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Nancy Pelosi, congressional Democrats weigh in on redistricting measure

February 12, 2010 | 10:32 am
A potential ballot measure to scrap California’s first-in-the-nation citizens redistricting commission got a huge financial boost Thursday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic allies in Congress poured $140,000 into the campaign.

The funds went to the proposed Fair Accountability in Redistricting Act, written by UCLA law professor Daniel Lowenstein. The measure would abolish the existing citizens commission, which is currently accepting applications and is set to redraw California’s legislative districts in 2011. Voters created that panel when they approved Proposition 11 in 2008.

During that campaign, Pelosi stayed on the sidelines, not opposing the measure, at least to the tune of big financial contributions.

So why would Pelosi and Co. pour thousands of dollars into a campaign to a repeal a ballot measure they did not actively oppose two years ago?

The answer is likely that a potential third redistricting ballot measure is currently gathering signatures to be placed on the November ballot. That measure would give the existing citizens commission, which only will redraw lines for the state Legislature and tax board, the power to draw lines for Congress.

That measure has been vehemently opposed by Pelosi. With the 2010 midterm elections expected to shrink Democrats’ hold on the House of Representatives, Pelosi has counted on having the Democrat-dominated California Legislature being able to redraw the state’s congressional districts, potentially carving out an extra seat or two for her party in 2012.

The measure to let the commission redraw California’s congressional districts would eliminate that possibility.

Still, the question is, why support a measure to repeal the commission entirely?

Because, Democratic political strategists say, the best way to ensure a “no” vote this fall on the congressional measure is to confuse the public further with a second ballot measure on the already head-spinning topic of political line-drawing.

The donors to the Lowenstein measure Thursday included 13 House Democrats contributing a total of $140,000. California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat expected to run for Congress now that Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) has announced her retirement, contributed $20,000, as well.

The California members of the House who donated included:

Linda Sanchez: $25,000
Nancy Pelosi: $10,000
Mike Honda: $10,000
Diane Watson: $10,000
Howard Berman: $10,000
Judy Chu $10,000
Sam Farr $10,000
Doris Matsui $10,000
Zoe Lofgren: $10,000
Adam Schiff: $10,000
Anna Eshoo: $10,000
George Miller: $10,000 (through his Solidarity PAC)
Lynn Woolsey: $5,000

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento