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Essential Politics: What Trump's tax troubles and triumphs could mean for the rest of the campaign

I’m Christina Bellantoni, and this is Essential Politics.

Let's review Donald Trump’s week: He had a less than stellar debate performance, fought with a former beauty queen and made insinuations about the Clinton marriage before trying to bat back questions about his tax status.

Trump surrogates cast their candidate as a "genius" who had paid taxes according to his fiduciary duties. But the question for Trump is not the legality of his tax posture but whether it affects his ability to be a voice for American disdain for the political system, Cathleen Decker reports for Monday’s front page.

Will the New York Times story that said Trump likely did not pay federal income taxes for 18 years pose a threat to his candidacy? And are the Republicans who are worried about Trump highlighting Bill Clinton’s infidelities correct in thinking the move could backfire?

For his part, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton for dubbing some of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters "basement dwellers," even though her onetime rival defended the comments Sunday.

Clinton announced she raised $154 million for the campaign and her party in September.

DEBATE PREP

As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine prepare for their matchup Tuesday night, we offer a primer: Who they are, what strengths they bring to the table, and what voters can expect from their debate.

Noah Bierman details how the vice presidency has gained clout in recent years.

And Veronica Rocha reports from El Progreso about how Kaine’s time as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras helped him find his mission in life.

We’ll have more on our debate coverage in tomorrow’s edition. In the meantime, get the latest from the campaign trail on Trail Guide and follow @latimespolitics. Check our daily USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times tracking poll at the top of the politics page.

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, HONEY

An exclusive Times analysis found that nearly all of the donors who supported any of Trump’s GOP rivals are staying on the sidelines in the general election.

From those who are still writing checks, Clinton has received $2 million, a notable figure given Trump’s struggles in the money race, report Seema Mehta, Anthony Pesce and Maloy Moore.

POLITICAL ROAD MAP: A GOVERNOR WHO RARELY USES HIS VETO PEN

Vetoes just aren’t Gov. Jerry Brown’s thing, Sacramento bureau chief John Myers reports in his new Political Road Map column. California’s governor vetoed 159 of the 1,059 bills sent to him this year, or 15%. His six-year average veto rate for bills approved by the Legislature is just 13%.

And in his first go-round leading the state from 1975 until 1982, he seemed to misplace his veto pen altogether. The final year saw him sign 1,674 bills and veto just 30 — a 1.79% veto rate and the lowest of any governor in the last half century, according to state Senate researchers.

Myers’ column debuted on our new Essential Politics page in the California section Sunday.

WHEN A TOBACCO TAX ISN’T ABOUT TOBACCO

Tobacco companies are spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat Proposition 56, which would increase taxes on cigarettes by $2 a pack. But the campaign against the measure hasn’t said much about why boosting taxes on cigarettes is bad. Instead, the tobacco industry is attacking the details of the measure, telling voters to be wary of where the new money would be spent.

It turns out, Liam Dillon reports, this is the same strategy tobacco companies have used to defeat similar tobacco tax measures in 2006 and 2012, which has kept the state’s cigarette tax comparatively low despite strong support in California polls  for a tax hike for at least a decade.

BROWN TAKES ACTION

Brown’s office was busy as he rushed toward Friday’s deadline to act on legislation passed during the session.

Most prominent of the bunch was inspired by the sexual assault case of Brock Turner, which sparked outrage around the world. Brown signed legislation to toughen laws against rape. The decision came as heated debate raged this year over what’s been called the mishandling of sexual assault investigations on U.S. college campuses.

We’ve rounded up all of Brown’s actions here, and have a quick snapshot of the final activity below.

Police in California now will need a criminal conviction before permanently seizing suspects’ cars, cash and other assets worth less than $40,000. The change gives California some of the strictest laws related to what’s known as "civil asset forfeiture," a practice that has received significant criticism nationwide in recent years.

Big changes are coming to the state’s election system: Brown signed a sweeping law that will move more voters to ballots cast by mail and will do away with neighborhood polling places. He also signed a law that will allow anyone to return your ballot on election day, and for that person to hand in as many ballots as he or she wants.

And ballot selfies will soon be legal in California, but not in time for the presidential election in November.

The state’s scandal-ridden energy regulator will now face increased transparency for its communications with industries under its control. The governor also pledged to push for more action at the agency after other measures related to the California Public Utilities Commission failed to pass the Legislature this year.

Brown extended civil protections for emergency responders who damage drones while working. But he vetoed the last of the pending drone bills, saying he did not want a "piecemeal" approach to regulation.

Single-user bathrooms in public buildings in California will soon become gender neutral.

When are marijuana users dangerous drivers? Brown decided California’s government will study the question.

Brown signed a bill that continues the move toward the development of a statewide early warning system for earthquakes.

Secretly recording a video of a confidential healthcare discussion and then distributing it online will be a state crime in 2017, under a law inspired by the high-profile case of Planned Parenthood employees discussing abortion procedures.

Employees of small businesses will not be covered under the state’s mandatory parental leave rules, since Brown nixed a bill that would have given six weeks of unpaid leave to workers at businesses employing between 20 and 49 people.

Protections to keep domestic violence survivors' addresses confidential will be standardized.

California offenders will no longer be eligible for early release from parole for compassionate or medical reasons if they have been convicted of murder in the death of a police officer.

If the 2024 Summer Olympics come to Los Angeles and the city’s bid goes over budget, the state will kick in up to $250 million to cover costs.

And, in the last batch of bills he took action on this year, Brown signed off on making denim the official state fabric. Top aide Nancy McFadden celebrated with a snappy GIF.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- George Skelton has his say on Proposition 51, a school bond measure that, he writes, might make some eyes glaze over but actually is a big deal.

-- "Yes to Prop. 62" released new online ads over the weekend in a campaign to abolish a death penalty system “broken beyond repair.”

-- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house was egged over the weekend.

-- And Garcetti was not happy with Trump’s comments about LAX at the debate.

-- Former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot during an event in Tucson in 2011, on Thursday endorsed Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris in California’s U.S. Senate race. Giffords’ husband, former space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, joined in the endorsement. The couple founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a political action committee that advocates for increased gun control.

-- Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Trump on Saturday Night Live helped the show score its highest season premiere rating since Tina Fey played Sarah Palin.

-- This anti-Trump endorsement has an intergalactic flavor. Cast and crew members of "Star Trek" signed an open letter blasting the GOP nominee as someone who "stands in such complete opposition to the ideals of the Star Trek universe."

-- Gary Johnson, a triathlete, is "extremely physically fit and healthy," according to a doctor’s note released by his campaign. And even on the campaign trail, he still manages to work out an hour every day.

-- Bipartisan praise for German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Both Clinton and Trump named her as their favorite foreign leader, although Trump’s pick came with some caveats.

-- A look at what a divided Supreme Court might do this session.

-- What really happened with that murder attempt in Venezuela? We examined the claims Trump has made against Alicia Machado.

-- Mike Daisey’s one-man show in Los Angeles sees Trump as theater. Critic Charles McNulty has more.

-- Climate change has been practically absent in the presidential race, a stark contrast from the flurry of action we’ve seen here in California. What are the different dynamics on the national and state levels? Senate leader Kevin de León, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Times reporter Melanie Mason will be discussing the politics of climate change Wednesday night in San Francisco at a panel hosted by Climate One, an initiative of the Commonwealth Club. In the Bay Area? Get tickets here.

-- Who will win the November election? Give our Electoral College map a spin.

LOGISTICS

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