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Archive for 2009



Grab Bag: Twitter Cash, New Rule, DiFi and Tony V

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

gavin3Tweeting For Dollars: With the deadline for this quarter’s fundraising approaching fast (midnight tonight), Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown and Steve Poizner all turned to their Twitter followers to raise bucks and demonstrate support.

On the Democratic side, Brown seems to be a big winner, predicting he’ll have $7.3 million to $7.4 million in the bank while Newsom claimed to be breaking new ground in online fundraising.

Here’s a series of Newsom pitches:

* Campaign reporting deadline in 36 hours. Need 208 donations to break 4000 online. Can you give $10?
* Update: 162 donations to go to hit 4000. 75 donations already today! Can you give $10 to help?
* Update – 227 people donated today! We’re just 10 donors short of our goal of 4000 online donations already.
* Reporting deadline in 13 hours. We r $2,459 short of $1 million raised online. Can you give $10?

(In an email to supporters Tuesday afternoon, Newsom says he’s pulled in more than 4,000 online donations worth more than $1 million.)

EGBrown3Here are a couple of Brown’s tweets:

* Help me Beat the Deadline: Midnight tonight -
* Less than 10 hours to go – help me beat the deadline!

And an assist from Joe Trippi:
* I’ve worked w/ Jerry Brown for a long time. CA is a mess. He’s the right man to get CA out of it. Pls donate b4 midnight

“We’re going to have somewhere between $7.3 and $7.4 million in the bank,” Brown told Calbuzz Tuesday afternoon.

126719_poizner_GMK_And then there was Steve Poizner, trying to build up his showing against eMeg (who’s expected to show as much as $8 million for the quarter).
* June 30th fundraising deadline is tonight, become a Dollar Donor today!

People often ask us, “Calbuzz, what about this Twitter deal? Is it important to campaigning these days?” To which we reply: It depends how it’s used.

When a candidate or campaign uses Twitter to raise money (like the examples above) or to mobilize supporters (like Tom Campbell did the other day when he was about to appear on KGO Radio with Ronn Owens) – those are uses of Twitter that make sense.

Then there’s what we call, in the trade, a Big Fat Waste of Time:

Whitman2010 Just filled up with gas at the Boyett gas station. Now off to Visalia in our truck

Who gives a rat’s ass?

sanfordCalbuzz Rules: While everybody knows that the First Absolute Rule of Politics is that “Conventional wisdom is always wrong,”  South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford appears to have invented a second inalienable law of politics:  “Don’t cheat on your wife and then talk to the AP.”

Sanford caught a lucky break last week when wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson’s death quickly eclipsed the bizarre story of his sexcapades with Argentine news reader Maria Belen Chapur. A wiser, or less narcissistic, pol might have relished the opportunity to lower his profile, but not good ole’ Governor Gamecock.

No, Sanford had to fight his way back into the headlines  by sitting down with a couple of AP reporters at the South Carolina statehouse and spill his guts, not only offering TMI about Ms. Chapur, but also way more than we wanted to know about the rest of his personal life.

“This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story,” he said. “A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.”

Yuck.

Hey, if this whole politics thing doesn’t work out, Mark, you can always find a job writing jacket copy for Danielle Steel.

Go ahead, make my day: That roar of hilarity rising up and out of Southern California feinsteinglassesemanates from the political camp of Senator Dianne Feinstein, choking with laughter after reading GOP analyst Dan Schnur’s LAT op-ed predicting Herself won’t stand for re-election in 2012.

Of even greater amusement was Schnur’s suggestion that L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in line to take over the seat two years hence. “That would be a Clint Eastwood moment,” says one DiFi acolyte. “Please, God, let Antonio run against Dianne.”

tonyvAdd Tony V: Speaking of Villaraigosa, Betty Pleasant, who writes the “Soulvine” column for the Los Angeles Wave has some great behind-the-scenes dish from the big parade celebrating the Lakers’ NBA championship. She reports that Kobe Bryant was none too happy with the former Tony Villar’s efforts to push himself in the team’s spotlight, and refused for a time to board the bus to the event:

The cause of the hold-up was occurring adjacent to the locker room, where Kobe was refusing to ride on the City Council bus because the mayor was to ride on it. At the same time, the mayor, the consummate spotlight thief, was refusing to get on the City Council bus unless he got on with Kobe. Kobe loudly denounced the mayor in phrases that
started with “I don’t like the …” and ended with “I’m not going to let him pimp my popularity!”

Calbuzz Face-Off: Drill Baby Drill, Yea or No Way?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

oilrigAs the state’s budget battle drags on amid bitter debate over program cuts, there is equal acrimony over a revenue-raising proposal to allow drilling for oil in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara. With the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project raising questions about finances, the environment and political process, Calbuzz invited the leading advocate on each side, Deputy Finance DirectorTom Sheehy and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, to make his case for our readers. Their posts — yes and no — are linked below.

Yes: A Safe $1.8B Drilling Deal, Blessed by Enviros

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

sheehyBy Tom Sheehy
Special to Calbuzz

Since going on-line this year, Calbuzz has treated its readers  to timely reporting on the twists and turns of the Tranquillon Ridge project.  As the Legislature continues to debate the components of a budget plan to close a gap of more than $24 billion, we believe there’s still an opportunity to move forward on this project in a fiscally – and environmentally – responsible manner.

To re-cap: the product of an unprecedented agreement between an oil company (Plains Exploration and Production, or PXP) and a coalition of environmental groups, the project would allow PXP to access oil on state lands from an existing platform in nearby federal waters.  In return, the firm will give the state an immediate up-front $100 million royalty advance and about $1.8 billion over the next 14 years.  But it’s not just about the money:  once the project ends, the company will give 3,900 acres of central coast property it owns for permanent conservation and public use.  It also will stop production on four of its offshore rigs and take out all of its onshore production facilities.

Despite strong support for this project, the State Lands Commission didn’t allow the project it to move forward early in the year.  But in May, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed an innovative approach to giving the project another opportunity for review.  The Governor has asked the Legislature to approve a bill restoring authority to the State Director of Finance for a limited window off time to reconsider certain offshore oil lease applications and determine if they’re in the best interest of the state.

The Governor maintains his strong opposition to new oil drilling off California’s coast and he continues to support the moratorium.  This project maintains the moratorium on oil drilling under the California Coastal Sanctuary Act of 1994 because it would operate from an existing oil platform in federal waters. It takes advantage of a specific exemption that allows for new leases if oil is leaking from an existing state field into an actively producing federal field — which is what’s happening in this case.  A State Lands Commission report determined that the ongoing drainage is reducing the ultimate amount of oil reserves that the state could recover by as much as 260,000 barrels a month.  That is $4 million per month in lost revenue to the state.

Or, think of it this way:  at a time when we’re being forced to pare back spending in education, health care, and virtually every area of state government, we’re essentially giving $4 million a month to the federal government.

The entire infrastructure needed to conduct this project is in place and already operating.  There will be no new platforms needed for the state to realize the project’s benefits.  Approval of the project will allow the state to capture the oil in an efficient manner while securing significant revenue.

Most importantly, this proposal doesn’t “subvert the public process” as some critics have alleged.  The Governor’s proposal builds upon five years of rigorous state and local government public environmental review by the Lands Commission and Santa Barbara County, as well as a meticulous California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. If approved, the California Department of Finance would only have the authority to reconsider the project after additional public hearings. If Finance decides to move ahead, the project would still have to go through the California Coastal Commission’s public review process and also gain approval from the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS).

We are also confident that when the project ends, the state is strongly empowered to enforce the shutdown of oil operations.  PXP made a firm commitment and negotiated a binding agreement with a coalition of environmental organizations to take out its platforms, remove its onshore facilities, and provide a valuable package of environmental benefits.  There also are multi-layered enforcement tools in place:  permits for this project will be enforceable by the State Lands Commission leases and the County and Coastal Commission permits.  In addition, the terms of the agreement between PXP and the environmental coalition uniquely allow the California Attorney General the right to intervene in court to enforce the agreement.

These are difficult, challenging, and unprecedented times in California.  We believe the Tranquillon Ridge Project is a common-sense, environmentally responsible approach to leveraging the state’s own resources to help generate vital new revenues at a time of great fiscal need.

No: Arnold’s Plan is a Quick and Dirty Power Grab

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Garamendi PhotoBy Lt. Gov. John Garamendi
Special to Calbuzz

The Schwarzenegger Administration, through the California Department of Finance, wants to “drill baby drill” off the Golden State’s coastline, and they’re willing to undermine 70+ years of checks and balances to do it. Will we let them get away with it?

In late January, I joined California Controller John Chiang in a two-to-one vote of the California State Lands Commission (SLC) to reject what would have been the first new oil lease in California waters in more than 40 years.

As chair of the SLC, I take my responsibility as a steward of the environment very seriously, and I did not think the proposal was in the best interests of the state. Beyond the inherent environmental risks posed by all new drilling projects, I did not think assurances included in the proposal to decommission oil platforms decades down the road were enforceable.

Unfortunately, the Department of Finance is unable to take “No” for an answer. For the first time in our commission’s 70-year history, their proposal is to bypass the SLC and permit the Department of Finance to authorize the oil lease off the Santa Barbara coast. Let’s keep in mind it was 70 years ago that a major scandal (link) at the Department of Finance led to the State Lands Commission having the authority to issue leases.

What is wrong with this picture? Plenty, and at the expense of California.

The Schwarzenegger Administration refuses to tax Big Oil companies that now extract oil in California to fund critical health care services, children’s programs and education. This tax would generate $1.2 billion dollars annually.  On Monday, the Governor warned he will veto the budget bill package including an oil production tax.

Instead the administration is taking the quick and dirty way out. Big Oil has offered to California $100 million dollars to seduce the state into granting the first new oil drilling lease in California since the Santa Barbara oil spill 41 years ago, a spill that covered hundreds of miles of ocean and over 30 miles of sandy beaches with more than three million gallons of crude oil.

Learning from history means not blindly repeating the mistakes of the past.
At an open hearing of the SLC last month in Santa Monica, Controller Chiang and I again joined together to voice our opposition to this power grab, backing a resolution calling on the legislature to reject the Department of Finance’s proposal. During public comment, 12 environmentalists agreed with our position – including representatives from the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Center – while not a single individual rose in support of the Department of Finance’s end-run around the SLC.

”We cannot get away from the fact that this is the first new offshore oil lease in 40 years, and if I sound upset, it’s because I am,” said Susan Jordan, director of the California Coastal Protection Network. “I have never seen such a blatant power grab.”

“We don’t always agree with the decisions made by this body, but we recognize and support the hard work of your staff and the public process designed to enforce the protection of our precious state lands,” added Joe Geeber, California Policy Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation.

The science is clear; drilling for new oil now exposes our coast to the potential devastation caused by an oil spill and contributes to the greenhouse gases that chill our ability to combat global warming. As I’ve said in the past, California must focus on becoming a renewable energy leader and leave the extraction of new sources of fossil fuels to the 20th century.

But you don’t have to agree with me to appreciate the larger issues at stake.
To bypass the SLC and give the Department of Finance authority to approve this oil lease threatens the independence of the SLC, a commission designed to be an independent environmental watchdog.

More than 35 environmental organizations are opposed to the Department of Finance’s plan, including some that were initially supportive of the oil lease proposal. To allow the Department of Finance to usurp the independent commission responsible for protecting our state lands and waters means we will lose one of the most important safeguards available to California ‘s natural habitats.

Does the Money Primary Matter in GOP Gov Race?

Monday, June 29th, 2009

emegcoverForty-nine weeks before California Republicans pick their candidate for governor, Tom Campbell is winning the Press Corps Primary, Steve Poizner leads the Attack Dog Primary and Meg Whitman is way ahead in the Fred Barnes/Weekly Standard  Sloppy Wet Kiss Primary.

The shape of the GOP nomination race remains unformed and uncertain, unlike the Democratic contest, which has settled — at least for now — into a mano-a-mano match-up. In contrast to Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, the GOP contenders have been less visible, their competition to date waged largely for the benefit of the cognoscenti over endorsements, free media and the occasional cheap shot zinger.

The only reliable data we’ve seen is a Field Poll from March that found Whitman at 21%, Campbell at 18% and Poizner at 7%. But these numbers have little meaning since only 28% of Republicans have any opinion about Whitman and just 40% have a view on Campbell. And even though Poizner is a statewide officeholder, only 42% of Republcans have an opinion about him.

poiznerpointing1A key tactical moment for the Reeps will come Tuesday, however, when the rivals show their cards — and balance sheets – for the first big cash-raising period of the Money Primary. With eMeg and the Poison Commish, the two self-made Silicon Valley zillionaires, maneuvering to emerge as the favorite moderate of the right-wing primary voters, media coverage of the new fundraising reports will be crucial in shaping the narrative of the early stage of the campaign. (Even if most of the media coverage misses the point. See #1 below.)

With no clear front-runner among the three candidates now running – a fourth is still playing Hamlet – the campaign at this point is all about fundamentals: money, organization and message. With that in mind, here is a look at five key questions about the GOP primary:

1. Who wins the money primary – and does it really matter?

As a practical matter, neither Whitman nor Poizner needs to raise a dime from outside sources, since they’re both wealthy enough to finance their campaigns for governor and buy a couple of small island nations with the leftover change. For them, political contributions are not about raising the funds to run a campaign operation –- as they are for most mortal candidates. For Whitman and Poizner, fundraising is a kind fiscal Potemkin villagism –- done mainly for symbolic reasons to demonstrate that someone other than the candidate believes enough to invest in the campaign.

That’s why the Whitman campaign for months has been talking up expectations about her reporting at least $5 million raised this week, much of it from individual and organizational donors rather than from her own bank account. Raising a bunch of dough she doesn’t really need, the campaign hopes, will establish Whitman as a viable candidate who is more than a business executive dabbling in politics: “We will not disappoint,” said Whitman spokesman Mitch Zak. “The fundraising primary is a good indication of who can move voters.”

Poizner – who, in the past, has argued that campaign contributions are a measure of external support — has been more circumspect about how much he’ll report.  But his handlers  set out to inoculate their guy from a big eMeg money report, writing in a memo to his steering committee today:tomcampbell

“Many candidates are either ‘money’ candidates who rely on fundraising but lack a strong connection with voters or activists while others are ‘grassroots’ candidates who have difficulty raising the money necessary to get their message out and can rely only on volunteers and activists. Steve Poizner is unique in that he will have a fully-funded campaign with the resources necessary to get his message out as well as have impressive grassroots support that is vital in GOP primaries.”

As for Campbell, he will be the poor church mouse of the race and knows that no matter how much raises, his well-heeled foes will always have more.

2. How much do endorsements matter?

Poizner jumped out early in the campaign, starting last year to begin rounding up dozens of local, legislative and congressional endorsements that gave him a head start in putting together a statewide campaign organization. With a wide-open race, the endorsements of elected officials matter more than usual for 2010, because they can provide the infrastructure for registration, absentee and turnout operations, by offering volunteers, mailing lists and contributors.

For Poizner – who isn’t as personally wealthy as Whitman – endorsements are a kind of political currency. He’s been racking ‘em up like Phil Angelides did in the Democratic primary in 2006 – hoping to build a firewall against eMeg’s money.

In the last several weeks, however, Whitman has succeeded in flipping half-a-dozen former Poizner endorsers, including three legislators, a House member and a county chairwoman, all of whom withdrew their endorsements of the insurance commissioner and started singing the praises of eMeg. That’s the same as snatching Poizner’s purse.

At one point amid the rash of defections last week, Poizner chairman Jim Brulte responded by sending out a letter to GOP lawmakers in a bid to settle things down, contrasting his guy’s political and start-up business experience with Whitman’s CEO gig at eBay: “Though she has much to offer,” Brulte said of eMeg, “her campaign is once again proving why first time candidate business executives never win.”

“Voters simply don’t buy the connection that running an online auction company is the best training ground for our next governor,” he added. “And never in modern history has there been a worse time to be running on the ‘corporate CEO’ brand.”

Whitman’s sudden entry into the grassroots endorsement race, which clearly stung Team Poizner, followed several months when she gave a series of interviews to national media and became the flavor of the month for Beltway establishment Republicans. Among other props, she earned a gushy cover piece in the conservative Weekly Standard by Fred Barnes and the backing of high-profile GOPers, from ex-presidential candidate John McCain to congressional wunderkid Eric Cantor.

To a large extent, the jousting over endorsements is total inside baseball; like the battle of perception over fundraising. However, it matters as a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy: if members of Congress and the Assembly who’ll be facing election themselves next year stand up for a candidate for governor, it sets a marker for voters in their districts about who they should think about backing.

3. What do the candidates stand for?

With the economy and the state’s failing budget the only issues that matter for now, Whitman and Poizner have both been content to stand atop the hill, watching the battle and mouthing conservative platitudes that could be drawn from the 1996 Steve Forbes for president campaign, or the Milton Friedman script for almost any GOP nominating contest in the nation.

Campbell, by contrast, has been aggressive in analyzing, commenting and proposing on the state budget issue, partly because of his experience and background as an economist and public finance expert and partly because he has no choice. Unable to compete with Whitman and Poizner for money, Campbell needs to keep a high profile in the news; he’s helped in this effort because reporters generally respond favorably to his mix of specific, thoughtful ideas about the state’s problems, regular guy persona, and his instant accessibility to anyone with a notebook or a microphone.

As a policy matter, Campbell’s disciplined brand of fiscal conservatism comes with a strain of non-ideological realpolitick – as shown by his support for a short-term increase in the gas tax to ease the deficit, a proposal that may cause him a world of hurt in the primary. Whitman and Poizner for their parts have both largely avoided talking to California reporters familiar with the issues (about that interview with Calbuzz…) and so far have offered little but empty rhetoric and knee-jerk Republican talking points on fiscal issues.

4. Who is Peter Foy and why would he matter?

Foy is a conservative Ventura County supervisor who’s been doing a dance of the seven veils for months about whether or not he’ll enter the race.

Foy has never run statewide and has the naïve and breezy assurance of an overconfident former business executive who hasn’t learned that this stuff is harder than it looks. The reason anyone is still paying attention to him is that, unlike the trio of contenders now on the field, he’s pro-life and conservative on other cultural issues. As we wrote several months ago, the evangelical and social conservative bloc of the GOP does not have a horse in the race, and if Foy ever stops flapping his gums long enough to make a decision to get in, he’d likely begin with a double-digit base and shake up the race.

Were he to get in, Calbuzz thinks the most likely casualty would be Poizner, who has been trying to roll up conservative support for his anticipated battle with eMeg.

5. How bad will the economy get?

With all the signs suggesting that California will be in a deepening recession well into next year, it’s impossible to know whether voters in 2010 will be in the mood for a dose of Republican tax-cut, slash-and-burn orthodoxy, or looking to government to help ease the economic pain.

At this point, Whitman and Poizner have not offered even a hint that they think the government should do much beyond fire tens of thousands of employees and offer more tax breaks to business to help those affected by the recession. Campbell alone has put forward a proposal that offers a strategic look at what government can and should do to help create jobs and stem the loss of business to other states.

One night last week, Campbell got on the phone with several thousand voters who’d responded to a mass robo call inviting them to talk to the candidate on a teleconference, one of the cheapo campaign tactics he’ll be counting on. At one point, the several thousand people on the call were asked to do a touch tone poll to indicate what they identify as the state’s most important issue: the economy and the budget finished far ahead at one and two, a result that had the Campbell camp smiling.