Perata raises almost $1 million for infrastructure plan
|The following appeared in CCapitol Weekly today|
As legislative leaders and the governor have been negotiating the details of Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposed infrastructure bond package, Senate leader Don Perata has been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote his own infrastructure plan.
Since Feb. 1, Perata has raised $570,000 into a candidate-controlled committee, Rebuilding California, that he established last May. Since the committee's inception, Perata has raised almost $1 million--much of it in large contributions that do not fall under the Proposition 34 donation limits, because Rebuilding California is an issue advocacy account.
The three top donors to the committee, each at $100,000, are insurance companies Ameriquest Capital and Mercury General, and John Moores, a University of California regent and owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team.
Perata spokesman Paul Hefner said that the Senate leader, like other politicians before him, is using a non-Prop. 34 limited account because he is engaged in issue advocacy.
"You can use a tennis racket to try to hit home runs but the rules say you can use a baseball bat so we are using a baseball bat," said Hefner. Much of the money Perata has raised comes from those interests with the most at stake in the details of the infrastructure package.
Granite Construction, for example, donated $10,000 to Perata's account in December. Granite is one of a small number of companies with experience using design-build, a construction method that Schwarzenegger has proposed to expand in his infrastructure package.
The Granite website describes the company as "a pioneer and leader in Design-Build" that has "built more than $4 billion in Design-Build projects in the last decade".
Two other organizations that have been proponents of design-build, the Consulting Engineering and Land Surveyors and the Association of General Contractors kicked in $25,000 and $15,000, respectively. Other construction companies have given to Perata, as well. In February, CH2M Hill donated $12,000 and the Albert D. Seeno Construction company gave $50,000. Numerous real estate developers have also donated.
In February, Sunset Development, Ponderosa Homes and the Vineyards at Marsh Creek donated $5,000, $15,000 and $25,000, respectively. Ponderosa Homes gave another $10,000 last October.
New infrastructure invariably benefits real estate developers as better roads, less traffic, and a steady water supply drive sale prices up. But developers also have a particular interest in education bonds.
If there is no state education bond money available to build new schools,local districts can levy fees on developers for up to the full cost of new school construction. By most estimates, the state still has $4 billion in unused education bonds, but education experts expect that money will be gone by 2008, so developers are keen to have sizable education bonds included in this year's infrastructure package.
Other major Perata donors include two of the state's major utility providers, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, which each gave $50,000.
One other notable donor is Jerry Perenchio, the billionaire owner of the Spanish-language television network, Univision, who gave $5,000. Perenchio is one of Schwarzenegger's largest donors.
Perata is not the only politician to raise large chunks of money during the bond negotiations. Gov. Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign fundraising has recently started to pick up, garnering $1.78 million in contributions since the beginning of February.
Hefner said that there is no conflict with donations coming from those with a stake in the infrastructure package.
"The folks who are supporting our efforts are the folks who believe, as the senator does, that we need to take action on the problems of California's infrastructure," said Hefner. "And we are happy to have their support." Last year, the Rebuilding California committee spent $178,000, of $70,000 went to campaign consultant Sandra Polka and $3,000 went to Paul Hefner.
This year, the money has largely funded television advertising in rural, typically Republican parts of the state. The campaign went on the air on Feb. 10 with a $275,000 ad buy and, according to Hefner, "We are still on the air."
The money also went to fund the creation of the Web site, perataplan.com, which is promoted in the television spots and has received 8700 page views and 2,600 unique viewers since its launch.
Hefner said the television ads are important to establish the Senate president pro tem's plan as different from Schwarzenegger's.
"Our purpose here was not so much to build the pro tem's name said Hefner. "It was to give his proposal an identity separate from the governor because…the way to tank something right now is to attach the governor's name to it."