Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘California Chamber of Commerce’



The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Whether or not the dozen California Republican legislators (more than enough for a minyan!) who have refused to join the politically suicidal Taxpayers Caucus are all modern day Pharisees, Gov. Jerry Brown was not far off the mark comparing them to Nicodemus ben Gurion, the prominent Jewish elder who is said to have met with Jesus under cover of night to avoid the risk of ostracism.*

“I’m not going to blow their cover,” Brown said of the individuals he’s been meeting with – those who have declined to drink the Kool Aid being dispensed by the Grover Norquist-inspired Ostrich Phalanx and henchmen, like our pal Jon Fleischman.

The small band of savvy Republicans appear to get that a) they are in a position to extract at least some of their cherished goals in exchange for merely voting to put Brown’s tax extensions on the June ballot and b) their old world is rapidly changing, because of the new rules of redistricting and the top-two primary system, so they can’t afford to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

As Rob Stutzman, the Republican strategist who advised Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, put it: “They have more leverage than they’ve had at any time arguably over the last decade.” But then guys like Stutzman and Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader, are old-school pols who believe, like Ronald Reagan did, that you negotiate to reach agreement and that agreement – i.e. governance — is a good thing.

At a time when “compromise” has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party’s extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.

A way out — our sources are betting — is at best a 50-50 proposition.

As Steve Glazer, Brown’s senior adviser told Calbuzz over the weekend: “We’re sitting on bar stools in a foot of gasoline and everybody’s got a match.”

The ossification of Sacramento was created by a battery of political circumstances, including some so-called “reforms,” that together had the unintended consequence of bogging down the Capitol in the gridlock of polarization and partisanship. The key ingredients in hardening the political cement are 1) diminished party registration 2) non-competitive elections and 3) term limits.

Add to these closed primaries, campaign contribution limits that don’t apply to interest groups and a cable-driven coarsening of political dialogue and you have a recipe for impasse. That’s how we arrived at a situation where negotiation is seen as collaboration and compromise is regarded as capitulation.

Ironically, the sudden willingness of at least a few members of the minority to consider compromise, negotiation and deal-making to be useful and acceptable tools, in place of the just-say-no obstructionism that has long marked the GOP position, may itself have been triggered by two new reforms: a new, non-partisan citizens commission that is redistricting the state and a new “top-two” primary system are both designed to encourage more moderate politics; they may be working even before they’ve fully taken effect.

“With open primaries in redistricted seats in a presidential election all the old rules are out the door,” said Brulte.

Diminished party registration, wherein moderates and those with loose party affiliations have registered in ever greater numbers as Decline to State (independent of a party), has meant that those who still vote in their party primaries are the most ideological, the most partisan and the most intractable voters in any particular political jurisdiction.

In October 1994, Democrats had 49% of registration, Republicans 37% and DTS 10%. In October 2010, Democrats were 44%, Republicans 31% and DTS 20%. Who left the Democratic and Republican parties (or chose not to join them)? Moderates who didn’t want to be part of the left and right wings of the electorate.

So those who won their party primaries – and thus those eventually elected to the Assembly and state Senate – reflected (and shaped) the ideological cast of their districts.  Legislators who refuse to negotiate toward an agreement are, in many cases, perfectly reflecting the narrow electorate – in existing districts — who sent them to Sacramento. It’s the hard core who’s voting.

Non-competitive seats, partially a function of gerrymandering and partly a function of living patterns of the California population, have ensured the election, re-election, and re-re-election of the same voices and interests year in and year out.

One liberal may replace another; one conservative may follow a predecessor, but the ideological shape and tone and color remains the same. The general election means little in most cases because all the action is during the primary. If an incumbent – or a candidate who appears to be an incumbent because he or she served in a different office – is in the race, you can all but forget about it.

Few seats are actually competitive and where they are, it’s almost always just in the race to see who gets to represent the party in November.

Term limits have a compounded negative effect. On the one hand, they drive those just elected to spend ever greater amounts of time planning for their re-election and advancement to another seat in a different house. On the other hand, they leave Sacramento with a neophyte corps of legislators who have no institutional knowledge, no long-term commitment, no real power base in their own communities and less knowledge than the permanent legislative staff and the army of lobbyists who are always on the case.

Moreover, leadership is a joke: it’s almost impossible to enforce caucus discipline, it’s increasingly difficult to speak with one voice for either party, “leaders” are in place long enough to get a cup of coffee and replaced before they’ve found the secret drawer in the big desk or learned the name of the janitor who empties their trash can.

Coupled with campaign contribution limitations that don’t apply to interest groups, term limits mean that instead of the special interests needing the lawmaker, it’s the other way around – legislators need the special interests more than the pleaders need them.

And Now for Something
Completely Different

The handful of GOP legislators who are quietly (secretly) negotiating with Gov. Brown just may get this: by the end of August, the non-partisan redistricting of California legislative boundaries should be completed and the next round of elections will not involve party primaries but a top-two system of electing candidates.

We may even see big labor begin to play a role in what used to be Republican districts. Sources tell Calbuzz there’s talk in the labor community about spending in districts where particular legislators have made it a point to work against their interests.

Candidates who are identified as obstructionist or worse, responsible for massive teacher layoffs, shorter school years, public safety cutbacks, closed state parks, etc., are going to have one hell of a time picking up enough moderate and independent votes to keep their offices. They will NOT be running in tailored districts and they won’t have a free shot at a party position.

You gotta wonder how smart it is to rely on right-wing operators, who ask, like FlashReport’s Fleischman, if “The CalChamber is Ready to Betray Taxpayers Again?” As a Republican, just exactly what is your base if you can’t include the Chamber of Commerce?

No wonder Flash and his cronies on the right are hoping at the GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s rules to give central committees the power to dub candidates official GOP standard bearers. That may their only weapon and frankly, we’re not sure, even if they can adopt this Soviet Rule, that it would do the trick for their people.

As Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times so ably noted, the notion that Republicans who voted for tax hikes under Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle were driven from office is mostly bunk. “Of the six Republicans who voted for taxes (in 2009), only one later went on to defeat in a Republican primary. Two captured GOP nominations in statewide contests, another was elected to a county post and two others dropped out of politics.”

And that was before redistricting and the top-two primary system. And before Brown, who was allowed to dispense his vows of poverty and chastity in order to leave the seminary, offered dispensation to any Republicans who signed the GOP anti-tax pledge.

* It was to Nicodemus, as reported in the Gospel of John (3:16), that Jesus, after saying that man must be reborn in faith, offered this central concept: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

GOP Fail: Meyer, Oprah and Voter Orgasms in Spain

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

In a week when the flimsy line between politics and entertainment grew teenier than ever, Calbuzz cartoonist Tom Meyer offers some sage strategic advice to California Republicans, who are desperate to gain support among women and Latinos – two crucial groups whose strong Democratic ties help explain why the Golden State grew bluer than ever in the year of the GOP’s red tide.

While Oprah has been broadcast in Spanish for more than two years now,  the big brains running the California Republican Party apparently haven’t gotten the memo, as GOP state chairman Ron Nehring blames his party’s pathetic statewide showing on a failure of “communications” in “brand” marketing.

“The leadership is brain-dead,” countered longtime Republican operative Tony Quinn, in a somewhat more succinct analysis offered to the Sacbee’s ubiquitous Jack Chang. “The demographic problem is Republicans have become a party of old white people, and these are people who really want an idealistic view such as what they think existed in California 50 years ago.”

Despite Neanderthal Nehring’s argument that the state GOP just needs to do a better job of advertising the popularity of their ideas among the Fred Flinstone cohort, the latest data from the L.A, Times/USC poll (see here here and here ) strongly suggests otherwise, as the always-worth-reading Cathleen Decker reported: “The party faces a critical collision between its own voters, a minority in California, and those it needs to attract to win.”

So in grateful return for that non-stop flood of “ICYMI” memos the state GOP sent our way in 2010, here’s a Calbuzz version backatcha.


Fun with numbers: In prize-winning fashion, Jerry Brown never tired of reminding voters that Meg Whitman’s not-very-original definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

But you gotta’ hand to Her Megness for persistence: she never let her own clichés stand in the way of her crazed and delusional determination that she could be elected governor if she just kept tossing good money after bad; our gal pitched a last-gasp $2.6 million of pin money into her campaign on election day, bringing the personal megabucks investment in her one-for-the-history books Really Big Fail to $144,155,806.11.

Putting aside the $30 million or so in chump change she raised from fellow plutocrats, that works out to an average of $228,460.86 per day — $9,519.20 per hour, $158.60 per minute and $2.64 per second – 24/7, each and every one of the 631 days she was in the race. (The final final numbers, still not available, will make for some really impressive gee whiz computations.)

If that seems a bit…excessive…consider this: as a political matter, the net effect of the money was to win Whitman 41% of the statewide vote total; that’s only 10% above the Republican 31% share of statewide registration – or $14 million per percentage point above the base vote she would have won if she hadn’t spent a penny.

For comparison’s sake, the GOP candidates for Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner, none of whom had bupkus to spend, averaged 37% of the statewide vote, meaning all of eMeg’s loot basically  bought her an extra 4% of the vote – or $35 million per percentage point.

Oh well. From what we hear, at least the checks cleared for all of the brilliant strategists and consultants who fleeced her rode the gravy train while it lasted. God, we miss her already.

For those keeping score at home: When she writes her next self-serving memoir – “The Power of Money”? – at least eMeg will have the satisfaction of letting readers know that, despite shattering all records for most dollars spent on a political race in the U.S. ,the $57 per vote she forked out was peanuts compared to the $97 that World Wrestling Entertainment crotch kicker CEO Linda McMahon lavished on each Nutmegger who cast a ballot for her losing Republican bid for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut.

And as long as we’re talking mondo money, it’s worth noting that the biggest single spender on the initiative side of the ballot wasn’t the CTA, the CCPOA or the California Chamber of Commerce; as Tracey Kaplan reports in a nice Murky News piece, that honor goes to Charles T. Munger, Jr., a Stanford physics geek who tossed $12.6 million of his own fortune into Proposition 20, the measure taking away from the legislature the power to draw new lines for congressional seats and giving it to an independent reapportionment commission.

“You need to go into the world and do something that’s needed,” said Munger, 54. “So I gave California fair elections. I gave the voters back their democracy.”

Of course, the big difference between Munger and Whitman is that he, you know, won.

Memo to Ron Nehring (eyes only): Maybe this approach might work with women voters next time around.  Seems consistent with that whole “personal liberty” thing, anyway.

Small Biz Group Attacks Brown in Phony ‘Issues’ Ad

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

The Small Business Action Committee, an advocacy group run by Joel Fox, proprietor of the Fox & Hounds web site, is about to unload a $1.6 million anti-Jerry Brown ad masquerading as an “issue advocacy” ad. That’s the sneaky (unethical but legal) way to take a whack at Brown without having to disclose who the donors are.

An announcer in the ad says:

Two million Californians out of work, and Attorney General Jerry Brown makes it harder to create jobs, saying he has 1,100 attorneys ready to sue over government regulations.  As a forty-year politician, he doesn’t “get” what it takes to create jobs. As governor, he grew spending, turned a surplus into a deficit and left office with 11% unemployment. And Brown’s solution to California’s deficit: more debt, which will kill jobs.  Tell Jerry Brown we need more jobs.

When we first heard about a new ad, we sent an email to Fox asking what was up. His reply was that he was in the Midwest with limited Internet access and that “SBAC is doing issue advocacy.”

That’s BS, and our friend Joel knows it. Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer is right when he told us, “The idea that small businesses have contributed $1.6 million for this ad is ludicrous on its face. The ad is being run with the single-minded purpose of defeating Jerry Brown for governor.”

So who’s financing the ad? We don’t know. Yet. Probably not the same big-money guys who financed SBAC’s actual issue ad.

The SBAC scam is just like the phony baloney issue ad the California Chamber of Commerce tried to pass off as an issue ad a while back. Except that Joel Fox is someone you wouldn’t normally expect to be behind a hide-the-ball maneuver to work as a functionary for Meg Whitman and against Jerry Brown.

In the meantime, said Glazer: “The SBAC is acting as a front group for narrow interests who know that public disclosure would severely taint their message. This is despicable gutter politics and Joel Fox should not be involved in this sleazy activity.”

We’ve asked Joel to tell us who paid for the ad and when he tells us, we’ll tell you.

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.”

Big Union Leaders to Chair and Fund Pro-Brown IE

Monday, April 12th, 2010

SAN JOSE — Leaders of the second* major independent expenditure committee supporting Democrat Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor on Monday said their group will be chaired by representatives of the influential firefighters, construction trades and public employees unions.

The union leaders, operating as California Working Families 2010, were in San Jose Monday for a meeting of the California Labor Federation where they agreed on leadership and a strategic plan to coordinate research, polling, focus groups and a paid television and media campaign to drive the message “about why billionaire corporate CEOs with no government experience and other Republican candidates are bad for California’s future.”

“What distinguishes us,” said Larry Grisolano, chief strategist for the group, “is that these are folks coming to the table with the expectation of making serious commitments . . . An IE cannot replace a campaign or a candidate but we can give people important information for when they make their choice.”

Chairmen of the group, announced Monday, will be Lou Paulson of the California Professional Firefighters, Bob Balgenorth of the California State Building and Construction Trades and Bill Lloyd of Service Employees International Union.

Each of them told Calbuzz on Monday they will contribute at least $1 million to the effort which is modeled, as a coalition, after the drive that defeated Proposition 75 (“paycheck protection”) in 2005 with a $35 million unified campaign.

“Our number one goal has to be to elect Jerry Brown,” said Lloyd of SEIU. “The IE will compare and contrast” the Republican candidate with Jerry Brown, added Balgenorth. Paluson, too, said the goal would be to “improve the quality of California.”

But if past is prologue, the union-backed IE is likely to be mostly a vehicle for sharply attacking the Republican candidate — most likely Meg Whitman — especially for her Wall Street connections and her avowed desire to fire 40,000 state employees and cut spending on state services.

In addition to union support, the coalition expects to add environmental, women’s and other progressive groups and have been promised support from billionaire Democrat Ron Burkle, CEO of Yucaipa Companies, whose representative, Frank Quintero is serving as the IE’s treasurer.

Operatives who will run the IE have close ties to the Obama administration and former Gov. Gray Davis. Among them:

– Grisolano, a partner in the Chicago-based political firm AKPD, where Obama political strategist David Axelrod is a partner. Grisolano also ran Davis’s re-election campaign and has worked closely with SEIU.

– Roger Salazar, principal of Acosta|Salazar consulting and former press and communications meister for Davis, in whose operation Quintero and Jason Kruger of SK Impact also first cut their political teeth.

– David Binder, of David Binder Research, is doing polling and focus groups; Marjan Philhour of the California Group is doing fundraising and Link Strategies is doing research.

Another pro-Brown IE already is up and running – Level the Playing Field – with is own cluster of Democratic operatives and strategists and an active online and social media presence. While it has been a constant thorn in Whitman’s side through its online activities, LTPF has yet to put together the resources for a serious television ad campaign.

The California Chamber of Commerce, through its political arm, is likely to be part of an IE effort to counter the unions and oppose Brown. Its first effort in that regard however – an anti-Brown ad masquerading as an “issues ad” — was aborted last week because instead of being run through the Chamber’s political action committee, it was funded, crafted and placed by the non-partisan Chamber itself.

* There’s actually a third group operating independently if you count the California Accountability Project of the Democratic Governors Association.