Recently, the Los Angeles Times exposed that special interest groups representing certain “business” interests in Sacramento have put serious pressure on the California Republican Party not to fund the potential candidacy of Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen in a bid against incumbent State Senator Kathleen Galgiani, a Democrat.
Olsen, who sits on a war chest of nearly $400k, would be a formidable candidate in what is seen as a tough-but-winnable district for the GOP. It would be a much-needed pick-up for the minority party, which currently holds only 14 of 40 seats.
In the Times piece, Olsen herself is quoted as saying, “The party has made a commitment to various interests that they will not spend party resources in Senate District 5.”
Galgiani is apparently considered by some to be a “pro-business” Democrat in a legislature dominated by hard-core leftists and union stooges. On a tally recently released by the big-business dominated California Chamber of Commerce, Galgiani voted in accordance with the chamber’s positions on 8 out of 13 pieces of key legislation.
This play by the big business interests in Sacramento represents the most glaring move yet to weigh in with support for legislators in the party of Obama who are willing, at least some of the time, to buck left-wing orthodoxy. It certainly also highlights the dependency of Golden State Republicans, for whom fundraising is extremely difficult, on the so called “third house”–the moneyed interests around the State Capitol.
This play by the big-business folks in Sacramento is both ironic and instructive to Republicans who would seek to curry their favor.
In 2012 there was a major effort pushed by a lot of these Sacramento interests to extend a $2.3 billion car tax (around $20 per year per automobile) that was set to expire in 2014 (the bill would have extended the taxes to 2024). First enacted during the Schwarzenegger administration, a big chunk of the car tax funds go to Schwarzenegger’s favored “hydrogen highway” program, and a huge chunk goes to provide economic relief for businesses hit hard by the state’s draconian environmental regulations (so a shifting of the financial burden from the actual impacted businesses to all car owners). While the effort to extend these taxes (Senate Bill 1455), failed in the State Senate in 2012, that was not before Kristin Olsen, in a rather high-profile manner, provided a crucial vote to pass it in the State Assembly.
Olsen, in her first and only competitive campaign for the GOP nomination in her “safe” Assembly seat, signed the Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax pledge. A promise not to raise taxes is very important to a beleaguered Republican primary voter in such a highly taxed state.
For decades, Sacramento interests have both privately and publicly scorned legislators who sign ATR’s tax pledge, or who make similar public commitments to draw a firm line in the sand against higher taxes. It has always been the case that in order to pass taxes in legislature, it takes a two-thirds vote, which has always required Republican votes. (That was true even in the 2013-2014 session when technically the GOP dropped below a third in each chamber–so many Democrats were under criminal indictment and weren’t voting that Republican support was still needed.).
Not only did Olsen break her no-tax pledge to the voters of her district, but she then she penned an op-ed that ran in the Sacramento Bee newspaper a few weeks later blasting the pledge, expressing her regret for having signed it, and finally rejecting it. Olsen said, “Signing a pledge that is subject to arbitrary interpretations serves no purpose. To grow the Republican Party, we have to get away from relying solely on ‘No’ messages.”
It is worth noting that the following legislative session, the car tax extension (Assembly Bill 8) did pass and was signed by Governor Brown. Republicans voting for it included Senators Anthony Cannella, Bill Emmerson, Jean Fuller, Bob Huff, and Andy Vidak; and Assemblymembers Katcho Achadjian, Frank Bigelow and, of course, Kristin Olsen.
In many respects this rejection of a “line in the sand” against tax increases should make Olsen the poster child for the kind of Republican that wheeling-and-dealing special interests groups would want in the State Senate. But yet when it comes down to it, it is apparently more valuable to them to have a malleable Democrat than a “flexible” Republican.
And thus the irony. Olsen has really done everything “right” to be attractive to these Sacramento special interests. What more can they ask for than a Republican who is willing to embrace higher taxes?
Which should probably serve as an instructive lesson to any Republicans in Sacramento who are being wooed to support some big-government play. All the sweet words and firm promises don’t count for much from a group of mercenaries who quickly discard those they have successfully plied in the past in search of their next deal.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.