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Field Poll: Why Brown is Ahead, Willing to Go Positive

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Gaining hugely among women, independents, and Latinos in the past month, Democrat Jerry Brown now leads Republican Meg Whitman 49-39% among likely voters in the governor’s race, according to the authoritative Field Poll – widely regarded as the most accurate political survey in California.

Despite spending $38 million from Sept. 1 to the middle of October – and many millions since – Whitman has only made herself more unpopular, while Brown, who spent about $24 million in the same period, saw his popularity improve slightly. Whitman’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating is now 42-51%, slightly worse than her 40-45% standing in September. Meanwhile, Brown’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating now is 47-47% compared to 44-47% in September.

Team Krusty, it seems, has made the election a referendum on Whitman’s character while the Armies of eMeg have been unable to force voters to focus on their narrative about Brown’s record on the issues, which they calculated would frame the race.

Essentially, Whitman’s extravagant TV campaign, overseen by veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy, has failed either to make his candidate popular or to knock Brown off his stride. But Brown’s guerilla advertising, made by longtime associate Joe Trippi and his shop, have driven up Whitman’s negatives while making Brown seem more authentic and knowledgeable.

The Brown campaign unveiled a killer ad on Wednesday, this one simply clips from the Women’s Conference interaction on Tuesday among NBC’s Matt Lauer, Brown and Whitman in which Brown agrees to take any negative ads off the air if Whitman will do the same. But she refused.

On Wednesday, the Brown campaign gave Whitman 24 hours to decide if she would accept the no-negative-ad challenge before putting the ad on the air (although it’s not really a negative) and said he’d call on all those groups supporting him to take down their negative ads if she would agree to do the same.

“Jerry Brown’s phony pledge is just what you would expect from a cynical career politician,” replied Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Rivera. “Jerry Brown is hypocritically pledging to take down negative ads, while his allies are launching new negative spots at the very same time.”

Brown’s comfort with taking down all negative ads reflects his lead in public and private surveys. In today’s Field Poll, Brown is pulling about eight in 10 Democrats while Whitman has about three-fourths of the Republicans. But among independents – the crucial, cross-over voters who determine statewide elections in California  – Brown has taken a commanding 49-33% lead, up from a 38-38% tie in September.

Brown also has captured a big-time lead among women – 51-35%.  Asked Wednesday on a conference call with reporters, why Whitman is doing so poorly among women, Steve Glazer, Brown’s campaign manager replied: “Through words and deeds she’s been unable to connect and create any credibility and trust.”

Likewise, among Latinos, who had flirted with Whitman until learning that she had unceremoniously fired her housekeeper of nine years and would deny a path to citizenship even for undocumented college graduates, the Attorney General has soared to 57-27%, driving Whitman’s margin below the campaign’s target of one-third of Latino voters.

The only broad categories in which Whitman now leads outside of the poll’s 3.2% margin of error are Republicans, Southern California outside of Los Angeles (50-37%)  and inland counties (47-38%). But those inland counties only account for 29% of the vote and in coastal counties, which make up 71% of the vote, Brown leads 53-25%. Much of that comes from Brown’s huge 58-30% lead in Los Angeles County and massive 61-28% margin in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Because voting-by-mail has already begun in California, the Field Poll was able to break voters into three categories: 1) permanent absentee voters (known in the trade as PAVs)  who have already voted (21%); 2) those PAVs who will vote (34%); and 3) those who plan to vote Nov. 2 at their precinct (45%).

Among all PAVs, Brown leads 48-40%, including by 48-41% among those who have already voted. He also leads 49-38% among those who plan to vote Nov. 2. The element of certainty among those who have already voted, coupled with the very tight ratio of Democrats-to-Republicans in the likely voter sample – 44% D and 39% R (compared to a 13% spread in official registration) – already incorporates effects of the so-called enthusiasm gap that is said to favor Republicans this election cycle.

Moreover, Field’s likely voter sample contains just 51% women, while many pollsters, including last week’s Los Angeles Times/USC Survey, anticipate that women will comprise 53% of the total electorate. If that is accurate, then the Field Poll could actually be understating the vote for Brown. In addition, Field’s likely voter sample contains 16% Latinos – a proportion that is three percentage points below registration.

The Field Poll interviewed a random sample of 1,501 registered voters, listed in the Secretary of State’s voter file by landline or cell phone, depending on their listing in the official file. From them, Field culled 1,092 likely voters who said they had already voted or who said they were “absolutely certain” to vote and whose voting history – if they were not newly registered – suggested they were likely to vote. Likely voters in Field’s survey constitute 73% of the registered voters who completed interviews.

Interviewing was conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese in two waves: Oct 14-19 and Oct 20-26. The margin of error for the overall likely voter sample is +/- 3.2%.

Calbuzz obtained the Field Poll from sources because our offer to become paid subscribers has been refused.

Can’t anybody here play this game? The Giants won ugly to open the Blue State-Red State World Series on Wednesday, drubbing the Texas Rangers 11-7, but the Calbuzz MVP of Game One was Joe Garofoli of the hometown S.F. daily.

While many others fell for eMeg’s tired stunt of placing a joke wager with a politician from the rival state in the Series,  Joe Ballgame alone called out the candidate for shameless band wagon pandering by trying to associate herself with the sensational story of the Giants’ unlikely run into the Fall Classic.

Among his other well-placed criticisms, he noted that she phoned Texas Governor Rick Perry to make the phony bet from a surf shop in San Diego, a town represented baseball-wise by the Padres, the club San Francisco beat to get into the playoffs.

Now we strongly suspect that, if Her Megness actually ever did show up for a ballgame, she’d a) be wearing a cashmere sweater tied loosely around her shoulders; b) order a glass of chablis from the beer guy; and c) ask at the concession stand if she could get a tofu dog on a whole wheat bun. All that aside, however, we can only shake our heads at the breathtaking presumption of a rookie pol, who’s never been elected to anything, not only poaching on the perquisites of California’s actual governor but also anointing herself head cheerleader for a ball club, let alone an entire state.

Instead of just accepting the brushback pitch that she clearly deserved, and that Garofoli quite properly delivered, however, Team Whitman thought it a good idea to pick a fight over Joe’s original item.

Insisting eMeg’s status as a Giants fan was long-standing, they sent him a clip of an interview with a San Diego TV station in which she said she was rooting for the G-men in the playoffs, apparently to demonstrate her willingness to take a tough stance even if it meant offending viewers in Padre-town.

Only problem was, the interview happened on Oct. 18, 15 days after the Giants beat the Padres on the last day of the regular season to win the National League West division crown and knock the San Diegans out of the post-season.  Sheesh.

As such an avid fan, Meg, here’s some Giants slang you’ll no doubt appreciate: Grab some pine, meat.

Liveblogging the Dominican Dog Fight

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Update 2:45 p.m. Calbuzz Steady Hand Video is up with a piece by video reporter Jennifer Fey of the action that took place outside the debate hall and press room last night. Her report is here.

In a sharp, fast-paced and intelligent debate, managed expertly by former NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown gave any voters still undecided about the governor’s race as clear a choice as they could want: a businesswoman focused on private sector jobs and a lifelong public official focused on untangling gridlock in government.

Whitman scored well on a variety of issues, including a double dose of arguing that Brown is soft on crime and in the pocket of the unions. Brown hammered Whitman on her plan to cut capital gains taxes to benefit the rich and her failure to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Brokaw asked impertinent questions with ease: What made Whitman interested in government after not voting for so many years? Did Brown sanction the use of the word “whore” to describe Whitman by someone in his campaign?

Brown, unexpectedly, was the first to attack, asking Whitman how much she personally would make if her plan to cut the capital gains tax was approved. But Whitman ridiculed Brown’s argument that he would cut the governor’s office budget and said he’d be “the same old same old.”

While Whitman demonstrated skill and knowledge, there was nothing in the debate that changed the dynamic of the race. However it was on Monday it will remain on Wednesday. Rare is the candidate who can use a debate to make himself or herself more appealing. Neither candidate did that, but neither did they make themselves more unappealing.

One note for Brokaw: In comparing the use of the word “whore” by someone on Brown’s staff to describe Whitman’s alleged sell-out to the Los Angeles police union to the use of the “n” word, Brokaw framed the issue with a false equivalency. One is a slur; the other is a blood libel. He knows better: that’s why he could say the word “whore” but had to use “the n word” as it’s “equivalent.”

Late add: That said, Brown’s apology was weak and his response was defensive and ineffective — and that’s what got picked up by most of the writers about the debate.

A brief rundown on key issues covered:

— Capital gains taxes: Meg wants to cut them because they’re a tax on jobs and innovation; Jerry says that would drive California even further into debt and steal billions from schools.

— Immigration: Whitman wants to secure the borders, bring in temporary workers and adopt new technology to verify citizenship; Brown also wants border security but emphasizes  comprehensive reform and supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, which Whitman opposes.

— Using the word “whore”: Whitman takes it personally that someone in Brown’s camp suggested calling her a “whore,” and she’s deeply offended for all women; Brown said he’s sorry the word was used and referenced a Calbuzz report about Whitman’s campaign chairman, Pete Wilson, calling members of Congress “whores.” He rejected Brokaw drawing equivalency between the campaigns use of the “w” word and referring to African-Americans with the “n” word.

— Crime: Whitman says Brown has been soft on crime for 40 years, that he doesn’t support the death penalty and appointed Rose Bird, who voted to overturn the death penalty 64 times, to the Supreme Court; Brown said he’s tough as nails, has the police chiefs backing (or was it in his back pocket?) and has defended the death penalty as AG.

— Unions: Whitman says Brown is owned by the labor bosses who have lavishly funded his campaign and that he won’t be able to stand up to the teachers union; Brown says he’s been there before and has denied labor’s demands when he’s had to.

–Pensions: They agree on the need for pension reform – later retirement age, greater employee contributions, two-tier system – but Meg says Jerry can’t pull it off because of his union support. He says he started doing pension reform long before she came to California and can do it more effectively because he can bring all the parties to the table while she vilifies labor. He says he exemption of law enforcement from her call for an end to defined benefit plans is a sell-out, she say cops deserve better treatment.

–AB 32: Meg says the number of green jobs to be created in the short term is not worth losing existing jobs under current economic conditions. Jerry says her moratorium plan will cause uncertainty for investors, and the only ones who want to get rid of existing law are big oil and petrochemical companies.

–Prop. 8 – Meg says she is against gay marriage and that Brown shirked his duty as AG by not defending Prop. 8 in court. He said he acted properly, and according to precedent, by refusing to defend a measure that imposes discrimination.

–National political leaders – He said he welcomes Obama campaigning for him in California and thinks he’s doing a good job. She said she’ll be otherwise occupied when Sarah Palin comes to the state and that she supports someone else – Mitt Romney – for president.

6:20 p.m – On the live feed into the press room, the president of Dominican University just introduced moderator Tom Brokaw, who comes out on crutches. He says he suffered an unidentified “mishap” on his Montana ranch and says he’s a lot like California:  “We’re both broken at the moment,” he said. “The difference is that I hope to be repaired by the end of the year.”

Talks about his personal, professional and family attachments to California: “In so many ways, California is a distillation of America.” Adds that he hopes to affect “the tone of this campaign.”

Brokaw introduces Jerry to the audience, recalling he first met Krusty with he, Tom, was covering Pat Brown’s campaign for governor in 1966. Introduces Meg as “one of the rock stars of the dot.com era.”

6:30 Throw to Brokaw after big taped plug for D.U. He says we’re going to learn lots of stuff about practically everything. Explains the ground rules – no opening statements. First question to Meg.

Tom waaaayyyy up on Mt. Olympus – JFK’s inaugural address is cited — asks the candidates to tell voters what they – the voters – can do for California.

Meg immediately starts talking about herself. Straight campaign schtick and talking points. Doesn’t answer the question except to say that “What people will have to do is support the next governor,” “pull together” and “there’s going to be some shared sacrifice.”

Brown on talking points too: Can’t point fingers, “rise above the poisonous partisanship” rise above categories and be Californians first. “Some people say this is a failed state – it’s not.” He doesn’t answer either.

Tom cites poll that says voters believe that we could cut 20 percent of budget without much affect: “Have voters become unrealistic?”

Meg says “they’re on the right track” and recites talking points on welfare, pensions and government efficiency, once again claims she can cut $15 billion with little impact.

Jerry: “A long time ago I said government was facing an era of limits and, boy, people didn’t like that” but it’s true, he said.

Q3: Should we look at changing Prop. 13 as a key to reform?

Meg: “Proposition 13 is absolutely essential to the future of California.” Says  one of the reasons she’s running is to protect Prop. 13. “Only way to increase revenues is to create jobs.” She sounds sharp and very specific.

Jerry: “There’s no sacred cows over the long term.” I once opposed 13 and then I made it work. Once again plugs Howard J’s endorsement of him. Brown says it’s a “myth” that homeowners are paying more than business.

Says the big problem with Prop. 13 is that in implementing Legislature moved too much power to Sacramento. Says one thing he wouldn’t do is cut the capital gains tax like Meg.

Meg gets a rebuttal and argues that cutting capital gains will create jobs. Jerry rebuts that 82% of the savings would go to people making $500K or more.

First great moment: Asks Meg directly how much she would make personally on such a tax cut. She says she’s “an investor” who would benefit along with “job creators.” She bashes Jerry saying he’s responsible, as a professional politician, for running down the economy over decades.

Jerry says her statements are “demonstrably untrue” and quotes San Jose Mercury News endorsement. Notes that there have been three GOP governors since him. Meg says that it’s “a classic politicians answer” – it’s “a half answer.”

Tom asks about the budget.

Notes Jerry has said “the process is the plan” and asks him to deny that it will be just more of the same, like the 100-day late budget just completed.

Jerry says it’s different because he’s done this before and can make it work by starting earlier and bringing all the stakeholders. We’ve heard this all before.

Tom to Meg: What alterations would you make in existing budget for 100 days?

Meg: Jerry did say “the process is the plan” and if you liked the process, you’ll like his plan. Gets into Jerry face about his promise to cut governor’s budget: “Do you know how much the governor’s budget is?” She cuts off his answer and says it’s $18 million and “if that’s your plan we’re in trouble.”

Good round by Meg. Jerry says “you’ve got to get the Legislature on board or nothing happens.” Says Meg doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t detail $15B in cuts or 40K layoffs.

Brokaw: What about the 100,000 lbs gorilla – underfunded pension system?

Brown says it has to be a two-tier system, credits Arnold for getting a good start on it. “A knowledgeable governor can get the compromise you need.”

? to Meg: What about existing pensioners? Meg says Jerry is “do what I say, not what I do” and hits Jerry over record in Oakland. “If we do not resolve this pension issue, California is going to run out of money.”

New employees have to come in under a different deal. BUT: law enforcement should get a special deal and stay on defined benefit plan unlike everyone else who should be moved to 401(k) program.

Brokaw pounces on that and cites extravagant pensions for L.A. cops, noting that some of them are higher than retired Army generals. Here’s the difference between me and Jerry Brown: he’ll owe his election to the unions that have been attacking me; I’ll be independent because I paid for my own campaign. She didn’t answer the question.

Jerry all defensive about her comments about Oakland record and dithers about that. Says the elephant in the room is that she would exempt law enforcement. Meg says she’s not exempting law enforcement because she’s changing age of retirement, contribution.

Here it comes: Brokaw raises the “whore” comment: “We’ve heard no outrage from you” about this.

Brown said it was a private conversation. Meg and he face to face: You’re defending your campaign against a slur on me. Brown cites fact from Calbuzz story about Pete Wilson calling Congress “whores.”  She tut-tuts that it’s not the same thing. He reaffirms his apology “I’m sorry.”

She says she got the endorsement not because of pension but because she’s tougher on crime, death penalty, etc. Jerry says he has more law enforcement endorsements and he has done dozens of death penalty cases.

Tom on AB32 and Prop. 23: Do you really think it’s going to kill jobs, despite what George Schultz, a great American says.

Meg says she wants to “freeze it, then fix it.” She thinks a one-year moratorium would be best: “We can be green and still smart” and first priority has to be keeping jobs we have instead of focusing on creating a small number of green jobs.

Brown says problem is “start stop” which creates uncertainty for investors. “The people who are crying are two big oil companies from Texas and one petrochemical conglomerate from the Midwest.”

Lots of audience applause, hooting and yelling.

Meg talks over Brokaw and says “what’s wrong with taking a break” on AB32? ”

Bushwah says Brown: there’s no evidence that this going to hurt 90% of existing jobs; we need to stimulate green industry.

Brokaw: What’s the role of the CTA?

Jerry: It’s a very important role. “You can’t go to war” with people who have to be part of the solution.

Meg: She’s still back on AB32. “Jerry Brown needs to get out and campaign more.” Says that the “bosses of the California Teachers Association” are a big part of the crisis in public schools. “We have to make radical changes.”

Brokaw: You’re spending a lot of dough but why didn’t you vote? Is there something else you might have done to benefit the state we don’t know about?

Meg repeats her rote apology for voting. Every candidate is a package of strengths and weaknesses. But spending my own money is a really, really good thing because otherwise “all the union bosses will collect the IOUs” for supporting Jerry campaign. “Of course Griff and I have a foundation.” Of course.

“This was always supposed to be a citizen democracy.”

Jerry: My entire campaign has been supported by many business and many ordinary citizens. She’s raised $30 million from people who will benefit directly from her “key economic plan” which will “take money from schools and invest in her friends.”

Talks about his work in charter schools and says that’s fine what we have to do is focus on the public education system. Push political power down to local level.

Meg says “Mr. Brown just said something he knows it’s not true” and she never said she wanted to keep money from schools.

Brokaw: Let’s go back to immigration. Recalls Meg spine of steel comments and says if you couldn’t figure it out how is anyone else supposed to.

Firing Nicky “broke my heart” (wonder what it did to Nicky?) but we really need an e-verify system. We need more infra red and motion sensor technology on the border. “I’ve been very clear from the beginning that I don’t think the Arizona plan is right for California.”

Brokaw to Jerry: You’re the top cop – why shouldn’t businesses be held responsible? Krusty says they should but it’s a federal problem but he’s worked with the fed through AG office.

The big problem is we have millions of people “in the shadows” and we need a comprehensive plan that includes a path to citizenship. She doesn’t. We need to think about immigrants as people. “And by the way…it’s a sorry tale” but “but after nine years of working for her why didn’t she get her (housekeeper) a lawyer?” Meg looks major pissed.

Tom asks Jerry why he hasn’t done anything about murderous drug dealing. He says he has.

Tom asks Meg: You’re opposed to Prop. 19 – what’s wrong with it being controlled, and administered by the state? She’s “firmly opposed” because “it’s not the right thing.”

And another thing: JB says he’s tough on drug dealers but she got the endorsement of a narcotics officers association. “Jerry Brown has been soft on crime for 40 years.” Rose Bird fought against all 64 death penalty cases that came her way. Look at my front-line cop organizations endorsements.

Brokaw to Meg: How important is Prop. 8? I’m running for governor to advance my talking points. But I’m against gay marriage. What is the responsibility of the chief law enforcement – he needs to defend that lawsuit on appeals. “It’s really dangerous” for him to make a decision on what part of the constitution he will defend and what part he won’t.

JB: I’m following precedent about an earlier racial discrimination.

Back to crime, stumbles and says, “I’ve got the police chiefs in my back…I’m got the police chiefs backing me.”

Meg laughs a really scary laugh and says, “I think Jerry was saying he’s got the police chiefs in his back pocket.”

“Sometimes, unaccustomed as I am to politics,” I misspeak.

Tom: Jerry what do you think of Obama? He’s terrific and I look forward to him coming to campaign for me.

Meg, how about that Sarah Palin? Meg says “I’ve supported other candidates” for president. And another thing: Jerry Brown is a major tool of unions – keeps talking while Brokaw tells her her time is up.

Brokaw: What about relaxing the two-thirds vote for the budget – Prop. 25. Meg doesn’t answer but says she supports a two-year budget plan. Jerry says he backs relaxing two-thirds for budget not for two-thirds.

Jerry gets last word saying unions, business, they’re all part of the process.

“I’ve been in the kitchen, I know what it is to say yes, and what it is to say no. She’s been in the bleachers, working for an internet company.”

Press conferences: Meg’s on first. She thought she did a great job. “I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way things went.”

Tough question on what is your record on drug enforcement – whatrecord do you have? I meant my policies, if I said me record, I misspoke.b

She was “stunned by Jerry Brown’s insensitivity” to use of word “whore” which is very offensive to Californians especially women.

Q: How was Brown campaign use of “whore” different than Wilson’s reference to “whores” in Congress. Completely different. How is it different? Completely different.

Q: I watched debate with Latinos and they don’t like your handling of the Nicky Diaz matter – is that over. “Absolutely.” It’s all Gloria Allred’s fault and Latinos care about a lot of other stuff that I talk about.

8:06 p.m. Brown is here. “Very spirited” debate. He’s standing in front of the podium instead of behind. He says biggest issue was her lack of answer on how much capital gains cut will benefit her personally. “I intend to get an answer to that” before election.

Brown asked about “whore.” I’ve apologized, I apologized again tonight” and I have nothing more to say about it.

And anyway, he rants, she should apologize for how she treated her maid especially about saying she stole the mail.

CapWeek Kudos; Whores v Klutzes; Lou’s Illegals

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Capitol Weekly preserves integrity: HT  to Anthony York of Capitol Weekly for taking a pass on a survey, done by Orange County Republican pollster Adam Probolsky, that York had intended to release through his respected web site. Turns out the Democratic pollster he had paired with Probolsky – Ben Tulchin of San Francisco, — had significant methodological problems with Probolsky’s survey and York didn’t want to risk his site’s good name with a bad poll.

While just about every pollster in the known universe has recently found the race with Jerry Brown up 5 or more points over Meg Whitman, Probolsky turned in a survey with a virtual dead heat: Brown 41% and Whitman 39%. The survey was taken Sept. 30-Oct 4 among 752 registered voters.

“We wanted a bipartisan poll but we didn’t have bipartisan sign-off,” said York. “This is Adam’s poll. They (Tulchin and Probolsky) couldn’t agree, so we didn’t want to put it out.”

Said Tulchin: “The results that Adam found were based on a sample that I felt was too conservative and too Caucasian and did not accurately represent a statewide sample.   As a result, I could not endorse the poll, so Adam decided to release it on his own.”

What particularly bothered Tulchin was not Probolsky’s projection of a 54.7% turnout, which Ben thought was “a bit conservative but not beyond the realm of possibility.” Rather, the survey under-represents Latinos and blacks, with just  12.8% Latino voters and 2.9% black, instead of 14-15% Latinos and at least 4% blacks, as expected.

“These are critical demographic groups,” Tulchin said.  “To undercount them in a survey has a direct impact on the poll results for the governor’s race.” Probolsky’s poll, he added, with a more conservative and Caucasian turnout model, resembled a Whitman campaign poll “that showed Brown with a slight lead and Gloria Allred with a 92% name ID, which is not very credible.”

As if to prove the point, guess who sent around the Probolsky poll to reporters on Thursday? And thank you for that, Ms. Pompei.

PS: In earlier versions of this post we had a picture of the wrong Anthony York up. Sorry for our stupid misgoogletake.

Gandalf vs. Technology, Round 32: Confronted with the complex and sophisticated 21st century challenge of hanging up the phone, Jerry Brown has failed miserably, the estimable Seema Mehta is reporting Thursday night, thus  setting off another kerfuffle in the governor’s race.

The 72-year old — and-getting-older-by-the-minute — Democratic nominee appears to have left a voicemail message at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Protective League last month, expressing frustration that the cop group planned to endorse eMeg after Krusty refused to exempt law enforcement from his call for reforming public employee pension plans — this after Ms. I’ll-tackle-the-status-quo agreed to enable the police union’s rules-are-different-for-us demands.

Whereupon Brown, the chief law enforcement official of the most populous state in the union, proved unequal to the task of HANGING UP THE TELEPHONE, thereby managing to leave on the cop union’s voice recorder the full, unadulterated contents of an ensuing, full and frank discussion of the political implications of the matter, during which one of Jerry Kid’s referred to eMeg as a “whore.”

No doubt, they meant it in the nicest possible way.

At press time, Team Brown’s Steve Glazer was apologizing profusely to Herself and the usual “anyone who may have been offended” suspects, while the volcanic Sarah Pompei  of Team Whitman was declaring the sexist slur “unforgivable and despicable.” Film at 11.

Next up: Jerry tries to navigate indoor plumbing.

Must read of the week: No word yet if the Legions of eMeg Communications Corps has turned to the task of e-blast, multiple platform dissemination of the cover story in the upcoming issue of The Nation, but if they haven’t, they really should.

In one of the toughest investigative takedowns in memory of a public figure who really had it coming, Isabel Macdonald rips the phony mask of self-righteousness from the immigrant-bashing Lou Dobbs, late of CNN, and in the process makes Our Meg look like a total piker in the employer of undocumented workers category.

Dobbs, who made himself rich and famous by blathering race-baiting demagoguery on cable TV, for quite some time has been living large in two huge and luxurious estates which support the major jones that his 22-year old daughter has for champion show jumper horses.

Turns out his truly sweet set-up is sustained by the labor of illegal immigrants, whom he never tired of bashing on his now-canceled program of self-described “fearless reporting and commentary.” In a piece aptly, if not subtly, titled “Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite,” Macdonald writes:

But with his relentless diatribes against “illegals” and their employers, Dobbs is casting stones from a house—make that an estate—of glass. Based on a yearlong investigation, including interviews with five immigrants who worked without papers on his properties, The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute have found that Dobbs has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper…

Since he left CNN last November, after Latino groups mounted a protest campaign against his inflammatory rhetoric, Dobbs has continued to advocate an enforcement-first approach to immigration, emphasizing, as he did in a March 2010 interview on Univision, that “the illegal employer is the central issue in this entire mess!”

Schadenfreude – sometimes it’s better than sex.

Update: Dobbs vs. Macdonald on MSNBC.

Testing 1, 2, 3: Nate Silver, the NYT’s boy genius of political polling and  statistical computational matters, has reset the betting line in his 538 blog and now makes Jerry Brown a 3-to-1 favorite to win the California governorship.

Written (or, far more likely, edited) into the most genteel Timespeak,  Silver’s item on the race notes that Krusty has become a 75 percent favorite after the column pegged him as the underdog just two weeks ago, and credits Nicky-gate as the reason for the switch:

Still, the allegations are obviously not helpful to Ms. Whitman, whose campaign has reacted with a certain lack of dexterity — with Ms. Whitman, for instance, having volunteered to take a polygraph test to rebut them. Such distractions may be relatively more difficult for a candidate like Ms. Whitman, who is running her first campaign for office, and who is used to writing her own script as the former chief executive of eBay.

Amid all the recent fuss about I-9’s and mileage payments for maids, we’d almost forgotten about last week’s quickly-retracted promise by eMeg to take a lie detector test to back up her story, but we’re glad Nate raised it since it resurfaced one of  our all-time favorite political quotes (h/t Bill Carrick).

Fritz Hollings, the ex-governor and former long-serving Senator from South Carolina, was once challenged by a soon-to-be-vanquished campaign rival to take a drug test. To which the famously blunt-spoken Hollings instantly replied: “I’ll take a drug test if you take an IQ test.”

Corporations are people too: Mega-kudos to Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times for digging out a truly outrageous $30 million sweetheart tax break deal in the Legislature’s compromise budget plan, a reeking piece of rancid fish festering deep inside the secretly negotiated spending plan for the financial benefit of one, and only one, rich and politically influential family.

The provision, which will allow the Humboldt Redwood Co. to deduct $20 million in old losses from future taxes, is also expected to cover penalties and interest for the firm co-owned by three sons of Donald G. Fisher, founder of the Gap and Banana Republic, said company Chairman Sandy Dean.

The tax break was inserted into the draft state spending plan during closed-door negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders, said people close to the talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the deal-making.

While Krusty is working overtime to make the world safe for children’s bouncy houses and eMeg is trembling with fury about a few poor people who may have dared to leave the state while on welfare, we’re still waiting for the howls of outrage from either one of them over this single interest rip-off for one of California’s best-connected families.

Breaking: Dolan busts them on another one.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: On the list of Citizen Kane-wannabes who thought it would be fun to own a newspaper, there is tremendous competition for the title of biggest chucklehead, but it’s tough to top the utter idiocy of Chicago greedhead Sam Zell, who’s still in the process of ruining a whole batch of them, as David Carr reports in painful detail.

eMeg’s Hefty Bag & Fun with Stocks and Money

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Team Whitman, trying desperately to dig eMeg out of the hole she carved into her campaign with her handling of Nicky Diaz, her undocumented housekeeper for nine years, sought to change the subject Wednesday by quoting ex-Republican congressman Michael Oxley of Ohio as saying he’s “outraged”  that Jerry Brown used his name in an anti-Whitman TV ad.

But (as you’ll read below) Oxley called “corrupt” the practice of “stock-spinning” that Whitman engaged in when she was CEO at eBay and he included her in his attack on the practice. So the effort to shift the conversation away from eMeg’s character deficit, as raised by her handling of her illegal housekeeper, fell flat.

Which leaves loud-mouth attorney Gloria Allred with the last word — for now, anyway — on the hiring and firing of her client, Diaz. Who says eMeg treated her “like garbage” — a comment Calbuzz editorial cartoonist Tom Meyer could not resist vamping on.

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The generations of Cesar: Not willing to let go of Whitman’s handling of Diaz or the immigration issue just yet, Brown’s labor cronies in the Service Employees International Union put together a spot, as part of their $5 million independent expenditure drive, featuring Dr. Christina Chavez, grand-niece of Cesar Chavez.

“When Jerry Brown was governor, he fought alongside my uncle Cesar Chavez to garner fair wages for workers,” Dr. Chavez says in Spanish. “And help open the doors for a generation of Latinos to gain access to education and be successful.

“I know because I am one of them. Now Republican Meg Whitman wants to ban undocumented students from attending college, taking away their opportunity to succeed. That’s why we need to vote for Jerry Brown for Governor, to make sure everyone has a right to a good education and better future.”

Whitman teed up the issue of keeping undocumented Latinos out of state colleges and universities herself at the Univision debate on Saturday. She responded to a question from an honors student and — being true to her platform –bravely told the young woman she was taking up a spot in a state school that rightfully belonged to a legal California citizen.

What did he say and when did he say it: Rising to the defense of eMeg, retired Congressman Oxley on Wednesday said:

I am outraged that Jerry Brown would stoop so low as to use my name and comments to attack Meg Whitman . . . My comments were taken out of context and never directed at Meg or any other individual . . . Jerry Brown has desperately resorted to using lies, distortions and distractions to prevent a real discussion of the issues facing California.

Wow, strong stuff. Except, here’s the problem: In a wide-ranging investigation, involving five minutes using the Google, Calbuzz found numerous MSM stories, including articles from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, where, as the investigative journalism group California Watch, summarized:

Then-Rep. Michael Oxley, an Ohio Republican who investigated the spinning scandal as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said in 2002 that it was obvious that Goldman was “making IPO shares available to those with investment banking business to offer.” He said Whitman and 20 other corporate executives, including Kenneth Lay of Enron, received IPOs as “an inducement or reward for investment banking business.”

Oxley called the practice “corrupt.” Months later, it was banned by the SEC.

The Wall Street Journal even published this handy little chart, put together by Oxley’s committee.

We’re just sayin’.

Fun with numbers: New campaign finance reports show that Whitman has picked up the pace of her round-the-clock spending rate since her last filing and has now lavished a 24/7 average of nearly $10,000 an hour since announcing her candidacy in February 2009.

eMeg’s total of $140 million through September 30 works out to $234,113 per day, for each of the 598 days she’s been campaigning (Memo to Meg from Griff: Should we have set aside some to pay Nicky’s mileage?), or $9,754.70 per hour; for those keeping score at home, this is a considerably brisker clip than she was maintaining in the earlier report, when she was only spending $203,767 per day, or $8,490.29 an hour.

But Our Meg is going to have to hustle between now and election day to break the magic $10K per hour barrier, which will require her to spend $303,030 a day – $12,626 an hour – to hit her number.

And you know the best thing about it? She’s doing it all for us, because she just won’t let California fail.

Add Meg money: Interesting take by Michael Mishak and Patrick McGreevy of the By God Los Angeles Times , who report that despite the unprecedented $119 million eMeg has forked out of her own pocket, she’s actually outraised Krusty in outside contributions, $10.7 to $9.5 million.

The several millions of Whitman’s outside fundraising from “donors with business before the state and corporate leaders,” the Timesmen smartly note, are “potentially undercutting her claim that her personal fortune makes her uniquely free of special-interest entanglements.”

Krusty meanwhile has so far spent about $11 million to date, a mere $40,393 a day – $1,683 an hour – if you date the start of his campaign to the beginning of this year.

He has about $22 million in the bank, compared to Meg’s $9.2 million, which would be a considerable advantage in any other year, but which doesn’t mean squat when Herself can just hit the drive-through ATM to pick up a couple of  large any old time she runs low on pocket change.

With her public image sagging (even in her own, best case poll, Meg’s favorables are only even with her unfavorables) Team Whitman has rolled out a new positive ad that’s pretty good: “They say California can’t be governed anymore,” Whitman says, full face to the camera, “I say baloney.”

It’s one of the few ads in which she’s looked animated and authentic and, in the wake of the housekeeper, it’s a damn fine idea to be putting it out there; of course, we have no way of knowing how much it’s running in rotation with her negative spots, including a new attack on Gandalf, which is just another iteration of the big spending liberal line of attack the Armies of eMeg have been pushing for months, to little obvious effect.

Don’t take it from us: even the venerable Republican analyst Tony Quinn thinks Meg’s arguing the wrong case on economics. In a strong but little-noticed piece on Fox and Hounds a few weeks ago, Quinn wrote:

Meg Whitman is getting it wrong.  Her attacks on Jerry Brown are sporadic, unfocused and in many cases just downright untrue.  She is trying to define him as a traditional tax and spend liberal, but that dog won’t hunt…

In fact, Brown hoarded his big surplus and refused to spend it on property tax relief.  This set off the 1978 tax revolt culminating in Proposition 13.  But he also refused to spend it on roads, water projects, better schools – or anything associated with California’s population growth.

Whitman is in danger of missing the bigger picture of Jerry Brown’s years as governor, for it is Brown that began California’s long decline into the economic basket case we are today….

Small is beautiful, lower your expectations replaced the dream of a better life.  Well, now we know, small is not beautiful, small is small.  Expectations are certainly lowered for the millions who cannot find a job in a state that once led the world in economic growth…

Instead of mounting that more sophisticated and historically accurate case against Brown, however, eMeg’s Empire keeps playing the same old, generic Republican one-note symphony, in between puffing up with overdone outrage about every feature story about Brown that comes along.

Can it possibly be that the candidate is running her own campaign?

How Did the Armies of eMeg Blow the Nicky Story?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Two news items emerged yesterday to underscore some questions Calbuzz has puzzled over since last week’s revelations that Meg Whitman employed an undocumented housekeeper for nine years, fired her unceremoniously and never lifted a finger to help her resettle or become a legal resident.

1) An Ipsos Public Affairs Poll for Reuters found that nine in 10 people know about the incident and it makes a net 13% of voters less likely to support the billionaire Republican candidate for governor and, 2) The total amount of lost wages and expenses that the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, is seeking to be paid is $6,210 – less than she pays her campaign manager every two weeks.

Here’s what we don’t get:

Why didn’t Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh IV, do something for Nicky? Why not spend $20,000 or so (or more, if need be) to hire her the best immigration attorney she could find to help her see what could be done to stay in the country or ease her return or whatever?

Why not offer her a year’s severance (about $18,000) or help her with re-settlement costs in Mexico? She was, in eMeg’s words, “a member of our extended family” (or as Meg said in one press conference, Freud never sleeping, “an extended member of our family”).

Okay, so Whitman and Harsh had to fire Diaz once they knew she was here illegally, if you buy their story. But they didn’t have to kick her to the curb. They might have avoided statements like this one from Nicky on Tuesday: “Meg, don’t say I was part of your family because you never treated me like I was.”

They could have tried to help her, which would have the advantage of being the right thing to do, would have made everyone feel better about themselves and – not insignificantly – would have demonstrated a measure of decency and compassion when the whole incident became public. Which leads to our second question:

Why – if as Whitman said last week,  she told her senior campaign advisers about the matter at the time — did she not disclose the whole thing publicly back in June or July of 2009?

Sure, she would have taken some guff from Steve Poizner and/or Tom Campbell, who were then challenging her for the GOP nomination. But everyone – everyone – would have understood how she could have wound up with an undocumented housekeeper.

That’s a common experience for many Californians of means and Whitman could have used herself as an example of how complicated the immigration issue is, and why we need a better system for employers to verify the status of people they hire (and make it believable).

Moreover, according to Political Consulting 101, this is standard operating procedure: control the bad news, put it out yourself, do it early to inoculate against a late hit. It borders on campaign consultant malpractice to have handled it as it was handled (unless, of course, Meg herself decided she would just keep the story a secret – ssshhh).

Whitman says she didn’t want to expose Nicky to the possibility of deportation. But had she actually done something to try to prevent that, or helped her in any way, she could have prevented the worst effects from what consultants always warn their clients: assume that everything that can come out will come out.

Calbuzz has tried to ask some of the consultants who were on Meg’s payroll back then – some for a quaint $25,000 a month – whether they knew about the housekeeper problem and what they advised. But nobody is returning our calls. We can’t figure out why.

Why did Whitman decide to attack Brown from a position of utter  weakness at the Univision debate, where the audience was overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking?

It was loopy enough that Whitman kept trying to get out ahead of Nicky’s attorney, the bombastic Gloria Allred, and kept getting blindsided by Allred’s disclosures. Everything was a smear and a lie and absolutely, 100% false. Until it turned out that it wasn’t. And Meg’s nose grew a little more.

All that aside, to turn to Brown on the stage in Fresno and wag a finger and charge him with sacrificing Nicky on the altar of his political ambition (such a line, you wouldn’t believe!) – what the hell was that?

Whitman knows Brown had nothing to do with Nicky’s hiring or firing and that there’s no evidence to support the charge that he had anything to do with the disclosure of her hiring and firing (if Brown had something he wanted to get out, the unpredictable loose cannon Allred would be right there at the waay bottom of his list of candidates).

But she made the aggressive debate charge as if she had some clear and compelling evidence that Brown had engaged in dirty tricks (spreading vicious truths?) when in fact she had bupkus.

So she very effectively led with her chin and Brown very effectively clocked her. Can’t stand on her own two feet, won’t take responsibility, no accountability, won’t crack down on herself. Brown could riff all day on this right-in-his-wheelhouse stuff.

How big is the impact of all this on Whitman’s campaign? Big. Already we’ve heard quantitative and qualitative reports about the bottom dropping out of Whitman’s support among Latinos. But it appears the effect may be wider.

The Ipsos survey, first reliable public poll to report findings regarding eMeg’s problem, in which Brown leads Whitman 50-43%, found that while about nine in 10 voters have heard about the story (and 9/10 of anything is huge in polling), 72% said it would make no difference in how they will vote.

But here’s the kicker: a net 13% of voters, including 11% of independents, said the incident would make them less likely to vote for Whitman. That’s one in 10 independents who are less likely to vote for Whitman because of this one incident.

The survey, conducted Oct. 2-4, included 448 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percentage points.

If anything, we think, it understates the impact of the affair, although the Whitman campaign argues otherwise in a polling memo sent out to news media contending:

The race is still “too-close to-call.”  Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are in a virtual tie among all the voters surveyed, with 43 percent for Brown and 41 percent for Whitman. The race is tied 30%-30% among the sub-set of voters who say they “strongly” support their choice and are unlikely to switch. Among the 85 percent of the sample we consider most likely to vote (based on past voting history, intensity of opinion, and demographic profile), the race is a dead heat at 44%-44%.

Brown continues to lead in the North and Whitman in the South. Whitman’s share of the Hispanic or Latino vote is still significant at 30 percent, compared to Brown’s 45 percent.

Whitman seems to have weathered the Gloria Allred attack, owing in no small measure to Allred’s negative image. Only 24 percent of California voters hold a favorable impression of Allred, while 68 percent have an unfavorable impression of her. By comparison. Brown and Whitman are seen in a better light. Brown’s favorable-unfavorable ratio is 51%-41% and Whitman’s is 44%-44%.

Putting aside the question of why they’re putting out a poll that shows their candidate losing, inquiring minds want to know: Is it remotely possible that 92% of voters have an opinion about Gloria Allred? Really?

We can’t wait for the data showing how she matches up one-on-one with Meg.