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Monday
Aug132012

POLITICS: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Watch report, "Newsom touts efforts that benefit donors," good government measures/interests of major campaign contributors??

* San Francisco Chronicle (California Watch):  "Newsom touts efforts that benefit donors" - From the Chronicle:

In seeking to sharpen the traditionally ambiguous role of state lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom has posited himself as a Mr. Fix-It for local good-government measures under threat from out-of-towners. But as Newsom has thrown his weight behind efforts to reclaim for pedestrians a plaza in San Diego and a plan to fight blight in San Bernardino County, he has done double duty advancing the interests of major campaign donors.

In February, Newsom sent a letter scolding state historical preservation officials for dragging their feet in approving a plan to build a $45 million bridge and an underground parking garage near San Diego's Balboa Park. Critics had said the plan involved smashing through San Diego's iconic Spanish Colonial structure, the Cabrillo Bridge. Less than a month later, the project's main backer, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, and his wife, Joan Klein Jacobs, put $12,000 in Newsom's 2014 campaign fund, state records show. In 2009, Irwin Jacobs had given Newsom's failed campaign for governor $5,000, according to the records.

On July 27, Newsom issued a news release supporting a San Bernardino County plan to aid financially strapped homeowners by employing county powers of eminent domain. County officials are considering seizing underwater mortgages and reissuing more affordable loans to homeowners. Real estate and banking groups have denounced the plan, saying it would scare away lenders and make it impossible for San Bernardino County residents to obtain new home loans.

In the news release, and in media interviews, Newsom labeled the complaints Wall Street bullying. "We cannot let another day go by while families are forced from their homes," Newsom said in the release. "We must think big and help our local governments develop solutions." What his statement didn't say was that the San Bernardino plan was pitched by Mortgage Resolution Partners, a San Francisco company that includes as a partner Willie Brown - Newsom's mentor and predecessor as mayor of San Francisco.

   ****

In a presentation to investors reported in the Wall Street Journal, Mortgage Resolution Partners said it would begin with a $5 billion program in California that could grow to $500 billion nationwide. The company also told investors the company could earn a rate of return of 20 percent, according to Reuters.

Mortgage Resolution Partners' spokesman is former Newsom communications director Peter Ragone, who donated more than $25,000 to Newsom's campaigns for governor in 2010 and lieutenant governor in 2010 and 2014, records show. One donation, of $4,950, came from Ragone's public relations firm, PWR LLC.

In response to an inquiry, Ragone sent the Bay Citizen, sister site of California Watch, a statement from major Democratic Party fundraiser Steven Gluckstern, who is Mortgage Resolution Partners' president. . . . . . . .

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Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles think tank that focused on campaign finance, said it's possible that the donations, and Newsom's advocacy, were unrelated. "But 90 percent of the time, when we look at the money, it's because it's something donors want from officials," Stern said.