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There is the Independent Voter Project and then there is the Independent Voter PAC.

The Independent Voter Project is a high profile, non-profit corporation created by ex-Democratic state Sen. Steve Peace to promote his agenda of demoting the role of political parties in national and state politics.

The Independent Voter Project also throws an annual fall bash for lobbyists and California legislators on the island of Maui that has drawn national media scrutiny for its practice of mixing fun and alleged influence peddling far from prying public eyes.

Donors to the event, the Los Angeles Times has reported, have included the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the state's prison guards' union, as well as Southern California Edison; big tobacco’s Altria; Pacific Gas and Electric; the California Beer and Beverage Distributors; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; and Chevron.

The Independent Voter Project spawned the Independent Voter Network, an online news and opinion venture headed by Peace's son Chad, who of late has been making the rounds of TV newsrooms touting the project.

It is financed by a separate non-profit corporation, the Foundation for Independent Voter Education.

Enter the Independent Voter PAC.

Created on May 23 of this year, according to a filing posted online by the California Secretary of State's office, the San Diego-based PAC's treasurer is listed as Beth Reno, a longtime Peace aide.

The same day it was formed, the Independent Voter PAC got its first contribution, $125,000 from the Reform California Now Independent Expenditure Committee.

Reform California Now was written up last week by the Sacramento Bee, in a story describing the committee as part of a "stealth group of corporations" funding Republican state Senate candidates that is being coordinated by Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable.

"Chevron has contributed $1.25 million to Lapsley's program," the Bee reported.

"The California Real Estate Association has given $625,000; Phillip Morris, $250,000; and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, $250,000. Other key donors include Sempra Energy, Farmers Insurance and Anthem Blue Cross. Charles T. Munger Jr., a Stanford University physicist, has contributed $750,000."

In San Diego, a filing posted online by the California Secretary of State's office shows that the Independent Voter PAC is working on behalf of Republican George Plescia's state senate bid against Democratic Assemblyman Marty Block.

According to the disclosure, dated yesterday, the Independent Voter PAC spent $35,536 on a direct mail piece for Plescia.

The Independent Voter PAC has also backed Proposition 30 - the tax hike measure being pushed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown - with a $49,500 expenditure on October 25, labeled only as "WEB."

Since receiving its May contribution from Reform California Now, the Independent Voter PAC has subsequently picked up plenty of other corporate and labor cash, including $200,000 from the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America Independent Committee; $100,000 from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (the state prisons guard union); and $10,000 from Pacific Gas & Electric.

Interviewed by phone this morning, Steve Peace said that the Independent Voter PAC is being run by David Takashima, a former utility company executive, one-time Peace staffer, and an ex-board member of the Independent Voter Project.

Takashima has also done work on behalf of San Diego Democratic state Sen. Juan Vargas, regarded as a shoo-in for congress next week.

The Independent Voter PAC has no connection with Peace, IVP, IVN, or the Foundation for Independent Voter Education, which funds the Independent Voter Network, Peace said.

Peace, who is on the board of both the Independent Voter Project and the Foundation for Independent Voter Education, said the latter has received funding from John Moores, the wealthy former Padres owner Peace works for, as well as from Charles Munger, Jr., who is currently waging his own high-dollar independent battle against Brown’s Proposition 30 tax hike and in favor Prop 32, the measure to ban payroll withholding of union political dues.

Peace added that the Maui meeting hosted by the Independent Voter Project is on track for later this month, after the election, “though I wouldn’t call it a bash.”

We've left a call with Beth Reno, the contact for the Independent Voter PAC.

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monaghan Nov. 2, 2012 @ 10:04 p.m.

This story is surreal in describing double-dealing complexity and shadowy big money that crosses party lines doing whatever seems to serve Steve Peace's manipulative self-interest. It's never about what's good for the commonweal. Very depressing, but very interesting. Kind of like looking at a snake. Peace is a quintessential native son of San Diego.


surfdiego Nov. 3, 2012 @ 12:39 p.m.

This is a hilarious article. You could write the same article about any PAC and use the word shadowy in the headline and people would eat it up.


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