“Silence is not always a sign of wisdom, but babbling is ever a folly,” Ben Franklin once said. Good advice in politics, especially as we watch the race for California governor. Jerry Brown’s Zen-like silence may or may not be an indication of wisdom: we’ll know soon enough. We’ll also know whether voters conclude that the $100 million or so Meg Whitman has spent on TV ads is nothing more than babbling.
Today, Calbuzz Editorial Pen Swordsman Tom Meyer memorably looks at In Meg We Trust.
Was It Something We Said? We now have the official, break-our-hearts turndown from the Whitman campaign. Jerry Brown accepted but eMeg won’t join us, FlashReport and Calitics in a debate. Here’s the break-up letter:
Silver bullet for silver fox? Mega-kudos to Brian Joseph, the OC Register’s man in Sacramento, who’s dug out one helluva’ story about Jerry Brown’s pension or, more precisely, the mystery surrounding Jerry Brown’s pension.
Joseph, who spent weeks trying to get to the bottom of how many actual public dollars Krusty is due for serving, variously, one term as secretary of state, two terms as governor and one term as attorney general, came up with one terrific yarn about a scam called the “Legislators Retirement System” which was so shady it got banned by Proposition 140, the 1990 term limits initiative. Almost, kinda, sort of…
Turns out that a handful of very lucky, past and present state officials are still benefiting from the LRS’s very generous terms including, apparently, one Edmund G. Brown, Jr. Seems that it’s impossible to report the exact terms of Gandolf’s pension because the administrators of the double secret pension fund are sworn to confidentiality about its workings, terms and beneficiaries. Move along, nothing to see here…
Sterling Clifford, Brown’s otherwise talented campaign flack, has been doing a lot of very intensive tap dancing, in a vain effort to deflect Joseph’s multiple and persistent questions about the matter, but his answers to date have been, to put it charitably, unsatisfactory.
Calbuzz sez: This is a very serious issue for Brown, and he needs to quickly, and with great transparency, get all the facts out into the public domain about a) what he’s getting; b) what’s he already got and; c) what’s he due to get in the future from state pension systems. As soon as possible. Also: really, really fast.
Brown has done textbook nice work in making hay about the one-for-the-books City of Bell scandal. With its outrageous details about local government salaries, benefits and tax rip-offs, Bell has become the highest of high-profile symbols of government profligacy, in a year of taxpayer utter disgust with government.
But if Brown doesn’t come clean, and soon, about the terms of his pension, this issue will bite him the ass, big time, for three key reasons:
1-Brown’s recent outrage and self-righteous investigations of the Bell matter are going to turn to dust, of the most hypocritical kind, if it turns out he’s been living large on exactly the same kind of scam as he’s publicly decrying – and probing – in that community.
2-The official secrecy surrounding Brown’s pension belies the narrative he’s pushing about his fundamental integrity and monkish frugality, in contrast to Meg Whitman’s corporate greedhead lavishness, in a way that will rebound to her considerable advantage in what you like to call your Reasonable Man Test.
3-Brown’s so-far brilliant, gravity-defying ability to position himself as the outsider to eMeg’s insider – using political ju-jitsu to use her extraordinary campaign spending to portray her as the de facto incumbent in the governor’s race – will fall to earth and crash.
Should she put a couple million bucks behind ads that assail him as a dissembling, evasive scumbag who, with his pension, is ripping off the public trust he’s proclaiming in public he’s working overtime to protect (not exactly a long shot possibility) Brown will spend the next month trying to explain the pension checks he’s cashed, not to mention the stubs sitting in the top drawer of his bureau.
Somebody – most logically the Orange County Register – should file a Public Records Act request to get all the documents and data pertaining to Brown’s state pension (damn the personnel information exemption). Calbuzz will gladly lend our extraordinary financial resources to assist any such legal effort as a friend of the court.