Capitol Alert

Gas tax wars + Congressional clashes + Garcetti 2020?

Carl DeMaio, who is leading the Proposition 6 campaign to repeal a recent gas tax increase, says he wants a federal investigation into allegations that public money is being used to campaign against the measure.
Carl DeMaio, who is leading the Proposition 6 campaign to repeal a recent gas tax increase, says he wants a federal investigation into allegations that public money is being used to campaign against the measure. AP

Have California transportation officials who benefit from the recent increases to state fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees stepped over the legal line to defend the new funding?

Supporters of Proposition 6 on Wednesday accused several local agencies of using public resources to improperly campaign against the initiative to repeal the taxes and fees. They are asking the district attorneys in Sacramento and San Francisco and the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate.

“This is inexcusable,” Carl DeMaio, chairman of the Yes on Prop 6 campaign, said at a press conference, “for state politicians to stay they don’t have enough money to fill potholes, but they are using gas tax money to campaign.”

DeMaio released a collection of emails in which the director of government relations for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency considered how the city could “support the anti-repeal campaign” and a communications manager for the Sacramento Regional Transit District discussed developing an “educational campaign” that would be “related to the potential gas tax repeal.”

It also an included an email, sent out by the Bay Area-based Metropolitan Transportation Commission, with a “myths vs. fact” explainer about Proposition 6 for the public.

California law allows government agencies to issue informational communications related to a campaign, but activity that “expressly advocates or unambiguously urges a particular result in an election” is banned. The line between the two can get very hazy.

Representatives for the agencies said they never told anyone how to vote on Proposition 6; they were simply helping people understand how critical the new funding is for their work.

“The education shows the public where their tax money is going,” said Devra Selenis, a spokeswoman for SacRT, who added that their “educational campaign” amounted to one event discussing the benefits of the fee hikes. John Goodwin, of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said, “we’re very keen to make voters aware of the issues that are at stake in next month’s election.”

That’s irrelevant to DeMaio, who said the emails demonstrate a clear political motive to oppose Proposition 6: “These folks are not stupid. They’re arrogant.”


It’s a month out from Election Day, and in the heavily-contested Congressional races in California that could help decide control of the House, things are heating up.

In Orange County, embattled GOP incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher released a digital ad saying he is “taking on both parties” to fight for patients with pre-existing conditions, potentially blunting a campaign attack Democrats are using in many districts.

East of San Diego, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, under indictment for alleged campaign finance violations, unveiled a new ad saying Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar is being financed by terrorists.

Josh Harder, the Democrat running to unseat GOP Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock, picks up his “16 town halls in 16 weeks” approach with a stop in Patterson tonight and a “Latino Town Hall” and an “African-American and Black Town Hall,” both in Modesto on Saturday.

Former Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim, now vying for the Orange County Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Ed Royce, announced a fund-raising lunch next week with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

And in a campaign exchange playing out in numerous districts, Democrat Mike Levin and Republican Diane Harkey debated Tuesday night and tussled over President Donald Trump. They are vying to replace Rep. Darrell Issa in a San Diego-based district. “Some people don’t like his style,” Harkey said of Trump, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. “But on substance, on the economy, which hits people’s pockets, we need to keep that going.”


Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and one-time gubernatorial hopeful Antonio Villaraigosa appeared chummy in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday. Villaraigosa, a Democrat and the former Los Angeles mayor who fell short in the June gubernatorial primary, tweeted a video of he and Schwarzenegger, a Republican, doing bicep curls, side by side. “Working out with the Governator,” Villaraigosa tweeted. Schwarzenegger, in country shooting Terminator 6, called the reps in Spanish.


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will appear at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club today at noon, in conversation with KQED’s Scott Shafer. The show will be live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook Live.

Garcetti is seen as a potential presidential hopeful in two years. But is he really?

Read the description of today’s appearance from his political adviser, Yusef Robb:

“With technology, the economy and the world moving so fast, Mayor Garcetti will discuss Washington’s inability to adapt fast enough to prepare Americans for the future and contrast that with the progress being made by local government. Mayor Garcetti will contrast the indecency and dysfunction that defines Washington today with the true nature of the American people and what they want and need, and will argue that while Washington sows division — urban vs rural, coastal vs heartland, immigrant vs born here — the real division in this country is between Washington and the rest of us.”


With an FBI investigation pending and a Senate confirmation vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh looming, a variety of Sacramento-based women’s rights groups plan a vigil tonight, 5:30 p.m. on the west steps of the state Capitol, to “tell our senators to believe women and stop Kavanaugh.”

Speakers include Alicia Lewis of We Said Enough, Cheri Greven of Planned Parenthood, Ruth Ibarra of Coalition of Labor Union Women, Capitol Chapter, Liz Kim of The National Lawyers Guild, Jacquelyn Foust of The Sacramento LGBT Center and Anita Ross of Women for Equality.


Alex Vassar (@AlexCVassar) — Storm clouds gathering.


Which party’s voters will be more motivated: Democrats or Republicans? Influencers have plenty to say.

“The better question is what is the least important thing to watch in the closing weeks of the campaign. Under that heading, we should add polling. Polling prior to 2016 was notoriously wrong, even for the credible pollsters with good reputations. The Kavanaugh debacle makes for fairly disgusting theatre, but will probably serve only to increase voter turnout on both sides. Probably a wash. Unless there is some bombshell of bad economic news – unlikely at this stage of the game – the resurgence economy will likely inure to the benefit of Republicans. The nearly doubling of positive perceptions of President Trump by African Americans is notable but it is impossible to determine if this will translate into bigger turnout at the polls.”

— Jon Coupal – President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

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