Kamala Harris’ money, PG&E’s $6 million man and a $7 billion tax proposal

Good morning, California.

“I think at the end of the day the first 100 days have been shaped by two things: One is California is the most un-Trump state and the fact that we’re now in 48 lawsuits with the Trump administration.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom to Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler about his first 100 days in office.

Harris dominates CA money race

Kamala Harris' contributors include Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris raised more than $4.3 million from California donors for her presidential campaign in the first quarter of 2019, far more than her Democratic rivals, McClatchy reported.

Not surprisingly, Harris went to where the money is: Hollywood, Silicon Valley and attorneys. Californians made up 57 percent of the money Harris raised in increments of $200 or more between January and March. Federal law caps individual donations at $2,800 per election.

A review of Harris’ filing shows donors giving between $1,000 and $2,800 include:

  • L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner and former 49ers star Ronnie Lott.
  • Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, actors Sally Field and Jon Hamm, and actress Felicity Huffman, caught up in the college admissions scandal.
  • High-end lawyers including Howard Weitzman of Los Angeles, John Keker of San Francisco, John Burris of Oakland and Joseph Cotchett of Burlingame.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the front-runner nationally, raised $780,000 from California from donors who gave $200 or more. Sanders got 84 percent of his money from donors who gave less than $200; their identities are not disclosed.

McClatchy reports other candidates’ haul in donations of $200-plus from California:

  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, $870,000.
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, $500,000.
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, $480,000.
  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, $450,000.
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, $390,000 each.

Taking aim at $7 billion in tax breaks

Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara wants to roll back tax credits.

Backed by the California Teachers Association, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson detailed legislation Tuesday that could roll back more than $7 billion in annual tax credits and exemptions, unless they’re shown to stimulate economic activity.

  • One $2.3 billion-a-year tax provision lets multinational corporations choose their method of taxation. Another is a $230 million tax exemption on farm machinery. One dates to 1940.
  • The bill also cites a $1.7 billion-a-year tax credit that allows companies to reclaim costs related to research and development, and is aimed at helping tech and bio-tech companies.

Such credits take money from public schools, say Jackson and her backers, including the California Tax Reform Association and California School Boards Association.

Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat: “Are we wasting billions of taxpayer dollars or not?”

Carl Guardino, of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, referred to the idea of targeting the R&D credit: “It’s a great idea if California wants to relinquish its role as the epicenter of innovation and job creation. Otherwise, it’s a terrible idea.”

Prospects: The proposal, to be heard in May, will face opposition from farm groups, bio-tech firms, Silicon Valley and the California Chamber of Commerce. Legislative leaders have not taken a stand on the measure. Aspects of the bill could become part of an overall tax overhaul that could emerge in 2020.

PG&E’s $6 million man

William D. Johnson, PG&E's new CEO, will receive a $6 million annual salary.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s new chief executive will receive $6 million a year in salary and stock, plus a $3 million signing bonus, the bankrupt utility announced Tuesday in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

William D. Johnson, 65, also would be entitled to $2.5 million severance pay if he is terminated for reasons other than cause.

Johnson just retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was eligible for a $12.8 million retirement package from the Tennessee utility, the San Francisco Chronicle notes.

PG&E spokesman Andy Castagnola: “More than half of Mr. Johnson’s incentive compensation will be directly tied to safety performance and metrics, which PG&E believes significantly exceeds industry standards.”

A vulnerable Democrat's financial issues

U.S. Rep. TJ Cox, D-Fresno, has a troubled financial history.

Having unseated an incumbent Republican by 862 votes to capture a Central Valley congressional seat, Fresno Democrat TJ Cox may be the nation’s most vulnerable Democrat heading into the 2020 election.

Adding to his stress, McClatchy News reports that Cox’s financial history “includes multiple tax liens and a delinquent debt that caused the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to warn him that it could seize his property.”

David Valadao, the Kings County Republican who lost to Cox, hopes to retake his seat. Valadao has had money troubles, too. His dairy went bankrupt in 2018, and a bank seized the property to resolve $8 million in loans, the L.A. Times reported last year.

Take a number: $348,000

Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of Tulare discussed his Twitter lawsuit on Fox.

Congressman Devin Nunes, a Tulare Republican, raised $348,000 in 13 days after appearing on Fox to tout his suits against Twitter, Republican consultant Liz Mair and Nunes parody accounts including one called Devin Nunes’ cow, the Fresno Bee reports.

The Devin Nunes Cow account had about 1,000 followers before Nunes announced the suit on March 18. At last count, the cow parody had 633,000 Twitter followers, to Nunes’ 439,000 followers.

Douglas Jeffe, 1943-2019

Douglas Jeffe, a veteran campaign manager and consultant, died of apparent drowning in the Galapagos Islands, where he was vacationing with his wife, USC political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. Journalist Bill Boyarsky offered this tribute, writing that Doug, like his wife, were protégés of the late Assembly speaker Jesse M. Unruh.

Commentary at CALmatters

Dr. Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Seth A. Seabury, School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California: Early diagnosis and intervention is essential to attaining better outcomes for mental illness. But in the struggle to help people with mental illness cope, a powerful long-term tool has been overlooked: school. Education has an outsized impact on the prospects for people with serious mental disorders.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Senate Bill 861 is a prime example of how budget “trailer bills” are misused to bypass the usual legislative process.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.

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