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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Gina Ferazzi)

Democratic candidate for California governor Gavin Newsom leads the field in campaign fundraising — by a wide margin.

The lieutenant governor started the year with more than $16 million socked away in his campaign war chest, compared to just under $6 million each for his top two Democratic rivals, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang.

Those figures were made public on Wednesday when state candidates were required to file their campaign reports for the second half of 2017.

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  • California Legislature
The Forum in Inglewood.
The Forum in Inglewood. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

More than $1 million was spent lobbying last year on failed legislation that would have fast-tracked construction of a new Clippers arena in Inglewood, according to state lobbying disclosures released this week.

The legislation, Senate Bill 789 from Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would have carved out exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, for the arena and related projects in Inglewood. CEQA requires developers to disclose and reduce the environmental effects of their projects, and CEQA lawsuits often tie up or kill proposals. The bill originally included similar exemptions benefiting Los Angeles’ 2028 Olympics bid, but organizers balked and Bradford removed the language.

Madison Square Garden Co., which owns Inglewood's Forum and would compete with the new Clippers arena, spent more than $750,000 to lobby against the bill. Lobbyist Mercury Public Affairs and law firm Latham & Watkins were the largest recipients of the money. SB 789 stalled in an Assembly committee a week after it was introduced in September.

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Democratic challenger Emilio Huerta
Democratic challenger Emilio Huerta (Sarah D. Wire / Los Angeles Times)

Republican Rep. David Valadao of Hanford, Calif., raised 10 times as much as his Democratic opponent last quarter, despite representing a district that backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, and where Democrats have a voter registration advantage.

It’s the third lackluster fundraising quarter in a row for Democratic challenger Emilio Huerta, the son of labor rights icon Dolores Huerta. He is the only announced challenger to the three-term congressman in the 21st Congressional District in the San Joaquin Valley.

The fundraising gulf stands out among the other high-profile races where five California incumbents were out-raised by Democratic opponents in the last three months of 2017.

A Metro train passes by apartments in Culver City.
A Metro train passes by apartments in Culver City. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Cars and trucks are the largest source of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Essential to meeting the state’s ambitious climate change goals, academics and other researchers have said, is to reduce the number of cars on the road by building new homes in already populated areas near jobs and transit.

Environmental groups have different perspectives on linking the cause of climate change to housing. On this week’s “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Pod,” we dig deep into the intersections between environmentalism and development and focus on reaction to a proposal from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

Wiener’s legislation, Senate Bill 827, would allow for a dramatic increase in housing development near major transit stops. But the Sierra Club California opposes the measure, arguing, among other reasons, that it would make it harder to build new transit and increase displacement of low-income residents. Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Program at the UC Berkeley School of Law, joins the podcast and argues against the Sierra Club’s position and talks broadly about the environmental effects of growth.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
Andrew Janz is running to unseat Rep. Devin Nunes.
Andrew Janz is running to unseat Rep. Devin Nunes. (Andrew Janz campaign)

One of Rep. Devin Nunes’ opponents says he’s raking in donations thanks to the controversy about the House Select Intelligence Committee chairman’s very public push to release a controversial memo related to the Russia investigation.

Fresno County Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrew Janz, a Democrat, said that as of Wednesday night he had brought in a little over $65,000 over the last seven days while the memo has been in the news. That $65,000 is more than half as much as Janz reported raising in the previous three months.

“Congressman Nunes has given me the best gift a first-time candidate with almost no name recognition can receive, he has made himself the poster boy for what’s wrong with Congress and put a national target on his back,” Janz said in a statement.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says fellow Californian Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) should lose the chairmanship of the powerful House Intelligence Committee over his handling of the Russia investigation and a memo Republicans say discredits the FBI’s role in a separate investigation.

Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that Nunes’ insistence on making the memo public over the FBI and Justice Department’s objections that it is inaccurate and contains classified information is putting the House of Representatives’ integrity at stake.

A spokesman for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) said the adjustments were only “minor edits.”

California House Reps. Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff have been at public odds since shortly after the House Intelligence Committee launched its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

As the ranking Democrat on the committee, Schiff last year called for Nunes, the Republican committee chairman, to recuse himself from the investigation following a fracas over Nunes’ bizarre late-night trip to the White House to view classified documents he said were related to the investigation.

For the last few weeks, the two have been stars of a dramatic national sideshow over whether to release a classified memo compiled by Nunes that is thought to make further claims about secret surveillance of the Trump campaign. 

(Dreamstime)

California taxpayers are on the hook for more than $91.5 billion to provide health and dental benefits to state government workers when they retire, according to a report issued Wednesday by the state controller’s office.

That’s a substantial increase from last year’s estimate, a result of changes in the way the total debt is calculated and changes in the projected cost of healthcare in the coming decades.

Last year’s report put the total liability at just under $77 billion. The estimates are a reflection of what the benefits to state government workers— which are in addition to cash from pensions — would cost in present-day dollars. The debt, Controller Betty Yee said in a statement, will “remain a paramount fiscal challenge over the next three decades.”

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  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats
  • U.S. Senate race
(Christine Mai-Duc / Los Angeles Times)

State Senate leader Kevin de León, a Democrat who is challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein, kicked off 2018 with a tiny fraction of the money the veteran lawmaker has in the bank, according to federal fundraising documents filed Thursday.

De León reported raising nearly $434,000 and spending nearly $75,000 between entering the race on Oct. 15 and the end of 2017. He reported starting the new year with nearly $360,000 cash on hand, and more than $41,000 in debts.

In contrast, Feinstein reported having nearly $10 million in the bank, including a $5-million loan the Democrat made to her campaign in the final quarter of 2017.

  • California Legislature
The California Assembly
The California Assembly (Steve Yeater / AP)

Fueled by activity from the oil industry attempting to influence the cap-and-trade debate, interest groups spent a record of more than $339 million lobbying California government officials last year.

The spending activity to influence elected officials and bureaucrats far exceeds the previous record of $314.7 million in 2015, new lobbying reports show.

Those reports also shed more light on how interest groups have expanded their “scope and sophistication” beyond sending a lobbyist to a public official’s office, according to Jodi Remke, chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission.