Good morning, California.

“Remember, whenever a bank CEO says capital requirements are holding back lending, it’s utter nonsense.” — California’s 2014 Republican gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari, now president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, tweeting Monday about a Financial Times article detailing huge dividends being paid to investors.

Why the attorney general matters

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has stepped in to defend Obamacare against a broad constitutional challenge by Republican attorneys general, after the Trump administration dropped its defense.

Background: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a suit against Obamacare on behalf of 19 other red states. The suit includes a challenge to the law’s guarantee of health coverage for preexisting conditions.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions dropped the Justice Department’s defense of Paxton’s suit earlier this month, concluding there was no legal basis to defend it.

Becerra, who as a congressman helped write the Affordable Care Act, has stepped in to defend the law on behalf of 17 other states.

Becerra: “Since the Trump Administration refuses to defend the ACA, a coalition of states led by California has stepped up to protect the millions of Americans whose healthcare is at risk due to this reckless lawsuit.”

Steve Bailey, Becerra’s Republican opponent in the November election, declined to comment through a spokesman on what he would do if he were in office.

Why it matters: If Texas were to win and the Affordable Care Act is struck down, Uncle Sam’s $25 billion in health care subsidies to California would be at risk, as would health coverage for millions of people.

P.S. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Wichita Falls, Texas, is hearing the case. In an earlier challenge to Obamacare, O’Connor ruled that doctors could refuse to treat transgender people, despite the Affordable Care Act’s command to the contrary.


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Money behind state attorneys general

The Republican Attorneys General Association regularly outspends its Democratic counterpart, an indication that big Republican donors understand the importance of state attorneys general.

In the 2016 campaign, the association representing Republican attorneys general spent $26.2 million, compared with the Democratic association’s $10 million.

Since the start of 2017, the GOP organization has raised $13 million, including $3.1 million from the Judicial Crisis Network; $740,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and $455,000 from Koch Industries.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association has raised half that, though it has lofty plans for gaining seats in 2018. Its largest donors: $150,000 from Planned Parenthood, and $100,000 from the Teamsters and Carpenters unions, and Everytown for Gun Safety.

The Republican Attorneys General Association last week announced it would be spending no less than $4.7 million on races in Arizona, Ohio and Nevada.

The GOP association has endorsed Steven Bailey, the Republican challenging California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. However, in such a blue state, there’s no indication that the organization will spend money on Bailey.

Steve Ballmer takes his shot

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer at Café Á Côté in Sacramento on Monday.

Steve Ballmer, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team and one of the nation’s richest men, swooped into the Capitol on Monday to seek support for legislation that would speed resolution of any suit to block a new arena he wants to build in Inglewood.

It’s part of a furious lobbying fight ahead of a committee hearing Wednesday on legislation backed by Ballmer and his team.

His opponents: Owners of two other Los Angeles arenas, the Forum and Staples Center, which the Clippers currently share with the Lakers. The State Building and Constructions Trade Council opposes the legislation, contending it would weaken the California Environmental Quality Act.

I asked Ballmer why are they opposed.

“They’re our competitors. These are guys who are trying to make money. They say, ‘Hey, why not restrain competition?’”

Tom Steyer talks impeachment; and Kevin de León

Tom Steyer talks about his campaign to impeach Donald Trump in Sacramento on Monday.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer brought his impeach Donald Trump campaign to Sacramento Monday, filling a room with more than 300 people and more in the parking lot.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she opposes impeachment talk, warning it could politicize Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump, energize Trump’s base, and distract from the Democrats’ campaign themes focusing on the economy and health care.

Steyer told the crowd that 5.4 million people have signed his impeachment petition. “If we don’t speak up when the president breaks the law … we’re normalizing that behavior.”

Money matters: Steyer has spent $29 million on elections in the 2017-18 election cycle, more than anyone else so far, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports. After his talk, Steyer told me he would not use a candidate’s stand on impeachment as a “litmus test.”

Steyer has endorsed state Sen. Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat, to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this November, and  lauded de León’s tenure as Senate president pro tem: “In terms of how much more we get involved, I don’t know.”

Walters: Electricity and legislators don’t mix

CALmatters’ commentator Dan Walters wonders what could possibly go wrong when California legislators turn their attention to a highly complex question involving electricity, one of the world’s richest men, federal regulators and states that embrace coal and nuclear power.

Two words: Electricity deregulation.

 

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, dmorain@calmatters.org, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here. See you tomorrow.