Arnold vs Calbuzz; eMeg’s Ad Buy; Memo to Media


Calbuzz contributor Susan Rose, in a post filed Tuesday, roundly bashed Governor Arnold, characterizing his tenure as “a combination of insults, bullying, threats and failures.” After the post, David Crane, Special Adviser to Governor Schwarzenegger, asked for a chance to respond:

By David Crane
Special to Calbuzz

Susan Rose’s recent attack on Governor Schwarzenegger shows an utter disregard for facts.

Ms. Rose conveniently left out the single most important fact about the state budget, namely that explosive growth in government-employee compensation is responsible for crowding out spending for all those social programs she favors.

As one example, from 2003-2010, retirement benefit costs took more than $25 billion away from higher education, parks & recreation, environmental protection, health & human services and other important programs.  As another example, the per employee cost of compensation nearly doubled over the last ten years, stripping money from programs.

All of these costs were cemented into place by contracts and legislation passed by the last administration.  Governor Schwarzenegger has fought mightily to reform those contracts and legislation but legislators in hock to special interests refuse to budge.

Ms. Rose’s column is just another example of non-fact-based partisanship designed to fulfill the wishes of one special interest or another.  The real fact is that the only way to protect programs is by reforming government employee compensation.   While Ms. Rose is happy to raise taxes in order to keep paying more to government employees, Governor Schwarzenegger is not.

Actions speak louder than words. When Ms. Rose is ready to do something about the damage being caused by out-of-control government employee compensation it’ll be time to listen to her.

All eMeg All the Time: The Calbuzz Department of Dumpster Diving & Green Earth Recycling has stumbled upon an internal report from Meg Whitman’s campaign which details the size and reach of her current advertising buy, which can be described in two words: Holy Cow.

The campaign’s Gross Rating Point report, measuring total delivery of the current week’s broadcast ad schedule in 11 markets in California, shows that eMeg’s buy is comparable to what a fully-loaded campaign might ordinarily deliver in the closing weeks of a heated race – not three months before a primary that she’s prohibitively leading.

“These are some big fuckin’ numbers,” said Bill Carrick, the veteran Democratic media consultant after reviewing the report. “She’s buying the whole shebang.”

As a practical matter, 1,000 GRPs a week means that an average TV viewer in a large market would have about 10 opportunities a week to see a Meg Whitman ad;  in smaller markets, with only two or three stations, 700-800 GRPs would be a significant buy. Here’s what the internal campaign report shows she’s doing around the state (N.B. Calbuzz did not independently confirm these numbers):

–Bakersfield 806
–Chico-Redding 603
–Eureka 631
–Fresno-Visalia 986
–L.A. 1,008
–Monterey-Salinas 635
–Palm Springs 806
–Sacramento 984
–San Diego 1,008
–San Francisco 702
–Santa Barbara 929

“With this buy, the chances of not seeing a Meg Whitman spot are pretty slim,” Carrick said.

According to the report, Steve Poizner’s current buy in various markets is a fraction of eMeg’s – ranging from 15 to 50 percent – which seems in the ballpark, based on anecdotal reports from several veteran California media consultants who watch TV incessantly.

One Republican source not affiliated with the governor’s race said he thought the eMeg strategy of going on the air so heavy so early in the campaign might backfire:

“She’s way overdoing it – she’s going to wear out her welcome.”

Meg wears out her welcome: And that’s exactly what the Great Woman did in the East Bay yesterday, when she set off a row with veteran Bay Area political reporters by once again refusing to take any questions – after inviting press coverage of her tour of the Union Pacific Railroad site at the Port of Oakland. Chronicler Carla Marinucci picks up the story:

Then came the news that Whitman also wouldn’t take questions; reporters had been called in to “see” her make statements on “how she could be helpful as governor” on jobs and the economy, Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said.

Veteran reporters, who included KTVU’s Randy Shandobil and KPIX’s Hank Plante, were among the crowd that wasn’t amused. Question: is Whitman a candidate for governor, or a museum piece to be “watched” by reporters?

Pompei told reporters Whitman said the no press tour was a Union Pacific call — that the company’s officials did not want media coverage. (Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt begs to differ. He just told us that “we planned, actually, to have press talk with Meg on the tour….we understood there would be media availability and we wanted to work with that.”)

Calbuzz last year was among the first to throw a flag on eMeg’s obsessive avoidance of the California press corps as a significant campaign issue. (While Steve Poizner and Jerry Brown have both granted us extended interviews, the ticking clock on our request for a sit-down with Her Megness is now six months, three days and counting).

After Tuesday’s disgraceful performance, it seems clear that there are serious issues of  temperament and judgment – control freak arrogance, fear and contempt for reporters whose job is to serve as the eyes and ears of ordinary voters, for starters – that raise questions about her fitness to handle elected office and public life.

Here’s a suggestion for our campaign trail media colleagues: Don’t reward eMeg’s bad behavior. She’s not the governor, she’s not even the nominee of her party, she is a CANDIDATE for the nomination, and so far she has earned exactly nothing.

If Whitman is unwilling to abide by the norms and forms appropriate to a political campaign, then she should not receive coverage appropriate for candidates who do. Stop running stories on any Whitman events in which she refuses to take questions from reporters. Period.

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There are 13 comments for this post

  1. avatar Ave7 says:

    Unfortunately most “veteran political reporters” can’t or won’t take your advice. As you know better than anyone, peer pressure and professional judgment are now secondary to editor pressure and word count. Gone is the day when a real reporter might have been able to spend the day on the bus then simply say “she won’t take questions, we won’t cover her events.”

    To the thirty-year-old word count-nazis who now run newsrooms such insolence would be a golden opportunity to bring in that 24 year old cub political reporter from the Inyo Onion. From their perspective, the youngin’s create copy — not problems. So not covering Meg is not an option…but what to cover still is.

    What’s really needed is a secret pact amongst the reporters covering the campaign that every time Meg and her minions stiff the press, the press will run pretty much the same “negative” story in every major paper.

    By negative I mean something she doesn’t want to see, instead of the thing she is forcing the press to write. Could be a spending update, a new wrinkle on her inconsistent resume and biography, a new example of her lack of understanding of basic political systems, a new look at her performance at eBay and the deterioration of that company, a look at her fundraising and the agenda of her big donors, etc. etc. (With candidates, “spare the rod, spoil the child” still has relevance.)

    Yesterday the story could (and frankly, should) have been exclusively about the fact that she lied about the railroad’s willingness to allow the press to attend the tour.

    The real danger here is that the battle is already lost, and that Meg’s strategy of manipulating the press into writing what she chooses, instead of what’s news, is already standard operating procedure. Sam Donaldson’s memoir twenty years ago talked about how Regan’s advisers thought Carter’s accessibility to the press was a mistake not to be repeated. A rope line went up and the reporters were pushed back. Sam bellowed questions at Reagan as he walked from his helicopter to the White House, the President’s hand cupped to his ear with an earnest expression on his face as if he really did want to answer. It was great political theater, staged by a great American actor.

    But perhaps Meg’s stone-faced defiance of questions is just a bit more honest?

  2. avatar smoker1 says:

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but why does Meg Whitman need you? She enjoys enormous success in the polls because she makes enormous buys in the media market with a message that seems to work. If she is flying high in the polls while snubbing the press, why should she change? I think California voters are buying a Governor based on marketing material without checking with a political version of Consumer Reports.

  3. avatar Andy says:

    David Crane is on dope. Total employee compensation, INCLUDING retirement, costs about $14 billion a year. It was his boss who recklessly cut tax and increased GF spending on his first day in office. The state has been papering over that ghastly decision since 2003. As thsi esteemed site reported, that has cost us about $28 billion and decimated services across the board.

    This state made a choice many years ago – variable pension payments based on the returns on investments…sometimes that good, sometimes bad. I didn’t hear much from Wilson, Duke, et al duing the 90s when the state got away with paying NOTHING toward retirement based on those returns.

  4. avatar Cicero says:

    David Crane is a smart, decent, honorable guy. But his response simply points out his boss’s utter failure in dealing with the problem he’s identified. All Crane can do is blame the legislature. I don’t recall Arnold, when he campaigned in favor of recalling Governor Davis by saying he was going to “blow up the boxes” in Sacramento saying “but don’t blame me id the legislature won’t go along.” This is truly lame….
    And when confronted with the reality of spending, including on employee pensions, it has been Govermor Schwarzenegger who has resorted to cuts in services and budget gimmicks. That’s been his choice, and the wrong choice for Califormia.
    Crane is incorrect in saying that the Governor is unwilling to raise taxes. He said in August of ’08 that anyone who thought the budget culd be balanced without raising revenue didn’t know how to math. Then he failed to go out and get it done. To his lasting shame and our pain.

    • avatar patwater says:

      I agree that “this is truly lame,” but I think that rather than being merely Arnold’s fault, I think this failure demonstrates the depth of the problem in Sacramento. The boxes proved to be pretty damn resilient. Arnold was a guy that had it all: sky high approval ratings, a clear mandate for reform, a Kennedy wife, a darling of the national GOP (remember the Arnold for President murmurs), etc. You can say that his proposed reform didn’t really get at the root of the problem or that he squandered his political resources, but the fact remains: the boxes kicked the terminator’s ass.

      We’d do well to remember that when we consider his legacy, which I think will be that he demonstrated how deep the sociopolitical paralysis in Sacramento really goes.

    • avatar Ave7 says:

      patwater, nothing could be further from the truth.

      Arnold arrived in Sacramento with a political blank check from the voters. He could have put any reform, any amendment, any policy question on the ballot, and the voters would have backed him. Instead he chose to try and be popular with the legislature by selling out reformers, BONDING the state out of an annual OPERATING deficit, passing a phony budget reform initiative to “tear up the credit cards” (which actually ran up the debt), and blowing a massive hole in state revenues by repealing the mythological “car tax” increase.

      Arnold’s abandonment of the voters the minute he was elected and his unprovoked, unilateral, and frankly unexpected surrender to the legislature (before the first shot was fired) is consistent with the style of leadership he has employed every day in office: “What can I say to the people standing in front of me right now to try and make them like me?”

      That’s Arnold in a nut shell — no ideology, conviction, or principle — just pure celebrity popularity.

      By the time his popularity pendulum had swung the other way in 2005 the voters already had his number. Most voters stayed home, and those who came arrived with clenched fists like jilted lovers. Not because they love the legislature and hate reform, but because the man who said he was a reformer was a worse politician then the guy they recalled.

      True to form, Arnold took to the stage in Century City that election night in 2005, and without a hint of irony, immediately embraced the message of the voters who had just broken his jaw. That is, until the next budget meeting of the Big 5…

  5. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    It seems like it would be easy enough for somebody who knew how to get their hands on the budget, or who had an inside line to the controller’s office, to verify Crane’s figures. If Callbuzz can do that, it would be a great service to readers.

    Barring that, I’m willing to believe both Mr. Crane and Ms. Rose. Especially since Mr. Crane did not dispute Ms. Rose’s figures, but simply claimed they’re not the REAL problem. From the outside, it would appear that both retirement costs and revenue issues are problems.

    Dropping the license fee was a stupid PR move that has cost the state plenty–though not, I believe, enough to really make up our deficits. The lost income would surely have helped. One aspect Ms. Rose didn’t even address is borrowing costs. With that additional income, we would not have had to borrow as much as we have. That would have lowered our annual costs because we wouldn’t pay so much interest.

    Another thing neither article talked about was the corporate tax cuts extorted in last year’s budget “negotiations.” The 6 largest corporations in the state got tax cuts totaling $2.5 billion a year. Not a one-time cut. Every year. That wouldn’t have closed the budget gap either. But you know what they say, a billion here and a billion there–pretty soon it adds up to real money.

  6. avatar richhaskins says:

    I am glad to take my savings from the car tax and pay my own children’s tuition bill. The wall street journal made the same point about public employee unions in today’s paper. Gray Davis sold out the state to the public employee unions (prison guards), the trial lawyers, and the Indian tribes. The state will never recover from the incompetence of Davis, Schwarzenegger, & the Democrats in the legislature. I cannot believe we keep electing these clowns. Just counting my years before i can retire and take my money to another state and gladly pay my taxes there.

  7. avatar miquel95929 says:

    I understand that the true cost of the VLF cut to .65% is $6.5 billion which sounds about right given that there are an average 1.1 cars per licensed drivers in CA and out of a population of either 38.5 million(CA DOF) or 37 million (US Census) there have to be 20 million plus licensed drivers. But the real problem with the cut was that the money belonged to County and City governments and the state only collected it. It s one thing to cut your own revenue resources but quite another to cut off your dependents who
    really have no way of making up the loss. The borrowing was started to help the localities out of their bind and just grew from that point. The only real choice we have is to raise tax rates back to their traditional levels and try some new revenue ideas like this oil severance tax. The only real
    pension reform that is needed is to restrict PERS & STRS to non managers. That is you can accumulate all the 3% @50 pension you want as a beat cop or firefighter but when you get to be Police Chief or Fire Chief you have to go to Social Security for those years of service just like the rest of us.

    • avatar Andy says:

      I find it fascinating that we refuse to look to the past for solutions. you are right that it’s clear we strayed around 1998-2000 when we made silly tax cuts and pension enhancements – neother recipient really needed the money, as there were plenty of car buyers and plenty of public emplyee job applicants.

      We now have more General Fund dependency, more income tax dependency (which causes bigger revenue swings), and completely unnecessary retirement benefits (who the heck needs full retirement at 50?)…and all for what?

  8. avatar Richard Saunders says:

    To the person who wants to take his Vehicle License Fee and use it to educate his children, do the math. The fee you save won’t pay tuition, let alone room, board and books. That’s because the VLF is paid by everyone, regardless of whether they have children in school or children at all. And that’s because of the belief that regardless of whether you have children in school, we ALL benefit from having affordable education for California’s kids.

    As to the rebuttal to Rose’s column, do the math. Even with cuts to union member benefits, we can’t begin to balance the budget without reinstating the VLF to what it had always been, lowered only temporarily during surplus times. And we can’t balance it without removing tax cuts for the rich. And Arnold could also have spearheaded legislation to fix 3 strikes so we wouldn’t be spending so much on prisons.

    Arnold was a divider, not a uniter and he must bear much of the responsibility for our situation. Rose was RIGHT on.

    • avatar richhaskins says:

      hey how about this. Lets limit education to teaching instead of indoctrination and there will be plenty of money to go around

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