GOP candidate for California governor, Steven Poizner, insists he is a “passionate” Bush Republican despite a record of giving thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates for state and national office, including $10,000 to the Gore-Lieberman recount committee in 2000. In an effort to counter party disloyalty charges, Poizner has gone so far as to mischaracterize his job in the George W. Bush White House–as well as attempt to deflect evidence that he had hoped and expected to work for a Gore administration, NewMajority has learned.
In an interview last month with conservative radio host Eric Hogue, Poizner cited his service in the Bush White House, claiming that he was “passionate” about President Bush and that the Bush White House “would have wanted nothing to do with me if I was not on board philosophically.” NewMajority has learned that these statements do not accurately reflect Poizner’s actual record.
In 2001-2002, Poizner, 52, served as a White House Fellow, a prestigious but nonpartisan position administered by an independent and politically neutral commission. The fellowship has attracted both Democrats and Republicans, regardless of the party in power. In a recent interview with NewMajority, Poizner’s communications director, Jarrod Agen, insisted that Poizner “felt that the White House probably wouldn’t have made him a fellow if he was out there supporting the other candidate.”
Poizner did in fact support “the other candidate”: he donated $1,000 to Al Gore during the 2000 campaign and $10,000 to the Gore-Lieberman recount committee during the hotly contested Florida recount.
Looking at the dates of the donations and the application timeline for the White House Fellowship it seems much more plausible that Poizner applied for the program in the expectation and hope of serving in a Gore White House. When Poizner contributed $10,000 to the Gore recount committee, the White House Fellows application process had been open for some time.
It is reasonable, then, to question whether Poizner had considered applying for a White House Fellowship at the time of his donation to the Gore recount effort. Further, on February 15, 2001- after Poizner had applied for the White House Fellowship —records show that Poizner donated $2000 to John Kerry’s senatorial campaign. In any case, Mr. Poizner didn’t make a single contribution to a Republican until 2003.
Poizner’s team counters that these campaign contributions came from a joint checking account, and thus may have reflected the preferences of Poizner’s wife, Carol. Poizner himself made this claim in his interview with Eric Hogue, insisting that the donations to Democratic candidates were made by his wife from their joint checking account.
But federal election law attributes all donations to the person who actually signed the check or money order. All political donations, as well, must be accompanied by a form stating the name and occupation of the donor. Steve Poizner is listed by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) as having made the contribution to the Gore recount campaign. (Carol Poizner has personally racked up $90,200 in political contributions in her own name since 2001.)
Of course, Steve Poizner is not the only Republican running for Governor to have donated to Democrats in the past. His opponent, Meg Whitman, has also donated significant amounts of money to Democrats: at least $25,000 to Steve Westly, a Democrat who was California’s State Controller from 2003 to 2007 and ran for Governor in 2006, as well as $4,000 to the Senate campaign of Barbara Boxer, and $1,000 each to the campaigns of Senator John Kerry and Rep. Gary Ackerman.
When questioned by NewMajority, the Whitman campaign defended those as contributions to opponents of internet taxation that would have adversely affected Whitman’s business (at the time she was CEO of eBay), in the case of Boxer, or support for colleagues and personal friends (Westly). The Poizner campaign’s explanations to date have been less forthright and less credible.
Read the follow-up story, ‘My Wife Did It!’ by clicking here.