Report: Koch brothers to ‘substantially increase’ role in GOP campaigns

Despite a 2012 election cycle where Republicans failed to win the White House, the billionaire Koch brothers are “planning to substantially increase their involvement in party affairs.”

That is according to the New York Times, which Monday provided some insight into the gathering of influential Republican donors that the Kochs held at the Renaissance Esmeralda hotel in Indian Wells over the weekend.

According to the report:

“They have not yet decided whether to intervene in Republican primaries, people involved in the discussions say. But the brothers want their network to play a bigger role in cultivating and promoting Republican candidates who hew to their vision of conservatism, emphasizing smaller government and deregulation more than immigration and social issues.

“They are also seeking closer control over groups within their network, purging or downgrading those that did not deliver last year and expanding financing for those that performed well.”

This was the 10th year that Charles and David Koch have held a conference in the desert, and the second year in a row that they’ve returned to Indian Wells.

They’ve previously favored hotels in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage.

According to the Times, the guest list included Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, as well as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

The two-day conference was held Sunday and Monday.

A Desert Sun reporter and photographer went to the Renaissance on Sunday, only to be escorted out by private security.

Manuel Perez: No campaign comments until Friday

Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez has kicked off what’s bound to be one of the valley’s most high profile campaigns of 2014.

But don’t expect him to talk about his Riverside County supervisor bid anytime soon.

After two weeks of inquiries by The Desert Sun – including an offer to conduct an interview solely by email – Perez has notified reporters that he won’t be answering any questions until a Friday press conference in Palm Desert.

“Due to the fact that I am currently working on policy in Sacramento, fulfilling my duties as Assistant Majority Floor Leader and attending committee meetings all week, I will not be available for interviews until Friday,” Perez, a Coachella Democrat, said in the statement.

“I ask for your patience and consideration in this request.”

It should be noted that plenty of other local leaders – Republican and Democratic alike –have juggled legislative and campaign duties while responding to local media inquiries.

Perez on Sunday officially announced his plans to challenge Supervisor John Benoit, a Republican from Bermuda Dunes.

The race is for a nonpartisan seat. But it has already mobilized both political parties.

Friday’s press conference starts at noon at Freedom Park in Palm Desert.

Bill Clinton makes quiet stop in Rancho Mirage

President Bill Clinton made a quick trip to the Coachella Valley this week, speaking to a crowd of executives who had gathered at Porcupine Creek.

Wednesday’s speech was part of a three-day leadership summit done in conjunction with Oracle Corp.

The software company’s co-founder, Larry Ellison, purchased Porcupine Creek in 2011 for $42.9 million. The 249-acre Rancho Mirage estate has a 18,430-square-foot home and its own golf course.

An Oracle representative declined to provide details of Clinton’s speech.

But according to one attendee’s blog, the wide-ranging speech included everything from the 2012 presidential election and advances in health technology.

Clinton is no stranger to the Coachella Valley, thanks to the Clinton Foundation’s partnership with the Humana Challenge.

According to news reports, he charges as much as $500,000 for a speaking engagement.

After the trip, Clinton headed to Texas to help celebrate the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Raul Ruiz, Brian Nestande compete over Salton Sea

If Friday’s schedules are any indication, the Salton Sea will be a major focus of next year’s congressional campaign.

Rep. Raul Ruiz and his Republican challenger, Assemblyman Brian Nestande, have scheduled competing events Friday in their respective efforts to save the dying sea.

Granted, both events are being coordinated through their legislative offices. But it’s hard to separate those platforms from what will eventually end up on campaign literature.

Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, will host a day-long gathering of federal dignitaries that includes U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary Anne Castle.

The event starts at 9 a.m. at the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club.

Ruiz announced his plans Wednesday.

Today, Nestande’s office put out a news release that said the Palm Desert Republican would spend Friday visiting three local high schools. He plans on touting an art contest for the new Salton Sea license plate.

If approved by lawmakers, sales from the license plates would benefit the sea’s restoration. And, out of full disclosure, The Desert Sun is supporting the contest.

Ruiz campaign pounces on Koch visit

Rep. Raul Ruiz is hoping this weekend’s Koch conference will spark a wave of donations to his own re-election campaign.

Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, sent an email to supporters this morning saying the only way to “stand a chance against the Kochs and their billions” is to raise money themselves.

“With this gathering of extremist Tea Party patrons right in our own backyard, we need to show the Kochs they can’t just buy elections,” Ruiz said in the fundraising pitch.

This weekend marks the 10th time that billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have brought conservative candidates and deep-pocketed Republican donors to the desert.

Details of the two-day gathering – including the local hotel they have reserved– are a closely guarded secret.  But speakers are expected to discuss how to diversify the GOP’s voter base.

Officials from the Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries have not returned Desert Sun requests for comment.

“We hope they spend thousands of dollars on fancy meals, spa treatments, and souvenirs in our local hotels, restaurants and stores. But unfortunately, it won’t make up for the damage their economic policies have done, in the form of jobs shipped overseas and homes foreclosed,” Ruiz wrote in the email to supporters.

“But they’re not coming to Palm Springs for a relaxing getaway. They’re here to plan how they’re going to spend tens of millions of dollars trying to buy the 2014 elections, just like they did in 2012. A lot of that money will be spent trying to defeat me.”

Ruiz’s 2014 challengers will include state Assemblyman Brian Nestande, a Palm Desert Republican who has launched an early congressional campaign.

Sen. Boxer wants labels for genetically engineered foods

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer today introduced a bill that would make the Food and Drug Administration label genetically engineered foods.

The bill already has bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Boxer, a Rancho Mirage, said in a statement.

“This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they buy.”

The FDA currently requires labeling for more than 3,000 ingredients and processes, according to Boxer’s office.

In 1992, Boxer’s office said the FDA issued a memo that said genetically engineered foods didn’t need labels because such items are not “materially” different.

The news release pointed to surveys showing 90 percent of Americans support new labeling.

However, in last November’s election, California voters rejected a statewide initiative that would have required such labels.

Rep. Ruiz joins veterans caucus

Rep. Raul Ruiz is now a member of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, his office announced today.

The bicameral and bipartisan caucus formed in the last Congressional session as a way to help the more than 800,000 veterans who are unemployed nationwide, according to federal leaders. Their efforts include the “I hire veterans” initiative.

“Veterans in the 36th District and all across the United States have served our country honorably and they deserve our steadfast support,” Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, said in a statement today.

“Unfortunately, too many veterans struggle to find a good job once they return home. This caucus is taking meaningful action to find work for our returning service members, and it’s a great example of what can be achieved when members of Congress put partisanship aside and come together to support our nation’s veterans.”

On Monday, Ruiz praised the Department of Veterans Affairs for working on the backlog of benefit claims.

Kochs to focus on diversifying voter base

As reported in today’s Desert Sun, billionaire brothers  Charles and David Koch are returning to the desert for their annual confab of influential Republican donors.

Details of this weekend’s event – including the local hotel they have reserved– have been kept under wraps.

But according to an email obtained by Mother Jones, the two-day gathering will focus on the conservative movement’s effort to “effectively engage growing demographic groups, such as Hispanic and Latino voters, and how to encourage principled and effective advocates of free enterprise to run for office.” It also will provide “this group’s rigorous post-election assessment.”

“Your efforts will not only effect positive change today, but for years and decades to come,” states the email from Koch aide Kevin Gentry. “After all, as you’ll see in April, it’s this group’s long-term focus that keeps us fighting for freedom, prosperity and opportunity – even when times are tough.”

As with previous events, the guest list includes “several U.S. governors, senators, members of the U.S. House leadership and top political analysts and commentators.”

This marks the 10th time the Kochs have gathered in the desert. The event starts Sunday, according to the email.

Representatives of the Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries have not returned Desert Sun requests for comment.

Federal leaders speak out

The two federal leaders who call the Coachella Valley home spoke out today on issues of national interest.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, commended the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new plan to deal with the backlog of benefit claims.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and it is unacceptable that so many of these brave men and women must wait years to access the benefits they have earned in service to our nation,” Ruiz said in a statement.

“While the VA’s new initiative is a step in the right direction toward reducing the backlog, it is not a permanent fix. I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, the VA, and veterans’ organizations to find long-term solutions that will improve and streamline the benefit delivery system for our nation’s veterans and eliminate the backlog once and for all.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took a moment to recognize Earth Day.

The Rancho Mirage Democrat noted that the holiday contributed to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as legislation to improve air and water.

“Over the past four decades, we have made a tremendous difference in protecting the environment and the health of our children and families,” Boxer, the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

“However, the growing threat of climate change puts our environment and public health at risk, and scientists tell us that the impacts of climate change continue to worsen.  …  We must do more, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to address climate change and its dangerous impacts.”

Councilman Russell Betts: Mayor campaign ‘not in the cards’

Just days after telling The Desert Sun that he was open to running for Desert Hot Springs mayor, Councilman Russell Betts has changed his position.0

“It’s just not in the cards this time,” Betts said this morning. “At this point in time, there’s no option open.”

Betts had earlier said he was “not ruling out the option” of challenging Mayor Yvonne Parks this fall.

Betts previously tried to unseat Parks in the 2009 election.