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Posts Tagged ‘California Democratic Party State Convention’



Jerry, eMeg and the Goldman Sachs Connection

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Moments after Jerry Brown finished a press conference at the California Democratic Convention, where he had just challenged his Republican rivals to join him in a set of pre-primary debates, Calbuzz accosted him as he strode down the hall to his next event, trying to squeeze in one extra question.

“How about Goldman Sachs?” we asked him. “How important to the campaign is Meg Whitman’s connection?”

Brown’s eyes flashed red, smoke blew from his nostrils and fire flew off his tongue, but before he could answer, campaign manager Steve Glazer rushed up to protest: “We’re not giving not any walking interviews!”

And just like that, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor thought better of his impulse, smiled slightly and said, “If I answer that, you won’t write about the debates.”

Brown, with Glazer keeping tabs

The hallway scene at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Saturday morning spoke volumes about two important elements of Brown’s campaign for governor:

On one level it was a tribute to the indefatigable efforts of Glazer to work the impossible: keeping the famously undisciplined Brown from flapping his gums and straying from his appointed message.

It was also testament to Brown’s obvious desire to open a line of full-throated populist attack on GOP front-runner Whitman — portraying her as a tribune of corporate excess and Wall Street greed and using her multiple links to Goldman Sachs as Exhibit A in making the case.

With the Securities and Exchange Commission formally charging the huge investment bank with fraud last Friday, Brown’s campaign has been handed a fresh opportunity, not only to disrupt the Whitman campaign narrative that her executive business experience splendidly qualifies her for governor, but also to perform political jujitsu on the exorbitant campaign spending eMeg is fronting with her personal fortune.

At a time when public resentment runs high against Wall Street banks, and the obscene taxpayer bailouts they’ve received, the SEC’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs is a clear and high-visibility symbol of the avarice and recklessness that fed the recession-triggering sub-prime mortgage/credit default swap/collateralized debt obligation scandal (for those still trying to cut through the complexities of this, Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short” is a must-read).

No less a source than the Wall Street Journal, which included a sidebar on the governor’s race (subscription required) in its page one, double-truck Monday coverage of the SEC-Goldman case, forecast “the furor…could become a sticky issue” in the California campaign.

“Over the course of this campaign, I think the voters are going to be fully aware of Meg Whitman’s financial dealings at Goldman Sachs and they’ll hold her accountable for them,” Brown spokseman Sterling Clifford, told the Journal.

The esteemed Christian Science Monitor also weighed in with a piece on how the Goldman Sachs case could “roil” the governor’s race.

“Whitman has to demonstrate how she was not one of the black hats at Goldman Sachs. In other words, she’ll have to explain herself – not an enviable position for a candidate,”  Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., told the Monitor.

Calbuzz has previously published a leading expert’s analysis of eMeg’s involvement in the stock “spinning” scandal, perhaps the most problematic aspect of her Goldman Sachs connection, while Lance Williams and Carla Marinucci have reported on others, in a fully detailed primer on the issue  published jointly by California Watch and the Chronicle.

Candidate Meg Whitman touts her experience at eBay, the online auction hous

e that made her rich, but her career and personal fortune are entwined with another company: the Goldman Sachs investment bank, a major player in public finance in the state she wants to lead.

Whitman’s relationship with the giant Wall Street firm — as investor, corporate director and recipient of both insider stock deals and campaign donations — could pose conflicts of interest if the Republican front-runner is elected governor of California, critics say.

Some Whitman boosters, led by Republican blogger Bill Whalen, have been whistling past the graveyard, arguing that because Brown’s sister, former state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, is a former Goldman Sachs executive, Jerry Brown will be loathe to gamble on going after Her Megness on the issue.

Putting aside the total false equivalency of the comparison, Calbuzz will be more than happy to take that bet.

Meanwhile, Over in Clovis: KTVU-TV got  eMeg to respond to Brown’s call for three-way debates:  “I think it’s a political stunt to avoid giving specifics. You know,  I have a very specific policy agenda that has been outlined and Jerry has not given a single specific plan on virtually any of the crises that face California.”

Whitman, of course, is right that the debate gambit was a political stunt. But a clever one that gave  the aforementioned Glazer license to reply:

“Perhaps because she has failed to vote for most of her adult life, Ms. Whitman doesn’t understand the voters need for straight talk and honest discussion in an election. Calling an unscripted debate about the serious challenges facing California a ‘political stunt’ shows total disregard for the voters.”

Furthermore, Glazer said,  “From the fake town hall she filmed for her infomercial (coming soon to a station near you) to the 48-page photo album she calls a ‘plan’ and using a business group as a front for attack ads, Meg Whitman has run a campaign wholly based on stunts.”

Sifting the Detritus of the CA Dem Convention

Monday, April 19th, 2010

It’s a measure of the small bore political stakes of the California Democratic Party convention that the weekend’s only drama played out over an inconclusive fight for the party’s endorsement in an internecine contest for lieutenant governor — a conflict over a second-tier office that has far more to do with personalities than policy.

During a two-day convention when one officeholder after another pleaded with 3,000 activists to match the passion of the conservative Tea Party movement in the 2010 campaign, the convention remained a mostly sedate affair, with delegates wistfully recalling the sense of purpose in President Obama’s historic 2008 victory, while trying to get excited about candidates for insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor, ferhevensakes.

“At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party (movement)” Senator Barbara Boxer candidly told reporters, “and I think it is absolutely a fact that we have to match that enthusiasm.”

This just in: in the long-awaited balloting in the Lite Gov’s race, S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom out-polled L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn, 52-to-42. According to a furious exchange of late-night spinning memos eblasted by the two camps, this was either a great victory for Hahn, for denying her rival the 60 percent needed for the endorsement, or a key tactical win for Newsom, who skunked his foe in her own back yard.

Zzzzzzz.

As a practical matter, the question of how much energy and enthusiasm the Dems can muster  — in a non-presidential election year, when the political winds now strongly favor Republicans, when the Donkey Ticket is led by two old war horses, aged 69 and 72, and when the GOP’s statewide entry is led by an Empire Strikes Back campaign bristling with more money than God -– will be a major factor in determining the size and make-up of the November electorate.

When handlers for Jerry Brown are only half-joking in telling reporters the party’s presumptive nominee for governor just needs to win by one vote, the question of turnout, and whether Democrats can expand the size of their base to pick up a sizable chunk of younger and independent voters, is crucial.

And you have to wonder how forward-thinking comprehensive a strategy the Democrats have for doing so, when party chairman John Burton says he thinks that a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana will be the key to motivating the under-30 crowd to come to the polls.

Brown insists he’s sanguine about his chances against Republican front-runner Meg Whitman, despite her surge in the polls and her clear intent to recycle many of the millions she pocketed from shady dealings at Goldman Sachs and other high-end investments. And, on one level at least, his unruffled display of patience is a reminder that it’s still very, very early in the campaign season – “I only have to win on one day,” he told reporters Saturday.

But facing a likely foe who’s equipped to outspend him by orders of magnitude, Brown faces a stark choice between spending his own resources defending himself over the summer, when either Whitman or fellow zillionaire wannabe governor Steve Poizner will surely be bashing him daily on the airwaves, or hanging on to his pile until fall, when voters will be more engaged.

Brown must hope that at least one of the several Independent Expenditure committees that have popped up with promises to help him – but have so far shown a far greater ability to trash Whitman than to raise cash to beat her – will gain enough traction to mount a serious summer TV campaign to go after the GOP nominee and watch Brown’s back.

IE operatives in the Calbuzz orbit tell us they believe they’ll have the money in place and a plan of attack to mount a TV-radio-internet-bus stop-anywhere-you-frequent campaign that will find like-minded voters — especially independents — during the summer, giving Brown some breathing room to husband resources for the fall. We’ll see.

“The rules of democracy are not changed just because a billionaire decides she wants to be governor,” Brown told Calbuzz. But the rules have changed — and Brown knows it.

Paging Pamela Harriman: In the absence of heavyweight political skirmishes at the convention, the sharpest competition played out over who put on the best party.

Speaker John Perez and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg tossed the Best Bash for the Masses, with their Saturday afternoon free Taco Truck Throwdown with mobile catering from such favorite as  Calbi Fusion (whose pulled pork was good but hardly Mexican)  and El Principio (which served up a killer carnitas).  Friday’s elegant soiree thrown by the  California Correctional Peace Officers union, with salmon caviar and free booze,  captured top honors in the Intimate Setting Category.

But in the end, Calbuzz can report with complete immodesty, the most entertaining event was the Second Annual Dr. P.J. Hackenflack’s Hack and Flack dinner at Café Pinot, where Brown Himself and heavyweight consultant Garry South got into a cage match battle over electoral strategy at one table, with LA political wheelhouse Donna Bojarsky and political analysts Sherry and Doug Jeffe in the mix. At another table Boxer strategist Rose Kapolcynski, Brown’s Steve Glazer, L.A. premier blogger Kevin Roderick and Laurel Canyon media meisters Julie Buckner and Celia Fischer all compared notes on the political landscape and the chocolate mouse gateau. Other Calbuzzers kicking around strategic insights included poll taker Ben Tulchin and his wife consultant Laurie Biejen,  Kaufman Campaigns’ Richard Stapler, plus reporters from the Chronicle, Media News, KQED and more, who dined on a choice of duo of beef, pan roasted Jidori chicken and Atlantic salmon.

Although Dr. H briefly considered hiring a couple of leg breakers to go after a couple of confirmed guests who were no shows (we know where you live) and one gate crasher, there were no injuries.

Paging Mr. Bartlett: Brown’s three best weird comments of the weekend:

1-“The menu is not the meal,” a big-think overview of where the governor’s race stands today. 2-“I believe in the  papal doctrine of subsidiarism,” a reference to his belief that government authority should be pushed back to locals from Sacramento. 3-”The sherpas will meet soon,” his proposal for a process of arranging debates between him and his Republican rivals.

We’re just sayin’: Can the Democratic party staff please arrange for Burton to have a makeover? The unbuttoned red safari shirt look makes him look like a cheesy Vegas weekend low-roller from Cleveland.

Live from Los Angeles: Donkeys Run Wild

Saturday, April 17th, 2010


The big news at the convention: Jerry Brown challenges Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner to a three-way, pre-primary debate. It has to be all three of them, he said later at a news conference. More from Calbuzz on Jerry’s intriguing proposal to come.

11:10 Treasurer Bill Lockyer is challenging Meg Whitman’s assertions that California has one of the largest state governments and highest state tax rates in the nation, using a blizzard of stats and assailing Republicans for “selfish, scare-mongering, stupid and silly” policies.

10:33: The diminutive Barbara Boxer is asking delegates to stand with us against “Wall Street on steroids” and to join her in making California the hub for clean energy jobs  and ending tax breaks for corporations and the rich and add tax breaks for the middle class and small businesses.

Biggest whoppers: Boxer boasting of “working across party lines” on Capitol Hill and making a priority of reducing  the deficit. Best Line: Talking up health care as a big positive for Dems, she said: “Why would I want to pull the plug on grandma – I am grandma!”

10:24 Boxer was introduced and came through the center of the convention platform to a loud and enthusiastic non-spontaneous demonstration to the sounds of “Aint’ No Mountain High Enough” by Tammy Terrell and Marvin Gaye.

10:00 Chairman John Burton introduced Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis as “the only liberal in the Cabinet.” She delivered a tough partisan speech in which she challenged Republicans to campaign on a platform of opposing health care: “Bring it on,” she said repeatedly.

9:30 – After taking two buses, three cabs and a shuttle, Calbuzz finally made our way from the J.W. Marriott lobby to the L.A. Convention Center at the far end of the Earth.

Barbara Boxer scheduled a press conference before her speech. When she walked in, she went out of her way to greet Mickey Kaus, the pioneer blogger who’s filed a Democratic primary challenge to her. “I wanted to meet my opponent,” she said shaking his hand.

Kaus, who’s been banned from addressing the convention, told us he was allowed to come Boxer’s newser on condition he not ask any questions. In other non-news, Boxer said two reasons that the polls are close in her race is that she has “three strong (Republican) opponents who’ve been beating her up for months and voters haven’t been“paying attention to what I’ve done.”

In response to Calbuzz, she also offered a strong endorsement of AB32, arguing that Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s climate change legislation is necessary to jump-start a green energy industry in the state.  A batch of assembled press and bloggers had a bunch of questions left, but Boxer’s handlers cut it off at 9:45, saying she had to go make her speech to the delegates.

Key Questions Emerge as Dem Party Confab Opens

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

As the Calbuzz National Affairs desk settled into our sky box high above the floor of the California Democratic Convention, our battalion of political correspondents buttonholed delegates, honored guests and party hacks alike to answer the 10 key questions looming over the weekend events:

1-Will Jerry Brown manage to stay awake for the Young Democrats party? With Brown’s unopposed stroll to the party’s nomination for governor sucking all drama from the proceedings, Crusty’s job this weekend is to energize the several thousand activists on hand, who are in a grumpy frame of mind because of Meg-a-Million’s fast start on the Republican side. The under-30 set, who weren’t born the last time Jerry was governor but whose enthusiasm will be important come November, are in particular need of wooing; alas they don’t start partying until 9 p.m. tonight, and the 72-year old Brown’s handlers must hope he hasn’t slipped into his jammies by then.

2-Can Dr. H avoid the paparazzi? The second annual Dr. P.J. Hackenflack Democratic Convention Dinner is scheduled for tonight at a hush-hush exclusive location, with a celebrity-packed A list roster of glittering guests. But in the land of TMZ, a fish as big as Dr. H will be hard-pressed to protect his privacy.

3-Will United States Senator Barbara Boxer Herself stalk out when some rude blogger calls her “Ma’am”? At last year’s convention, California’s junior senator looked like a mortal lock for re-election, but things seemed to start to unravel for her when she famously condescended to a top military officer at a committee hearing not long after. Now the episode has become a metaphor for Boxer’s arrogance and sense of entitlement after 18 years in office, amid the worst political atmosphere for arrogant, entitled incumbent Democrats in a generation.

4-Has Jerry improved his salsa steps? The headline act of the weekend is Los Lobos, which will be performing at the L.A. Convention Center on Saturday night. Political observers will be watching closely to see if Brown’s awkward moves have improved from the ’70s when he was kicking it with girlfriend Linda Ronstadt at Lucy’s El Adobe.

5-Will this be Nancy Pelosi’s last state convention as Speaker? Talking to the most liberal crowd outside of Cuba, Pelosi will no doubt be hozannaed to the heavens, if not nominated for sainthood, for her leadership in passing health care reform.  She should enjoy it while she can, since the legislation is viewed considerably less favorably by voters in the districts of dozens of Democratic members, whose defeats could trigger a Republican takeover of the House.

6-Will Mickey Kaus collect any items for his blog? Kaus, the Mr. Crankypants blogger who’s mounted a symbolic centrist challenge to Boxer, has been banned from speaking to the convention by Democratic Party Minister of Annoyance John Burton.  Mickey writes some of the smartest contrarianisms on the web, so hopefully he’ll at least pick up some stuff for his site.

7-How many times will the words “Goldman Sachs” be uttered from the podium? Even before theSEC’s legal move against the giant investment bank on Friday, Goldman Sachs was emerging as a leading villain of coming Democratic rip jobs on eMeg, whose seamy history as a board member challenged the limits of ethics, if not the law. Brown previewed the line of attack late Friday, when he combined a shot at Whitman’s Wall Street connections with her effort to buy the election: “The rules of democracy are not changed just because a billionaire decides she wants to be governor…You can’t have a hostile takeover of the democratic process.”

8-Will Gavin Newsom and Garry South make it pistols at 10 paces? Political consultant South has done some serious trash talking about Prince Gavin, who quit the campaign  for governor that South was running and now is running for Lieutenant Governor, against South’s new client, L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn. The pair got within a few feet of each other at a convention bash last night, but Gavin wouldn’t even look at Garry: “He’s conflict and confrontation averse,” said South.

9-Will anybody top the spread put on by the CCPOA? The California Correctional Peace Officers Association– thank you Michael Flores –  set a high bar with their Friday cocktail party reception honoring Speaker John Perez: salmon-caviar canapés, satay chicken, crab cake balls, fresh shrimp, pot stickers, egg rolls and an open bar. Today’s “Taco Truck Throwdown,” presented by Perez and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg could mount a serious challenge. Rest  assured Calbuzz will be there to do some Actual Reporting.

10-Will live blogging drive traffic or drive away traffic? Calbuzz will be indefatigably bringing every minute of non-stop action from the podium, assuming we get up in time.

P.S. Late Friday Calbuzz stumbled onto an oddity: Newsom’s reception — sponsored and approved by labor unions — was catered by non-union restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.  At first, Calbuzz thought this might have been a bonehead,  rookie mistake at the all-union-all-the-time Demo convention. But it turns out steady hand Cal Strat consultant Jason Kinney, who worked his butt off to organize the event, got the whole deal sanctioned by all the key state and local labor groups. And in fact, the sponsors of the event included the teachers, nurses, faculty and farm workers unions.  On your behalf, Calbuzz tested the martinis and the chocolate at Newsom rival Janice Hahn’s and found them far superior to Puck’s potato chip, red licorice and crudite spread. But, Newsom’s event at the Target Terrace above the Grammy Museum had live entertainment with Lisa Loeb, Benji Madden and Steven Weber while Hahn just had a boom box.

Why Brown Won’t Unload on eMeg at Dem Convo

Friday, April 16th, 2010

You could argue that Jerry Brown, who is going to be his party’s nominee for governor, ought to accept the notion that Meg Whitman is going to be the Republican nominee and should begin campaigning against her at the California Democratic Party convention this weekend in LA.

The general election is already under way, says this argument, posited mostly by progressive Democrats, and Brown is just wasting time, letting Whitman get away with murder as she gains positive name ID using corporate CEO as a brand. Given the scandal in the banking industry, Wall Street’s misadventures and the collapse of the American economy, who would ever have thought that a candidate could gain traction as a corporate bigwig?

Whitman’s succeeded so far because no one is attacking her from the left (except Level the Playing Field and the California Accountability Project, neither of which has put their anti-Meg slams into serious TV). eMeg’s GOP opponent, Steve Poizner, attacks Whitman from the right – which actually helps her look somewhat moderate in the general election against Brown.

So with all the news organizations gathered in LA for the Democratic convention, why not use the opportunity to get some free media and launch an all-out attack against eMeg? Frame it around three bullet points:

1) She’s a corporate fat cat who’s out of touch with real people and in cahoots with the greedy, bloodsucking parasites on Wall Street who have wrecked our economy.

2) She’d undo California’s progressive laws seeking to reverse global warming and set polar bears out on ice floes.

3) She’d build more prisons at the expense of schools – how’s that supposed to help California grow jobs and become more competitive in the modern economy?

Yes, Brown could fall prey to the siren song of a full-time, 24-7, balls-to-the-wall general election starting right now. And be broke by Labor Day.

Further, you might ask, why would he want to poke a stick at Whitman right now? Let sleeping billionaires lie seems to make more sense. Why do anything to encourage Whitman to start spending any of her unlimited funds on Brown any earlier than it’s gonna happen anyway?

Which is why, when Brown speaks Saturday, he’s likely to rally the Democratic base and speak harshly in general about Republicans, but not too personally about Whitman. There will be some obvious references: you can’t do a populist jeremiad without bellowing about the bankers on Wall Street and their black-hearted corporate cronies. But don’t expect too much about Goldman Sachs, eBay stock spinning and investments in Skype.

As one strategist close to the Brown campaign told Calbuzz: “It would be a waste of opposition research to roll it out now.”

Sure, we’d love to see the fireworks. But then again, we don’t have to maintain the fire.

That’s the story of the Hurricane: Once again, Carly Fiorina is shocked – shocked! – to learn of alleged unsavory, perhaps illegal, conduct by employees under her watch as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. As all good Calbuzzers know, Hurricane Carly has already professed to know nothin’ about nothin’ to do with HP’s shipments to Iran of hundreds of millions of dollars of products, through a third party company, during her tenure.

Now comes the Wall Street Journal (subscription) to report that the SEC and the U.S. Justice Department have joined the governments of Russia and Germany in investigating allegations that HP went to the wallet for $11 million in bribes to win a lucrative contract with the Russian prosecutor general’s office, while Fiorina was in charge. So, for the second time, iCarly is rolling out her see-no-evil, hear-no-evil act:

“Carly has no knowledge of these alleged actions,” said her spokeswoman, Amy Thoma. “When she served as the CEO of HP if she had been aware of any illegal or inappropriate behavior by any employee she would have taken action immediately to terminate the parties involved.”

Which leaves four possibilities:

1) Double agents in the German and Russian governments, joined by moles in the SEC and DOJ, have all been duped by demon sheep in the Chuck DeVore for Senate campaign into leaking word of a baseless, phony investigation.

2) Fiorina, who never stops boasting of what a swell job she did as HP CEO, was simply ignorant of what was going on in her own company.

3) The whole messy business has slipped her mind.

4) She’s lying.

Calbuzz bets: 2) or 4).