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Campaign Notebook: The week in California politics

This week, a group called The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles announced what they say will be a $1-million campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.

But finding out where the money comes from – if and when it actually does come – is virtually impossible. By passing major political donations through nonprofit groups, conservative and liberal groups alike skirt the spirit of campaign finance disclosure laws and make tracing the true source of political money increasingly difficult.

A new Supreme Court ruling has made it easier for independent groups to participate in federal elections, as long as they don’t coordinate with the candidates themselves. The Latino Partnership is just the latest of these groups to materialize. It is a newly created offshoot of American Principles in Action, a 501(c)(4) organization that serves as the nonprofit political arm of a group called the American Principles Project. The sources of the organization’s money are not disclosed to the public. The American Principles Project’s website says it is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting conservative candidates and values.

None of the three organizations has filed financial records with the Internal Revenue Service – nor are they required to. Because of the ways the laws are written, the amount of money spent by the group will not likely be known until after the election, and the sources of the funding are never required to be disclosed publicly.

The Latino Partnership’s board of directors includes anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and telenovela star Karyme Lozano.

Lozano has been active in the fight against abortion. But she also has some fans in the gay community. Lozano was named queen of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade in 2008.

The group on whose board she serves – like Carly Fiorina – is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Alfonso Aguiar, executive director of the Latino Partnership, said they are hoping to spend up to $1 million on Spanish and English-language radio and Internet ads urging California Latinos to “vote their values.”

“In this race for the Senate, we have a candidate who shares our values in Carly Fiorina,” Aguiar said. “She is pro-life. She believes in traditional marriage. Basic values of the Latino community.

“The strategic mistake Democrats are making is to assume that Latinos are so gullible that every Republican candidate is anti-Hispanic,” Aguiar said.

The group, which does not have a long history in politics, has some familiar players behind the scenes. Among them is conservative Princeton professor Robert George. Aguiar said the group’s money comes from “conservative donors and large individual donations,” but he did not provide any names of donors to either the Latino Partnership or American Principles in Action.

GOVERNOR’S RACE DEGENERATES TO PLAYGROUND TAUNTS

California’s race for governor is a product of its political age – a relatively policy-free affair with no shortage of political slap fights. Take Wednesday’s release from Jerry Brown’s campaign, announcing the launch of a new Web ad targeting Meg Whitman. The ad is titled “Pants on Fire.” As in “Liar, liar…”

It’s like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, only different.

Brown’s online volley comes as Whitman is running a television ad calling Brown a man without a plan.

Good to know the central messages of this campaign can now be delivered in one-line rhymes.

SCHWARZENEGGER SAYS HE WILL OPPOSE PROP. 25
As the budget stalemate dragged through its fourth week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday he opposed giving lawmakers the power to pass a budget with a simple-majority vote.

The governor said he opposed any proposal to make it easier to raise taxes or fees. “I even don’t believe in doing the budget” by majority vote, he said. Schwarzenegger said lowering the vote threshold would ensure “one party will make all the decisions” in Sacramento.

Voters will have a chance to vote on such a plan in November. Proposition 25 would change the state’s two-thirds budget requirement to a simple majority but maintain a 67 percent threshold to raise taxes. The measure is backed by labor unions and other Democratic groups, and opposed by the state Chamber of Commerce.

The measure is also the subject of George Skelton’s Monday column in the Los Angeles Times.

Schwarzenegger’s comments were met with disappointment but not surprise by Yes on 25 spokesman Richard Stapler. “When real reform stares somebody straight in the eye,” he said, “this is the reaction that we get.”

Schwarzenegger made his comments before the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday.


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