Archive for the ‘Special Election’ Category



New Dem Party/Brown Whack at eMeg on Goldman

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The California Democratic Party, coordinating with Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor, is expected today to launch an attack on Republican front-runner Meg Whitman in the form of an “issues” ad calling on Congress to “stop special favors for wealthy Wall Street insiders,” sources told Calbuzz on Thursday.

The assault — which the Brown campaign would not confirm — comes as private polling by Republican Steve Poizner, by Whitman and various other candidates and initiative campaigns shows the Republican race for governor now within 10 points, with Poizner closing fast.

The CDP/Brown effort is aimed at weakening Whitman even further, especially among independent voters who will be crucial in the general election. If, as a side benefit, the ad campaign also erodes Whitman’s standing in the GOP primary, so much the better, sources said.

Whitman is struggling to douse the fires rising from attention focused on the fact that Goldman Sachs gave her access to initial public stock offerings that she “spun” or resold for personal profit while she was CEO at eBay. Goldman Sachs got eBay’s investment banking business and Whitman was, for a time, also a member of Goldman’s board.

The practice of “spinning” was legal at the time, but was outlawed shortly after a Congressional investigation and about the same time Whitman resigned from the Goldman board and returned $1.78 million in profits to settle an eBay shareholder lawsuit.

Calbuzz has not seen the CDP/Brown ad itself, but it has been described by media industry sources. According to them, the ad notes that a judge called Whitman’s spinning an “obvious conflict of interest,” that she was “forced” to return her profits and that she has “secretive offshore accounts, managed by Goldman Sachs, used by the rich to avoid taxes.”

In the same way the California Chamber of Commerce briefly used an “issues ad” to attack Brown, the CDP and Brown are using an “issues ad” to attack Whitman. The difference is that the Chamber is officially a non-partisan organization and the California Democratic Party and the Brown campaign are anything but non-partisan.

Official state parties may legally coordinate activity with candidates for partisan office which is apparently the framework in which this ad campaign is crafted. How much money the CDP will put behind the ad — money that was likely raised by Brown — is yet unclear. But the initial buy is expected to be about $1 million.

And Other Lies: The biggest canard in Governor Arnold’s dishonest crock of a disingenuous argument for scheduling the special election for Abel Maldonado’s former senate seat in the middle of summer is the purported need to have all legislative hands on deck to vote on a new state budget.

“We think it’s important to have a full complement of senators as soon as possible,” said Schwarzmuscle mouthpiece Aaron McLear said.

Puh-leeze.

Putting aside the fact that the $20 billion red ink budget will probably get voted on closer to Christmas, the clear-eyed Timm Herdt makes the very excellent point that if 15th SD front-runner Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee wins – an outcome Schwarzenegger is clearly trying to guarantee by setting the special for August 17 – there’ll be an open Assembly seat awaiting yet another special election, by which time the mendacious McLear will be well into his next million or so deceits.

Besides his little hissy fit of spite over the Dems taking their time to confirm Maldo as Lite Guv, there’s one and only reason that Conan set the date when he did – because the senate Republican leaders leaned on him to put his thumb on the scale so Democratic front-runner and former Assemblyman John Laird doesn’t capture the seat and put them on the brink of the two-thirds majority needed for budget votes.

The merits of consolidating the run-off vote with the Nov. 2 statewide are clear and overwhelming: sparing Central Coast counties the $2.5 million price tag of indulging Arnold’s whim, boosting voter awareness and turnout in the sprawling district, ensuring that military voters stationed overseas are full enfranchised – a matter that is resonating even with conservatives – as well as a batch of voting rights issue raised by newly-filed litigation that Schwarzenegger’s triggered with his partisan action.

Bottom line to Laird: “I think it was a political play, the Senate Republican leadership attempting to advantage themselves in the special election.” And what motivated Schwarzmuscle? “He was responding to the Senate Republican leadership in advance of the budget,” said Laird.

What hath Sarah wrought: While Sarah Palin’s Facebook endorsement of Carly Fiorina in the Republican Senate race offers iCarly a nice boost in the primary, the political backing of the Thrilla from Wasilla will reek like stinking fish by the time the general election comes around, should the Hurricane win the GOP nomination.

There’s not a lot of hard data available about how Californians view Palin, but polling from her stint as the 2008 veep candidate makes it clear what a polarizing figure she was even back when she was still a borderline wing nut, before she crossed the border and became a total whack job. Shortly after the Republican National Convention where she made her national political debut, the Field Poll found Palin’s favorable to unfavorable rating among Californians stood at 43-43; less than two months later her image stood at 37-53 favorable-unfavorable.

The big shift came among independents: In the first weeks after Palin’s launch, they viewed her somewhat unfavorably, 36-45; by the time they’d been more fully exposed to her charms, shortly before the election, DTSs had a 20-65 unfavorable view of her, a 36 point swing. All this, of course, before Palin resigned as governor of Alaska and evolved into a full time media bore.

Even California Republicans became slightly less enamored over time: they viewed her favorably 81-12 during the September survey and 74-19 in October, a net decline of 13 points.

Still her seal of approval is a big deal for Fiorina in the right-wing dominated primary, and even more of one, in an opposite way, for Orange County Assemblyman Chuck Devore, the true Tea Partier in the race, whose supporters took to Palin’s Facebook page to complain about her endorsement of Fiorina.

As for front-runner Tom Campbell, we have a feeling Palin’s gratuitous dis of Dudley – “a liberal member of the GOP who seems to bear almost no difference to Boxer, one of the most left-wing members of the Senate” – will find its way onto the air in the next four weeks.

Upadate 6:40 am: At 10:09 pm Thursday the Whitman campaign sent out the following statement: “This is a clear effort by the California Democratic Party and labor unions to defeat Meg Whitman, because she is the only fiscal conservative in the race who will reform the failed pension system and solve the fiscal crisis in Sacramento. The California Democratic Party, the public employee unions, and Steve Poizner have struck an alliance to defeat Meg’s effort to disrupt the status quo in Sacramento.”

The Politics of Purges: Alive, Well in California GOP

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

joseph-stalin2Political junkies across the nation are fixated on a once-obscure special election race for a House seat in New York, where Republican presidential hopefuls have interjected themselves into the campaign in a bid to purge a GOP moderate.

As Republicans struggle to remain politically relevant outside the South, the fight reflects a widening battle for the soul of the party between talk radio Tea Bag activists and GOP Beltway establishment types. That feud is mirrored in California, where Republican primary campaigns for governor and Senate shape up as contests to lay claim to the red meat voter bloc and its mantle of conservative populism.

In New York, Presidential wannabes Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have all jumped into the 23rd District special election, endorsing Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over the Republican nominee, state representative Dede Scozzafava.  Scozzafava (common spelling) is a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage moderate with ties to labor, who is backed by the House GOP leadership, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Newt Gingrich. The former House Speaker, who also is toying with a possible 2012 bid for president, has loudly warned that the push for Hoffman by prominent Republicans could hand the  longtime GOP seat to Democrat Bill Owens.

sarah-palin-fish1“This underscores a major issue the party is facing – how to win general elections, when the primaries are getting more and more conservative,” Republican consultant Carl Forti told Politico’s Alex Isenstadt. “The primary winners are often too right-wing to win a general election. This trend can’t continue if the GOP hopes to become a majority party again.”

Although the trend is more muted in California, the dominance of GOP primaries by right-wing conservatives is clearly visible in the nomination fight for governor. Coupled with the political energy released by anti-tax Tea Bag rallies and anti-Obama death panel town hall meetings, plus the daily exhortations of gasbags Limbaugh and Beck,  it is already defining the Republican Senate campaign to choose a challenger to Democrat incumbent Barbara Boxer.

Orange County GOP Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a favorite of grassroots conservatives (and who, incidentally, has endorsed Doug Hoffman in New York’s special election) for months has been bashing ex-Silicon Valley CEO Carly Fiorina, who’s won early backing from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, portraying her as a pro-tax, pro-stimulus squish whose ideological credentials are suspect at best, as in this telling bit from a recent post on his web site:

devore“The difference between DeVore’s support and Fiorina’s is the difference between a strong, deep, and growing movement — and a shallow, media-driven, and purchased ephemera. As this campaign continues, Republicans interested in defeating Barbara Boxer will find the choice between the two increasingly easy.”

Confounding early conventional wisdom, DeVore and Fiorina were tied in a recent Field Poll; he argues that the survey proves she has no appeal to conservative Republicans; her supporters claim the finding simply reflects the fact that she hasn’t started to campaign yet, a point which  DeVore counter-punches by assailing iCarly for not having the stones to show up at Tea Bag rallies and other venues on his turf.

(Slight digression: shamefully enabled by the MSM, the Fiorina camp ridiculously keeps trying to build suspense over her impending candidacy by peddling fairy dust stories about a mysterious “big announcement” she plans to make on Nov. 6; Calbuzz sez: enough already with the cheesy, hide-the-sausage play).

The Republican purge-the-infidels dynamic is more nuanced in the governor’s race, simply because there’s no right-winger running, just three pro-choice moderates, two of whom are trying to win grassroots hearts and minds by donning the trappings of true blue conservatism like a Halloween get-up.

laffer curveInsurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is channeling loopy Republican anti-tax hero Arthur Laffer, by promoting a hyper-conservative slash-taxes-and-spending program, while making the rounds of nutball talk radio to cozy up to right-wing yakkers and trying to finesse his pro-choice stance on abortion.

Front-runner Meg Whitman meantime plays to the right-wing crowd by righteously thundering “let them eat cake,” as she threatens to toss tens of thousands of state employees on the trash heap, vows to roll back California’s environmental protections to the smokestack era, and hints that state prison inmates should be reduced to bread and water rations.

Former congressman and lifelong moderate Tom Campbell is the only one of the three who isn’t pandering 24/7 to the right-wing, which is why his chances of capturing the Republican nomination are only slightly better than those of the Dodgers winning the World Series.

Sacramento talk show host and blogger Eric Hogue, a favorite of the GOP peasants-with-pitchforks brigade, is a pretty good barometer of grassroots conservative sentiment in the state, and of the anxiety that hardliners feel about not having one of their own in the race.

torquemada

In recent days, Hogue has been agonizing over the relative pros and cons of pretenders Poizner and Whitman, and this week finally turned his attention to Campbell in a column that is instructive about the notions behind the purge-the-moderates movement. While praising Campbell’s experience, character and “engaging, classy personality,” Hogue hammers him for multiple sins of holding heretical views, with the zest of Torquemada. Some excerpts:

“But the glaring weaknesses for Tom Campbell are his egregious violations on social issues and an occasional fiscal walk off the conservative spread sheet.”

“Once again crossing over to the surreal side of the social aisle, Campbell would also support the merits of the environmentalists’ global warming worshipping AB-32, as he is also a strict conservationist.”

“At the end of the day, Tom Campbell is seen by many as a “somewhat- fiscal-conservative”, but an extremely social moderate, at times bordering on being a true centrist.”

The horror! The horror!

Counterpoint: Why A Conservative Backs Term Limits

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Afterfleischman Calbuzz posted Bob Naylor’s piece last week on why conservatives ought to oppose term limits, our friend Jon Fleischman at the Flashreport asked for an opportunity to tell Calbuzzers why a conservative might want to be for them. Although we’ve argued that term limits are one of the structural impediments to making California governable, we thought we’d give Jon a chance to argue otherwise to our readers.

By Jon Fleischman
Special to Calbuzz

When I first got involved in politics, at the age of nearly 20, I remember traveling to the Capitol and meeting and seeing a lot of state legislators.  The most overwhelming thought that I carried away from that first trip was the realization that a whole lot of them had been serving in the Legislature since before I was born.  I remember, along with so many others, looking with awe at Speaker Willie Brown, who was as close to king as you could get in California.  And I remember being repulsed at a political process that could place so much power in the hands of one of 80 members of the California Assembly.

As I became a little more seasoned politico, it became obvious to me that the Legislature was completely out of touch with the “real people” of California.  And while I knew term-limits would not solve all of those problems, I supported Proposition 140 in 1990 because there should never be a phenomenon like we had with Willie Brown again – California royalty.

I certainly agree with Bob Naylor who penned a column for CalBuzz last week, that there are a lot of problems with the state Legislature. But I disagree entirely that these problems are as a result of term limits.

If you want to look to some of the reasons why our Legislature is broken I suggest we look a few of the major contributors to that dysfunction.

•    The legislature should be part-time, not full-time.  There would likely be less allure to serving for decades in the legislature if serving were not a full-time job.  In addition, the full-time legislature becomes “the Devil’s workshop” as so many politicians justify their full-time salaries through the creation of thousands and thousands of unnecessary pieces of legislation every year, over-legislating and over-regulating our state.

•    The gerrymandering of the state’s legislative districts to advantage the majority party is nothing short of scandalous, and certainly has led to a Legislature that is out of touch with the people of the state (witness this last May’s rejection of more taxes as a recent example).

•    With the massive population of California, legislative districts have become too large.  California State Senators represent substantially larger districts than members of Congress!  With districts so large, it makes it that much more difficult for legislators to be held accountable to their constituents.

•    Then there is the issue of the insane money advantage for incumbents.  On an overwhelming level, the money that is contributed for candidates running for the Legislature comes not from average citizens with a strong interest in seeing good, ordinary people like themselves represent them in Sacramento. Instead the money that funds campaigns for Democrats and Republicans alike mostly comes from special interest groups that seek to manipulate state laws and regulations to their advantage –- interests ranging from public employee union and trial lawyers to major corporations.  Add to this that the major political parties routinely support incumbents of their party for re-election, supplying even more resources contributed to the parties by those same special interests.

Clearly term limits alone as a reform cannot offset these four major problems plaguing the Legislature. But I would submit they play a positive role in ensuring that power in Sacramento does not become centralized in the hands of career politicians like some of the people that Bob holds out in his piece as examples of great legislators – such as “King” Willie Brown himself.

I agree that the more time spent in the Legislature, the more experience one has. But this advantage is more than offset by the growing detachment of career politicians from the “real world,”  and the absence of a need to live under the laws they create.

In his column, Bob Naylor asserts that, “If a legislator has mastered the political art well enough to deserve another term, the people of that district should have the right to grant it.”

That sounds nice in print, but as a practical matter, because of all of the factors I outlined above, it is almost impossible, short of a scandal, to find examples of incumbent officeholders losing their campaigns for re-election.  In fact, if it were not for term-limits, we would return right back to the pre-Proposition 140 era – with legislators serving for more than 30, 30 or even 40 years – safely ensconced in taxpayer supplied jobs, never having to worry about the impacts of the laws their create on the economy in which they would need to find a job after leaving the Legislature.

The challenger to an incumbent officeholder faces almost an impossible task in a general election. And good luck trying to unseat a legislator in a primary.  It is only the existence of term limits that ensures that every eight years in the Senate, and every six years in the Assembly, there will be an open seat and an opportunity for the voters to have a real impact on their representation in Sacramento.

Term limits exist today because the people do not want a state Legislature that is “above them” – but rather they want elected officials that are “from them” – their co-workers, their neighbors, their friends from church or temple.  It was the era of full-time legislators that brought us campaign slush funds, lavish pensions and the trappings of “royalty” that made it clear that those long-time politicians had lost touch with the people they were supposed to represent.

Bob says that he would favor returning to a system without any term limits – invoking the model of the Founding Fathers.  I have no doubt that if those brave first Americans could have seen that our federal government would grow so grotesquely in size and scope, and that serving in the Congress would become a lifetime career with great pay and outrageous benefits, they would have instituted term limits in the United States Constitution.

When California has a part-time legislature, smaller and fairly drawn legislative districts, and we have figured out how to increase the political giving of regular citizens to a degree that it severely reduces the terrible influence of those seeking advantage from government – then I will entertain a serious discussion about whether the need for term limits remains.  Until then, I would much prefer a steady flow of citizen-politicians in and out of the Legislature than a return to the days of elected California royalty.  Based on the failure of all of the attempts to eliminate or weaken California’s legislative term-limits, apparently I am not alone.

Jon Fleishman is publisher of the FlashReport website on California politics and vice chairman (South) of the California Republican Party

How May 19 Election Is Just Like “Rashomon”

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

rashomonbwGov.  Arnold began his budget speech to the Legislature Tuesday with a touch-all-the-bases analysis of the meaning of the May 19 special election.

“That message was clear,” he said. “Do your job. Don’t come to us with these complex issues. Live within your means. Get rid of the waste and inefficiencies. And don’t raise taxes.”

Well, two out of five ain’t bad.

Schwarzenegger’s opening line was just the latest effort by California politicians of almost every stripe to overreach and over-interpret the Just-Say-No votes on Propositions 1A-1E in the dismal turnout special.

Since May 19, the foregone election results have become like the crimes at the center of “Rashomon,” the famous 1950 Akira Kurosawa film, in which the same incident is described – in mutually contradictory ways – from four different subjective perspectives.

As a political matter, however, conservative Republicans have been extremely successful in selling their version of events. In dominating the fight to frame the narrative about May 19, they’ve not only pushed Schwarzenegger back into paddle-to-the-right, no new taxes mode, but also apparently intimidated majority Democrats (including even Dianne Feinstein back in DC) into buying into or fearing to protest their predictable, antediluvian interpretation.

So on the one hand the California Republican Party boldly declares that the election sent a “national anti-tax message,” and our friend John Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, insists that “voters were crystal clear in statement about their tax burden.” And on the other hand, it’s left to former liberal lawmaker Sheila Kuehl, who argues voters were saying Sacramento shouldn’t “keep balancing the budget on the backs of average Californians” and Democratic poll taker David Binder, who says voters actually favor some tax increases over cuts in education and other programs, to make the case on the other side.

How about this, Calbuzzers? There was one and only one overarching message from the overwhelming majority of voters who DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO SHOW UP: Work it out among yourselves and stop bothering us. (On this point we agree with Arnold’s analysts.)

As we wrote on the morning of May 20 the election was “a clear signal that voters are way beyond fed up with half-measures, marginal fixes and smoke and mirrors in Sacramento.” And the plain fact is that all the over-wrought interpretation of the May 19 results since then is little more than spin, propaganda and self-interested commentary.

Let’s look at the facts:

* The latest voter turnout number reported by the Secretary of State shows that 27.5 percent of the 17,153,012 registered voters (or 20 percent of those eligible) bothered to show up, which hardly scores as a broad-based populist message about anything beyond the fact that they found the ballot props incomprehensible.

* While the Sacramento establishment poured millions into passing the props, much of the money spent against them came from normally Democrat/left constituencies, like SEIU and CFT. The fact that these groups got into bed with anti-tax Republicans, normally their mortal enemies, shows that the resounding “No” vote had multiple roots and represented anything but a “clear” — let alone “crystal clear” fercryin’outloud — message about anything.

* Binder is the only guy who has anything remotely resembling quantitative data on the special. His close ties to Democrats and labor give those on the right an excuse not to even look at his research on what was on voters’ minds. But, as Binder wrote, it shows that voters surveyed before and right after the election “do not trust the leadership in Sacramento, and recognize that the failed special election was just another example of the inability to bring real solutions to voters.” And, as the pre-election Field Poll found, voters favor a blend of cuts and taxes to address the deficit. (The key here, of course, is that they want taxes that affect someone else – tobacco, oil royalties, the very wealthy, for example.)

It is an abiding mystery why wussy, wimp Dems have so passively allowed knuckle-dragging Reeps to seize control of the narrative. That aside, the over-interpretation of May 19 has gotten plain silly, and it’s well past time to throw a yellow flag.

Let’s be crystal clear: Calbuzz isn’t making an argument for or against taxes, or for or against specific program cuts or anything else to do with policy. Our mission remains unwavering: to watch the battle safely from atop the hill, then swoop in bravely to shoot the wounded.

We’re just sayin’.

What Now, California?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

brokengovernment1The skunking of all five special election budget measures backed by Governor Arnold and the Can’t Shoot Straight Legislature was a clear signal that voters are way beyond fed up with half-measures, marginal fixes and smoke and mirrors in Sacramento.

Like a winless team trotting out a five-lateral trick play in the final seconds of the last game of the season, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature tried to pull a fast one, hoping to avoid facing the hard reality that it’s time for fundamental political change in California.

“The public is making a statement, loud and clear, that they expect action,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The seriousness of the problem has reached a crescendo.”

Executives of the council today are scheduled to roll out the most serious call for sweeping political reform in California since Hiram Johnson – an ambitious plan for an historic constitutional convention to overhaul the fiscal, management and electoral structures and operations of a government that spends $144 billion a year, chronically fails to pass a budget and has plunged the state into a thick muck of debt it will take decades to clean up.

With recession sapping the economic strength of the state, and voters holding record-low opinions of their state leaders, the time is ripe for this kind of quantum change. In parallel with the Bay Area Council, the good government group California Forward has launched its own agenda of political reform, while partisans and policy wonks alike prepare to fight for initiatives on reforms like open primary elections and dumping the two-thirds requirements for passing budgets and taxes.

California’s challenge is deceptively simple to envision but horrifically complex to accomplish: restoring democracy where institutional chaos now reigns.

Since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, when Sacramento took on the task of managing the impact of property tax cuts in cities, counties and special districts across the state, the on-the-fly reorganization of political and financial relations between the Capitol and its provinces, coupled with a decades-long binge of budgeting by ballot box, has steadily evolved into a Byzantine patchwork of stunted and often self-canceling imperatives and ideologies.

By now, democracy — in the sense of a government by, of and for the people — has become so completely distorted, perverted and corrupted in California that tinkering, however well-intentioned, is not enough. It’s not about “blowing up boxes,” as Arnold famously, and demagogically, promised to do. It’s about dismantling and rebuilding democratic government based on three key values: accountability, trust and modern, measurable performance of the people and programs funded by taxpayers.

None of this is entirely new, of course. As with most things about California, the writer Carey McWilliams got it right — in 1949 — when he offered this assessment in “California: The Great Exception.”

“California, the giant adolescent, has been outgrowing its governmental clothes now, for a hundred years. The first state constitution was itself an improvisation; and from that time to the present, governmental services have lagged far behind population growth. Other states have gone through this phase too, but California has never emerged from it. It is this fact which underlies the notorious lack of social and political equilibrium in California.”

But in the past 60 years, things have gotten worse. The system today is constricted, subverted and hamstrung by special-interest ballot propositions, two-thirds vote requirements, gerrymandering, term limits and raging rivers of free-flowing political cash. The governor and Legislature have been circumscribed and neutered.

California Forward, a civic improvement coalition created by California Common Cause, Center for Governmental Studies, New California Network and The Commonwealth Club of California’s Voices of Reform Project, is advocating short-term fixes for the budget and is considering long-term reforms as well.

Short term, they’re pushing for managing the spikes in state revenues, a pay-as-you-go requirement, results-based budgeting, a two-year budget and other reforms. As a bipartisan group, they have not yet been able to agree on whether to push to reduce the two-thirds requirement for passing the budget and/or raising revenues.

But California Forward co-chairman Bob Hertzberg, a former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, personally believes the most important reform would be to return power to local governments – where accountability is most immediate — and give them the power to raise funds by majority vote.

“The key to restoring democracy in California is bringing government closer to the people,” he said. “People should be getting what they’re paying for and paying for what they want.”

The scale at which state government is trying to operate – by funding education, health care, public safety and the like for 38 million people – is simply too large. The unintended consequences of Proposition 13 – which shifted money and power to Sacramento – must be undone, he argues.

Specific solutions aside for now, fixing the fetid mess in Sacramento will require the commitment, not just of politicians who see the writing on the wall, but also of the mainstream media, which has nurtured widespread ignorance about the business of state politics and government by systematically ignoring it: Not a single TV station from a major California city has a bureau there.*

Most of all, it will require the involvement of taxpaying citizens, who must bear responsibility for choices that have yielded harmful, if unintended, political consequences.

“We need a citizen-induced fix,” as Wunderman puts it: “California government is not only broken, it has become destructive to our future.”

*CORRECTION: Nannette Miranda is the Capitol Correspondent for the ABC network-owned TV stations in California: KABC-TV Los Angeles, KGO-TV San Francisco, and KFSN-TV Fresno. She is technically and contractually a KABC-TV Los Angeles reporter. Calbuzz regrets the error.