When you go to the California Democratic Party's convention, and you happen to be the rare registered Republican in the press corps, you have to come prepared with an answer to The Question: Can I vote for Donald Trump in November? (My answer: I don't have to decide now. Trump hasn't won the primary.) It's no secret that I don't like Trump. But as I listened to speakers at the San Jose Democratic confab Saturday denounce the corrosive impact of money on politics, I realized some know Trump in a way I never will -- they've tasted his money.
Trump has donated buckets to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign, to the Clinton Foundation and even to California Democrats. Trump donated $20,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006. The Dems went on to win the House, and San Francisco's own Rep. Nancy Pelosi became House speaker. Trump met with Pelosi right after she ascended to the speakership. In January, Trump told MSNBC he "always had a good relationship" with Pelosi.
I asked Pelosi's office why Trump ponied up for Pelosi. A spokesperson referred me to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I went to the DCCC Web page, which was busy trying to tie vulnerable GOP incumbents to Trump and the Ku Klux Klan.
Both Donald and daughter Ivanka Trump donated to the campaign of Attorney General Kamala Harris. Ivanka wrote a check for $2,000 in 2013. The Donald donated $5,000 in 2011 and another for $1,000 in 2013. Harris is running to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate. In July, her Senate campaign purged The Donald's money by giving a $6,000 check to Caracen, a group that fights federal enforcement of immigration law.
Donald and Ivanka Trump also donated $3,000 to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's gubernatorial campaign in 2009. Newsom texted me that he spent more than $3,000 to produce a video that took on Trump's immigration "plan." Trump donated $3,500 to now-Gov. Jerry Brown's attorney general campaign, and $9,500 to the Democratic State Central Committee. Trump also gave $25,000 to the California Republican Party in 2005 and $12,000 to former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaigns.
Harris spokesman Nathan Click said he doesn't know why Trump contributed to the campaign. That's pretty much the answer I got from all the Dems. Why did Trump donate? It's a mystery.
At the convention, Democrats denounced the Supreme Court Citizens United decision. Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman railed against the Koch brothers for giving to conservative causes, then lauded liberal plutocrat Tom Steyer for his "investment" in voter registration.
Pelosi, Harris, Newsom and Brown are proof that, on the big issues at least, savvy politicians can pocket campaign contributions -- without being owned by mega-donors. California Democrats are no slouches at fundraising -- and still they blame all political ills on money in politics. They don't think money is bad when it goes into their coffers, but they know that money works when it is in step with the voters. So they won't be happy until they defund the right. That's really their idea of campaign finance reform.