Rise Of The Business Democrat

by Laurel Rosenhall, CalMatters



HALF MOON BAY — It’s a lovely place to do business.

Ocean waves crash into rocky cliffs. Pelicans flap along the shoreline. And on the golf resort overlooking it all, a powerful bloc of legislators hit the links recently with donors who paid up to $40,000 for the opportunity to join them.

This was the annual fundraiser benefitting the legislators who call themselves “moderate Democrats.” Since last month, when the group unexpectedly killed a centerpiece of Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate change plan, the moderate Democrats have been getting much more scrutiny, particularly about those who pay for their elections and attend their fundraisers.

Since 2013, the group’s political action committee has taken in more than $4 million, with nearly one-third of that coming from Chevron, PG&E and other oil and gas companies. Other major donors include Wal-Mart, a hospital association and a realtors group. Only 1 percent of the committee’s money came from labor unions.

By contrast, organized labor provided more than a quarter of the money the California Democratic Party raised in the same time period, and oil and gas companies made up about 6 percent. The liberal-leaning party, which also benefits from fundraisers at swanky golf resorts, has traditionally declined contributions from Wal-Mart because of its anti-union policies.

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