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Archive for 2009



Poizner Blasts Whitman on eBay Management

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Steve Poizner lashed out Thursday at Meg Whitman, his chief rival for conservative support in the battle for the Republican nomination for governor, charging that the former eBay CEO has a “disastrous record of fiscal mismanagement” in business.

Citing a Wednesday Wall Street Journal report (subscription required), Insurance Commissioner Poizner’s campaign spokesman put out a release that said eBay’s 2005 acquisition of the online telephone service Skype during Whitman’s tenure has resulted in a $2 billion loss for shareholders and left her successor to “clean up the failure.”

“If past performance is indicative of future results, Californians can’t afford Meg Whitman’s disastrous record of fiscal mismanagement,” said Poizner spokesman Kevin Spillane.

Coming 14 months before the GOP primary, the sudden attack reflected not only the aggressive style of campaigning that Poizner has adopted in the early going but also the potential vulnerability of political candidates who come directly to politics from the world of business and finance. The shot at Whitman is surely only the first that will be aimed at her management record.

“She’s making her business career the entire rationale for her candidacy,” Spillane told calbuzz. “And this is the cornerstone of her record at eBay.”

The Journal story, by Geoffrey Fowler, reported that “the online-auction giant purchased Skype in 2005 for about $2.6 billion in cash and stock, on the premise that eBay buyers would use Skype’s service to communicate. But two years later, eBay took a $1.4 billion charge for Skype, reflecting the unit’s shrinking value.”

Whitman spokesman Mitch Zak would not venture to explain why Poizner had decided to attack the former eBay CEO.

“Meg Whitman has a tremendous record of accomplishment in her decade leading eBay. She joined the company when it had 30 employees and $4 million in revenues. When she left it had 15,000 employees and $8 billion in revenues,” Zak said. “She has been recognized throughout the world as one of the most impressive and accomplished business leaders,” he said.

The salvo against Whitman recalled the troubles that faced former Northwest Airlines Chairman Al Checchi in 1998 when he attempted to use his business acumen as the fundamental rationale for his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor. News articles and research by competing candidates delving into his tumultuous leadership of the airline undercut the central argument for his candidacy.

The Poizner statement also took on former Skype President Henry Gomez, now a key Whitman adviser, calling him “her campaign majordomo.” Through his spokesman Poizner said that current eBay chairman John Donahoe is “now cleaning up the failure” of Whitman and Gomez.

Zak elected not to reply to any of the charges.

“Meg doesn’t need to do anything more than share her vision for California and demonstrate that she’s not a Sacramento politician but a leader who will bring this state back,” he said.

We’re Just Sayin’: Who Does CTA Think They’re Kidding?

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Just wonderin’ how stupid the California Teachers Association thinks we are, given their new “Yes on Propositions 1A and 1B” TV ad and the matching mailer that arrived on Wednesday.

Here’s the essence of their argument:

“Prop 1A will control state spending and create long-term reserve funds to protect against more cuts to our schools, our children’s health care programs and funding for police and fire.

“Prop 1B will begin paying back some of the devastating cuts to our public schools and community colleges — when the economy improves.”

Yo! CTA! What about the $16 billion in tax increases that 1A extends in order to keep the budget afloat? Not important enough to mention? Are we too dense to possibly understand why this might actually be a good idea? Or are you just too weasley to actually try to make the policy case for taxes ?

“Repay and Protect Our Schools” is a swell slogan — but it lies by omission. And when voters figure it out, which they will, given that thousands of people are screaming about the tax hikes at rallies around the state, fuggedaboutit.

Just askin’ how the New York Times could report with such certainty that there were precisely 773 anti-tax “tea parties” scheduled across the nation Wednesday. Really? Not 772? Or 774?

On a day when TV pictures of “Obama = Socialism” signs and old fat guys wearing white revolutionary wigs dominated political news, the ideological battle to control the narrative boiled down to this:

1-The wave of tea party protests is an authentic manifestation of true grassroots outrage that will spread like a prairie fire in protest against reckless, wasteful Democratic government spending sprees; or

2-Tea parties are a phony, Republican put-up job fueled by Limbaugh, Fox and the repulsive Michelle Malkin cynically manipulating decent working class folks to rail against their economic self-interest.

Looking ahead to the 2010 elections, who wins this week’s spin war will matter much less than who is crowing on the morning of May 20, when the result of the special election are in.

If Prop. 1A goes down, and if it goes down big, the media are sure to interpret the vote as the opening shot of a new, California tax revolt, and comparisons to Prop. 13 will rule the airwaves (whether this is true or not). Prop. 1A foes are already stoking that story line, as in this talking point Ventura County supe Peter Foy delivered to us this week: “On May 19, we can say no. And then we’ll have the opportunity to take the tea party energy and drive it across the nation.”

As a political matter, the defeat of 1A — not to mention 1C — will also mean Gov. Arnold and legislative Democrats, tails tucked firmly between manly thighs, will be forced to return to negotiations with a cackling pack of minority Republicans, fiercely emboldened by the election result, confirmed in their belief that voters adore their anti-statist ideology.

At that point, California will be facing a deficit of $12-15 billion, with tax increases no longer on the table. With the state teetering on the brink of bankruptcy –- whatever that might mean –- the political options will be cuts, cuts, or more cuts.

Just sayin’ that the right-wing radio loudmouths demagoguing this week’s anti-tax protests should have checked the Urban Dictionary definition of “teabagging” and at least considered calling it something else. Dick Armey, indeed.

Peter Foy: Poizner and Whitman Are “Squishy” on Prop. 1A

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Republican Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, who has emerged as a leading conservative voice against Prop. 1A, says GOP millionaire wannabe governors Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman aren’t doing nearly enough to kill the May 19 election measure.

“Poizner and Whitman should be doing everything they can, they should be with us and they should be throwing money at it,” Foy told calbuzz.

“It’s going to hurt them in their campaigns,” he added. “We want someone who’s going to do something on this and isn’t squishy.”

Amid blogospheric buzz about the possibility that the Ventura supe might jump into the governor’s race, Foy left the door wide open when we asked him about it.

“Spending is out of control . . . and we need leadership in Sacramento on this,” he said. “On the Republican side, where’s Poizner, where’s Whitman, where’s Campbell? If that kind of leadership doesn’t rise up then you bet I will take a long hard look” at running for governor.

Foy’s comments to calbuzz are likely to stoke the unhappiness among red meat movement conservatives with the candidacies of Insurance Commissioner Poizner and former eBay exec Whitman. The two Bay Area moderates are both scampering to the right in an effort to capture the crucial GOP right wing in the 2010 primary.

Foy, who is scheduled to address a big “tea party” rally in Sacramento today, has hooked up with veteran anti-tax crusaders Jon Coupal and Ted Costa as a co-chair of an ad hoc committee to defeat 1A.

While former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell has come out in favor of Prop. 1A, Poizner and Whitman have both declared they’re against it. But Foy insisted the true measure of their opposition is if either steps up with some cash for TV ads against it.

“Poizner’s done some things, but it’s not enough –- you have to be a leader,” he said in a telephone interview. “I got something, a little mailer from Steve Poizner –- come on, you have to put it on TV.”

Prop. 1A is the linchpin of five measures put on the May 19 special election ballot by Gov. Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders. Ostensibly intended to create a bigger state reserve fund by imposing restrictions on spending –- a feature which has drawn the ire of liberals –- it would also would extend for two years $16 billion worth of tax increases used to balance the budget in February’s deficit deal.

Asked what he would do as governor to close a deficit estimated to reach at least $12 billion if the ballot measures go down, Foy said, “There’s no question it’s going to be cuts.”

He argued that much of the budget problem came about because state government had hired “50,000 people in the last five or six years.” (According to the official state figures, however, state employment increased 31,352 between 2002-03 and 2007-08)

Foy also said that it would be necessary to impose cuts on public education. “because it’s the biggest numbers” in the budget. He said considerable savings could be found by “getting rid of layers and layers of middle management” and by privatizing services such as janitors, maintenance and cafeteria workers.

Asked what the chances are – on a scale of 1 to 10 — that he’ll run for governor Foy said “5 or 6.” He said he would decide what to do by “the first of summer.”

PS: After posting this, Jon Fleischman over at Flashreport, tipped us to Whitman’s open letter to the Cal Reep Exec Committee in which she argues against Props. 1A, 1B, 1C and for Props. 1D, 1E and 1F.

RIP: Sacto Services Planned for Jerry Gillam

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Jerry Gillam, longtime Sacramento bureau man for the L.A. Times, died Saturday at 77. He was a terrific reporter and, more importantly, a terrific person, the kind of guy who out of basic decency would help a newbie on the beat, even one for a competing paper, find the bathroom and figure out what end was up.

Former Sacto Bee scribe Jim Richardson, our friend who is now in the soul-saving business, reports on his Facebook page that he’ll be in the pulpit for a memorial service for Gillam on April 24 at 11 am at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento. Here’s a link to Steve Lawrence’s AP story:

Mad Dog Poizner Strikes Again

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Steve Poizner has yet to spend a dime from his multi-million-dollar bank account opposing Proposition 1A on TV, but the Insurance Commissioner was once again seeking free media Monday, attacking Attorney General Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for backing the May 19 election measure.

“Jerry’s endorsement has reminded us that the tired Sacramento status quo offers insincere excuses instead of real results when it comes to ending the state’s structural budget deficit,” said Poizner, who so far not has not articulated a genuine solution of his own to California’s budget mess.

“Using bankruptcy as a scare tactic is just an excuse for lack of leadership,” Poizner added, in attacking Villaraigosa, who predicted Friday that the state could go broke if Prop.1A fails. “The financial integrity and budgeting process of this state is already bankrupt.”

Pretty boilerplate stuff except for one thing:

How come Poizner skipped over San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who also supports Prop.1A? Was this an oversight, a tactical decision or a snub?

None of the above, insisted Poizner spokesmouth Kevin Spillane, citing the timeliness of Villaraigosa’s comments, made Friday, and Brown’s, reported Saturday in calbuzz.

Besides, he said, “At this point, they (Brown and Villaraigosa) are the top two Democratic candidates. We’ll be having fun with Gavin in the future. And we just wanted to get out there and promote calbuzz.” (Sounds okay to us).

So the omission of Newsom was a kind of a snub. And given that the Field Poll shows nearly four in 10 Democrats and independents have no opinion about Newsom, why waste too much time making him better known?

But why hasn’t Poizner or Megabucks Meg Whitman , the former eBay auctioneer in chief, spent any of their millions to rail against Prop. 1A – and get themselves known statewide — on TV?

“Everyone’s in such a hurry! All in due time,” Whitman mouthpiece Rob Stutzman told us in an email. “Keeping our options open in 1A.”

Said Spillane: “It’s still up in the air. A million here, a million there – it adds up. . . At the end of the day, it’s not my money.”

All of which lends credence to speculation by estimable SacB columnizer Dan Walters who wondered in print the other day: “Could it be that Whitman and Poizner are denouncing the measures to gain traction with GOP conservatives but secretly want them to pass to make their hoped-for governorships easier? An old saying reveals the answer: Money talks while B.S. walks.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, big guy.