News

Nunez gets $600,000 in new campaign cash

A campaign committee set up to boost Democratic voter registration has transferred $600,000 into a committee controlled by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

The payment from the Voter Registration 2008 Committee to Nunez’s Committee to Protect California’s Future , was dated July 2, just one day into the new filing period for political contributions.

The shift of funds marks the latest infusion of cash into a committee controlled by Nunez. After the 2005 special election, the California Democratic Party paid $4 million into a Nunez-controlled committee.

Nunez will be termed out of office in November. He has not made public any future political plans. Under state rules, he could choose to spend the money without limits on a statewide initiaitve campaign, or he could transfer portions of the money to a campaign for future office, subject to state contribution limits.

"I don’t know what’s going to happen with that money, but we need it today for registration," said Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Montebello. "Without knowing what the circumstances  surrounding that transfer, it looks like it’s no longer available for voter registration. That’s a problem."  

The Committee to Protect California’s Future was Nunez’s main vehicle for financing the campaign to extend term limits for Nunez and other legislative leaders. The committee contributed more than $1.1 million to the Yes on Proposition 93 campaign.

Nunez’s chief of staff, Dan Eaton, received $100,000 in consulting fees from the committee in April. The speaker’s fundraiser, Dan Weitzman, who also raises funds for Speaker Karen Bass, received $25,000 from Nunez’s committee. The Committee to Protect California's Future has been in existence since 2002 and tradiionally has been controlled by the sitting speaker.

The transfer comes as numerous Assembly sources say Bass is asking members of her caucus to donate $50,000 to another voter registration committee established by Bass. Under Nunez's leadership, Voter Registration  2008 has given a $50,000 donation to the Alice B. Toklas Club to help Mark Leno, and gave $50,000 to the Southwest Voter Registration Project.

But the main beneficiary of the committee has been Weitzman, who has received more than $200,000 in payments from the committee over the last 18 months.

Calls to the Speaker’s office about the caucus’s political money were referred to Dan Eaton, chief of staff to Fabian Nunez who has been placed in control of the caucus political funds for the 2008 election cycle.

Eaton and Weitzman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Eaton is the Assembly's highest paid employee, making more than $200,000 per year in his public sector job, in addition to his blossoming political consulting business.  

Eaton is not the first, or only, public sector employee to suplement his public salary with campaign funds. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has paid many of his highest-level staffers with campaign funds, in addition to their six-figure public salaries.

Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy has received more than $220,000 in campaign funds from committees controlled by Schwarzenegger, according to records from the Secretary of State's office.  


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