Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Prop. 11 gets GOP bucks, but is it a 'power grab?'

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a sampling of political writer Josh Richman's blog, The Political Blotter. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

Oct. 23

While starting to compile my "This week in big-time campaign cash" roundup for tomorrow, I noticed a sudden burst of donations to support Proposition 11, the legislative redistricting reform measure, came in Saturday (Oct. 18) from far, far away:

$250,000 — Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

$75,000 — Fourth Quarter Properties XII LLC; Newnan, Ga.

$50,000 — Ashbritt Inc.; Pompano Beach, Fla.

$50,000 — Ashbritt CEO Randal R. Perkins; Parkland, Fla.

$50,000 — The GEO Group Inc. PAC; Boca Raton, Fla.

$25,000 — AutoNation Inc.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

$25,000 — lobbyist/attorney Ronald Book; Aventura, Fla.

$25,000 — Eastern Waste Systems Inc.; Pompano Beach, Fla.

So, who are these folks taking such an interest in California redistricting?

Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler partner/founder Scott Rothstein has raised at least $500,000 for John McCain. He and his wife have given McCain $113,100; partner Stuart Rosenfeldt and his wife have given McCain $135,600; and partner Russell Adler and his wife have given McCain $80,000.

Fourth Quarter Properties owner Stanley Thomas is a significant AdvertisementRepublican donor who was involved in a controversial land deal with Gov. Sonny Perdue, R-Georgia, a few years ago.

Ashbritt CEO Randal Perkins has raised at least $100,000 for John McCain, and his firm was in the middle of a flap over big companies getting small-business contracts for the Hurricane Katrina clean-up; he and his wife have given McCain $78,600.

GEO Group founder, chairman and CEO George Zoley was a Bush Pioneer, having raised at least $100,000 for the president's re-election in 2004.

Autonation founder H. Wayne Huizenga bundled contributions for Mitt Romney but later gave $47,025 to John McCain this year.

Ronald Book has given $35,000 to John McCain.

Eastern Waste Systems owner Angelo Marzano is the only one on this list who gave more money to Democrats than to Republicans in this election cycle.

So by and large, these donations are Republican money coming in from afar.

And even so, I still don't see how Proposition 11 is a "Republican power grab," as some foes claim.

First of all, it's telling that Prop. 11's supporters include not only nonpartisan groups well-versed in fair elections — such as California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters — but also prominent Democrats including former state Controller Steve Westly, former Gov. Gray Davis, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and a slew of Democratic state and local officials and candidates who've bucked their party's opposition to the measure.

But second, and perhaps more important, the way Proposition 11 would work seems to belie any party advantage.

The measure would take responsibility for redistricting the Assembly, state Senate and Board of Equalization away from the Legislature and give it to a 14-person commission.

Applicants to serve on this commission, or their immediate relatives, could not in the past decade have been a political candidate for state or federal office; been a lobbyist; or contributed $2,000 or more in any year to a political candidate. The nonpartisan State Auditor's office would create a panel of three auditors to narrow the applicant pool to 60 — 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, 20 of neither party — and then the two Democratic and two Republican leaders of the Legislature each would be able to strike two applicants from each of the three subsets, thus reducing the pool by a maximum of 24, from 60 to 36.

From those remaining names, the state auditor would then randomly draw the first eight commissioners, and those eight would pick the remaining six. But the panel would have to end up with five Democrats, five Republicans and four of neither party, and no redistricting plan could be approved without the consent of at least three Democrats, three Republicans and three of neither party.

So how is that a Republican power grab? Sure, it takes redistricting authority away from a Legislature likely to have a Democratic majority for the foreseeable future, but it doesn't seem to put that authority in any particular party's hands. And just because you have a majority doesn't mean you get to fix the game.

UPDATE @ 3:14 P.M.: The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert is now reporting that the Democratic-backed campaign against Proposition 11 has paid $30,000 for a spot on a Republican slate mailer accusing the redistricting measure of having a "hidden agenda to give liberal Democrats lifetime control of Congress" even after months of arguing it's a Republican power grab. Hypocrisy, thy name is electoral politics.

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