Archive for 2009

Sources: Mike Murphy to Join eMeg Gravy Train

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

mike murphyUpdate 10:30 a.m. Whitman manager Jillian Hasner has just sent out a release confirming the Calbuzz scoop that Mike Murphy is signing on to eMeg’s campaign for governor. He’s “joining the team to advise, at a senior level, our campaign’s winning strategy,” says Hasner. Here’s our earlier story, posted at 12:06 a.m.

Mike Murphy, the blunt-spoken, sharp-tongued, smart aleck Republican strategist who has advised such clients as John McCain, Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is joining Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, two reliable sources told Calbuzz.

Whitman, who has already spent more than $20 milllion, decided to shake up her campaign on  Friday, Nov. 13, one source told us, and add  another layer to her consultant-rich organization.

Murphy is widely known in the business for his skill in dealing with the media, which could help eMeg’s dreadful relations with much of the California press; although she has enjoyed a host of often fawning profiles in national publications, she has strained relations with many of the state’s major media outlets. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal described her  “thin skinned” attitude towards the press, a charge she answered by saying many of the newspapers seeking access to her would soon be out of business.

Murphy is widely credited with Schwarzenegger’s victory in the 2003 election; at the same time, he is also blamed for the disastrous defeat of Arnold’s agenda of reform initiatives in 2005, which led to his departure from the Schwarzenegger camp.

More recently,  Murphy has been vocal in his criticism of Sarah Palin, beginning with her selection by McCain as a running mate in the 2008 election. His continuing criticisms of Palin, and of the right-wing ideologues who champion her as a Republican savior, would bring an intriguing element into the GOP primary for governor, where the most conservative elements of the party historically dominate the vote.

In addition to McCain and Romney, Murphy’s gubernatorial clients have included  Jeb Bush,  John Engler, Tommy Thompson, Christie Whitman, Dirk Kempthorne and Terry Branstad. Also the senatorial races of Lamar Alexander, Slade Gorton, Spence Abraham, Jeff Sessions, Dirk Kempthorne, Steve Symms, Paul Coverdell, and Larry Pressler.

A spokesman for the Whitman campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Murphy could not be reached.

Why Arnold’s Pick for Lite Gov Actually Matters

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

platformnewUpdate 5:15 p.m. The governor’s pick for Lieutenant Governor is state Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, who voted against the controversial Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project off the coast of Santa Barbara. If Maldonado remains consistent with that position as lieutenant governor, sponsors of the project would fall short in an effort to overturn an earlier decision against it at the State Lands Commission, where former Lite Gov.  John Garamendi cast the key vote rejecting the proposal.

Of course, given his political  history, putting “Maldonado” and “consistent” in the same sentence is pretty much an oxymoron.

“He was a ‘no’ note in the Senate, and I’m glad he did that,” said Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who has led the fight against the T-Ridge project in the Legislature. “But while he demonstrated good judgment one time, we’re going to need to know a lot more about his positions on ocean protection, state lands and other public trust issues. This is not a simple position.”

Nava’s comments reflect just one of many political cross-currents and conflicts that will confront Maldonado and Schwarzenegger as the nomination moves through the Legislature.

BTW, our sources say Democrats John Laird, and his successor Assemblyman Bill Monning both are likely to run for Maldo’s open seat. Here’s a piece on why the Lite Gov appointment matters, posted before  Arnold’s announcement.

By David Ferry
Special to Calbuzz

While pundits and journalists have been contemplating how many buckets of warm spit* can fit in the Lieutenant Governor’s office, California environmentalists have anxiously awaited Governor Schwarrzenegger’s appointment with more substantive concerns.

Amid the speculation following the election to Congress of former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a number of students of state government say the governor’s pick matters not a whit. Ted Anagnoson, a professor emeritus at CSU Los Angeles, told Calbuzz, essentially, “who cares?”

“We still basically have no real need for a Lt. Gov…I think the office is a total waste of money. We would survive just as well if the governor’s job went to the head of either the Assembly or the Senate if the governor were indisposed, or to one of the other statewide officials.”

However, there is at least one key policy area where Arnold’s selection could make a big difference. The governor remains a strong proponent of Plain Exploration and Production Co.’s proposal to drill in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara County, and many environmental groups fear the appointee could help fulfill the lingering calls from the 2008 Republican National Convention to “Drill Baby, Drill.”

The lite gov is, of course, a de facto member of the State Lands Commission, and Garamendi — a former Department of Interior official and anti-offshore environmentalist — cast the deciding vote to scuttle the PXP deal in January.

However, as Timm Herdt reported, the proposal is far from dead. Paul Thayer, executive director of the commission, said that PXP could “absolutely” resubmit its application whenever it wants for a lease in state waters at Tranquillion Ridge; the process could move quickly because the original paperwork is still good. PXP CEO James Flores said in a conference call two weeks ago that the company is just waiting to see who Schwarzenegger will choose as Garamendi’s replacement.

A new push by PXP would instantly restart a bitter intramural conflict between state environmentalists. A number of Central Coast groups and local officials – who typically oppose offshore drilling – including one formed in response to the 1969 spill that started the movement – have signed on to the deal. But plenty of other conservationists aren’t buying it, even though the plan was brokered by the respected Environmental Defense Center, which has been in the center of previous offshore battles.

As Calbuzzers know, Assemblyman and anti-oil crusader Pedro Nava has been fighting the PXP proposal since the beginning. He says that he won’t be surprised if Schwarzenegger makes T-Ridge a “litmus test” for picking his appointee.

Susan-Jordan-File2_t150Susan Jordan, a Santa Barbara County environmentalist who’s married to Nava and running for his termed-out seat in 2010, went a step further. She said in an email that any new pro-PXP Lt. Governor “is also likely to be pro-oil, pro once-through cooling, pro-desalination, etc. That is the real danger. A vote beholding to the Governor has far greater implications then just this project.”

EDC and other supporters back the PXP proposal because it calls for the company to end all drilling in the area – including its current operations in federal waters – by 2022. The company also has agreed to donate thousands of acres of Central Coast land for protection. However, when the Lands Commission voted the project down in January, it said these agreements between PXP and the EDC did not appear to be binding.

Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara based Environmental Defense Center, lamented how politicized the process has become, when Calbuzz asked about the deal and the prospect of a new Lieutenant Governor. She said the EDC worked out the agreement solely for its environmental benefits, and maintained that the project would actually safeguard the coast. Although she said she hopes the governor won’t use a T-Ridge Test in his pick, she would like a second chance before the Lands Commission: “We do believe that we can address the concerns raised by the SLC,” she said.

The family drama may not matter much if Schwarzenegger fills the post with someone opposed to the project. Of frequently floated names, Republican state Senators Abel Maldonado voted against the plan while Dave Cogdill voted in favor on this summer’s attempt to push the deal through the legislature as part of the budget. Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg has founded three alternative energy businesses since retiring. GOP Assemblyman Mike Villines, on the other hand, punched ‘Yea’ in the infamous expunged vote this summer and freshmen San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher was one of two Republicans who abstained.

Of course, the governor’s pick is subject to approval by the legislature, which could theoretically strike down anyone in favor of drilling. But more important criteria for confirmation seem to be the concerns of legislators already lining up to run for the job and the fact the new lite gov would have a leg up on a future race for a big statewide office. Never mind that, according to Tim Hodson, Professor and Director for the Center for California Studies at CSU Sacramento, only three Lite Govs have gone on to become Governor or U.S. Senator.

Professor Hodson suggested that Arnold could render all the speculation moot: “With Gov Schwarzenegger it’s always possible that he go for the theatrical and leave it vacant.”

*The late Texas Senator John Nance Garnet famously referred to the job of be4587_732572791127_3626475_42588334_5742619_ning vice president as “not worth a warm bucket of spit,” and the post of California lieutenant governor presumably would be worth even less. Over the years there has been some dispute about the noun Garner used in his formulation; many sources make it “a warm bucket of piss” and the Senator reportedly once called a reporter who employed the spit substitution “a pantywaist.”

Calbuzz Bay Area Correspondent David Ferry works for the Climate Watch desk of KQED-FM’s “California Report.”

Cal Forward: We ‘Make No Change’ in Sinclair

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

mckernhertzLast week, Calbuzz stirred up a hornet’s nest by reporting that one of  California Forward’s proposed constitutional initiatives would effectively overturn the Legislature’s ability to raise fees with a majority vote as granted by the courts in the Sinclair Paint case. In doing so, we cited Section 7 of one of their two proposed measures. It amends Section 3 of Article XIII A of California’s Constitution to specify that a two-thirds vote of the Legislature would be required to replace, with a fee, any “revenue…that was generated by a tax” the previous year. Cal Forward squawked about our piece, so  we offered them a chance to explain why our analysis was wrong. Here’s their response which simply asserts they’re making “no change.” But their argument begs the question: If it’s true that the measure would “make no change” in Sinclair, why is Cal Forward seeking to, uh, change it? We stand by our analysis.

By Thomas V. McKernan and Robert M. Hertzberg
Special to Calbuzz

In the hyper-partisan world of California politics, folks aren’t quite sure what to make of California Forward and our plan to reform state government.

Critics on the left object that our plan doesn’t make it easier to raise taxes.  Critics on the right complain that it won’t let a minority of the state’s lawmakers continue to hold up the state budget.

They’re both right – but both are also missing something important about this effort: Our plan doesn’t lend itself to the typical scorecard that attempts to tally winners and losers on one side or the other.

Why? Because its fundamental orientation comes from neither the left nor the right. It doesn’t seek to tilt the playing field in either direction. It is instead, quite simply, a plan to make California’s government work again.

Take for example, the partisan wrangling over fees. As Calbuzz noted last week about the Sinclair Paint court decision, the Legislature needs only a simple majority to impose fees when a nexus exists between the regulatory program being imposed and the payer of the fee.

Conservatives have long viewed this authority as an end-run around the two-thirds majority vote requirement for raising taxes. These concerns were heightened late last year when Democratic lawmakers attempted to impose a multi-billion dollar fee that would have replaced the state’s current gas tax, and simultaneously raised other taxes, all by majority vote.

After much debate, the leadership of California Forward agreed its reform initiatives plan should make no change to the Legislature’s authority under Sinclair Paint.

Instead, the plan requires a two-thirds vote only on a fee that replaces revenue previously generated by a tax.  The good folks here at Calbuzz read this provision differently than the bipartisan legal team that helped California Forward craft our proposals. No surprise there.

But there’s also no question about our intent, which was to raise the vote requirement only in those rare instances where lawmakers impose a new fee to replace an existing tax forestalling the kind of “triple flip” that was attempted last year.

Those who expect our reform initiatives to mark just one more round in the ongoing partisan battle royale are likely to be disappointed.

That’s no accident. The members of California Forward’s bipartisan Leadership Council believe strongly that the problems facing our state won’t be solved by politics as usual, where the parties and the special interests square off against each other, dig in their heels and get nothing done.

You don’t have to be a policy expert to know that one of the biggest problems we face is California’s inability to approve a sensible state budget on time. Our first proposal, the Best Practices Budget Accountability Act, makes some practical, common-sense changes to end budget gridlock by taking sound practices from other states and applying them to California. Among them:

– Pay-As-You-Go – Requiring leaders to make hard choices by identifying right from the start how any new program would be paid for.

– Reduce Inefficiency and Waste – Requiring the Governor and Legislature to set clear goals for every program, measure its effectiveness, and fix or cut what doesn’t work.

– Pay Down Debt – Setting aside funds from occasional spikes in revenues to pay off debt.

– Long-term Planning – Requiring leaders to think ahead by creating two-year budgets and long-term revenue and spending forecasts.

– Majority Vote Budgets – to keep a small minority of politicians from holding up the budget for the entire state, but requiring a two-thirds majority for any tax increase.

– No Budget, No Paycheck – Requiring all legislators to forfeit their salary, travel and living expenses whenever they miss the budget deadline.

A second measure, the Community Funding Protection and Accountability Act, shifts power away from Sacramento and gives more responsibility to local government. It protects local tax dollars that belong to counties, cities and schools from being redirected to balance the state budget, and gives local officials new incentives to work together, eliminate overlapping programs and become more efficient.

The stakes in this debate may not be partisan, but we believe they’re high enough.

We all take pride in the fact that California has always led the way – in technology, education and quality of life.

But year after year of structural budget deficits, accounting gimmickry and a lack of clear priorities has shaken our confidence in ourselves and threatened our standing in the world. Our role as a national leader is in jeopardy.

We don’t need another partisan cat fight. We need a plan that gets California moving again so California can lead again — and that’s what California Forward is bringing to the table.

Robert M. Hertzberg and Thomas McKernan are co-chairs of California Forward, a nonpartisan reform group supported by contributions from California foundations. Their web site is www.caforward.org.