Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Anthony York’



Final Thoughts on IGS 2010 Gov Race Conference

Monday, January 24th, 2011

In the end, the weekend conference on California’s just-concluded campaign for governor looked a lot like the race itself: Meg Whitman refused to talk to an audience not of her choosing, got trashed for it and ended up the biggest loser for her selfish and self-absorbed behavior.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies confab, held every four years, drew its largest crowd ever, an eclectic collection of media and political hacks, earnest students and academic chrome domes, professional pollsters and political wannabes, all drawn by the opportunity to hear, first-hand from the operatives who ran the campaigns, the inside story of how the deal went down.

Beyond its sheer entertainment value for an audience of obsessed political junkies, the conference in the past also served the more serious purpose of establishing a permanent record of the process by which Californians chose their chief executive, an important resource for scholars, authors and journalists. But the 2011 version was unfortunately flawed by two big shortcomings:

First, not a single member of the mighty Legions of eMeg had the courage, concern for history, not to mention common courtesy, to show his or her face; despite heroic efforts to represent the Republican perspective by top-rank GOP pols who didn’t work on the campaign (about whom more later) this left a huge hole in the record, given that Herself and Her Money, in many ways, became the story of the campaign.

Second, there was way too much spin and way too little candor by too many of those who did participate – an unfortunate departure from past years, which will leave a distorted and incomplete record of what was one of the most important campaigns in recent decades: “It just wasn’t the real story of the campaign,” one prominent political scientist complained at a post-conference reception. (Suggested reading for future scholars: this and this.)

That said, there still was value in the event, even if it was often to be found in the bar of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and around the tables of nearby Berkeley restaurants, where war stories and unvarnished opinions were more frequently to be found. Some observations:

Most Valuable Player – The MVP of the conference was Jim Bognet, manager of Steve Poizner’s losing GOP primary effort. Funny, smart and honest, Bognet offered a sense of what it was like day-after-day to go up against a rival funded by $180 million (Meg’s spending “created its own center of gravity”) and displayed how personal the battle got between the Republicans (“never was so much spent on so many for so little”). He also provided – in the form of advice to students in the room thinking about going into politics — the best single riff of the weekend, defining the ethical rot at the center of Team Whitman that led to the most expensive disaster in the history of American politics:

When you’re getting paid a lot of money – and there were many consultants in this race that got paid a lot of money – it gives you an incentive not to speak truth to power. It gives you an incentive not to tell them what they don’t want to hear as candidates. You are more valuable as a campaign staffer and as a human being if you’re willing to say to the person who is paying your paycheck, “You are wrong. You need to talk to the press. You need to go out and answer these questions. You need to answer for why you switched your position.” It is a conflict of interest because the same person that is paying you, you have to give hard advice and talk about things, personal things that are not comfortable to talk about. So I would say, you have to fight against that continuously in order to add value to your candidate.

Least Valuable Player – The LVP of the conference was Peter Ragone, representing Gavin Newsom’s short and stunted primary bid for governor. Ragone is a nice guy and a competent operative, but his endless, obviously phony spin on behalf of the new Lite Governor had the audience groaning and looking for barf bags.

Newsom, it seems, is a politician of uncommon moral courage, motivated by only two idealistic factors – his unstinting and unselfish determination to do what is right and true and good for all the rest of us (after trashing the office of lieutenant governor, he changed his mind and ran because “he decided this was where he could the most good”) and the high moral courage that drives him to put his family above all else (no mention of him boinking the wife of his chief of staff in the mayor’s office). Self-interest never figures into it, Ragone would have us believe. Enough to make a hog puke. No matter what new UC Regent Newsom wanted, IGS should have invited Garry South and Nick Clemons, his actual gubernatorial campaign directors.

The missing characters –  The transcript of the proceedings will be turned into a book which purportedly will serve as the final word on the governor’s race. Puh-leeze. Consider this: the three most important behind-the-scenes players in the race – Brown’s wife Anne Gust, Whitman major domo Henry Gomez and top strategist Mike Murphy – didn’t figure in any of the discussions and, unless we missed it during a trip to the head or the cookie table, their names were never even mentioned. That’s like doing Hamlet without Hamlet.

Kudos to the stand-ins. While eMeg’s minions cowered in fear far away from Berkeley, former state chairmen Duf Sundheim and Bob Naylor, along with veteran strategist Jim Brulte, did a terrific job of describing the GOP perspective, their limited contacts with the candidate and her turf-conscious consultants, and how the establishment watched in horror as Whitman melted down.

“As Republicans, we were really concerned as the primary went on because since they were so close on the issues, it was really going to come down to a very nasty, personal fight,” Sundheim said. Said Naylor: “When the dust settled in the primary, the Whitman campaign was over.” And Brulte, who with his commentary reaffirmed his position as the sharpest Republican mind in the state, observed that except for Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – celebrities who transcended politics – California voters have always wanted  an experienced hand as governor. By spending so much money on television without a break, Whitman undercut her own ability to be the next best thing, he argued. “By Labor Day, Jerry Brown, who was governor when I was in high school, was the fresh new face.”

Message trumps money – Since we’re kvetching about others for a lack of self-criticism, Calbuzz should acknowledge that our own coverage may have suffered from putting too much focus on the extraordinary spectacle of Meg’s crazed spending, which at times led us to the misassumption that she could make up for her lack of a clear and consistent winning message by throwing money at the problem.

“I never understood it,” said Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. “Every time you turned on the TV, there were four or five tracks of (Whitman) ads that were completely different. They were switching ads all the time. You had no idea what their strategy was and never had anyone explain it to me.”  The Whitman campaign never had a compelling message, agreed consultant Rick Claussen: “Tactics is just a way to talk to voters.” You can spend all you want reaching out to voters, but if you don’t have something worth listening to, it’s a huge waste of money.

Brown was both lucky and good – In the final session of the conference, Brulte put his partisan perspective aside and offered his bottom line: Brown “ran a picture perfect campaign,” he said, a strategy built on keeping its focus on fundraising, using the office of Attorney General to keep him in the news and steering their own course no matter how much the winds emanating from Camp Whitman tried to blow them off course.

In Jim Moore, Brown had the best pollster in the race, the best ad man in Joe Trippi and the most disciplined manager in Glazer; their game plan to hold their fire until Labor Day, while many top Democrats and the political peanut gallery were hollering for them to answer eMeg’s summer assault, made all the difference. But Brown’s strategists also admitted that they benefited from missteps by eMeg. Said Glazer:

The one worry that I had when we went through that (2009) fall period into the new year was that Meg Whitman was going to use her resources to use Jerry Brown as the foil to be a stronger Republican . . . I thought that she would — even before the new year struck — that she would start to use Jerry Brown and start to raise our negatives by running against us as the presumptive Republican nominee. And I expected that all the way through until the primary day. I was very surprised that that actually never happened.

Once the primary was over, Trippi’s greatest fear was that Whitman would “go dark” over the summer, giving voters a respite from her 24/7 invasion of their living rooms and allowing her to re-emerge as a fresh face in the fall. Instead she essentially turned herself into the incumbent in a year when voters wanted change.

As Bognet had put it earlier: “She built herself a $180 million brand. Unfortunately, by the time the general came around her brand was, ‘She’s the woman with the money who won’t get off my TV.’”

Panelists also agreed that Whitman made a huge error by trying to portray Brown as a traditional tax and spend liberal, which simply misstates his record. As Republican Naylor, who served in the Assembly during Brown’s first turn as governor, put it: “Tax and spend doesn’t stick with Jerry Brown.”

Tone matters – Trippi correctly observed that the relentlessly snarky tone of Whitman’s relentless attack ads didn’t resonate with voters – “failure has followed him everywhere” he intoned — because they have a much more complex and long-running, if not always fond, relationship with him. Better for the Whitman people, Trippi said, to have been respectful to Brown by crafting a  more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger “gold watch” message, saying that he had performed valuable service to the state but adding that it was simply time for him to go, and to elect a “governor for the 21st century.”

Trying to avoid the press was a huge blunder — Speaker after speaker pointed to Whitman’s strategy of stiffing the media as a costly error for several reasons: it sent a message to voters that she thought she was too good to go through the usual hoops candidates for high office have always faced; it established a narrative that Whitman was secretive, and must have something to hide; it was a clear affront to the working press of the state, and their frustration showed up in the stories. As Poizner’s Jarrod Agen put it: “It never works to avoid the press.”

Bill Lockyer is the Diogenes of state politics — California’s treasurer was the keynote speaker of the conference and he turned in a boffo performance that provided a full-on and utterly frank look at the state of the state’s finances. Ask Lockyer what time it is and he’s liable to tell you how to make a watch, so some of his discourse on the niceties of the municipal bond market were a bit windy, but he’s smart, funny and seen it all. We’ll be running the text of his speech later this week.

Worst advice – The model for a California GOP comeback is Chris Christie in New Jersey, said Republican Tony Quinn. Sustained attacks on public employee unions and bloated government are the key to victory, he said. When Calbuzz rose to note that Whitman had done exactly that, he replied that she hadn’t done it very well.

Immigration sunk Whitman – Even before Meg’s Nicky Diaz housekeeper scandal, the immigration issue was a huge problem for Whitman. As Glazer explained, she had many liabilities on the issue even without Nicky – from shifting positions on a path to citizenship to her opposition to the Dream Act. Poizner’s hardline position in the primary forced her to move far right, which made her efforts to get back to the center in the general look pathetically calculated. When the Nicky story erupted, it merely personalized the hypocrisy and brazen opportunism of her political stances.

As Poizner’s Agen explained:

If we’d gotten into the general, it would have been a policy debate between Steve and Governor Brown on the policy issue of immigration. Jerry Brown would have had one stance on immigration, Steve would have had the other. But it would have been a policy discussion on immigration . . . What ended up happening, though, was immigration turned into a character issue and that is what ultimately hurts the Republican Party hugely is if immigration is a character issue. If it stays a policy issue, people are going to disagree with it and we felt that if you get to the general election, we’ll have it out, we’ll have that debate with Jerry on immigration, we’ll see how people, where people stand.

Best line – The strategists were asked at one point to name one thing they would have done that they didn’t do. “Telephone operational training,” said Glazer, a big laugh reference to Brown’s failure to hang up the phone when leaving a message with a law enforcement union, which led to the flap over someone in Brown headquarters (hello, Anne) referring to eMeg as a political “whore.”

Best fights – Field Pollster Mark Dicamillo ripped off the face of robopollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA (in the nicest possible way), who responded with a furious defense of his methodology, a screed that included some whacks at Calbuzz. The Cage Match of the pollsters was only matched for excitement when Democratic operative Bob Mulholland and Tony Quinn got into a finger-pointing duel about the rules and political significance of the new “top two” primary system. Talk about don’t-invite-ems.

The new Whig party — A number of speakers at the conference strongly argued that the California Republican party is essentially dead. Brulte for one said there was no way Whitman could have won the race because of the structural and demographic political landscape of the state, while Sundheim said “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.” Speaker after speaker noted how the Republican hostility to Latinos and other minorities, coupled with tired messaging that has nothing for younger voters, has made them an isolated and marginal party of old white people. Most seemed to have read and adopted the Calbuzz Memo to CA GOP: Time to Do Something Different.

Speaking of Whigs — Sacramento consultant Ray McNally, proving that there’s not much new in American politics, read from an 1840 confidential memo written by Abraham Lincoln that laid out a complete organizing strategy for the “overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country,” which included everything from polling and GOTV to voter contact and fundraising. Example: “3) It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month, the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls.” You can read it here.

The two minds of the voters – Political scientist Kim Nalder from Sac State honed in on the most fundamental factor driving state politics today: the disconnect that voters feel between demanding high levels of service and their determination not to pay taxes. Lockyer underscored a Calbuzz report that voters think 48% of the money the state spends is wasted –  a high hurdle for Brown to overcome if he is to sell his cuts-and-taxes budget plan to fix the state’s $28 billion budget shortfall.

Deep thoughts: Thad Kousser of UC San Diego made some points that cut against the notion that California is forever blue (an argument that effectively lets the Armies of eMeg off the hook). A panel of political scientists agreed that “campaign effects” are marginal – but that marginal effects matter big time in close races, so the Whitman-Brown race could have been close – “Nothing was inevitable in this campaign.” And a note to future mega-spending candidates: “Campaigns can’t tell voters what to think, but they can tell them what to think about.”

Nice work — There were too many journalists from the LA Times on the program (although we were wrong to say two of the three didn’t cover the governor’s race: only one did not) and not enough from other major papers or news agencies. But the four who participated — Mark Barabak, Cathy Decker and Anthony York of the Times, and Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star — did a fine job of moving the conversation along.

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 Charm Offensive (Take 47); Foxy & Brown

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s new ad, “130 Miles,” is an attempt to use the glamor of Silicon Valley to reboot eMeg’s image as a can-do business executive whose skill is needed to repair California’s “mismanaged, ineffective” government. It’s polished and – if you knew nothing else about her, Silicon Valley or how government works – a persuasive 30-second argument.

But alas, reality bites. Give eMeg’s ad minions props for drawing a sharp line between Sacramento and Silicon Valley, which “gave us Apple, Intel, eBay.” Of course, as Jerry Brown’s campaign noted in its response, “At least eight Fortune 500 companies were founded in California during Brown’s governorship,” including Apple, Oracle, Amgen, Symantec, Electronic Arts and Sun (purchased by Oracle in 2009).

BTW, the choice of Apple, Intel and eBay is clever cherry-picking, but actually, the largest Silicon Valley companies in terms of 2009 sales were Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, Google and Sun, in that order Then came eBay.

Calbuzz: The Prairie Years (With Actual Longhorn)

Brown can quibble but can’t really refute the ad’s assertion that Whitman “started with 30 people, led them, managed them, executed the plan that grew this main street company to 15,000 employees and made small business dreams come true.” But they did come up with a nice little gotcha: seems the eBay small-business success story featured visually in the ad – EasySale – is based in Arlington, Texas, and isn’t licensed to do business in California. Go Longhorns! Oops.

But we digress. What this very slick ad does not address is perhaps the most important question facing Whitman’s candidacy for governor: Even if she was a smashing success in Silicon Valley (and there’s certainly debate about that), what does that have to do with governing in Sacramento?

Since at least half of your Calbuzz team cut his teeth in Silicon Valley, we know that there are plenty of big fish who’ve come out of the Valley – Larry Ellison, Jerry Sanders, John Scully, Frank Quattrone, Mark Hurd, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy to name a few – who don’t belong in politics. (Note: We’re not even mentioning Carly Fiorina.)

Running a company, answering to venture capitalists or a board of directors and shareholders, placing profit at the core of your soul, issuing commands to underlings, laying out an action plan and ordering people to implement it – these skills may serve the bottom line. But they don’t remotely resemble the abilities a governor needs: civic vision, coupled with facility for cajoling, compromising and co-operating, to name a small part of the collaborative, consensus-building skill set required of an effective political leader.

That 130 miles between Silicon Valley and Sacramento is indeed more like the distance between two planets. It’s Whitman’s challenge to demonstrate that she can do more than yammer about how she understands what it takes to create jobs. She needs to convince Californians that she could actually govern.

One more intriguing note: In this new version of eMeg’s Charm Offensive (she’s trying to get her favorables up from 40%) there are shots of her from four different magazines but no live footage of Her Megness Herself.  Guess they just ran out of time.

Department of burning pants: As we noted Wednesday, state Republican leaders are spinning like Schwins the claim that the GOP statewide ticket represents not only a breakthrough for their white man’s party, but, more broadly, a stirring display of never-before-seen diversity in the history of California politics.

The latest reporter to bite on this story is Araceli Martinez Ortega, writing at the Spanish language site Impre.com. Here’s a bit of a translated excerpt eblasted by the GOP:

As never before in its history, Republicans have managed to put together a formula that represents the diversity of the state – two female candidates, a Latino, and an African-American – with the goal of winning the general election in November…They face a Democratic ticket consisting primarily of Caucasians (emphasis ours).

Sigh. Ortega can probably be forgiven for peddling this canard; after all, for her him to have discovered that the two party tickets have exactly the same numbers of men, women, whites and minorities would have taken incredible effort, on the order of the complex and wide-ranging investigation Calbuzz conducted by counting up the demographic traits of those on the ballot.

But the state party is a different story.  They sent this stinky cheese around the state, knowing full well that the claim of an ethnic and gender difference between the two slates is a total crock.

For that we’re awarding them a copy of the shortest book ever published – “Richard Nixon’s Guide to Telling the Truth” (Introduction by Meg Whitman).

Out-foxed: There’s no bigger sacred cow in politics these days than small business (the phrase “small business is the backbone of the economy” Google generates 469,000 results).

Just now, for example, folks in Washington who favor extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest one percent of Americans constantly cloak their position in the self-righteous and cynical argument that anyone who opposes such an  outrageous homage to oligarchy is a pinko socialist determined to ruin poor old Uncle Chester’s hardware store, a stance that happens to be a lie.

In California, few are the equal of the wily Joel Fox in hoisting the small business fig leaf to disguise the big balls corporate beneficiaries of such policies. The resourceful Anthony York was the first to offer a glimpse behind this political pretense of plucky Main Street merchants, with a post detailing the actual sources of contributions to the Fox-run Small Business Action Committee PAC:

The SBAPAC revealed Tuesday evening that it received more than $1 million from alcohol, tobacco and real estate groups. Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, donated $500,000. Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser, gave $200,000 and the Wine Institute chipped in another $50,000. Los Angeles-based Cypress Management Company gave the group $250,000.

Ah yes, Anheuser-Busch, your favorite neighborhood brewer, and good old Philip Morris, who runs the family farm out on the old River Road. Sheesh.

The $1 million detailed in the SBAPAC’s new spending report is only a fraction of the total amount of contributions to the group. That’s just the money earmarked for campaigns over two ballot measures, Propositions 25 and 27, in which corporations are fighting to preserve their sacred right (in California, anyway) to avoid being taxed just because a mere majority of lawmakers elected by the voters thinks it’s a good idea. Perish the thought.

What the SBAPAC report does not account for is another $3 million in contributions now being used to air ersatz “issue ads” whose clear purpose is to rip Jerry Brown’s face off on behalf of poor little rich girl eMeg.

Fox’s group uses a gaping loophole in the law to avoid disclosing those special interests donations, an avoidance he’s tried to tart up in the flag, the First Amendment and the Boston Tea Party several times over at his Fox and Hounds web site (we’d link to his recent pieces but F&H appears to be crashed at the moment).

Your Calbuzzards, however, think he got much closer to the nut of the matter when he told York: “I’ve got two lawyers who have looked at all of this, and there are different rules for the PAC. This has all been lawyered to death.”

We just bet it has.

Fishwrap: Jerry as Mel Brooks; eMeg’s Nose Grows

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Not since the supermarket scanner flummoxed George Bush I in 1992 has a politician worked as hard as Jerry Brown to make sense of the here and now.

Given his ’90s retro web site and his campaign’s Geezer Speed attack response team, of course, it’s not surprising that the 2000-year old man is just now hearing that in the 21st century, political rivals send operatives out to record campaign events of their foes – and then put them on the internets! Can you say “macaca”?

Krusty got sandbagged this week, when Team eMeg sent a spy to one of his speeches. The plant captured him foolishly saying he doesn’t want to “rock the boat” as governor and then promptly posted to it to You Tube, a Whitman tactic about which he complained in his weekly on-air interview with KGO-radio:

She’s very good at recording. Everywhere I go, she has one of her little kind of unidentifiable gnomes that have their iPhone and they pop it up and they put it up on their Internet. Everywhere I go, it goes directly into her campaign. It’s kind of an eerie feeling, but I’m getting used to it.

Hold the phone, ma! What’s next – electric movin’ pitchurs that come right into the house?

P.S. Props to Seema Mehta of the By God LA Times for catching Krusty’s comments on KTTV’s “Good Day LA,” including this gem about why he opposes the legalization of marijuana:  “We got to compete with China, and if everybody’s stoned, how the hell are we going to make it?”

eMeg’s latest lies: Fortunately for Brown, at least some of the mysteries of the world of online digital content are working in his favor. On Friday, Fact Check.org, the web’s premier political verisimilitude verification outfit, gave a big thumbs down to “Legacy of Failure,” Whitman’s latest 60-second attack ad on him.

Financed by the Annenberg Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania, and honchoed by the terrific investigative reporter Brooks Jackson, the site flatly declares that “Meg Whitman’s attack ad fails to tell the truth.”

Citing 29 independent sources, Fact Check reports that a number of the claims made in the Whitman are simply untrue, while others are taken way out of context, a practice we call “lying with the facts.”

Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., the Democratic candidate for governor of California, has been involved in politics for more than four decades. And it’s all been a “failure,” according to an ad from Meg Whitman, his GOP opponent. But it’s Whitman who fails when it comes to the facts.

Jeez, paired with Meg’s previous Pinocchio performance, this latest is almost enough to make you think there is something to that eMeg-Goebbels comparison that Brown rather unfortunately raised a few weeks back, a notion not lost on the ever-resourceful comedy writer Chris Kelly.

But what analogy should Brown have used? On the one hand, comparing people to Nazis is kind of ignorant and shrill (see Beck, Glenn) on the other hand, when you’re looking for an example of someone putting a lot of time, money and effort into repeating a set of lies for political gain, J. Goebbels is your almost-too-obvious go-to.

Kelly’s intriguing answer to the essay question – Whitman and Goebbels – compare and contrast – may be found here.

We’re sorry we brought the whole thing up: Calbuzz didn’t really mean to stir up a tea time tempest when we reported – and then retracted – Brown’s false claim that he had “sold” the state plane during his first stint as governor (h/t Dan Walters).

But after the Stone Agers’ favorite blog belatedly picked up on our correction, and the Minions of Meg started bashing Krusty for claiming credit for a budget-saving measure actually taken by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, the reliable Anthony York was forced to come in and clean up the whole mess on the L.A. Times site.

York got it almost right. He correctly reported that while Reagan sold the plane, Brown ended the state’s lease for it, giving Krusty leave to parse the matter by saying he “got rid of the jet,” but incorrectly identified the broadcaster who voiced the incorrect factoid in a long-ago TV story about Brown; it’s Morley Safer, not Walter Cronkite whose stentorian tones may be heard on the disputed tape at the center of the kerfuffle.

Quick hits:

It’s an undeniable fact that Hillary Clinton and Lady Gaga have never been spotted in the same room.

Our hero Dale Peterson suddenly finds himself with some high firepower competition for best ad of the year.

Life in imitation of art: John Boehner fights the tyranny of the tanning tax.

Meyer Nails PG&E’s Prop 16; Poizner Bites eMeg

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

There’s rich irony in the fact that the man who gave California the initiative process — Hiram Johnson — fought against what was then the dominant utility in the state: the Southern Pacific Railroad. And that he’d be rolling over in his grave today to see another dominant utility — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. — using the initiative process in a naked bid to further entrench its monopoly power in half the state.

Tom Meyer’s take on Prop. 16, the June 8 primary initiative backed by $35 million from PG&E., won’t get much argument from a group of local public utilties, which are suing to get the measure off the ballot, charging that it’s an illegal effort by PG&E to destroy competition. Whether it’s illegal or not, Calbuzz is not equipped to judge. But there’s little doubt that seeking to require a two-thirds vote for communities that want to create their own public power is a pure-bred play to kill competition.

This is supposed to be a blank line, pushing text down the page a bit .

Not so subtle: vulture picking at carrion

Poizner Flips Meg the Bird: His bird of choice just happens to be the vulture, as in “Goldman Sachs Vulture Funds” to which Steve Poizner links Meg Whitman in his first truly populist hit on Whitman in a 30-second TV spot. Calbuzz prediction: if he puts enough money behind this ad, he will take Whitman down several notches. Whether it’s enough to close the gap is doubtful, but this is the toughest ad we’ve seen out of the Poizner camp.

“This type of pathetic distortion is exactly what Republicans expect from Team Brown and it’s convincing evidence that Steve Poizner has joined it,” replied Whitman spokesvolcano Sarah Pompei. “The truth is that Jerry Brown’s union allies and Steve Poizner will say and do anything to try and defeat Meg Whitman who is the only fiscal conservative running for Governor.”

Both Sides Now: Great catch by our friend Anthony York of Capitol Weekly and the LA Times Blog who noticed that Goldman Sachs has hired Mark Fabiani to defend the investment bank’s reputation while his partner, Chris Lehane, is a principal in the  anti-Whitman group Level the Playing Field which has attacked eMeg viciously for her ties to . . .  Goldman Sachs.