News

Prison guards give $22,300 to Angelides–but don’t endorse him

California’s prison guards have given Democratic gubernatorial challenger
Phil Angelides a maximum $22,300 donation, but representatives for the
powerful union say the contribution does not constitute an endorsement.

“While we continue to evaluate the direction we are going to take in the
fall, we do recognize that candidates have to be able to reach out to the
voting public and voice their vision for California,” said Lance Corcoran,
spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association
(CCPOA).

The union has not donated to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

The well-heeled union is believed to be sitting on a $10 million–or
larger–war chest for a fall independent-expenditure campaign and is actively
being courted by Treasurer Angelides and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Corcoran downplayed the significance of the Angelides donation. “I think if
anyone thinks they can run for constitutional office in California with
$22,000, they don’t understand the electoral process,” he said.

“In the world of political action, not just pertaining to the CCPOA, $22,000
is a drop in the bucket,” Corcoran added.

This is not the first time the CCPOA has given money to candidates they have
not endorsed. In this year’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, the
union gave maximum contributions to both Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, and
Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, though the union did not endorse
either candidate.

In the primary contest for attorney general, the CCPOA gave maximum
donations to Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and Sen. Chuck
Poochigian, R-Fresno. The union has not yet endorsed in the general-election
campaign.

“Two things make them powerful: They are unpredictable and they are
fearless,” said Ray McNally, the union’s longtime political consultant.
“That is a pretty potent combination in politics.”

Ned Wigglesworth, an analyst with TheRestofUs.org, a campaign-finance
watchdog group, said the donation is “a drop in the ocean” for the union and
part of its complex political gamesmanship.

“It blows up the argument that campaign contributions are some form of free
speech,” said Wigglesworth. “They are not. In this case, they are a way to
gain favor with Mr. Angelides or to send a message to Schwarzenegger. This
is all part of their political game.”

Angelides’ press secretary Brian Brokaw said that it is not uncommon for a
group that has not endorsed to make a maximum contribution.

“Phil Angelides is proud to have the support of more than 23,000 donors,
including many in the law enforcement community,” Brokaw added.

The CCPOA is hardly the first organization or individual to donate to
candidates they have not endorsed. Jerry Perenchio, the head executive at
Univision, has been a top donor for each of the last three governors,
Republicans and Democrats alike.

Ameriquest, a mortgage-lending company, lapped more than $650,000 on the
California Democratic Party last year, while giving more than $300,000 to
the New Majority, a moderate Republican group, and the California Republican
Party.

“The CCPOA is not alone in playing both sides of the game,” says
Wigglesworth.

The Angelides donation, which was made on June 14, is intended for primary
debt reduction and comes as the state’s prisons have been in the headlines.
The CCPOA currently is negotiating a labor contract with the Schwarzenegger
administration. And last week, prisons Special Master John Hagar issued a
report denouncing the growing influence of the CCPOA on the prison system,
including their role in the resignations of the last two secretaries of the
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Rod Hickman and Jeanne
Woodford.

This week, Schwarzenegger called for a special session of the Legislature to
deal with the state’s prison crisis. Schwarzenegger is urging the passage of
a $1 billion prison bond, among other reforms.

“It is not good public policy to allow the prison system to go into
meltdown,” said McNally. “And it is certainly not good politics.”


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: