Scramble of State Politics Leaves Business in the Middle

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

As state politics is scrambled from the left and the right, it is appropriate to wonder where the big business community comes down when donating to candidates in the next statewide election.

There is a revolt in both parties. Republican activists want the Assembly leader, Chad Mayes, to give up his leadership post—indeed some want him to resign from office—because he rounded up votes to help pass the cap-and-trade bill. He secured enough Republican votes to allow some Democrats in competitive districts to vote against the cap-and-trade bill and thus allow those Democrats to avoid having to explain the increase costs of gasoline and goods and services that are expected to accompany the extended cap-and-trade regulations.

But major business organizations favored cap-and-trade, echoing Mayes’ reasoning that if the cap-and-trade bill were not passed a more onerous command and control mandate would come down on business from the Air Resources Board to reduce greenhouse gases.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is hearing it from the left wing of the Democratic Party over stopping the single payer health care bill because of extraordinary costs, among other reasons.

But the major business organizations also saw the single payer plan and its enormous price tag as a real threat to the California economy and was happy to see the bill go away, at least for now.

Then there was the gas tax the legislature passed in April. That was mostly accomplished with Democratic votes and there was a question right up to the time the vote occurred that some Democrats would vote No denying the required two-thirds vote to pass.

But the major business organizations wanted the gas tax to pass to improve the state’s infrastructure, which in turn, they argued, would help the state’s economic fortunes.

An official with one of the business organizations told me his group would not attack the Democrats for their gas tax vote. Does that assume they won’t help Republicans who voted against the tax?

As California continues to veer toward becoming a one-party state the business community has adjusted accordingly. Donations make their way to Democrats in greater numbers.

One caveat could be that business dollars might flow to Republicans who challenge the Democrats who voted against cap-and-trade—if those Republican candidates support the business position. But then such a candidate would be at odds with activist members of the party.

Traditional business and Republican Party alliances have indeed been scrambled by recent actions in the legislature.

The major players in the business community have been counted on to help fill Republican campaign coffers. No question, business interests would like to see a more balanced and competitive legislature. More Republican members would help protect business interests.

But with many Republicans taking positions counter to the agenda of the major business organizations, while Democrats support those positions, it puts business donors in an awkward position. Will business reevaluate giving priorities in the coming election? Something a battered Republican Party does not want to hear.

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