Posts Tagged ‘California Nurses Association’

Budget War Looms; Why Backers Matter in CD36

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Racking up a big fat collection of political endorsements in an election doesn’t always mean much. But when it’s a low-information, low-turnout contest, where voters are looking for cues, endorsements can have a huge impact.

Which is why Democrats Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen have been scrambling like mad to snag as many as they can in the May 17 special election to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Jane Harman in California’s 36th Congressional District.

Thus far, in the race for endorsements, Hahn, the LA City Councilwoman, is beating the pants off Bowen, the California Secretary of State.

There are, of course, other candidates in this contest including Democrat Marcy Winograd, the progressive left contender, and some Republicans, like Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin, Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, Realty Alert publisher Craig Huey and several others. Here’s the list of candidates and party preferences. In all there are five Democrat, six Republican, five “no party preference,” one Libertarian and one Peace and Freedom candidates.

But the real action – given the district’s partisan cast — is to see who’s gonna be the top Democrat.

The new rule under Proposition 14 is that the top two vote getters in the “primary,” regardless of party, face each other in the general election. But this is a special election and the rules allow that there’s only a runoff election between the top two contenders if no one gets 50%+1 in the initial balloting. And given the large field, it’s likely there will be a runoff on July 12. Whether that’ will be between two Democrats or a Democrat and a Republican depends on how the votes split on May 17.

All of which explains the frantic effort to win endorsements that tell voters who is allied with whose interests.

Bowen has won endorsements from the likes of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Democracy for America (run by Dean’s brother), the Beach Cities Democratic Club and the California Nurses Association. Click here for Bowen’s endorsements.

But Hahn has U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,  Assembly Speaker John Perez, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the LA Police Protective League and unions representing firefighters, longshoremen, electrical workers, letter carriers, laborers, steelworkers, plumbers, communication workers, steamfitters, operating engineers, iron workers, yada yada yada. Plus eight members of Congress, the LA Sheriff…the list goes on and on and on. Here are Hahn’s endorsements.

With her name ID as a statewide elected official and considerable popularity among Democrats in the region, Bowen is by no means a dead duck. But . . .

“That’s a huge, huge tell,” Nate Monroe, assistant professor of political science and an expert in congressional elections at UC Merced, said after hearing the endorsement lists. Not only does the list suggest the range of interests who think one candidate is better than the other, but “they raise the probability that a given voter is going to have a common interest with a given endorsement,” he said.

Bruce Cain, UC Berkeley’s Heller Professor of Political Science and public policy director of the University of California Washington Center, agreed that simply knowing that Dianne Feinstein is on one side and Howard Dean is on the other may be enough for many voters.

“You get into these low-information, low-turnout elections and there’s no question that endorsements matter,” Cain said, in part because voters who do turn out will be more highly informed than the average voter and they will know who the people and institutions are who are lining up behind different candidates.

Hahn’s endorsements, he said, may or may not tell you about her ideology, but they tell you about her strategy: “She’s got a more centrist base.”

Time to Revisit the Calbuzz Plan: “War cannot be avoided,” Niccolo Machiavelli, one of our all-time favorite political writers, famously said. “It can only be postponed to the other’s advantage.”

Old Nick’s sage advice to the Prince came to mind when we heard on Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown had finally thrown in the towel on “negotiations” with legislative Republicans in an attempt to win a handful of votes to put tax extensions on the June ballot.

“Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands,” Brown said.

“Let me be clear: I support pension reform, regulatory reform and a spending cap and offered specific and detailed proposals for each of these during our discussions.  While we made significant progress on these reform issues, the Republicans continued to insist on including demands that would materially undermine any semblance of a balanced budget.  In fact, they sought to worsen the state’s problem by creating a $4 billion hole in the budget.”

In addition to a written statement, Brown released a You Tube video of himself, dressed in a sweater, explaining his reasoning.

“The fact that the governor has now pulled the plug on any further budget talks says only one thing — the only immovable object in Sacramento is Jerry Brown,” replied California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro.

Brown’s extended efforts to use sweet reason to cut a budget deal, while laudable, were starting to make him look silly and weak anyway. The idea that legislative Republicans would ever negotiate seriously over a reality-based solution to California’s $27 billion deficit was probably always an illusion, but it was worth burning some political capital for Brown to at least try to treat them like adults.

But GOP leaders, with their puerile, 11th-hour, 53-point plan for undoing the 2010 election, made it clear that the whole notion that they were interested in helping to govern was a charade all along.

With a June ballot measure — if one could be pushed through by majority vote — apparently now out of the question, Brown and the Democrats are left with basically one option: a November ballot measure which should, as we’ve argued, re-frame the debate. Now that Machiavelli says it’s clearly time to go to war, Brown ought to make it one worth fighting, by battling on behalf of something like the Calbuzz Outside-the Box-Thinking Plan for Fiscal Integrity, Nuclear Safety and Peace in Our Time.

Here’s how it would work: Set things up so that the Democrats  approve, with a majority vote, a conditional all-cuts budget that presumes no tax extensions. (We wonder if Republicans would vote for it.) Then gather signatures to place that on the November ballot, with a provision that if the measure fails the cuts will not occur because the 2009 taxes and fees will be re-instated for five years. As a practical matter, cuts can be delayed to occur after November. And costs can be shifted to local government for local responsibilities whether the measure wins or loses.

Then let Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, radio heads John and Ken and the rest of their not-our-problem cadre be forced to argue for the budget ballot measure while Democrats and labor argue against it.

In other words, make the “yes” position a vote for cutting programs for widows, orphans, fish and fawn and the “no” position a vote for freedom, justice and common decency on our streets and in our homes. Recall: in the history of ballot propositions in California, “no” beats “yes” 67% of the time.

As Peter Schrag shrewdly opined this week, Brown let himself get perilously close to being played for as big a fool by the GOP as did Barack Obama.  Three days after his inauguration, Obama memorably told GOP congressional leaders at the White House that “Elections have consequences and, at the end of the day, I won.”

Then he went out and acted like he’d lost.

Obama’s hideous political blunder was to allow himself to be strung along by bad faith for nearly a year in hopes of getting a bipartisan health care reform bill. All he got for his trouble was months and months of bookend cable chatter about how ugly the sausage-making process was; at the end of the day, he finally rammed through a Democrats-only bill, which he could have done much earlier, with much less damage inflicted by the right-wing echo chamber framing machine to the perception the country had about what was actually in the legislation.

Brown — perhaps too much a believer in his own ability to charm and reason –behaved in much the same way.

Our Department of Second Guessing advises that had he moved early and decisively to use the Democrats’ big majorities in the Assembly and Senate to push a tax-extension measure onto the ballot instead of wasting months on no-negotiation negotiations, he now would be in a stronger position to advocate for the revenue proposal and frame the debate, having already pushed the Legislature to pass the painful budget cut portion of his plan.

Instead he’s got nothing to show for his efforts but the cuts, and a clown car full of Republicans who are only too happy to play Lucy-and-the-football with an ever expanding and evolving agenda of DOA demands.

“This is basically trying to ram through an agenda that does not reflect the fact that we have a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature,” Gandalf flack Gil Duran said of the latest GOP move.

Well said and true enough, but we hasten to add that neither are the Democrats themselves acting like they’re a party that won a huge and sweeping statewide victory last November.

“One defends when his strength is inadequate,” as Sun Tzu, another of our old school fave political writers put it. “He attacks when it is abundant.”

Inquiring minds want to know: Perhaps the best measure of how unseriously California Republicans are taking their responsibility to help govern the state is the cowardly duck nearly all of them took on Brown’s bid to abolish redevelopment agencies in the state.

Lest some sensitive soul over at Flashreport start whining about biased Calbuzz sniping, we highly recommend having a read of Steven Greenhut’s excellent piece on the matter over at conservative Calwatchdog.com.

Redevelopment is about everything Republicans claim to loath: bureaucracy, debt, abuses of property rights, big government, excessive land-use rules, subsidized housing and fiscal irresponsibility. In California cities, redevelopment bureaucrats rule the roost and they leave a path of destruction wherever they go. They bully people and impose enormous burdens on taxpayers. The diversion of tax dollars to welfare queens mandates higher taxes, but the GOP sided with the redevelopment industry. They sided with agencies that run up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed indebtedness. They sided with government-directed stimulus programs, albeit local ones rather than federal ones…

The truth is California Republicans do not believe in limited government. They do not stand up for property owners. They are the party of corporate welfare. They oppose higher taxes, but that’s the only guiding principle of the party these days. And even that is suspect. Many Assembly Republicans, such as the pro-union members of the “no more cuts” caucus (Jim Silva, Brian Nestande and Paul Cook), vote in a way that virtually mandates higher taxes at some point. Then they get on their high horse and sign those bogus tax-fighting pledges. And you wonder why the GOP is fading away in this state?

Fraud at Polls: Palin, Nicky, eMeg Meet DWTS & JFK

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Press Clips: This week’s coveted Dorothy Kilgallen Investigative Gossip Award goes to Jezebel’s Tracie Egan Morrissey for uncovering the scandal of  Sarah Palin’s vote scam on behalf of daughter Bristol’s candidacy on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Along with much of the blogosphere, the Calbuzz Department of Popular Culture Trends and Mortifying Guilty Pleasures erupted with outrage on Tuesday, when Palin the Younger made it into this season’s DWTS finals, while pop singer Brandy got the boot.

Bristol’s lumbering terpsichorean exertions recall nothing so much as one of those tutu-clad dancing baby hippos from “Fantasia” – and we mean that in the nicest possible way.

Nevertheless, she has been kept on the show week after week, while far more talented and appealing, third-rank “celebrity” dancers have been cut. Despite consistently getting the lowest scores from the show’s panel of professional judges, she’s survived because of a weekly barrage of phoned and texted votes from among DWTS’s audience of 20 million viewers.

From the start, all right thinking people agreed there was something fishy about the whole thing, amid widespread suggestions that Sarah Palin was somehow gaming the system on behalf of her offspring, through the use of her Tea Party network of acolytes and sycophants. But it was all just speculation – until Jezebel finally nailed down the truth, which seems to be the biggest case of ballot fraud since Mayor Daley delivered the cemetery vote for JFK.

While Bristol Palin denies any Tea Party conspiracy theories, there’s no denying that conservatives have been pushing for votes for Bristol, using blogs and Twitter to start a movement. But what isn’t widely known is the evidence—via message board comments on some conservative sites—that this mobilization involves fixing this (albeit meaningless) election through a technical snafu on ABC’s website, which allows Palin’s supporters to cast an infinite number of email votes.

Scouring Tea Party and Sarah fan sites, the resourceful Morrissey quickly discovered mountains of proof about the plot, which was organized and dubbed “Operation Bristol” by Palin political hacks, sprinkled among the comments left by the witless TPers themselves:

“Here’s a hint: They don’t have to be VALID email addresses to register them with ABC.com, there is apparently no validation process. The just have to be formatted like a valid email address, and you must use a valid zip code and a birthdate that makes you old enough to vote. I’m voting like a democrat, all night long…”

“No, it doesn’t have to be a valid email address – I had one of my anonymous ones XXX@yahoo.com that I used, and then just did the sign-up process all over again with XXX1@yahoo.com and it worked.”

“Got my 80 votes in online…took 2 hours. I am beat”

“I only got 42 in, I have some catching up to do!”

“Lord have mercy, I voted for 3 hours online! I got 300 in.”

Well and good, but what, we hear some regular readers asking, is the political significance of this kerfuffle to me, a member in good standing of the Calbuzz Cognoscenti? Just this: In a week when Sarah Palin declared that she can beat President Obama in 2012,  the incident speaks volumes about the character and qualifications of the erstwhile half-governor of Alaska, in at least three ways:

1-Palin freely countenances lying, cheating and fraud to get what she wants, despite her constant caterwauling about the corruption of Democrats and ridiculous self-portrayal as a reformer.

2-The Palinistas’ blind determination to make Bristol a winner, despite her obvious lack of ability, reflects the world view of Sarah and her followers, which embraces know-nothing anti-intellectualism and rejects meritocracy in favor of personal prejudice.

3-The “Operation Bristol” campaign displays a malevolent, us-against-them manicheism, as when pro-Palin commenters, not content to boost their gal, also feel compelled to smear and trash Jennifer Grey, the graceful and talented front-runner on the show, as a “Hollywood elite,” even as Bristol herself portrays anyone who opposes her as a “hater” and offers less than  half-hearted apologies for the homophobic ravings of her charming sister, Willow.

Shame on you, John McCain, for unleashing this  whack job on America.

For the record: Calbuzz wishes to make perfectly clear that we disassociate ourselves completely from the actions of Steven Cowan, the 67-year old Wisconsin man who blasted his TV with a shotgun after watching Tuesday’s DWTS. We would never shoot our TV, at the risk of missing an episode of “Detroit 187,” but instead would aim at the nearest table lamp or kitchen appliance.

You just can’t find good help: Nice work by Chronicler Carla Marinucci for her comprehensive, multi-platform, follow-up coverage of eMeg Whitman’s former housekeeper getting the last word in their politically charged dispute over back wages, and mega-kudos to the Sacbee’s Susan Ferris for digging into the tantalizing, still-unanswered question of how eMeg maid Nicky Diaz found her way to media-savvy Gloria Allred.

As Ferris reports, leaders of the California Nurses Association refused to deny that they played the key role in the behind-the-scenes Nicky machinations that helped torpedo Whitman’s campaign, and that now have led to working class heroine status for Diaz herself. Regardless, there is no question that the CNA emerged as one of the biggest winners of the 2012 campaign, as Jim Carlton of the Wall Street Journal ably reports.

And while we’re on the subject, Joe Mathews is just wrong, wrong, wrong with his Fox and Hounds argument that the Nicky revelations would have sunk eMeg whenever they came.

As a political matter, by surfacing the story herself the summer before, Meg not only would have pre-empted the matter by timing it early enough so it would be old news by the time the campaign started for real, but also could have finessed a big negative into a positive, but saying something like: “My own personal experience really brought home to me the complicated human and emotional issues involved in this problem, which is an important reason why as governor I will do my best to help find effective solutions to illegal immigration, which affects so many Californians in so many ways.”

Instead eMeg decided to try to cover up the whole mess and, when it inevitably came to light, tried the modified, limited-hangout route before deciding that Nicky should just be deported. The rest is history.

BTW: Just about every other news outlet that covered the Allred-Diaz appearance before the labor board in San Jose (where Mr. Whitman, aka Dr. Griff Harsh, agreed to pony up $5,500 in back pay to Nicky) had posts up online about the happenings before the, ahem, San Jose Mercury Snooze. Just sayin’.

Just because: South Koreans love them some Santa-clad penguins.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Calbuzz to use “sentiment analysis” to gauge value of using more “dancing baby hippos” references in future posts.

Five Ways eMeg Blew Her Campaign for Governor

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

In June 2009, a few months after she launched her campaign to become governor of California, Meg Whitman abruptly fired Nicky Diaz Santillan, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had served as her housekeeper for nine years.

No one knew it at the time, but Whitman’s words and action in the privacy of her home on June 20, and on the phone four days later, would sow the seeds of her political loss, a debacle that will define her forever as the billionaire who spent more money on a political race than anyone in history and won nothing but a humiliating defeat.

Recollections differ sharply about exactly what happened when Whitman sent Diaz packing. The former eBay CEO insisted she was gracious and caring toward someone she saw as a “member of her extended family.” It broke her heart, she said at one point; only later did she suggest Nicky  should be deported.

At a Sept. 29 press conference with LA Ambulance Chaser Gloria Allred, Diaz said Whitman was cruel and heartless and insisted that her lawyer had told her there was nothing to be done.

“From now on, you don’t know me and I don’t know you,” Diaz said Whitman told her on the phone. “You never have seen me and I have never seen you.”

What Nicky revealed about Meg: The precise details of the episode may remain fuzzy – but its political impact is crystal clear. In the end, the Diaz story dealt two grave wounds that doomed Whitman’s candidacy:

First, the Republican nominee’s memorable Oct. 1 press conference responding to Diaz’s allegations was a public relations disaster. A real-time, real-life event, it was one of only a handful of times that California voters would see Whitman in public, outside of the carefully scripted and controlled campaign events or the unprecedented barrage of TV ads that she beamed into their living rooms. And polls would show that the unfavorable image they already had of the candidate would only grow more negative.

More broadly, Whitman’s handling of the Diaz affair – and her improbable insistence that she had no idea that Diaz was illegal and baseless accusation that Nicky stole the mail — underscored a central failing of her $160+ million effort. Ralph Whitehead of the University of Massachusetts once explained that in an executive leader, voters look for someone with a hard head and a soft heart. Whitman surely passed the first test. But her handling of Nicky Diaz – which had already occurred and could not be fixed – exposed her as a rich woman with the hardest of hearts.

She might, back then, have mitigated the damage that came later if she had done what most human beings would do for someone who had cleaned their toilets for nine years: hire her an immigration attorney, give her severance pay, help her find a new job. Whitman did none of those things. Voters – especially Latinos and women – concluded she was, at best, not like them and, at worst, inhuman.

“I could not be any prouder of the race we ran,” Whitman said in a farewell letter to supporters on her campaign web page. It’s a typical statement from a woman who could never admit a mistake, whether it was flipping IPO shares, booting her maid to the curb or refusing to pull down her negative ads when implored to do so in front of 14,000 women.

Because Whitman’s debacle cost an unprecedented sum – including about $142 million of her own money – it will be endlessly dissected by pundits, pros and political scientists alike. Calbuzz covered the race for 20 months, and our archive is filled with reporting, analysis and candid commentary about what we saw as its weaknesses from the beginning. Here is a look at eMeg’s five biggest blunders:

-She never gave people a reason to be for her. At some point, some determined academic will calculate the percentage of negative to positive ads that Whitman ran. Our bet is that at least three-fourths were attacks, first on her primary opponent Steve Poizner and later on Jerry Brown.

Whitman came out swinging early last winter against Poizner, long before most Californians had any idea who Steve Poizner was. After she captured the GOP nomination in June, she almost immediately started bashing Brown. The net effect: the first thing that many people came to learn about Meg Whitman was that she was mean-spirited.

The Murphy-Stutzman-Gomez consultant brain trust programmed their meal ticket to chant jobs, budget and education, which she did. These were to be the decisive issues that would drive Whitman to victory. What they overlooked was that they were running a billionaire newcomer who could not connect by eating chili dogs and traveling in a green bus.

Whitman needed to convince voters of the most critical question that Brown’s pollster, Jim Moore, asks in surveys: Which candidate best fits this description — Has the knowledge and skill to be governor?

But beyond endlessly identifying herself as the person who ran eBay, the Whitman campaign never really introduced their candidate to voters, never gave Californians more than a mantra of political platitudes and a few quick images of her and her husband when they were younger.

Who, in the end, was she? Why hadn’t she voted for 28 years? How come she’d never been engaged in a single civic project? Why did she lie about things she had no reason to lie about – like how government interference slowed down building a new headquarters for Pay Pal, or her position on offshore oil drilling or whether one of her ads included a shot of a border fence?

Calbuzz christened her “eMeg” at the beginning of the race and, in a very real sense, she never told us more about herself than that, which may be why the name stuck, and spread into publications across the country.

-She couldn’t handle the immigration issue. One of the big unanswered questions about the campaign remains what Whitman’s handlers knew about the Diaz matter and when they knew it. Either she told them the full details of the matter and they did nothing about it, which would amount to political malpractice on their part, or she kept the story to herself, which would amount to felony stupidity on her part.

After Whitman told reporters that she had informed her top advisers about the Nicky Diaz events, Calbuzz tried to ask her consultants what they’d been told and when. That’s when her top people stopped speaking to Calbuzz at all. That was more than a month ago. There was no way to answer our question without throwing either themselves or their candidate under the bus. So they just froze us out until we said we wouldn’t ask the question any more.

One of the reasons that the Diaz issue gained such traction was that Whitman offered up a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of positions on illegal immigration. When Poizner made it the centerpiece of his primary campaign, she tacked hard right, enlisting campaign chairman Pete Wilson – the former governor known on the streets of Mexico City as hijo de puta — to cut an ad declaring she would be “tough as nails.” But as soon as the primary ended, she lurched back to the center, with an expensive effort to woo Latino voters, a baldly transparent move that came across as crass opportunism, if not utter hypocrisy.

Once the personal became enmeshed with the political on the issue, she could never untangle herself. She couldn’t help Nicky Diaz become legal because she had taken a stand against a path to citizenship – a policy endorsed by most California voters, including about nine in 10 Latinos.

And she made matters much worse at the Univision debate in Fresno when she told a young Mexican-born woman – valedictorian in her high-school class about to graduate from Fresno State – that she was taking the place at the university of a legitimate California citizen. Any non-white parent hearing that would have been appalled at her utter lack of compassion.

No wonder the LA Times reported that exit polls found Latinos voted 2-to-1 for Brown.

-She didn’t have dinner with Calbuzz. Our standing dinner invitation to eMeg, first issued on Labor Day 2009, became a running joke on our site and elsewhere. But her refusal to sit down with us in an informal setting came to symbolize something greater – a contempt for the press in general, founded on her arrogant belief that she had enough money and power to go over the heads of the media.

Whitman gave an interview to Michael Finnegan of the LA Times the day after she announced her candidacy, and she made several stumbles in it, as he pointed out. For whatever reason, she reacted to that experience not by seeking to learn from her mistakes, but by walling herself from the press forever.

Far more serious than stiffing us for dinner was her refusal throughout the campaign to grant an interview to the venerable San Francisco Chronicle, the second largest newspaper in the state; when she refused to meet with the paper’s editorial board, as every candidate for governor in memory has done, it evinced nothing more than contempt, if not abject fear.

The press corps roiled with tales of interview requests ignored or turned down and, at one point, she even refused to answer questions at a press conference she had called. The net effect was to send a message that Whitman had something to hide, that she was afraid to engage in the normal give and take between politicians and reporters, and it raised suspicions among voters.

Not that anyone in the real world cares about whether reporters have access. They don’t mind if a candidate stiffs the media, if she speaks to them, mingles with them, does something other than staged events with phony, planted questions. People care about media access only to the extent that it’s a surrogate for their access

With her retinue of consultants, pollsters and handlers, Whitman presented herself to the public as being more important and too insulated to understand people like them. It is telling that the California Nurses Association character of Queen Meg, who followed her around the state, drove eMeg crazy, because it cut too close to the truth.

Worse, according to a variety of political consultants from the left and right, Whitman’s failure to get out among the media early in the campaign, where she could make mistakes and learn from them, rendered her brittle and unstable at the end of the campaign, when she needed to be sure on her feet. Whitman’s consultants failed to help her handle the unscripted moments of the campaign — and it was in those moments that voters saw who she really is.

The ultimate example occurred at the Women’s Conference in Long Beach, where she managed to get herself booed by 14,000 women by her mishandling of an idiotic proposal from the “Today Show’s” Matt Lauer to take down her negative advertising. “Of course I will, Matt,” she could have said. “As soon as Jerry Brown Inc. takes down their attack ads on me.”  A seasoned pro could have knocked it out of the park. Just days before the election, she was still a rookie.

When it became clear in the final weeks of the campaign that she was losing, she resorted to driving around in a bus and ordering junk food at diners in a by now pathetically too late effort to “reintroduce” herself to the public.

-She ran only one memorable ad and that blew up in her face. It is astonishing that Whitman spent more than $100 million on paid television advertising and even those of us who covered the campaign would be hard pressed to recall any of them that penetrated.

The sole exception was an ad she put up after Labor Day featuring an excerpt from a 1992 presidential primary debate between Brown and Bill Clinton, in which Clinton attacks Brown on many of the same issues Whitman was trying to press.

At first it looked like a killer ad. But when Brown and his fellow Democrats quickly produced, first, a statement from Clinton and then the former president himself to back Brown and assail Whitman for misusing the comments, it backfired on her. Things went from bad to worse when the former CNN reporter whose long-ago TV story was the basis for the whole controversy came forward to say he’d made a big factual error – and Whitman still refused to take down her ad.

This was a Big Moment in the campaign because it shifted the ground precisely where Team eMeg did not want the campaign to go – away from issues and toward character. The ad was mainly about the issues, in particular Proposition 13 and taxes, and secondarily about Brown’s truthfulness. Here was an icon of the Democratic Party saying Jerry Brown could not be trusted on taxes and spending. That was the single most dangerous charge Brown faced. But the ad turned out to be an exploding cigar. When Clinton repudiated it and Whitman defended it anyway, the story shifted to “liar, liar, pants on fire.” And what Team eMeg did NOT want was a campaign about Whitman’s character.

No one should have been surprised that the LATimes/USC survey found that among likely voters Brown had her beat 2-1 when rated on the quality of “tells the truth.”

-She ran as a brand and over-saturated the market. Months ago, Brown’s campaign manager Steve Glazer predicted to us that the race would be about authenticity, with Whitman, fundamentally a marketing executive whose closest confidant, Henry Gomez, was also a marketing guy, trying to brand herself and Brown, a lifelong public official, running as the real deal.

Calbuzz recognized the danger presented by Whitman’s unlimited marketing budget when we laid out how the “standard quantum limit” could inevitably affect perceptions of voters in a political campaign – even one as big as a California governor’s race.

“Some among the cognoscenti wonder if voters will, at some point, find a chalk-on-a-blackboard cognitive dissonance created by a candidate who spends with no limits  to become  governor in order to cut spending,” we wrote back in April.

“Others suggest that as Whitman’s spending keeps growing exponentially, it will bump up against some outer limit where cash begins to have diminishing returns, or even a negative impact, as voters find repulsive her free-spending ways amid the state’s worst recession in a generation.”

Lo and behold, that’s what happened. Whitman’s advertising became so ubiquitous, so intrusive, that voters found her in their living rooms, uninvited, at all hours of the day and night. It didn’t take long before Whitman’s branding campaign ran up against another scientific principle: The T Factor.

This strong force, according to the Calbuzz Department of Weights and Measures, is based on the power of  Tivo to mute and completely skip advertisements, especially nauseating political spots; it is greater than, or equal to, a voter’s curiosity about what an ad might have to say. (This is represented by the formula T≥b*X, where b=bullshit and X=off.)

Certain political consultants will, of course, dismiss this theorem out of hand because if candidates were to believe it, they would make less money. But not only did Whitman’s advertising over-saturate the market (diminishing exponentially the stickiness of later ads) but they actually fed Brown’s narrative about her: that she was a greedy billionaire with too much money to spend and too little respect for ordinary people.

Every new ad had to overcome that revulsion before its content had a chance of being heard and processed. And in the end, voters just tuned her out.

eMeg’s Secret Diary: Muffy and Bryce Come to Dinner

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Thanks to sources close to our imagination, Calbuzz brings you some purloined excerpts from Meg Whitman’s secret campaign diary.


Dear Diary,

So Muffy and Bryce came by last night for drinks and stayed for dinner, and they were absolutely mesmerized when I told them about my plan to create jobs, fix the schools and cut government spending.

Griff insisted we play charades, so I shoved him and smacked him around a little, but I have to admit he was very amusing when his turn came. His category was “books,” and he pantomimed performing neurosurgery on Arnold. The answer, of course, was “The Governor’s Brain is Missing.” Tres drole!

As I told Muffy, it was a real relief to spend a few hours away from all that campaign dreariness, especially those loathsome reporters and those sweltering people in Barstow and Indio and Weed, all of them snorting and hocking at their own jokes about how I should put their trailers and chain saws and snow machines up for sale on eBay, ha, ha, ha.

I had  Conchita whip up a quick cote de porc rotie, which was tasty, but the crostini for the soupe aux oignons were unspeakably soggy. So I had to box her ears a little. I simply refuse to let her fail.

Oh dear, someone’s tapping at the study door. Qui est la?

Later: So that was Henry, who’d completely failed at a very simple assignment I’d given him. I’d asked him to buy us at least one TV station in each major market, so we could stop paying retail for all this advertising. Instead he came back with some dithering excuse about the FCC or something.

So here’s what I thought about that: I had to chew him out, and then I gave him a couple of good swift Ferragamos to the shins and reminded him that I forbade him to fail.

Then I pushed him out the door, and told him to get back to it before I started eyeballing his expense sheets and he ended up like that poor Mark Hurd, with barely a penny to his name. Off he went.

Before I could get back to you, diary, it was the cell phone next (bless Sarah, the little minx, for finding that “God Save the Queen” ring tone – quelle amusant!). It was Murphy calling.

Of course he wanted to come over and talk about his script again. So I had to explain once more how focus is so important. So what I thought was, I’d tell him I’d like very much for him to give the movie project a rest and instead focus on getting me over 40 points some time before 2016, if it wasn’t too  much trouble.

But he insisted it was important to see me and before I could say no, I noticed that someone had emailed a photo. When I paused to open it, he rang off before I could stop him (reminder: tell him again to keep his shirt tucked in, or else I’ll have to shove him down the stairs).

I was so pleased to see the photo was from the boys. A mother’s biased, of course, but I must say they both look quite dashing in those orange fluorescent vests.

Now what is that commotion outside my window?

Later: Murphy’s come and gone – he wanted to know if I thought we should get Dennis Franz or Ned Beatty to play him in the movie (I suggested Danny DeVito – and thank you for asking).

In the meantime, those appalling nurses showed up on the south lawn again, parading around and beating their drums and doing their chants. All so tiresome. Although the crown on the Queen Meg person does look rather fetching, but that red velvet cape with the faux ermine will never do.

So I decided I’d have Lupe fetch a big pot of boiling oil which I thought I’d  pour down on those awful women, but as soon as I’d pushed her out of the way to lean out the window, Tucker came running in, insisting I couldn’t do that because the reporters might ask questions.

So I gave him a belt in the mouth, but then decided he might be right. So I just tossed a couple of paper weights and tennis racquets and that snow globe that plays “You are the wind beneath my wings” that Mitt gave me, and a candelabra or two down on them and that sent them scurrying off.

Oh dear, it’s past time to head for the Navigator and go meet (ugh) more  voters. Such a chore, though I’m certain they’ll be pleased to hear my plan for creating jobs, improving schools and cutting government spending.

More later, diary!

(Editor’s note: Monty Python scene a random bonus non sequitur.)

Right-Wing Body Snatchers Stole Carly’s Brain

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

At the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Carly Fiorina stood before the nation to sing the praises of GOP presidential nominee John McCain for his sponsorship of a cap and trade system of regulating greenhouse gas emissions that would “both create jobs and lower the cost of energy.”

Now that she’s running for a U.S. Senate seat from California, however, Hurricane Carly is not only bashing incumbent Barbara Boxer for embracing cap and trade, but also eagerly smooching the behind of any whack job establishment Republican who can help her, and in the process  foregoing all that boring science about climate change.

These days, she’s embracing the views of great statesman like Oklahoma GOP Senator James Inhofe, America’s best known climate change denier,  who warmly endorsed iCarly around the time she decided to throw in with the anti-evolution/magical thinking/Palin wing of the Republican party.

Trying to sort this extraordinary political contradiction, we’re delighted today to present the breakthrough scientific theory of Calbuzzer and world heavyweight champion editorial cartoonist Tom Meyer, who offers one possible explanation for how Carly’s turnaround came to be.

As seen on TV: Calbuzzers interested in purchasing a full color print of a Meyer cartoon can email Tom at tom@meyertoons.

The Aviator: Nice work by the AP’s Juliet Williams and Samantha Young in digging out details of Jerry Brown’s occasional use of the Attorney General’s state plane on official business.

The fact that Krusty legitimately flew three times on the state’s Wright Brothers-era prop plane is not exactly the scandal of the century, but it got a little traction, not only because it’s simple enough for TV airheads to understand, but also because of the way Brown constantly harps about his  frugality with taxpayer-funded perqs as a way of bragging on how cheap he is, in contrast to eMeg’s lavish tastes and lifestyle.

Team Whitman characteristically over-reached in reacting to the story, huffing and puffing with phony outrage while portraying it as a modern day Teapot Dome.

Despite this, AP’s scooplet worked as a hypocrisy gotcha, not because there was a lot of money involved, but because of the fact Brown never says anything substantive at all about the state’s budget mess, preferring to bob and weave with self-righteous talk about low-budget, symbolic issues like planes and limousines and his old bachelor apartment.

And this time, the cheesy tactic came back to bite him in the ass.

From the cutting room floor:

Unlike eMeg, we ain’t dumb enough to pick a fight with the nurses union.

Great graphic evidence of what really went wrong with Obama.

Week’s best Freudian analysis of the president, in a week filled with them.

Julian Assange call home: Terrific mashup of Wikileaks TV coverage.

In case you missed it: Big Weiner meltdown.

In case you missed it II: Weiner’s excuse – hey, I’m from New York.

Reading Calbuzz in 2009 you needn’t read the Bee in 2010.