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Archive for 2010



Meyer’s Take on How eMeg Plans to Win Latinos

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Steve Poizner’s newest ad attacking Meg Whitman on the issue of immigration seems actually to have drawn blood, to judge from the speed and sensitivity with which Team eMeg felt compelled to respond. Sure, Steve is an opportunist who has changed his stance on the issue, but for the first time, he’s digging into Meg with this one.

We understand why La Opinion would write: “Steve Poizner now embodies the worst image of the demagoguery sowing fears of illegal immigration and tacitly promoting the vision of a California where schools and hospitals serve as immigration agents casting out children and the sick. That is what this message actually means.”

We just don’t understand how it serves eMeg’s interests to send around clips from the La Opinion editorial as if to suggest that she agrees with their world view. Not quite as cynical and opportunistic as Poizner’s about-face on the issue of illegal immigration. But almost.

Meanwhile, as California’s ongoing controversy over immigration — and its other-side-of-the-coin importance to Latino voters — becomes more salient in the governor’s race, here’s Tom Meyer’s take on eMeg’s strategy for winning over the backing of a portion of the electorate that is likely to account for 15% of the vote in November. (BTW, in case you missed it, you might want to refresh your memory about what ammo Attorney General Jerry Brown has on this issue and whether immigrant-bashing is likely to be a successful tactic.)

If you can’t make out what’s happening at the bottom of the cartoon, here’s a close-up of Whitman campaign chairman Pete Wilson wearing a Prop 187 button.

Press Clips: Morain, Marinucci & a Tale of 2 Tic Tocs

Friday, March 26th, 2010

What is eMeg so afraid of? Although our friend Dan Morain has become a full-fledged, thumb-sucking (all rise) Opinion Page Columnist, the guy just can’t stop himself from doing Actual Reporting. That’s why he’s the winner of this week’s coveted Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry, for his look inside Meg Whitman’s Proust-length campaign spending report, a piece that included an angle we didn’t see anywhere else:

She also frets about security.

Whitman has paid $204,000 to John W. Endert, a former eBay security executive who has a permit to carry firearms and describes himself as experienced in corporate investigations, executive protection and threat mitigation. She categorized the $10,500 per month expenditure as a campaign worker salary.

Whitman paid $3,500 to what she called a “campaign consultant.” The recipient, Walsingham Associate Inc., says on its Web site that it specializes in detection of eavesdropping equipment.

Last year, Whitman’s campaign paid $20,383 to a company called Western Limited and called the expenditure “polling and survey research.” Western Limited describes itself as a private investigations firm that seeks to “solve your case – whether it is obtaining damaging video, locating the background records that you need, or obtaining a statement that helps you make a claims or business decision.”

All this, plus details of eMeg’s luxury private jet travel and a close look at her catering bill that was almost as hard-hitting as our own.

Why it matters what candidates say: In his infinite wisdom, Joe Mathews has taught all us geezers that it’s a waste of time to write down the actual words that politicians actually speak. Now, it turns out, once in a while, their utterances actually become newsworthy. Say it ain’t so Joe!

Joe Garofoli and Carla Marinucci, the Twin Terrors of Fifth & Mish, were the first to jump on Her Megness for a total flip flop about releasing her tax returns, which was only fitting as it was Costco Carla who raised the question, during Whitman’s breakthrough media scrum in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara at the GOP convention, that elicited the quickly broken promise to make public 25 years of tax returns.

ABC (Always Believe Calbuzz): The Get a Life Division of our Department of Obscure Campaign Intelligence was the first to throw a penalty flag at eMeg, more than two weeks ago, for her dog-ass idea of organizing legislative “teams” to implement her personal agenda for California:

As we may have mentioned once or twice, eMeg’s major downside is that she appears not to understand that politics is a give-and-take, give-some-to-get-some business, that legislators are also elected by the people, and that the Capitol is a teeming cacophony of conflicting interests, not the site of an Imperial Governorship. In the KNBC interview, she made quite clear that she sees the role of lawmakers as secondary, when she graciously said they’d be welcome to serve on her “jobs team” or her “schools team.”

“Where do I sign up?” Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is no doubt asking.

Now comes the B Minus to report that Whitman not only isn’t backing away from this ludicrous notions, she’s expanding on it, demonstrating once again her staggering lack of understanding of how Sacramento works.

Which begs the question: Since some of the people around her do understand how the legislative process works and how the Legislature and the governor interact, is she just so pig-headed, she simply ignores advice from those in the know around her? Or are her legions of purse carriers just so blinded by the huge sums of money they’re sucking out of the campaign that they’re afraid to challenge her?

Her authentically alien approach to governing — I’ll decide what should happen and everyone will join teams to make those things happen — raises another key question: Is Long Island really another planet?

Health Care Hotline: Who’s the real hero who saved health care reform?

On Sunday, the NYT, in a P1 triple signer tic toc by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse, gave the nod to Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

In a series of impassioned conversations, over the telephone and in the Oval Office, she conveyed her frustration to the president, according to four people familiar with the talks. If she and Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, were going to stick out their necks for Mr. Obama’s top legislative priority, Ms. Pelosi wanted assurances that the president would too. At the White House, aides to Mr. Obama say, he also wanted assurances; he needed to hear that the leaders could pass his far-reaching plan.

“We’re in the majority,” Ms. Pelosi told the president. “We’ll never have a better majority in your presidency in numbers than we’ve got right now. We can make this work.”

One day later, however, the Washpost’s Ceci Connolly credited President Obama for his “singular” performance in saving the day, in her own 8 zillion word narrative reconstruction:

The remarkable change in political fortunes thrust Obama into a period of uncertainty and demonstrated the ability of one person to control the balance of power in Washington. On Jan. 19, that person seemed to be(newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott) Brown.

But as the next 61 days would show, culminating in Sunday night’s historic vote, the fate of the legislation ultimately rested in the hands of Obama, who in the hours before Brown’s victory was growing increasingly frustrated as Pelosi detailed why no answer was in sight.

Intriguingly, both pieces used essentially the same anecdotal lede – the top-dog meetings at the White House in the immediate wake of Brown’s stunning victory – but reached entirely different conclusions.

Three dots are better than two: Credit LAT man Evan Halper for noting Jerry Brown’s nifty job of threading the needle on health care, paying lip service to looking into GOP demands that he join other attorneys general in a constitutional challenge to health care, while making it perfectly clear he would do no such thing…Perceptual scoop honors to Washpost whiz kid Ezra Klein for beating the pack to the story of how Republican Beltway types are now backing away from their angry promise to repeal the health care legislation…

More medical meanderings: Kudos to Dan Weintraub at Healthy Cal for a clear, detailed and useful Sunday look at exactly what was in the damn bill in advance of the big vote…HT to Hall of Fame Calbuzzer Kam Kuwata for pointing us to this excellent health care mash-up.

Just because: Andy Borowitz does it again.

PPIC Poll: Poizner’s Immigrant Bashing Looks Lame

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

On the high-profile races for governor and U.S. Senate, the survey out Wednesday night from the Public Policy Institute of California breaks little new ground. But, combined with the Field Poll from last week, it does offer some insight into whether it makes any sense at all for Steve Poizner to be using illegal immigration to make himself the preferred candidate for conservatives in the Republican primary against Meg Whitman.

The answer? We don’t get it.

According to PPIC’s polling, 66% of registered voters believe illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for two years or more should be given a chance to keep their jobs and apply for legal status. And that includes 78% of Democrats, 68% of independents and even 49% of Republicans, compared to 46% of Republicans who say deport ’em.

In other words, this is not a slam-dunk issue with Republicans. Apparently Poizner thinks he can goose the issue a bit (see Pete Wilson, 1994, “They Keep Coming”), feeding off a sentiment PPIC found: that while 64% of Democrats and 52% of independents say immigrants are a benefit to California, 68% of Republicans say they are a burden.

“It’s somewhat fertile ground,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “But it doesn’t have the salience and relevance that it had in earlier downturns . . . That’s not to say it won’t resonate with some of the more conservative voters, but it doesn’t seem like a topic that’s going to attract broad support among Republican voters this time around.”

True, the Field Poll found, illegal immigration is a top-tier issue for Republicans (fourth in importance after the state budget deficit, jobs/economy and taxes) compared to a lower-level issue for voters overall. As Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo noted of Poizner: “He’s singled out an issue that is of greater importance to Republican primary voters. It’s red meat . . . Whether it’s going to make a difference, I don’t know. He’s so far behind.”

Indeed. Poizner is in a huge hole: PPIC found him 50 points behind Whitman at 61-11% — about the same as the Field Poll’s 63-14%. It’s hard to see how he can gain enough ground on Whitman on this issue. On the other hand, maybe the Commish is part of a secret GOP plot to make eMeg look more moderate in the general election: if Poizner comes up short, he will have succeeded in making Whitman look more reasonable to Latino voters in November.

Heavens knows she needs some help on that front: while PPIC has her ahead of Brown 44-39% overall, he’s beating her 45-35% among Latinos (it was 54-25% for Brown in the Field Poll). Even before Brown makes a serious case to Latino voters, as Calbuzz noted the other day.

BTW, in case you missed it, catch Tony Quinn’s bitch-slap of Poizner at Fox & Hounds under the headline “Poizner’s Suicidal Mission” in which he argues:

Facing political collapse, he has resorted to the historic tactic of a political scoundrel, race baiting, in this case making immigrant bashing the central theme of his faltering campaign . . . Poizner has accomplished one thing; he’s made himself unelectable in November, and further damaged his own party.

PPIC, meanwhile, found that Whitman now leads Attorney General Jerry Brown 44-39% among likely November voters. Partisan support moved just a skosh between January and March – Democrats now 65-17% for Brown, were 69-12% for Brown in January; Republicans now 77-10% for Whitman, were 73-10% for Whitman in January.

But independents – those who have no roots in either party and who are most susceptible to Whitman’s TV ad campaign – moved big time. They were 36-28% for Brown in January and by March they had lurched to 43-37% for Whitman – a net 14% shift in two months. In other words, eMeg’s positive ads for herself, her attacks on Poizner and his attacks on Whitman have helped boost Meg with independent voters.

Looking at the electorate by age, Brown runs best – 71-17% — among Democrats age 55 and older, compared to 61-17% among Democrats age 18-54. But Whitman creams Brown among Republicans, 76-8% among Republican age 18-54 and 79-11% among Republicans 55 and older.

All of which suggests Brown’s challenge is to move independents of all ages back into his column and knock Whitman down among the nearly two in 10 Democrats who are currently enamored with her. This is where – if Calbuzz is reading the tea leaves correctly – Brown will use eMeg’s stand against AB32, the pioneering climate change law, to drive her supporters to him.

Other findings, lifted straight out of PPIC’s press release:

Fiorina, Campbell vs Boxer

“The Republican primary race for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat has tightened since January, when Tom Campbell led both Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore among Republican likely voters (27% Campbell, 16% Fiorina, 8% DeVore). Today, Campbell and Fiorina are in a close race (24% Fiorina, 23% Campbell), and DeVore’s level of support is unchanged (8%). In this campaign—which has seen little advertising—the largest percentage of likely voters (44%) is undecided, similar to January (48%).

“In hypothetical November matchups, incumbent Boxer is deadlocked with Campbell (43% to 44%) . . . A plurality of independents support Campbell (48% Campbell, 32% Boxer, 20% undecided). Since January, support for Boxer has dropped 10 points among independents, and Campbell’s support has increased 11 points . . . “Boxer is in a similarly tight race with Fiorina (44% to 43%) . . . Among independents, Fiorina leads Boxer (41% Fiorina, 35% Boxer, 24% undecided).”

First ever: half the voters favor same-sex marriage

“Among all Californians, residents are more likely to favor (50%) than oppose (45%) same-sex marriage for the first time in the PPIC Statewide Surveys. Support among all adults has never surpassed 45 percent since the question was first asked in January 2000. There are clear partisan divisions: majorities of Democrats (64%) and independents (55%) are in favor, and most Republicans (67%) are opposed.

“There is much more consensus on the issue of gays and lesbians in the military. In the wake of Obama’s announcement that he would like to repeal the federal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy passed in 1993, 75 percent of Californians say that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.”

Consultants Hit the Megpot; Chris Parodies Himself

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

When you’re digging through a spending report that shows how $46 million was spent – as in the case of eMeg Whitman’s blockbusting finance tome – you have to be careful not to be fooled by the formal categories in the FPPC form.

By that measure, Whitman has spent $7.3 million on political consultants, including a little more than $2 million in 2010 alone. But that’s not half the story: If you total up what various consultants – political, communication, internet, fund-raising, etc. – have sucked out of the Whitman campaign, it’s a staggering $37.7 million, including $24.7 million since the first of the year.

Now granted, some big piece of that was paid to consultants like Smart Media Group, of Alexandria, Va., to purchase radio and TV air time. But even if 85% of the $20.4 million paid to Smart Media went to buy radio and TV time, various consultants still have already bilked Whitman for at least $20 million. And that doesn’t even count campaign staff salaries of about $2.7 million.

One of the interests that hit the Megpot Calbuzz told you about back in February: Tokoni — the online networking firm founded by her former eBay supplicants Alex Kazim, Mary Lou Song and Rajiv Dutta, and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Their haul in Megabucks is now up to a staggering $3.6 million.

According to her GOP rival Steve Poizner, Meg’s $27,241,338.78 spent in 2010 breaks down to $358,438.67 per day; $14,934.94 per hour; $248.92 per minute, and $4.15 per second. Calbuzz is not sure how pointing this out helps Poizner in the Republican primary, but we’re grateful for the math.

Our Division of Green Eye Shades and #2 Pencils calculates that if you take what Whitman has spent on private aircraft ($371,000), bookkeeping ($466,000) and catering ($113,000), it’s more than Jerry Brown has spent altogether ($716,000). The most catering cash –$67,800 – appears to have gone to Christopher’s Catering for a bunch of events, but our favorite is last May’s $10,962.69 paid to Wolfgang Puck for one event.

Whitman spent $903,000 on polling and research — including $231,000 this year alone, compared to $144,000 Brown has spent since the start of the year.

Mike Murphy, the swashbuckling consultant who was barely in the last report, has now drawn about $496,000 in fees and expenses since his Bonaparte Films signed on back in November. At $90,000 a month, it won’t be long before he eclipses Henry Gomez, eMeg’s longtime sidekick, who’s pulled down about $606,000 since joining the game

Foot in Tweety Disease: As Beltway Wise Men compile lists of winners and losers in the health care reform battle,  one of the biggest “L’s” of all should be inscribed next to the name Chris Matthews.

Even for the routinely insufferable, unbearably repulsive and arrogantly logorrheic Tweety Bird host of “Hard Ball,” the retroactive spectacle of how much of a fool he made of himself on his January 22 show is breathtaking.

As David Waldman shows in a truly superb takedown at Daily Kos,  Matthews couldn’t bother to give his tiny pea brain two seconds to catch up with his endlessly flapping gums to pay attention when he was being handed a legitimate scoop.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., was Matthews’ “guest,” and kept trying to explain that within the Democratic caucus, there were serious discussions underway about having the House approve the Senate-passed health care bill without need of a conference committee, and then send back to the Senate any changes it made for a reconciliation vote, which would take only 51 votes, not a filibuster-busting 60.

This is, of course, precisely the process that the Democrats in the end decided to use. Mr. Motormouth Insider, of course, knew better:

MATTHEWS:and you know you can’t do it. You’re pandering to the netroots right now. I know what you’re doing!

GRAYSON: You are wrong! This is something we talk about with the leadership in our caucus meetings every week!…

M: When will they do this, because I want to write write this down. When are they gonna do something that has never been done before? Create a program through this reconciliation process?

G: You know, they’ve used reconciliation time and time again. You’re saying create a program, as if that’s something dramatically different from everything else the Senate does. It’s not.

M: OK, let me tell you, the purpose of reconciliation is to take measures — cutting taxes, er, raising taxes or cutting spending — to reconcile actual government spending and tax policy with previous legislation that you’ve passed. You haven’t passed a bill to create a health care plan.

G: When did you become the Senate parliamentarian? Did I miss that?

M: Well, I worked over there for many, many years, and I worked for the Speaker for six years, I worked 15 years up there…

G: Well, I’m speaking to the Speaker and the leadership this year…

M: ...and I know what I’m talking about! You ask anybody… you ask anybody in the Senate right now… Go call the Senate legislative counsel’s office and ask them if you can do this. Go ask the parliamentarians if you can do this. You haven’t bothered to do that.

G: No, the leadership…

M: [Laughs.]

Last laugh to Grayson. No word yet on when he’ll be invited back to “Hardball” so Matthews can apologize.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Hard to know who to root for in this fight.

Should the FPPC Regulate Tweeters, Facebookers?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

By Steve Maviglio
Special to Calbuzz

In the Age of the Internet, when campaigns, advocates, consultants and engaged citizens are using all forms of social media — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail Buzz, etc. — to communicate about politics, the Fair Political Practices Commission is struggling to figure out what in all that constitutes political communication that ought to be regulated — like paid advertising — and what is purely a function of free speech.

It’s a fair question.

Last week, I testified (and Tweeted) before the FPPC’s Subcommittee examining electronic communication in political campaigns as part of a panel of political consultants (also at the table was Julia Rosen, the Courage Campaign’s Online Political Directorm and Bryan Merica from ID Media and Fox & Hounds Daily). We were followed by Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, Derek Cressman of Common Cause, Tiffany Mok of the ACLU and Professor Barbara O’Connor, Sacramento State University.

The subcommittee wanted to hear from us if it should develop, in the words of Chairman Ross Johnson, “appropriate responses to new political realities.”

My advice was straightforward: do no harm. Don’t regulate independent bloggers. Don’t do anything that will stunt the growth of the Internet to attract and involve voters. But do provide clear guidelines for disclosure if there’s campaign money involved. And while you’re at it, provide clarity on the advice campaigns are getting from the commission, and conform to Federal Election Commission requirements.

Halfway through my testimony — where I was trying to detail the multiple changes on Facebook that would make it difficult for the FPPC to mandate where disclosure requirements might be posted — I looked up and saw all three commissioner’s with “what the hell are you talking about” faces. They were clearly baffled by technology they’d never dealt with personally (indeed, there was no wifi in the room, the hearing wasn’t webcast and the three commissioners admitted to never having used Twitter). That wasn’t encouraging.

But while three commissioners were dazed and confused by comments about pixels and Google Adwords, they seemed get what all the panelists were saying: proceed with caution. As  commissioner Tim Hodson told me afterward, the hearing “underscored both the perils of addressing such wide open and ever changing area and the need to ensure minimal disclosure.”

Hodson and his fellow commissioners are picking up on FPPC’s decade-long review of political campaign activity on the web. Back in the stone age of internet campaigning, Assemblyman Keith Olberg penned AB 2720, which created a Bipartisan Commission on Internet Political Practices. The Commission’s job was to determine if and how web-based communication could confirm to the mother of California’s campaign law, the oft-amended Political Reform Act, which was authored in 1974, well before Al Gore invented the Internet.

After toiling for a year, the Internet Commission reported “we do not think it would be wise or necessary to adopt new laws or a new administrative vehicle specifically aimed at  limiting or regulating the use of the Internet by political actor.”

The December 2003 report also presciently warned of regulating ever-changing web campaign technology:

When government attempts to regulate the use of technology, what we do not know can indeed hurt us. The speed of technological change and the ability of practitioners to adapt to new rules make regulatory efforts in these areas difficult. Swift changes can make old rules inoperable or inappropriate.

Technological changes that affect how hyperlinks are generated, how content from one Web site is framed by another, how online advertising is delivered to users, and how lists for unsolicited email campaigns are constructed, for example, could all change the meaning and the impact of regulations written prior to these innovations.

And things did change. Twitter, Facebook, viral YouTube videos, and Google email blasts all have become de rigueur elements of modern campaigning. First Democrats Howard Dean and then Barack Obama, set the pace for developing innovative electronic communications. In January, Scott Brown dumped more than 10 percent of his advertising budget in online advertising, and credited it, in part, for his win.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg, as campaigns get smarter about microtargeting on the  web. A recent study by Tulchin Research found that 57 percent of Californians access political news and information via Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Some 40 percent of social media users are following or supporting candidates for office via Facebook and Twitter. One in five voters use their smart phones to get political news and information.

FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson seems to be hinting that he’s not inclined to do anything to hamper this rapid growth electronic communication. And that’ s good.

“The Commission is not interested in requiring individuals to report as committees when they are merely exercising their First Amendment rights, but if this is paid political speech, then perhaps tighter regulation requiring greater disclosure and transparency is in order,” he said in a press release before the hearing

That’s the path I’d expect the FPPC to go: requiring greater disclosure, somewhere, somehow on all campaign-paid electronic communication. That’s not as easy as it sounds, though, and the commission has its work cut out for it to make that regulation work.

Later this year the subcommittee will present its findings to the full Commission for consideration of whether new rules are necessary to require the disclosure of who is behind electronic messages advocating for or against the election of California’s state and local candidates or ballot measures.

These changes could require the adoption of regulations by the Commission, or entirely new state laws, which must be adopted as a bill by the Legislature, or as a proposition by a vote of the people.

The Commission is right to investigate this new landscape as long as it first does no damage.

(The FPPC will hold another subcommittee hearing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. , March 24  at the University of Southern California Law School, Ackerman Courtroom, Room 107, located at 699 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles. Full information can be found here.)