In summary

Schools brace for impact of coronavirus. PAC exploits campaign finance loophole in Assembly race. American Indepdenent Party losers a voter.

Good morning, California.

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  • The bot will track live results for the presidential primary, Proposition 13, and selected congressional and legislative races, @calmatterselect.

Coronavirus update

California lacks the test kits and face masks needed to brace for a spread of the coronavirus — shown here in an illustration via the Centers for Disease Control.
Illustration of the coronavirus. Rendering via CDC image library

As the first two coronavirus deaths were reported in the United States, California schools and universities were preparing for the potential that COVID-19 will disrupt learning and worry students and their parents.

Among the developments:

Earlier: The feds on Friday dropped efforts to house people with symptoms at Fairview Development Center in Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa’s city council had won a temporary court order blocking its use.

The California Department of Public Health said in a statement that Costa Mesa’s lawsuit blocking Fairview’s use came as hospital bed space “was critically needed.”

  • “Having people who are not sick occupying available hospital beds placed a burden on the health care system and limits critical access for patients in a time of great need.”

Presumably, the Fairview question could be revisited as the virus spreads.

A $50,000 loophole

A mailer paid for by an independent expenditure committee to support state Senate candidate Sylvia Rubio. The funding group, Hope & Heritage, is funded by the pharmaceutical industry, the dialysis clinic operator Fresenius, and other large business.
A Hope & Heritage mailer’s “disclosure”

Hope & Heritage is a warm, fuzzy and democratic-sounding name for a political action committee. It also reflects the reality that clever consultants readily find loopholes in campaign finance restrictions.

CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports California legislators tried to shine light on independent campaigns by passing a law in 2017 requiring disclosure of their biggest donors on their ads and mailers. 

The catch: These committees are required to disclose top donors who give at least $50,000. If donors give, say, $49,000, their names need not be disclosed on the ads.

Hope & Heritage is spending heavily to promote Sylvia Rubio in her race for a Whittier-area Assembly seat.  But some top donors are not disclosed on the mailers.

Why: One donor, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, gave $49,500, $500 below the disclosure threshold. Another, Fresenius Medical Care, which operates dialysis clinics, gave $45,000. 

Trent Lange, of the California Clean Money Campaign, sponsored the 2017 transparency law:

  • “These examples of deceptively named campaign committees hiding their top funders by having them contribute $49,000 shows that we might have to revisit that threshold for local and legislative campaigns.”

To read Christopher’s piece, please click here.

Snookered no more

Screenshot of American Independent Party’s website

As of Feb. 18, 600,057 Californians were registered as members of the American Independent Party, more than all other third parties combined. It grew by 18% since the November 2016 presidential election. 

One was Tom McCown, a retired screenwriter in Los Angeles. No more.

Created to boost segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s 1968 presidential campaign, the American Independent Party is anti-abortion, pro-gun, and opposes same-sex marriage. It supported Donald Trump in 2016, and intends to do the same in 2020.

McCown and I struck up an email exchange, and I asked him why he was an AIP member.

McCown told me he signed up for the Vacaville-based American Independent Party in 2016 when he could not bring himself to vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton.

I took the liberty of sending him an L.A. Times story about the AIP, and he responded:

  • “I feel so stupid.”

McCown had good company. As The L.A. Times reported in 2016, Sugar Ray Leonard, Demi Moore, Emma Stone and Kaley Cuoco were AIP members.

On Saturday, McCown went to his polling place in L.A. with a mission. Poll workers initially were confused about how to handle his situation. He finally managed to change his registration to no-party preference, get a crossover ballot, and cast his vote:

  • Joe Biden.

P.S. Democratic Sen. Tom Umberg of Orange County carried legislation in 2019 to ban the use of “independent” in a party label. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed it, concluding it was probably unconstitutional.

A Newsom endorsement

Jennifer Siebel Newsom endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, an early endorser of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ ill-fated run for president, won’t say whom he is voting for in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary.

Not so First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom:

  • “Please think about your wives, your mothers, your sisters and your daughters. Vote your conscience, not what the pundits and the billionaires are telling you to do. Because Sen. Elizabeth Warren is electable.”

Siebel Newsom’s video: “And I can’t wait to see her debate Donald Trump”

What exactly is a bond?

All the James Bonds are on display in Madame Tussaud's in Berlin, Germany — but our video will take the mystery out of the bonds on your California ballot. Photo by: Britta Pedersen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
What exactly is a bond? (Photo by Britta Pedersen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Confused by the $15 billion bond on Tuesday’s ballot? You might want to check out CalMatters’ video, put together by Judy Lin and video journalist Byrhonda Lyons.

To view the video, please click here.

Eduardo Mendoza’s journey

Eduardo Mendoza kneels beside his bible and a picture of Jesus, which he keeps next to his bed so he can pray when he wakes at night. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Eduardo Mendoza kneels beside his Bible.

Eduardo Mendoza was a 66-year-old AIDS survivor on the verge of homelessness, when CalMatters’ Jackie Botts met him last summer in the East Bay industrial city of Pittsburg.

He was spending half of his Social Security check on rent for a room, and had lost 15 pounds. His food stamp interview was set for three months out. 

Then, on New Year’s Eve, Mendoza called Botts to tell her that his life was changing for the better.

A few crucial safety nets—most importantly, an affordable apartment of his own—helped Mendoza escape the daily maze of basic survival that many low-income Bay Area residents face. 

  • Mendoza: “I went from darkness to the light.”

To read about Mendoza’s journey, please click here

Botts’ story is part of a series called “On the Ground” from corps members of Report for America.

How to terminate homelessness

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke on homelessness at USC. (Photo by Tom Queally )

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has thoughts about what he’d do to terminate homelessness and California’s housing crisis.

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” CalMatters’ Matt Levin and The L.A. Times’ Liam Dillon get Schwarzenegger’s insights, some of them gleaned from his conversations with the homeless people outside Gold’s Gym in Venice.

To hear the pod, please click here.

  • Oh, and Schwarzenegger terminated CalMatters’ Jakob Lazzaro.

Photo of the Day

Gov. Newsom is having a playground installed in the courtyard outside the governor’s Capitol offices. (Photo by the governor’s staff)

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a smoking tent where he would fire up his cigars in the courtyard outside the governor’s suite of Capitol offices.

Jerry Brown had a few tables and chairs, austere.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, father of four, is in the process of installing a playground. It’s donated by Too Small to Fail, an organization whose leadership includes Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, and Jim Steyer, along with his brother, Tom.

  • Vicky Waters, Newsom’s spokeswoman: “Many of the governor’s office staff members are working parents, and having a welcoming environment where children can both play and learn at the same time, is very important to the governor.”

Commentary at CalMatters

Robin Swanson, Democratic strategist: Unless the Democratic nominee and Democratic Party find a candidate who connects with voters on an emotional level and creates a brand that sticks, we’re looking at another four years of a president who has mastered the con like no other.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A.: Democratic presidential candidates should focus on the issue that matters to California voters: health care, specifically Medicaid. Republican strategists understand the danger of being on the wrong side of the Medicaid expansion.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California officials want Californians to buy more zero-emission cars and use mass transit more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but so far Californians are not cooperating.


A note: This is my last week writing and editing WhatMatters before Emily Hoeven takes over.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.