California’s gubernatorial race is widening on the Republican side with one famous name from the business world, ebay’s Meg Whitman, one former congressman, the 15th District’s Tom Campbell, and current State Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner all ready to hit the ground running. But as each candidate is vetted, some are wondering if Steve Poizner is a Ronnie(Reagan)-come-lately to the Republican Party as it has been discovered that Poizner donated money to the Gore/Leiberman Recount Committee in 2000.

IRS records* confirm that Mr. Poizner gave the hefty sum of $10,000 to the recount effort, a fund to which Jane Fonda is also listed as having donated $100,000. Records also show that Poizner donated $1,000 to Al Gore’s run for president as well as $2,000 to John Kerry’s.

Of course, the big question is, why would a Republican give such a large amount to a fund dedicated to overturning the election of a Republican president? And compiled with his generous contribution to overturn President Bush’s election, there is no record of Poizner having given to any Republican campaign previous to the 2000 general election.

So what is going on here? What sort of “lifelong” Republican donates money to overturn a vote that put a Republican in the White House? How long has Mr. Poizner been a Republican, anyway? The first anyone really knows of Poizner’s GOP pedigree is when he unsuccessfully ran for the State Assembly as a Republican against Ira Ruskin in 2004, though before that he worked in the Bush White House as the Director of Critical Infrastructure Protection.

What is Steve Poizner’s explanation not only for being a late comer to the GOP officially, but also for donating quite a lot of money to a fund that would have helped Democrats take the White House in 2000? As it happens, Poizner does have an explanation of sorts. He says his wife made him do it.

In a recent interview with John Fleischman, for instance, Poizner says that he was merely supporting his wife, a registered Democrats. And in February, Poizner told the Sacremento Bee, “I’m a lifelong Republican. I’m married to a Democrat. I’ve only voted for Republicans. I’ve only supported Republicans,” and said that his wife used their joint account for the donations to Democrat candidates and causes. This may be a perfectly understandable reason.

But it isn’t just his donations to Democrats — whether it really was his wife or not. Poizner also has a record of being against tax cuts. He spoke against the Bush tax cuts in 2004, in 2006 Poizner joined an effort to abolish Calif. Proposition 13, a law that places protections on local property taxes to keep them from being easily raised, and he also donated the amazing sum of nearly $200,000 in support of Proposition 39 back in 2000, another pro-tax effort. This coupled with the donations to Democrat candidates sure raises suspicions that Poizner is a typical tax and spend liberal.

Whatever the case, these are some interesting questions that Poizner should be pressed on. After all, Republicans have been frustrated to see their candidates time and again run as staunch Republicans, only to turn into Democrat lite once in office. California’s Republicans deserve to know just who and what they are voting for. Does Poizner lean toward Democrats? His donation to the Gore/Leiberman Recount Committee certainly raises the question and so does his past efforts pushing for higher taxes. And if this truly is just a case of his wife’s donations, if he truly has changed his tune on taxes then let’s hear Poizner’s conservative ideas. Let’s press him on these issues before we settle on his candidacy.

*(The IRS form with both Poizner and Fonda’s contributions listed appear on Schedule A, page 101 of 140 of the form 8872 for the period October 18, 2000 through November 27, 2000 on the IRS website)

(Photo of Commissioner Poizner credit: Randall Benton/[email protected])