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While the meal amplified criticism of Newsom’s coronavirus management, with the governor parrying accusations of hypocrisy, it also cast a brighter spotlight on Kinney and the dual clout he wields in the insular world of California politics.

The longtime California Democratic politics fixer has had a hand in both winning campaigns and influencing policy. He was chief speechwriter for Gov. Gray Davis, served for years as a senior strategist for Senate Democrats and has long counseled Newsom politically. He continues to advise Newsom on politics even as his lucrative, newly launched lobbying firm works on bills that could land on Newsom’s desk.

Kinney is not the first California political operative to blur the line between politics and policy. The doors between campaigns, administrations and Sacramento’s lobbying corps have long swung open for people with contacts and experience to leverage.

“He’s got some deep roots in government. Like any successful lobbyist, he uses those to his advantage because he’s smart,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic operative who has also worked both for the California government and for the interest groups that seek to sway it. “Any special interest hires the best talent they can get and that was the decision they made with Jason.”

The governor and Kinney have a relationship extending back decades. In apologizing for attending, Newsom referred to Kinney on Monday as “a friend that I have known for almost 20 years.”

But the fact that Kinney, a registered lobbyist, got an intimate audience with Newsom immediately raised questions about conflicts of interest. Newsom said he paid for his meal, so it did not qualify as a lobbying payment.

“Newsom’s got to bend over backwards and not give him any favors,” said Bob Stern, the architect of California’s campaign finance laws. “People are going to be watching what Newsom does in terms of Kinney clients now.”

While Kinney worked on Newsom’s transition team and has continued to counsel the governor, he has also launched a lobbying shop, Axiom Advisors, whose client list included major California players that spend heavily to influence state policy. Axiom reaped $10.9 million worth of lobbying work in 2019-20, the first legislative session during which Newsom was governor.

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Some of Axiom’s clients highlight Kinney’s overlapping roles. Kidney dialysis firms DaVita and Fresenius paid Axiom $475,000 this session. During the same period, Kinney earned $90,000 from the California Democratic Party, which spent money to pass a labor-backed initiative regulating kidney dialysis. DaVita and Fresenius were the measure’s principal opponents.

Not all Axiom clients are major corporations; some are just desperate to get through to the governor for survival. Theme parks have been trying to get the governor’s ear this year to reopen attractions during coronavirus. Three smaller amusement park operators — Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, San Diego Coaster Co., and Santa Monica Amusements — hired Axiom on Oct. 1, right as Newsom officials were discussing reopening rules. The state ultimately issued guidelines last month that allowed the Boardwalk and other smaller parks to operate, though the recent coronavirus surge has forced the closure of rides again.

The single most remunerative client for Axiom in the last two years has been Marathon Petroleum, giving Kinney’s firm $525,000 worth of business. Marathon is a member of a powerful oil industry organization that battled proposals to ban hydraulic fracturing; Newsom called on the Legislature earlier this year to send him a fracking ban.

“The thing that is so powerful about this luxury dinner story is that Newsom also risked the lives of Californians by violating his own Covid recommendations to party with the same oil lobbyist,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Center, which is planning a lawsuit over the state’s issuance of oil and gas well permits. “There’s just so many ways that ordinary people are suffering such incredible pain,” she added, “and it just shows his hypocrisy to be partying with an oil lobbyist in the middle of this. It’s just inexcusable.”


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Trump super PAC to hold first fundraiser at Bedminster

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A pro-Donald Trump super PAC is holding its first fundraising event on May 22 at the former president’s Bedminster golf club, according to two people familiar with the planning.

The event will benefit Make America Great Again Action, a super PAC spearheaded by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Trump is expected to attend the event, which will include reception and a dinner. The minimum price for entry is $250,000.

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Trump tapped Lewandowki earlier this year to oversee the super PAC as part of his post-White House political operation. It’s the second big money group Trump has formed. Shortly after the election, he launched Save America PAC, a leadership PAC that has raised tens of millions of dollars.


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Pierre ‘Pete’ du Pont IV dies; ran for president in 1988

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“I was born with a well-known name and genuine opportunity. I hope I have lived up to both,” du Pont said in announcing his longshot presidential bid in September 1986.

As a presidential candidate, du Pont attracted attention for staking out controversial positions on what he hoped would reverberate with voters as “damn right” issues. They included random drug testing for high school students, school vouchers, replacing welfare with work, ending farm subsidies, and allowing workers to invest in individual retirement accounts as an alternative to Social Security.

Some of those ideas have since become more mainstream.

He won the endorsement of New Hampshire’s largest newspaper but failed to gain traction among voters. He ended his campaign after finishing next-to-last in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

Afterward, du Pont remained engaged in politics. He frequently wrote opinion pieces for publications such as the Wall Street Journal and co-founded the online public policy journal IntellectualCapital.com. He also served as chairman of Hudson Institute, the National Review Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan public policy research organization.

Pierre du Pont IV was born Jan. 22, 1935, in Delaware. After attending Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he graduated from Princeton University in 1956 with an engineering degree. Following a four-year stint in the Navy, he obtained a law degree from Harvard University in 1963.

He joined the Du Pont Company, where he held several positions, resigning as a quality control supervisor in 1968 to begin his political career.

After running unopposed for a state House seat in 1968, he immediately set his sights on Congress, running as a fiscal conservative and winning the first of three terms in 1970.

Elected governor in 1976, du Pont fought successfully to restore financial integrity to a state he had declared “bankrupt” shortly after his inauguration. He presided over two income tax cuts; constitutional amendments restricting state spending and requiring three-fifths votes in the legislature to raise taxes; and establishment of an independent revenue forecasting panel.

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After a rocky start with Democratic legislators, including an embarrassing override of a 1977 budget veto, du Pont forged successful relationships with lawmakers from both parties to tackle thorny issues including prison overcrowding and corruption and school desegregation. He was re-elected in a landslide in 1980, winning a record 71 percent of the vote and becoming the first two-term governor in Delaware in 20 years.

In his second term, du Pont signed landmark legislation that loosened Delaware’s banking laws, including removing the cap on interest rates that banks could charge customers. The Financial Center Development Act made Delaware a haven for some of the country’s largest credit card issuers.

Under du Pont’s leadership, Delaware also established a nonprofit employment counseling and job placement program for Delaware high school seniors not bound for college. It served as the model for a national program adopted by several other states.

Prohibited by law from seeking a third term, du Pont briefly withdrew to the private sector, joining a Wilmington law firm in 1985. A year and a half later, he announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, becoming the first declared candidate in the 1988 campaign.

During an appearance at the Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington, where du Pont announced he was abandoning his presidential campaign, he praised an electoral process that gave a shot at the White House to a former small-state governor with unorthodox ideas.

“You’ve given me the opportunity of a lifetime. You listened, you considered and you chose. I could not have asked for any more,” du Pont said. “For in America, we do not promise that everyone wins, only that everyone gets a chance to try.”

Du Pont is survived by his wife of over 60 years, the former Elise R. Wood; a daughter and three sons; and 10 grandchildren.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a memorial service will be held at a later date, Perkins said.


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Larry Hogan decries ‘circular firing squad’ within GOP

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday the Republican Party experienced its “worst four years we’ve had, ever” under President Donald Trump, noting the party’s losses in both chambers of Congress and the White House.

“We’ve got to get back to winning elections again. And we have to be able to have a Republican Party that appeals to a broader group of people,” said Hogan, a Republican, on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “Successful politics is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.”

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Hogan’s comments comes as Republicans deliberate on the future of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in the party’s House leadership, particularly over her repeated criticisms of Trump, which many Republicans view as breaking ranks and distracting from the party’s opposition to President Joe Biden. House Republicans are expected to strip Cheney of her role as conference chair and replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).


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