Archive for 2009

Desperate Times & Measures: Our Dinner with eMeg

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

dinnerwithmegTop-flight pros that we are, Calbuzz does not take it personally that we’ve been repeatedly stiffed on our multiple requests to interview Meg Whitman.

Just because eMeg has shined on our bid for a sit-down for six months, refused us access to one of her fundraisers in our own backyard and blown us off when she came through town the last time,  doesn’t mean she’s trying to avoid us. We understand that she’s very, very busy, and has lots of important stuff to do, like braiding her horse’s tail (or kissing other horses asses, like Dick Riordan).

So the Calbuzz Department of  Soirees and Social Planning decided to make it easier for her to clear some time on her calendar. Right around Labor Day, we visited the Whitman for Governor web site, clicked on the icon to “Request Meg to attend your Event” and emailed her a personal, special invitation to a lovely private event, namely Chinese dinner with the entire Calbuzz staff at Zen Peninsula, conveniently located in Millbrae, not far from her home.

Almost immediately we got back a pleasant response: “Thank you for your invitation,” said the subject line on the email from eMeg’s very own “Director of Scheduling” who said:

“Thank you for submitting an invitation for Meg Whitman to participate in your event. Our team will review your request and get back to you as soon as possible with any follow up questions in regards to the Dinner with Calbuzz.

“In the meantime, please sign up on our website at www.MegWhitman.com to receive regular email updates. Also, you can check out our website for news about the campaign and information about upcoming events with Meg.

“Thanks for supporting Meg and thank you for your invitation!”

Oh boy, oh boy, we thought, we’re finally on our way to getting to some serious face time, rubbing our hands at the delightful prospect of really, really getting to know Her Megness in what you might call your up and close personal way. Be still my beating Fleischeart!

Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing, nada, not a word.

Finally, when we had just about decided our invite must have been squeezed out by Meg’s spam filter, we heard from the lavamoric Sarah Pompei, Whitman’s campaign press secretary, who rang us up on September 29.

“Meg appreciates your invitation to dinner,” she said, without a hint of disdain or irony. “This just isn’t a good time, but she really looks forward to having dinner with Calbuzz. We’ll get back to you.”

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, we thought. We studied up on dim sum, went out and rented tuxes, lined up a limo and launched a Google search to find out what her favorite flowers were so we could bring a bouquet.

Sadly, we’re still waiting by the phone for Meg to call. We can’t for the life of us figure out what’s happened to our invite now. All we can say is, please call us eMeg, your flowers are wilting.

joanofarcattacksSpeaking of annoying things about eMeg, we wonder if anyone is as deeply offended as we are by her campaign slogan:  “I refuse to let California fail.”

Really? You refuse? All by yourself? And you’re gonna’ save us? All by yourself?

Her tagline goes directly to what we find most troubling about Whitman’s candidacy, about which we’ve ranted oh, say, 12 or 13 times: the underlying assumption that being governor is kind of like being queen, where you just decree that things will happen and everyone else falls in line.

As a practical matter, politics is a team sport, and the idea that “I” can accomplish anything, no matter how a big wheel you were at eBay, is simply ludicrous. Governing – as opposed to being governor – requires a great deal of emotional intelligence and insight, and the ability to convince, cajole, con, wheedle, flatter, threaten, reward and punish. As we’ve wondered aloud before: What in eMeg’s background demonstrates that she has any clue how to handle the Assemblyman from Parlier who says, “Sure, I’ll vote for your budget just as soon as you include $4 million for a swimming pool in my community center”?

We can see the commercial now. eMeg in armor on horseback: “Je refuse de permettre à la Californie à l’échec.”

navaNew greasy tax: The last time Californians had the chance to impose a severance tax on oil companies doing business in the state, they turned it down, big time.

By a 55-to-45 split, voters in 2006 rejected Proposition 87, a measure backed by a coalition of environmental, health and consumer groups that sought to impose a tax on companies that extract oil in the state and to earmark the revenue for alternative energy and green technology projects.

But Assemblyman and Attorney General hopeful Pedro Nava, who unveiled a bill Monday to impose a 10 percent severance taxes on California oil producers, thinks the political landscape has changed considerably since then.

“People are now in a position where they can actually feel the cuts we made last year,” said Nava, who represents oil spill central in Santa Barbara.

Nava’s legislation, known as AB 1-6X since it’s being introduced in the Legislature’s sixth special session, would generate about $1.5 billion annually for the general fund. He said he so far has 15 co-sponsors in the Assembly, which he reads as sign that public sentiment is running in favor of California joining every other oil producing state in levying an extraction tax.

“When the public realizes (oil companies) are the only industry that gets this special treatment, support will grow,” he said.

You read it here first: The folks from Exxon Mobil and Chevron won’t be kicking into Pedro’s campaign for AG. Always trust Calbuzz scoops.

eMeg Pushes Environment Issues Into the Gov Race

Monday, October 26th, 2009

whitmanWe’re not sure what convinced Meg Whitman to call for the suspension of AB 32 – California’s landmark greenhouse gases reduction law – although clearly some highly-paid, airhead adviser assured her that it would help her among conservative voters in the Republican primary for governor.

Actually, even that’s kind of hard to believe since the Field Poll found that nearly seven in 10 Republicans surveyed last year thought AB 32 was a good idea. But for whatever reason – and she cites the “ongoing economic crisis” – Whitman has called for suspending the law and taking other actions to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act.

It’s a classic false choice – that we have to choose between a strong economy and environmental protections – but eMeg has decided to posit it. At a time when the Obama administration is using federal stimulus money and other initiatives to push for the development of a green economy, Whitman’s political mission has become convincing Californians that going backward on the environment is going forward on the economy.

greenhousegasSo in an instant, she elevated greenhouse gas emissions and global warming to high-profile status as an issue in the governor’s race, in a far more dramatic way than SF Mayor Gavin Newsom ever could have, despite all his compelling commitment to growing the green economy.

The reaction to Whitman from environmental forces – who were dying to inject their issues into the governor’s race – was predictable outrage. But even Gov. Schwarzmuscle, who had signed the law, had to respond. “I would pay no attention to this kind of rhetoric and look toward the substance,” he said. “This is not a political issue.”

Not a political issue? You gotta be kidding! It doubles down an approach Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office has been pushing – with lawsuits (now settled) against San Bernardino and Stockton and a complaint against Pleasanton: forcing local jurisdictions, on the basis of SB 375 and other legislation, to include greenhouse gas emissions and global warming when they revise their general plans or evaluate the environmental impacts of significant development proposals.


And it guarantees that environmental issues – including Tranquillon Ridge and other offshore oil drilling, a potential oil severance tax, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, clean technologies, green building standards, etc. – will be key in the debate over who should be governor.

Former Congressman Tom Campbell, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, disagrees with eMeg: He argues that AB 32 can be implemented in California without hurting the state’s economy by lowering business taxes by exactly the amount of revenue that would be generated by a carbon tax.

But Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s position isn’t much different from eMeg’s: “Steve believes that AB 32 must be modified so that it is consistent with greenhouse gas regulation at the federal level,” said campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen “California is not an economic or environmental island and cannot afford to have environmental regulations like AB 32, which are completely out of sync with national standards.”

greenhouse-gas-emissionsStanding against AB 32, Calbuzz thinks, is pretty dumb political strategy. The GOP electorate is not going to decide whom to support based on who’s tougher on environmental regulation. The environment has never been a decisive issue for Republican voters in California that we’re aware of.

But in a general election, the environment is one of those threshold issues that voters use to decide whether even to consider a candidate. Like abortion. Nobody says abortion is the No. 1 issue facing California. But for many voters – especially women, Republicans and Democrats alike – once they hear that a candidate is pro-life, they don’t care what that candidate’s position is on  broader issues like the economy, taxes, education and public safety.

Same with the environment. A candidate who is seen as anti-environment is going to have trouble getting voters even to listen to his or her message on the other issues. So when PPIC finds that 75% of the voters say it is necessary to take steps to counter the effects of global warming right away and that 75% also say global warming poses a serious threat to the state’s economy and quality of life, why in the world would you take a position against landmark legislation to combat climate change?

You wouldn’t. At least if you were Newsom and Brown — who are squarely in the AB 32 camp. (Newsom also supports an oil severance tax while Brown – through spokesman Steve Glazer – weasels: “We don’t think the tax code can be changed one piece at a time. It will take a more integrated approach.”) Campbell’s position on AB 32 – perhaps a bit precious as he is wont to be – at least wouldn’t cast him as an anti-enviro in a general election.

“We can find a way to achieve both good environmental results and good economic growth results, in the public policy of our state,” Campbell says.

That sounds a lot like Governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the environment. But eMeg sounds more like Governors Dan Lungren and Bill Simon.

AB32 may have been well intentioned,” she said. “But it is wrong for these challenging times . . . In January, the first AB32 mandates take effect and will lead to higher energy costs at a time when we can least afford them. They will discourage job creation and could kill any recovery.”

PS: For a smart take on Meg and AB 32, check out this piece by former Assemblyman John Laird, one of the bill’s early authors.