Republican billionaires and their enablers continue to flood AD15 with pro-Buffy money
By Frances Reade
Voters in AD15 received a deluge of political mailers this week, so one in particular probably didn’t stick out. It's a glossy, 8.5" x 11" sheet with a huge picture of a frothing Donald Trump and a small picture of a smiling Buffy Wicks. The cover says, “With the Right Leaders, CA CAN DO A LOT TO STOP DONALD TRUMP.”
You can’t tell from looking at it, but this mailer, suggesting that Buffy can protect us from Trump, was conceived in an elite Republican law firm in Sacramento and paid for by an unholy alliance of right-wing billionaires, anti-public education crusaders, and big healthcare PACs.
The whole process was overseen by Ashlee Titus, president of the Sacramento Federalist Society, who recently signed a letter in support of accused sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh.
The mailer discloses it was produced by a PAC with the convoluted name "Coalition for East Bay Health Care Access, Affordable Housing and Quality Public Schools, supporting Buffy Wicks for Assembly 2018," an outfit which has spent $442,890.31 in the last 20 days on mailers, polling, and ads supporting Buffy, per its filings with the California Secretary of State*. It appears the PAC exists solely to coordinate the spending of other PACs' money on Buffy’s behalf in AD15. (And there is a lot of spending going on in AD15. Check our site buffywicks.money to learn who’s spending over $2 million on Buffy’s campaign.)
Taking a look into the backers of this Buffy Coalition PAC reveals an extremely disturbing cast of characters, none of whom have any intention of doing "A LOT TO STOP DONALD TRUMP." In fact, they are backing Buffy because in a deeply blue state, corporate Democrats like her are the best Republicans can hope for to accomplish their agenda.
A Republican Law Firm and Its Ties to Kavanaugh
First, there's Ashlee Titus, one of the PAC's treasurers. She's a lawyer at Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk LLP in Sacramento, "the state's Republican law firm". (The PAC shares a mailing address, phone number, and email with the firm). Ashlee is the president of the Sacramento branch of the Federalist Society, a secretive group of far right-wing lawyers who have hand-selected Trump's many judicial picks, including Federalist Society member and Trump's newest supreme court justice, Brett Kavanaugh. In addition to packing the nation's courts with Republicans, one of their main obsessions is using the courts to take away the right to abortion.
In early October, Ashlee was one of fourteen women leaders of the Republican National Lawyers Association who signed an open letter to the U.S. Senate in support of Kavanaugh's confirmation, saying that he's "a man of integrity and moral character" with a "history of excellence and fairness on the bench." It doesn't appear that Ashlee was at all threatened by Buffy's plans to challenge Trump's agenda when she signed up for the job running this PAC's finances two weeks earlier.
Ashlee's boss at the law firm, and the second treasurer of the PAC, is Tom Hiltachk, who has been called "the California Republican Party's go-to legal mind for penning regressive ballot initiatives intended to give conservatives maximum political power in an otherwise majority progressive state." In 2007, the New Yorker credited Hiltachk with a genius for creating "initiatives that are the opposite of what they sound like," which is perhaps how the Buffy PAC got its ridiculous name.
Following the Money
Who funds the Coalition for East Bay Health Care Access, Affordable Housing and Quality Public Schools PAC? In keeping with Hiltachk's "opposite of what they sound like" doctrine, let's break it down. There are three other PACs who fund Buffy's Coalition PAC, and they are all bad news for the regular working people of AD15.
First, "Quality Public Schools." One of the three PACs funding Buffy's Coalition PAC is EdVoice for the Kids PAC, an arm of the EdVoice mega-PAC, which spends lavishly on races, from local school boards all the way to California state superintendent, with the purpose of installing charter-friendly politicians at every level of government. EdVoice is funded by a group of billionaires, many of whom are committed Republicans, including multiple Waltons (heirs to the Walmart fortune) and the Fisher family (the Gap).
These billionaires want to cut their tax bills by replacing tax-funded public education with a for-profit charter system – that's the opposite of "Quality Public Schools!" Buffy has refused to back a statewide moratorium on charters, while Jovanka Beckles' platform calls for just that. It's clear why these billionaires' money is on Buffy.
Next let’s look at "Health Care Access." The other two major donors to the Buffy Coalition PAC are PACs of the California Medical and Dental Associations, both of which receive major donations from private insurance companies. Buffy knows that healthcare costs are one of voters' top concerns, and that Medicare for All, also known as single-payer healthcare, is an extremely popular solution to the problem. It would replace for-profit insurance that gouges customers with universal insurance coverage funded by taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
Sounds great, right? That's why Buffy says she'll back single-payer once a Democrat is in the White House, conveniently absolving her of needing to lift a finger for it during her entire term, if she won AD15. Contrast that with Jovanka, who says, "In Sacramento I will fight to implement a single-payer, Medicare for All system to cover all California residents."
Unfortunately for the California Medical and Dental Association PACs, Medicare for All would decimate billions of dollars of profits their corporate donors take from working people. They like the sound of Buffy's empty rhetoric on Medicare for All, so they are spending big in AD15 to keep Jovanka and her people-first politics out of Sacramento.
Lastly, Buffy's Coalition PAC appeals to "Affordable Housing." Buffy opposes Prop 10, the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins law that prevents cities from instituting rent control, to protect renters from the state's spiraling affordable housing crisis. Studies show that rent control leads to more affordable housing. To fix this crisis, Buffy's only idea is anti-gouging measures (weak, temporary "emergency" price controls that do nothing to address the system of exploitation in housing). This plan presents no challenge to her many wealthy backers' investments in real estate development and will do nothing to provide affordable housing to the thousands of AD15 voters who are without homes or threatened with profit-motivated eviction and displacement.
It's clear that Republicans like Ashlee Titus and the wealthy backers of the Buffy Coalition PAC would love to install a conservative Republican in AD15. Since that isn't possible, they're investing in the next best thing: Buffy Wicks.
*The Secretary of State's website does not link to finance search results. To see the current numbers for yourself, follow the link and paste "Coalition for East Bay Health Care Access, Affordable Housing and Quality Public Schools, supporting Buffy Wicks for Assembly 2018" into the top search bar.