THE BLOG
02/04/2014 01:17 pm ET | Updated Apr 06, 2014

California's Jerry Brown: The Richest Candidate in the Nation's Poorest State

Governor Jerry Brown is the richest candidate in the nation's poorest state.

Last Friday, the incumbent Democrat reported that he's amassed a $17 million campaign war chest, according to state campaign disclosure reports. In the calendar year, California's top executive raised a whopping $9.87 million in monetary contributions, with the overwhelming majority of those funds coming from big corporations, labor unions, oil companies and high-worth individuals that routinely lobby state government.

Jerry's certainly come a long way since his youthful vow of poverty. In 2013, Brown's average campaign contribution was $17,713.27 with 287 contributions of $10,000 or more. That high average was buoyed by 198 campaign checks of $25,000 or more -- with 167 checks written for the legal maximum, $27,200.

An astounding sum that is matched by an equally astounding fact: For every campaign dollar raised by Jerry Brown in 2013, there's a Californian living in poverty.

According to the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure, 9 million Californians live in poverty. That's 23.8 percent of the Golden State's population living in the nation's worst poverty rate. To which the governor replies, "We can always do more, but I really think California, relative to the rest of the country, is doing a very credible job in responding to the needs of our people."

Very credible job? His flippant remark wasn't an off-hand comment, but reflects the governor's true feelings about poverty in California. As the Los Angeles Times observed, the governor "made just a passing mention of 'struggling families'" in his State of the State address.

In November, Brown downplayed the state's record poverty rate in an interview with National Public Radio's, All Things Considered.

"California is a magnet," said Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian. "People come here from all over the world -- close by from Mexico and Central America and further out from Asia and the Middle East. So California beckons and people come. And then, of course, a lot of people who arrive are not that skilled and they take lower paying jobs, and that reflects itself in the economic distribution."

In the view of many progressives, it's companies like Walmart that leave people in poverty. "Walmart's low wages have led to full-time employees seeking public assistance," writes Barry Ritholtz. "Should taxpayers be supplementing the salaries of these often minimum-wage workers at large profitable firms?"

Which all comes back to the governor's campaign war chest. "Brown also got checks from some of the biggest names in business and on Wall Street, including $27,200 each from Wal-Mart, Exxon, Philip Morris and Bank of America," notes the San Jose Mercury News. Walmart and other multi-national corporations have made Brown the richest candidate in the country. No wonder the governor is indifferent to inequality.

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