Friday Fishwrap: Sex, Gossip & Taxes


karenbassIt’s on: Back before the Earth cooled, Capitol lore held that nobody got serious about the budget until the temperature in Sacramento hit 100 degrees. It’s tougher to apply the rule these days, when budget fights span the seasons, but even at that, it’s clear that with highs in the mid-70s  forecast for days to come, the 2009 budget battle is only starting to get cranked up.

An important blow was struck Thursday, however, when Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley summoned a motley collection of bloggers and online journo types onto a conference call for the purpose of announcing their plan to push for new “revenues” and “fees” – what less diplomatic folks might call “higher taxes” – in the face of Governor Arnold’s growing intransigence against anything other than cuts.

“We’re hoping we’ll maintain our sanity,” Bass said, by way of introduction.

Beyond the talking point of the day – “We are going to do everything we can to protect the safety net” — Bass and Skinner (great name for a sporting goods store, BTW) were pretty elusive about exactly what revenue proposals they plan to put forth, except to say they expect to push legislation that they will argue requires only a majority vote, rather than two-thirds, referring inquiring minds to the web sites of the California Tax Reform Association and AFCSME for further insight into their, um, thinking on the issue.

As a political matter, the details of any plans the Assembly Dems may or may not hatch are less important than the fact they floated the notion on the same day that Gov. Conan reverted to full Barbarian mode, thus setting up what our old friend Groucho Marx would call “a fundamental contradiction” that all but ensures the fight is going 15 rounds.

“What we need to do,” the loincloth-clad governor told the L.A. Times ed board, “is just to basically cut off all the funding and just let them have a taste of what it is like when the state comes to a shutdown — grinding halt.”

Talk about creating an atmosphere of compromise.

Bass Gas: Speaking on the speaker phone, Madame Speaker also baffled bloggers by predicting that if the budget fight isn’t settled quickly, “the state would essentially default” and “an entity could come in and take over the budget process and do the cuts.”


Bass had fled the room by the time someone asked what exactly this “entity” might be, leaving her unfortunate press aide to try to clean up the mess by assuring one and all that her boss was, ha, ha,  speaking only hypothetically about a “doomsday scenario” that, ha, ha, would surely never come to pass because the budget will be approved in a spirit of comity and fellowship, etc. etc.

The most likely explanation is that Bass was pointing to the not-all-that-far-fetched possibility that the budget mess could end up being adjudicated by a federal judge, a scenario Tom Campbell explained considerably more clearly last week in a Calbuzz interview.

sunnemcpeakDark Horses for Courses: The Sunne McPeak for Governor boomlet set off by a Chron blog post by Carla Marinucci lasted little more than a day, until the resourceful Lisa Vorderbrueggen knocked it down on her Coco Times blog by talking to the short-lived candidate herself.

“If I ever decided to take leave of my mind and do something like that, I’ll come see you for counseling,” McPeak said, a terrific line that made Calbuzz wish she would get in the race, if only to lighten things among the dour male trio now forming the field. The McPeak rumor got a lot of cred primarily because there’s plenty of room for a moderate Democrat, not to mention a woman, in the current liberal field.

Now that Sunne speculation has been eclipsed, we hear that at least one prominent California Democrat is importuning Treasurer Bill Lockyer to jump in. Lockyer could occupy some of the same space as McPeak (actually the wide-bodied treasurer would take up a helluva’ lot more of it) and, interstingly, has been raising his profile in recent days. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Which reminds us: Lockyer is living proof of the futility of term limits in attempting to drive “career politicians” from office. He’d already put in 17 years in the Legislature, and was a second-tier poster boy for those pushing the idea, when term limits passed in 1990, but he’s  since managed to extend his Sacramento career by another 19 years, simply by nimbly and constantly positioning himself to hop to a new office.

danielle_steel_spotlight[1]Danielle Decker: If this whole journalism doesn’t work out for our friend Cathy Decker at the L.A. Times, she’s got a great future as a writer of romance novels, as she demonstrated in her, uh, close examination of the role of sex scandals in the governor’s race.

“The actress wife of San Francisco’s mayor has a bikini portrait on her website too, as well as a bunch of what once would have been described as come-hither shots. In one she is lying in a wispy, negligee-like dress on a sheet; in another she is topless, with a scarf trailing across her breasts.”

Calbuzz feels a thrill going up our leg.

Decker’s bottom line was that Newsom and Villaraigosa’s zipper problems won’t amount to zip in the campaign, but she hurried past an important nuance distinguishing the two:

Calbuzz sez that in politics, cheating on your wife, as Antonio did, is scummy; but cheating on your campaign manager with his wife? That’s beyond the pale.

— By Roberts and Trounstine

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