SACRAMENTO -- For a "lazy" candidate -- as a leading Republican called Jerry Brown -- the expected Democratic nominee for governor was a pretty active fundraiser in the final days of 2009. And he appears to be dipping into the Republican donor base while he's at it.
Brown dropped another $560,000 into his campaign treasure chest in the last two days of 2009, pushing his total tally past $12 million for the year, according to campaign finance statements -- with most of that untouched in his deliberate walk up to the primary season.
Among Brown's recent donors were a pair of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's VIP contributors: Los Angeles billionaire developer Rick Caruso and William Robinson, the reclusive billionaire founder of DHL, the global courier company.
Caruso contributed $25,000 to Brown's campaign on Dec. 31 after announcing he was not only endorsing Brown but preparing to host a Feb. 2 fundraiser for him at his posh Brentwood home in Southern California. Caruso has given $653,000 to various campaign committees of Schwarzenegger's.
Robinson, who is by far Schwarzenegger's No. 1 donor, having given $3.1 million to the governor over his six-year tenure, has also apparently placed his bet on Brown. He gave Brown $39,800 on Dec. 30.
Netflix founder Reed Hastings, a Democrat who gave $24,100 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner at the end of 2008, appears to be either hedging his bets or coming back to the Democrats. He wound up giving $51,800 -- the maximum allowed for the primary and general election cycles -- to Brown in the final days of 2009.
"Some of my other Republican friends might question this once the word gets (out). But I think they'll understand that because Sacramento is so screwed up, you need someone who knows the system. Jerry Brown has been on the ground and in the weeds," Caruso told The Huffington Post last week about his donation.
Still, Republicans were ridiculing Brown over the news that the Democratic Governor's Association was gearing up for its own independent expenditure effort in support of Brown. Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring called it Brown's "bailout," and said reliance on a national organization was an indication of a "lazy" campaign.
Two Democrats confirmed that the association is putting in place an independent campaign in the governor's race to combat the cash advantage that Republicans Meg Whitman, ex-CEO of eBay, or Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur, will have with vast personal fortunes at their disposal.
Democratic consultant Nick Velasquez will be heading up the effort, which will be aimed at "fact-checking" claims made by Whitman and Poizner, a Democratic source said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the issue.
"Democrats recognize there's somewhat of a resource gap, so Democrats are coming together to help bridge that gap," said the Democrat.
California is one of a dozen top-tiered gubernatorial races targeted by the Democratic Governor's Association -- states currently headed by Republican governors with an opportunity to pick up a Democrat. It is not clear how much money the association will put into California.
Some Democrats have voiced concern that Brown has yet to officially announce his candidacy and has yet to put a political team together -- at least one that's known to the public. Brown is expected to announce within a month, likely when the filing period opens Feb. 15.
Nehring said it is a sign of troubled times for Democrats that the association would have to come to the aid of a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in California at a time when there are 36 other gubernatorial races around the country.
"In California, with one million more Democrats than Republicans and a Democratic nominee who has a near 100 percent name ID, and they're having to do an I.E. (independent expenditure) to help him out? It's a stinging indictment," Nehring said. "It's not a race the DGA should have to spend 25 cents."
"We hope he continues on the path he's on," Nehring added. "He should wait as long as possible to build his campaign organization while our candidates have theirs in place. Sitting on the couch is not a winning strategy."
Democrats called Nehring's comments wishful thinking, pointing to Brown's fundraising pace to show that he is doing just fine.
"Since last June when Jerry Brown started aggressively raising money, he's out-raised any statewide candidate," said Eric Bauman, vice chairman of the state Democratic Party. "Jerry Brown is no slouch. He's raising money aggressively, he's got experience, and he's got something that money can't buy: high name ID with positive recognition."
Through the first nine months of 2009, Brown raised about $7 million under fundraising rules for attorney general candidates that limited maximum donations to $6,500. Over the final three months after he announced his exploratory committee for governor and began to collect at the higher maximum of $25,900, Brown has raised more than $4 million. That's more than what Whitman and Poizner raised together in the final six months of 2009 -- not including the $38 million they poured into their campaigns from their personal fortunes.
Contact Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101.