Archive for the ‘Dick Blum’ Category

2012 Opener: Why eMeg Should Take On HRH DiFi

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Senator Dianne Feinstein is normally the most coy and flirtatious of politicians, famously performing the Dance of the Seven Veils whenever some rumpled reporter asks if she’s planning to run in some future election.

So it spoke volumes when California’s Queen Mum stomped all over a campaign event for colleague Barbara Boxer a few days before last week’s election to shout from the rooftops that she, The Great and Wondrous Difi, would — da-da-da-daah — be running to keep her precious seat in 2012.

It’s clearly a sign of the times, as incumbent Democratic Senators become more endangered than snowy plovers, that the professionally neurotic Dianne is evincing more political anxiety than usual. And it’s telling that the first trial balloon about the race took flight just one day after the election, as Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner felt compelled to issue an aw-shucks non-denial denial about a (heaven help us) Twitter message pimping his chances as the anti-Dianne.

As California Republicans proved anew last week that they ain’t exactly deep off the bench with contenders, the Calbuzz Department of Prognostication, Dowsing and Divining Rods prepared a first, long-off gaze at the GOP Senate field. And it looks now that there’s one, and only one, possible answer for the Party of Lincoln. Here’s the early line:

Steve Poizner – The Commish was one of our first and most loyal advertisers, so it pains us to say that the crazed lunge to the right on immigration issues by this previously perfectly rational Republican moderate during the primary made us question the scruples, if not the sanity, of our old friend. John Seymour long ago proved the folly of a garden variety right-winger challenging Dianne, and Poizner himself showed against Meg that he can’t match up in the paint with a big woman who towers over him. Candidate Rank: 4.

Orly Taitz – The Birther Movement whack job , who’s never categorically denied she’s a space alien, has kept a low profile since delivering heart palpitations to establishment Republican types by making a run at the party’s nomination for Secretary of State in the June primary. But in the current atmosphere of right-wing madness and all-around political weirdness, who better to make the GOP case for incoherent, conspiracy-based, constitutional creationist Palinism? Perhaps the California Republicans, still nursing the wounds of being hit by a bus, could warm to an authentic Mama Grizzly?  Candidate Rank: 2.

Carly Fiorina – A slightly more moderate version of Orly Taitz (same hair salon?), the former robber baron CEO of Hewlett-Packard lost a squeaker big time to Sen. Barbara Boxer, despite iCarly’s innovative platform calling for debtor prisons, the death penalty for abortion docs and open carry laws for assault rifles on airliners. While Californians came to love her rare combination of mean-spirited condescension and patronizing arrogance, word is Hurricane Carly is eying a move to Idaho, where she’ll feel politically more at home. Candidate Rank: 5.

Darrell Issa – One of the more widely-respected car alarm magnates south of the Tehachapis, Issa has already played an outsized role in California politics by financing the 2003 recall of Gray Davis and getting beat by, um, Matt Fong, in his one try at a statewide GOP nomination. Now, however, he’s positioned to grab national headlines in his role as a White House-investigating demagogue House committee chairman; who knows how popular he can become once he waterboards David Axelrod in public?  It’s not like anybody’s going to bring up his sketchy Army record or the stolen Dodge,  Maserati and Mercedes. Or the hidden handgun, either. Candidate Rank: 3.

Tom Campbell – A moderate Republican who…oh, never mind. Candidate Rank: 6.

Meg Whitman – Sure, she’s feeling beat up, bruised and unappreciated right now, but don’t forget it was none other than Dianne Feinstein her ownself who showed that before you can get elected to the U.S. Senate, you have to run for governor and lose. Dianne paved the way, winning her Senate seat  just two years after a bitter defeat to Pete Wilson in 1990. If she’s got the heart, eMeg could trace a similar political career path and keep hope alive for her dream of becoming the first woman president.

Seasoned and toughened by a brutal statewide race, she needs to find a high-profile perch at a think tank, private charity or public policy-oriented non-profit shop to keep her hand in the game, secure in knowing that the character issues which tripped her up this year – Goldman Sachs, sweetheart IPOs and her treatment of her illegal housekeeper, for starters – will be old news by the time 2012 rolls around.

Time to start spending some of that Whitman/Harsh foundation money on something other than protection of the valley floor around her Skyline Ranch in Telluride. Memo to Meg: a) Don’t forget to invite the press corps along when you go to vote next year. b) Go to dinner with Calbuzz this time and (here’s two words we bet you seldom hear) – we’ll pay.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, Calbuzz acknowledges that we get a thrill up our leg at the image of Dick Blum choking on his wallet when DiFi announces she’ll need 150 Large for the re-elect. Candidate Rank: 1

This Week’s Standings
1-Meg Whitman
2-Orly Taitz
3-Darrell Issa
4-Steve Poizner
5-Carly Fiorina
6-Tom Campbell

Fishwrap Friday: Goo-Goos Gone Wild (Not)

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Will It Be California Forward or Backward? California Forward, the good government group with name-brand backing and top-drawer credentials, will be meeting in Sacramento next week to decide whether to become irrelevant.

Okay, that’s not exactly on the agenda Wednesday. But as the Bay Area Ccafwd_logo1ouncil aggressively forges ahead toward a constitutional convention, its weak brother reform group is moving closer to beside-the-point status — despite backing from the California Endowment, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The bi-partisan group, headed by former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, and Southern California Automobile Association executive Thomas McKernan, has a whole bunch of proposals for Kumbaya stuff like better representation, smarter budgeting and fiscal management.

All of which boil down to: Managing the status quo.

Unless the group resolves next week to take a clear and strong stand on something controversial – say, undoing the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state budget — the consensus-obsessed California Forward might as well rename itself California Backward.

It’s ironic. The guy who had been heading up the group was former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, until he got called on by President Obama to go to DC to run the CIA. And the group’s roster remains impressive: after Hertzberg and McKernan, it’s got Bob Balgenorth, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO; Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Chief Executive Officer, Green For All; Bill Hauck, President, California Business Roundtable; Antonia Hernández, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation; Fred Keeley, Treasurer, Santa Cruz County; Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; Donna Lucas, Founder, Lucas Public Affairs Group; Sunne Wright McPeak, President and Chief Executive Officer, California Emerging Technology Fund; Bruce McPherson, Former California Secretary of State; Chuck Poochigian, Former State Senator and Assemblymember; Cruz Reynoso, Former Associate Justice, California Supreme Court and the Third District Court of Appeal; Constance Rice, Co-Director, Advancement Project and Gene Voiland, Principal, Voiland Enterprises LLC.

But by dithering and doddering about whether to take clear stands on big issues, California Forward risks squandering its stature and taking a permanent back seat to the Bay Area Council on the government reform front . . .

Inmates Push for Asylum Management: Having the Legislature seize control of the University of California from the Board of Regents “is like having the management of GM take over Microsoft.”

That was the best line making the rounds Thursday, one day after Senator Leland Yee trumpeted a whacky proposal for a constitutional amendment to exchange UC’s 141-year old practice of independent governance for an exciting new future hunkered down in the Capitol muck of petty politics.

“It’s ridiculous, silly stuff,” Board of Regents Chairman Dick Blum told Calbuzz. “The people in Sacramento are going to tell us how to run the UC?”

In an interview, Blum vigorously defended the Regents’ management, contrasting the system’s balanced budget with the state’s $25 billion deficit and its AAA bond rating with the state’s, um, ZZZ rank. He also noted UC’s ability to attract top academic and administrative talent, portraying the regents’ hiring of President Mark Yudof a year ago as a milestone in improving the system’s management. Yudof is a nationally recognized leader of the accountability movement, which stresses the use of measurable results systems for universities: “You won’t find a better, proven manager of a hugely complex, public higher education institution anywhere.”

Yee and his allies have attacked the recent approval of mid-six figure salaries for campus chancellors as just the latest outrage of out-of-control executive compensation at UC. Blum said that the average income for the top executives of the system’s 10 campuses are “35-to-40 percent below market” and that the biggest problem for the $18-billion UC is that the state keeps cutting its share of the overall budget, which now amounts to less than $3 billion.

“There is such a thing as the marketplace, there is such a thing as reality,” Blum told us.

Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, said the senator is not seeking “day to day management” of the UC system, just more “oversight” that would give the Legislature greater authority over what he described as abuses involving pay for top university officials. Which sounds kinda like a distinction without a difference . . .

The Meg and John Show: Having captured a smashing 37 percent of the vote in California last November, Arizona Senator John McCain will give Republican wannabe governor Meg Whitman some tips on running strong in the Golden State today.

Her Megness is scheduled to appear with Joe the Plumber’s best friend at a Town Hall meeting in Orange County, followed by a “private event” (i.e. fundraiser) in Fresno, according to her campaign. For media mavens desperately seeking a rare opportunity to pose a question to the elusive eMeg, she’ll have a press avail at 2:50 pm (and that’s not 2:51 p.m., either, mister!) in the Executive Room of the Piccadilly Inn. The release on the event says it’s for “Credentialed Media Only” and that part is in BOLD CAPS, so don’t even try sneaking in if you’re some kind of low-rent blogger or something…Wait a minute, credentialed by whom? . . .

Offshore Plan Sinking Fast: Look for a whole lotta pushback on Arnold’s controversial plan to raise revenue by drilling for oil offshore of Santa Barbara, when the State Lands Commission meets Monday in Santa Monica. It’s the first meeting of the group since Governor Deltoids announced the proposal, which would end run a commission vote turning down the project last January . . .

Today’s Sign the End of Civilization is Near: Four states now prohibit drivers from smiling for the photos on their licenses, according to a USA Today report. Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia all require you to wipe that grin off your face because it messes with their high-tech, face-recognition software. Bring on the Vulcans! . . .

Spell Check: Congratulations to Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, who won the National Spelling Bee Thursday by correctly spelling “laodicean” which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics. Pronounced “lay-ah-di-see-an,” this is NOT what makes a good Calbuzzer.

Bad Idea of the Week: Let Legislature Govern UC

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

lelandyeeAmid the endless stream of doltish notions spewing forth from Sacramento, Democratic State Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco has come up with one so imbecilic it takes your breath away.

With Yee and his legislative colleagues flopping and floundering in a pool of red ink $25 billion deep, he’s decided now’s just the right time to bring the Capitol’s special brand of management magic to bear on the University of California.

Yee — whose biggest contribution to date to the cause of higher education has been railing against the “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” video game — has now proposed a constitutional amendment to end the system of independent governance of the UC system, putting the 10 campuses in the grubby hands of the Legislature.

He’s rounded up a batch of second-rate hacks to join him in this crackpot crusade, including L.A. Democrat Anthony Portantino – a graduate of mighty Albright College whose greatest lifetime achievement was serving as Production Director for NBC’s “Grizzly Adams”; Brian Nestande — a Riverside County Rep who coasted into politics on his daddy’s coattails and made his bones helping to elect political giants like Michael Huffington and the late Sonny Bono; and Roy Ashburn, the Bakersfield GOPer who’s one step ahead of the posse seeking to recall him from office.

Huffing and puffing to the Chron, Yee accused the Regents of acting “absolutely above the law” for constitutionally operating outside the reach of a Legislature that’s pushed the state to the brink of bankruptcy. (As for being “above the law,” recall that the most famous campaign photo of Yee is his booking mugshot, taken when he was busted on a shoplifting beef in Hilo, Hawaii back in the day. But we digress).

Calbuzz stipulates that the UC Board of Regents isn’t perfect – far from it. Most recently, the administrative salary and perk scandals (unearthed by Calbuzzer Tanya Schevitz when she worked for the Chronicle) were dreadful, indeed. But the Regents, under the leadership of chairman Dick Blum, chief consort to Senator Difi, acted decisively in dumping former president Robert Dynes and bringing in Mark Yudof.

Let’s face it: the list of things that actually work well in state government would fit into a match box, with room left over to play the Cal-Stanford game. UC, with its well-earned global reputation and its still-affordable world class education for California public school kids, is at the top of that short list.

The idea of trading the Regents, who are insulated from retail politics – by design of the framers of the state constitution since 1868 – for the nitwits, narcissists and sharkskin suits that populate the Legislature in the era of term limits is enough to make the Cal bear barf.

We’re just sayin’.

Fishwrap: CA Firesale, Chinese Wine & Cheese, Central Coast Fratricide

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Governor Arnold says California should sell off some of its iconic real estate assets like San Quentin, the Cow Palace and the Los Angeles Coliseum, to help balance the budget.

While this may not help much in the short run – it would likely take two to five years to close deals this big – Calbuzz has some ideas on 10 other properties the state can auctihearstcastle-712894on off, along with some possible buyers, to keep the fire sale revenue stream flowing for years.

1- Hearst Castle: Media News mogul Dean Singleton, an unscrupulous news business titan just like the original owner, could throw lavish parties to entertain all the Bay Area journalists he’s put out of work.

2-The Golden Gate Bridge: Dianne Feinstein and Dick Blum, who already own a swell place in nearby Presidio Terrace, could buy the bridge and close it from 9 pm-9 am to help keep the neighborhood quiet.

3- The Historic Governor’s Mansion: Jerry Brown is already eyeing it, while waxing nostalgic for his old bedroom on the second floor; best to get some up front cash now, before he gets a chance to move in for free.

4-Asilomar: Clint Eastwood, the former mayor of nearby Carmel-by-the Sea, would have plenty of room in the spacious Monterey Peninsula conference center to exercise his core political belief: “Everyone leaves everyone else alone.”

5-Fort Tejon: Flush with cash, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians or the Morongo Band of Mission Indians might snap up the historic Army fort, originally used to wage war on Native Americans, in a nice bit of historic payback.

6-Old Town San Diego: The Federation for Immigration Reform could celebrate the Bear Flag Revolt every day in the historic district, an ideal base for furthering their nativist views about Mexico.

7-The State Capitol: Ipoh Ltd, redevelopers of the famed Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, have a lot of experience converting historic buildings into shopping centers. Besides, the governor and legislature aren’t really using it for much.

8-Angel Island: Just think what Steve Wynn, world’s most imaginative casino developer, could build on all that wasted open space in this little slice of heaven in San Francisco Bay. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

9-Will Rogers State Park: On their way out the door, the governor and First Lady Maria Shriver could do their small part to erase the budget deficit by retiring in splendor, and keeping the show biz vibe alive, at this Santa Monica showplace.

10-La Brea Tar Pits: Okay, the state doesn’t officially own the pits, but General Services could seize it by eminent domain and sell it to the senate Republican caucus; those guys are all free enterprise fans and, anyway, what more appropriate site for party headquarters?

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: With great pride and enthusiasm, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, in his role as (all rise) chairman of the California Commission for Economic Development, this week announced “the formation of the California Wine and Cheese Expo in Shanghai Pudong’s Wai Gaoqiao Free Trade Zone.”

Now there’s something you don’t see everyday.

“At the Commission for Economic Development, we craft strategies to help improve California ’s economy and business climate, and beneficial international trade relationships are an essential part of that equation,” said Garamendi. “China ’s white collar population is expanding rapidly, and demand for quality wines and cheeses is on the rise. ” Who knew?

Memo to Arnold: In cutting the budget, maybe start by eliminating the lieutenant governor’s office altogether.

No tranquility at Tranquillon: The Terminator’s bid to overturn the State Lands Commission’s veto of a new offshore oil drilling lease at Tranquillon Ridge off Santa Barbara County has added fuel to an already heated Democratic legislative primary.

The commission’s January vote, which torpedoed a deal negotiated between coastal advocates and oil company PXP, bitterly divided local environmentalists, and led to to the contested primary. Longtime enviro Susan Jordan, who’s running to succeed husband Pedro Nava in the 35th AD, staked out a lonely stance opposing the deal, while most of her erstwhile allies, including city councilman Das Williams, backed it.

Williams who had earlier pledged to support Jordan, cited her position on Tranquillon as his key reason for making an about-face entry into the race. The issue had finally died down when Schwarzenegger resurrected the lease deal as part of his May revise budget plan.

Today’s Must Read: WashTimes Probes Feinstein, Blum

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Reason #357 why Dianne Feinstein won’t run for governor: Today’s Washington Times carries a boffo investigative report detailing the senior senator from California’s legislative efforts “to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband’s real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.”

Reporter Chuck Neubauer drills down in great detail to examine the coincidence of timing involved in Feinstein’s actions and the awarding of a lucrative contract to the commercial real estate firm headed by Dick Blum, her investment banker husband. His piece reports that spokesmen for Feinstein and for Blum’s firm insist neither did anything improper, and that the DC power couple make “an intensive effort” to maintain a wall between their financial interests.

The Dianne and Dick show may be as pure as the driven snow on this and every other Blum business eruption over the years, but the political bottom line was delivered in the WashTimes story by Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group:

The episode “highlights the problem of a senator with a spouse who has extensive business interests that intersect frequently with the federal government,” Sloan said. “Even if there is no actual conflict of interest, it often has the appearance of a conflict.”

As a political matter, the financial machinations of the deal matter far less than the fact that Feinstein again finds herself in a defensive posture, trying to explain her public actions in light of his private business dealings. It’s a story that has surfaced in various forms since the two wed when she was still mayor of San Francisco, and erupted periodically as she’s climbed the political ladder.

Should Feinstein choose to abandon the comforts of Georgetown for the rigors of the California campaign trail and run for governor next year, this and every other of the myriad deals Blum has consummated while she’s held high office, including those examined here and here will immediately become fodder for every mad dog opposition researcher, investigative gunslinger, skeptical political writer and tin-foil-hat blogger in the state, to the detriment of her characteristically earnest efforts to hold forth on the virtues of “governing from the center.”

We just sayin’.