, nine fund-raisers are scheduled – five cocktail receptions, one dinner, two breakfasts and one lunch. Minimum cost of attendance: $9,250.
Were a value to be appended to each event, the dinner is probably the best deal since it is at The Kitchen, an excellent Sacramento eatery albeit with a tendency toward rather rich food. The evening benefits Sen. Ron Calderon, a Democrat who while not quite as pliant as his older brother, has, upon occasion, voted for CONFAB’s interests.
However, it is the following two weeks that are most alarming – and which prompt this memo.
From the 19th through the end of February – a 10-day period – there are 47 events scheduled. One fund-raiser, it should be noted, benefits the perinatal recovery network of a local hospital – a cause that does not intersect with CONFAB’s business priorities.
On February 20th alone, 15 fund-raisers are scheduled. Another 13 are set for the 27th. As you know, the legislative session continues through August.
A rudimentary calculation brings the minimum tally for attending all 47 February events – including the aforementioned hospital fund-raiser — to $55,350. That figure represents more than 25 percent of CONFAB’S entire 2008 fiscal year budget for political participation in this state.
The term “event” is used advisedly since one fund-raising appeal appears to simply be a request for cash.
Jerome Horton, a former Southern California Democratic Assembly member, is running for the Senate after a two-year hiatus from public service. He urges donors to join him, on or before February 28, in “toasting new beginnings with a glass of your favorite beverage and a contribution to my campaign.”
He seeks $3,600 but is willing to allow givers to “do what you can.”
Horton concludes with this potentially actionable sentence, linking contributions to positive legislative outcome: “I will always remember you were there when I needed you most.”
He attempts to leaven this rather overt quid pro quo by adding: “I’ve learned that a relationship, not money, is the milk of politics. So if for some reason you decide not to support my campaign please share your thoughts.”
Abstinence in this race seems the prudent course.
It is worth stressing the $55,350 total is the minimum amount to attend. A number of lawmakers encourage contributions of $3,600 rather than the $1,000 minimum.
Parenthetically, in the interest of frugality, I recommend contributing no more than the minimum – if anything – to Republican lawmakers. Their votes are already secure.
Similarly, I strongly advise against contributing anything to GOP candidates, in contested or uncontested primaries. They have no state track record in support of CONFAB’s objectives and, as Republicans, will vote pro-business regardless.
I confess to unfamiliarity with the political affiliation of Judy Lloyd, a candidate for the 15th Assembly District. She might also be a Republican. If you will forgive a bit of editorializing, should she be victorious she’ll have little trouble filling the footprints left by the incumbent during his six-year tenure.
I believe we can safely ignore a $1,000 February 19 breakfast to support the U.S. Senate candidacy of Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia. As I understand it, CONFAB’s business presence is negligible in the Peach State.
Nonetheless, these cost cutting measures do not significantly reduce the requisite scope of CONFAB’s financial participation.
Despite their lack of support for most issues of concern to CONFAB, Democrats have scheduled the bulk of the fund-raisers -– 25, to be exact. Perhaps a modest contribution, particularly to members of the Appropriations and Revenue & Taxation committees, might cause them to be more attentive to CONFAB’s concerns.
It may behoove CONFAB to back more moderate Democrats in the June primary, as several groups like the state Chamber of Commerce do, in an attempt to bring more business-friendly Democrats into office.
To place February’s fund-raising tally in perspective, another 29 events for various candidates are scheduled for the first two weeks in March alone.
Among them is a two-day, $5,000 per person trip to spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona. Perhaps Mrs. Drivell would welcome a sojourn at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, given temperatures in your part of the country.
Since the pace of fund-raising will wax rather than slacken as the legislative session progresses — and issues of significance to CONFAB begin to move through committees — I accordingly urge CONFAB to increase its political action budget by $100,000 as expeditiously as possible.
As we have done previously, CONFAB’S contributions will be meted out judiciously and strategically to maximize the success of CONFAB’S legislative agenda.
You know how to contact me should there be further questions on this memorandum. Awaiting your response,
Morris Dewey, legislative advocate
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