Lies, Damn Lies: Howard Jarvis and Small Biz ‘Poll’


Few things drive Calbuzz as crazy as seeing phony, cooked-up, biased, bought-and-paid-for alleged survey data get reported and published as if it were the real deal.

So when we saw the headline “Critics of bill to limit initiatives to November push back with poll” and read the story, our heads exploded. It didn’t take long to see that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Small Business Action Committee – outraged that the non-partisan Field Poll had found that 56% of voters (including 52% of Republicans) support voting on ballot initiatives in November elections instead of June – had gone out and bought themselves some data.

Just exactly as Joel Fox (who is the Small Business Action Committee) had reported on his Fox and Hounds blog, touting this new alleged polling data.

The Field Poll had asked “Do you favor or oppose changing election laws so that statewide initiatives can only be placed before voters in a November general election instead of a primary election?”

This is what anyone in the survey business would consider a fair and neutral question. The Field Poll surveyed 1,001 registered voters Sept. 1-12 via landline and cell phone in English and Spanish. Their data and methodology are publicly available.

The results essentially showed strong support for the central provision of SB 202 sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, mandating that future ballot measures should be voted on in November elections – when the most voters turn out – rather than the next statewide election that comes along after a measure qualifies for the ballot.

This measure was jammed through the Legislature in a last-minute maneuver spearheaded by labor unions and liberal Democrats, and also moved to November a vote on the state’s rainy-day fund and spending limitations. But no one was really surprised by the measure, partly because Calbuzz had told everyone it was coming about two weeks earlier.

(We later also argued that Brown should sign the bill because “a) elections have consequences, b) Republicans [in the Legislature] have proved themselves unwilling to actually participate in governing and c) it’s better that big changes in the law and Constitution should be voted on by the widest possible electorate”).

Deep-dish disappointment does not begin to describe our sorrow at discovering that the SacBee’s usually estimable Capitol Alert blog reported with a straight face that the  HJTA/SBAC had polling data showing voters want the governor to veto the bill.

As if it was a real survey. Which it isn’t. It’s a push poll done for a specific purpose – to try to convince Brown to veto the bill. (Fox claims this was just about placing the bill in “context” but it was really about loading the dice.)

Fielded by Quantitative Focus (whoever they are) for M4 Strategies of Costa Mesa, a message development firm with corporate and Republican clients, the survey claims to have interviewed 603 likely voters, randomly selected from the voter registration list, on Sept. 22. The margin of error for the survey was said to be +/- 4%.

We have no way of knowing, really, but let’s assume the sample and the calling outfit are all legit. The first substantive question – after a palate-cleansing right-track/wrong-track question – was:

Thinking just about state taxes, are they too high, too low or just about right?

This was followed by:

Would you support or oppose a state constitutional amendment called the “Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund” that would cap state spending and limit future state budget deficits by increasing the size of the state’s “rainy day fund.” The amendment would require excess state tax revenue be deposited into the rainy day fund to be made available during economic downturns.

You can see where this is going. Then came the sucker punch:

In 2009, the Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature reached a bipartisan agreement to balance the state budget in which the Republicans agreed to support significant increases to the state’s income, sale and car taxes and the Democrats agreed to put before voters in June of 2012 an initiative limiting state spending increases and increasing the state’s rainy day fund.  On the last day of the current legislative session however, the state legislature passed a union-backed bill that would delay public vote on the initiative until November of 2014.  Do you believe Governor Jerry Brown should sign this bill delaying the initiative or veto the bill and allow voters to consider the initiative next June? 

With all that set-up, we’re frankly a bit surprised that the result was only 60-20% in favor of vetoing the bill. (This kind of one-sided question is done in campaigns to test a message: if the ideas in the question are driven home, here’s the result.)

Props to the Bee for comparing the two questions in their Cap Alert post, but major demerits for lending legitimacy to this survey generally, and to the question (and the order of questions) in particular. They should have called it what it was: bogus.

Oh, one last note: Our bet is that this will backfire and Brown will sign the bill.

Pull up the drawbridge, I got mine: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor ranks at the very top of the Beltway’s massive roster of arrogant, self-important scumbags, the kind of loathsome and repulsive phony it’s easy to imagine  someday turning up seriously dead from auto-erotic asphyxiation in his hotel room while wearing rubber underwear.

And we mean that in the nicest possible way.

Cantor’s overbearing narcissism comes off as especially offensive when joined to his overweening hypocrisy, like in his grandstanding public effort to torpedo disaster relief funding while privately putting the squeeze on FEMA to grab as much money as he can for his own district.

More broadly, his endless, self-righteous hectoring and unctuous braying about “outrageous” government spending qualifies as the rankest form of hokum and mendacity, given the fact that his home state of Virginia ranks second in the nation in per capita rake off of federal tax dollars.

A new Census Bureau report (h/t Dan Walters) shows that Virginia receives about $17,000 per resident per year in federal spending, right behind the $18,000 per person flowing to Alaska, home turf of that fierce Tea Party warrior Sarah Palin.

While other hardcore red states like Alabama, the Dakotas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and Wyoming make the top 25 big spending list, true-blue California ranks 43rd, with $9,000 in federal tax dollars per resident.  Sic Semper Tyrannis,  indeed.

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There are 15 comments for this post

  1. avatar tonyseton says:

    Cantor is proof that there is no god. Cheney-lite.

  2. avatar jamesvlacy says:

    I regret to inform you that the picture of Howard Jarvis you are using right now on your website is a famous privately owned picture which appeared in Time magazine and it is copyrighted. Your use is not a fair use, as it is now owed by Save Proposition 13 Candidate and Legislation Evaluation Committee (and also the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association) and your use of the picture constitutes a trademark infringement which diminishes the value of the intellectual property. You must eliminate the picture immediately from your website by 10:30 am today (Wednesday, Sept. 28) and apologize for the infringement in writing (email is sufficient) to avoid further action. As stated on your website, you will remove pictures that you do not have approval to post. This informs you that you do not have approval to post the picture of Howard Jarvis that you are using. Jim Lacy for Save Prop. 13 committee.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      Calbuzz apologizes for using the photo of Howard Jarvis shaking his fist. We’ve taken it down.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Thank you. I really wouldn’t want to look at a photo of the old corporate tool anyway. Though I do like the pic of Cantor. Nicest one I’ve seen. And I’m tickled pink that Mr. Lacy reads Calbuzz. Must be very educational for him.

      As a small business owner, I’d like to know where Joel Fox gets off saying he represents me with his phony-baloney Small Business Action Committee? He most certainly does not! This is the first I’ve heard of the bogus group. Can I post a cease and desist order on Fox and Hounds?

    • avatar DwightSchrute says:

      How about a story on the HJTA and the Save Proposition 13 whatever… Who are they? Who is funding them? Who is Jon Coupal and should we fear him?
      Here’s a start:

    • avatar stevefromsacto says:

      No worries, guys. A picture of Ebenezer Scrooge will get the point across just as well.

  3. avatar reality czech says:

    In addition to being a misleading push poll, the question is factually wrong on a number of points. First, the rainy day fund measure was approved by the Legislature in 2010, not 2009. A different rainy day measure was put on the ballot by the Legislature in 2009, and the voters defeated it in 2009 (remember Prop. 1A?). As a result, the measure that would be moved from 2012 to 2014 was not the product of a budget agreement

  4. avatar tegrat says:

    The funny thing about Eric Cantor is – oh wait, there really isn’t anything funny about him at all. He’s the poster child for Republican hypocrisy.

  5. avatar reality czech says:

    Hit the “post” button too early by mistake.

    What I meant to say is that the rainy day fund measure in question was not the product of a budget agreement in which Republicans voted to raise taxes.

    Also, to nit pick a little, the rainy day fund measure isn’t an initiative. It’s a Legislative constitutional amendment.

  6. avatar tegrat says:

    Quick, take down the pic of St. Jarvis before God strikes you down for displaying such an unflattering protrayal of yet another cigar smoking fat cat enjoying the destruction of our social fabric!

  7. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    What in the world is so almighty precious about a photo of Howard Jarvis waving his fist? And James “regrets” to inform you. I’ll bet he does. There is a word for jamesvlacy’s missive. It describes the substance found in barnyards. You know, where chickens roam.

  8. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Chris, when you get your cease and desist order, be sure to say you regret having to do it.

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