Good morning, California. Heads up.

“The short attention span we’re creating in this millennium is actually very dangerous. It’s the unintended consequences of social media.”—Patrick Soon-Shiong, The Los Angeles Times’ new owner, on CNBC.

On California, Supreme Court and abortion

Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Californians care—personally and by large margins—about the next U.S. Supreme Court justice, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows. And abortion is one big reason for that. 

  • More California Democrats than Republicans, by a significant margin (74 percent vs. 63 percent), say the choice of the next high court justice is “personally very important” to them.
  • And no matter their party or ideology, Californians support Roe vs. Wade, the 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
  • The poll was conducted from Sept. 9-18. On Sept. 16, the Washington Post first detailed sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s embattled nominee.
  • Democrats had been warning that Kavanaugh could be the critical fifth vote to overturn the landmark decision, which is supported by 73 percent of likely California voters. Only 19 percent want it overturned, the poll showed.

PPIC president Mark Baldassare: “When people talk about voters being more motivated on the Democratic side, these are the sorts of findings people point to. Democrats are more focused on what’s at stake.”

The findings come as the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate prepares to push forward on the confirmation of Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the high court.

 Digging deeper:

  • California Republicans support Roe vs. Wade by 53-43 percent, the poll finds.
  • Conservatives support the decision 51-40 percent.
  • Asians are the ethnic group most supportive, at 78-11 percent.
  • Latino support is softest, but they still back legalized abortion 55-38 percent.

Trump factor: By a 61-37 margin, Californians disapprove of Trump’s performance. California women disapprove of him, 72-23 percent.

For more poll results, read CALmatters’ Ben Christopher’s report here.


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Newsom trounces Cox in money race

Gavin Newsom waves at the 2018 San Francisco Pride Parade

Democrat Gavin Newsom’s lead over Republican John Cox narrowed in the race for governor in the Public Policy Institute of California’s latest poll. But Newsom is trouncing Cox among money players, many of whom otherwise might side with Republicans.

  • Newsom raised at least $10.6 million since winning the top spot in the June 5 top-two primary.
  • Cox raised $4.6 million including $686,000 of his own money, campaign finance filings show.

Organized labor, Hollywood and wealthy Bay Area donors are Newsom’s primary money sources. That’s to be expected for a Democrat running in a heavily Democratic state.

  • Less expected: Since June 5, the California Real Estate Association, California Apartment Association, Citigroup, Blue Shield and Walgreens each have given Newsom $29,200, the maximum under state law.
  • Bank of America, Home Depot, and several farm groups have given Newsom donations of $5,000-$15,000. Expect more of the same as Election Day approaches.

Cox is relying on (other than himself) individuals, many of them retired and have little or no business before Sacramento.

Bottom line: Institutional donors see Newsom as a surer bet.


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High-interest lenders get a hard look

A payday lender in Sacramento.

California’s chief financial regulator announced an investigation Wednesday aimed at a key link in the predatory lending industry: online companies that refer people in need of quick cash to lenders.

  • The Department of Business Oversight sent letters to 20 high-interest lenders, seeking detailed information on business practices including their use of “lead generators,” which connect lenders and borrowers.
  • The 20 lenders made a combined 745,145 consumer loans of between $2,500 to $9,999, nearly half of which had annual percentage interest rates of 100 percent or more.
  • And the lenders earned a combined $662 million from consumer loans of $2,500 or higher.

In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission called lead generation “the most pervasive industry that nobody knows about.”

In 2018, the California Senate killed legislation to regulate lead generators. The Department of Business Oversight pushed for the bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Monique Limón of Santa Barbara.

Money matters: Through the end of June, lead generators and their trade groups spent $230,000 lobbying in the legislative session. Third quarter lobbying disclosures won’t be available until next month.

To see CALmatters coverage of this issue, click here.

Farmers join climate change war

At least 80 California farmers have enlisted in the war on climate change by embarking on a new state-funded project to farm in ways that capture carbon in soil, CALmatters’ contributor Alastair Bland reports.

  • The California Healthy Soils Initiative started relatively small last year with $7.5 million in grants funded by the cap-and-trade program. It will receive $15 million this year.

Bland: “Participating farmers add heavy layers of compost to invigorate plant growth while avoiding tilling, which exposes raw soil to the air and allows carbon atoms to bond with oxygen and float off as carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas.”

Cattle farmer Loren Poncia: “What I really think would be awesome is if the federal government went from subsidizing corn and soybeans and rice to subsidizing carbon, assuming we could find a really good measuring tool for soil carbon.”

Bills, bills, bills

Campaign disclosure now applies to social media ads.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Wednesday to:

  • Help minorities, including those with past drug convictions, get into the legal marijuana business, via $10 million in state loans and grants. (Author: Sen. Steve Bradford, Gardena Democrat.)
  • Require disclosure of the top three funders behind campaign ads on social media. (Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, South San Francisco Democrat.)

And the governor vetoed:

  • Legislation to allow employers, coworkers, and school personnel to obtain gun violence restraining orders against people thought to be unstable. Brown said people can obtain the orders by turning to police or family members. (Assemblyman Phil Ting, San Francisco Democrat.)

Commentary from CALmatters

Dan Dunmoyer: California is 75,000 units short each year on needed new homes and yet housing projects have been delayed for years because of time-consuming permitting, mitigation and local approval processes, or litigation abuse invoking environmental regulations. All that adds to costs. If policymakers don’t take a hard look at how to lower building costs, we will never build enough housing to alleviate this crisis.

Dan Walters: The Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday shows a tightening U.S. Senate race between incumbent Dianne Feinstein and challenger Kevin de Leon, both Democrats.

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See you tomorrow.