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Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Weekly’



Richie Ross Talks to Dead People; Garry’s Oops

Friday, December 24th, 2010

As an engaging and entertaining literary form, political memoirs typically run the gamut from A to B. Witness recently published, self-serving snoozers from alleged authors such as George Bush, Sarah Palin and Meg Whitman.

In contrast to these banal and bromidic tomes, California political consultant Richie Ross has just penned “My Letters to Dead People,” a lively little volume which is one-part personal history and one-part professional perspective about some of the biggest personalities and events of the last four decades in state politics.

As befits an operative who not only once ran a guy for governor by chronicling his weight loss online, but who also organized a campaign for county supervisor by having the candidate rebuild an old lady’s house, Ross’s book is an original.

Quirky and eclectic, it’s a kind of kaledioscopic, quick-cut narrative framed as a series of wish-I’d-had-a-chance-to-tell-you messages to three-dozen members of the deceased community.

His  recollections and reflections are addressed to the politically famous and  influential (Cesar Chavez, Phil Burton and Jess Unruh); the infamous and the victimized (Michael Prokes, the tormented onetime spokesman for the Rev. Jim Jones and Chandra Levy, the  murdered intern of former Rep. Gary Condit, a longtime client); the unpretentious and unnoted (his own parents and the unborn baby of a farm worker whose miscarriage motivated him to push for agriculture laws banning toxins in the fields).

It’s written in a crisp style, packed with anecdotes and private remembrances recounted by a veteran backroom player. The letters are chatty conversational essays which on one level trace Ross’s personal evolution from idealistic Catholic seminarian (“I never remembered wanting to be anything but a priest”) to hard-ass sardonic insider (“Ross, your job is to spend all the fucking money you can get your hands on to keep me as speaker,” he recalls Willie Brown telling him, in the note addressed to Unruh).

Beyond this, however, it also provides a full-tilt, historic tour of California’s ever-changing political landscape: “The other day I had dinner with Jerry Brown – he’s running for governor again,” Ross informs the ghost of his ex-boss Leo McCarthy, another former Speaker. “I gotta tell you his crazy ideas are better than the no-ideas government we’ve had.”

Ross enjoys a well-earned reputation as a brash, cynical and ruthless political warrior, and it’s on full display, as in his farewell message to the erstwhile Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, whose cops routinely arrested and beat on him and his union colleagues sent to that city in the early 1970s to work on UFW boycotts and protests.

Dear asshole,
You’re dead. I’m not. You were such a fucking creep when you were police chief I can’t believe that decent people would elect you mayor…you fucking fuck.

But he also employs a surprisingly poignant and emotional voice that shows the flip side of the ferocity with which he plays hardball. In his letter to the slain Harvey Milk, for example, Ross expresses regret for the take-no-prisoners approach he took in managing Art Agnos’s winning bid for the Assembly in the famous “Harvey Milk vs. The Machine” campaign in 1976.

At the time it was all about survival for me, a roof over my wife and kids’ head. But for you, it was about something much bigger. Looking back, I know that now…

I feel bad today about running around the city at night, tearing down your campaign signs. At the time it was fun. Me and another guy would spot one of your signs on a telephone pole, pull over, he’d squat down, I’d climb on his shoulders, he’d stand up, and tear down your sign. What the fuck, Harvey.  Didn’t your guys ever figure out that they needed to put them up another two or three feet and you’d have won the sign war?

But it was like were being the bullies. And I hate bullies.

The basic premise of the book, Ross told us, “is an attempt at capturing our era and also exposing folks to the power of writing letters (to dead people) themselves.” As part of the roll-out, those who write such letters can post them on the website for the book.

Full disclosure: Richie is a longtime friend of, and occasional contributor to, Calbuzz. All that aside, for political junkies, his book is a truly interesting and funny good read.

It’s available at Amazon, and he’ll also be signing copies at Sacramento’s Chicory Coffee Shop at 3 p.m. on Monday, January 3 (inauguration day) with proceeds going to the United Farm Workers. Calbuzz says check it out.

Garry Owns His Error (Not Really): When we saw the headline on his commentary at Capitol Weekly – “OK, I was wrong about the elections” – we thought our friend, Democratic consultant Garry South, was going to explain how wrong he’d been throughout the election season to constantly suggest (without ever saying so exactly in public) that Meg Whitman was going to kick Jerry Brown’s ass because Krusty was running an underfunded, understaffed, lackadaisical, meandering, arrogant and amateurish campaign.

But in his tongue-and-cheek article, Garry merely argues that California has become too Democratic for a Republican to win statewide and he “apologizes” to the GOP for suggesting they field a diversity ticket (which they did to no avail). It’s the same argument Whitman Field Marshals Mike Murphy and Rob Stutzman have been peddling, as if to say nothing they could have done would have made any difference because California is too blue.

We don’t buy it. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrated that if they appeal to the middle-of-the-road California voters Republicans can indeed get elected statewide at the top of the ticket. eMeg and Sister Carly the Fiorina didn’t do that on a host of strategically crucial issues, especially immigration and the environment, which matter mightily to Latinos and independents.

Meanwhile Brown — by intelligence or necessity, take your pick — ran the right campaign, with the right messages on the money he had (with more than a little help from labor over the summer) and with the timely appearance of Nicky Diaz, eMeg’s housekeeper.

By arguing that the election was only a matter of political geography, South, Murphy and Stutzman let the Armies of eMeg and Hurricane Carly (and themselves) off the hook too easily.

BTW: When lots of others were predicting that Barbara Boxer would lose to Fiorina, Garry wrote a piece for Politico more than two months before the election, telling why he believed Babs would win. And she did.

CapWeek Kudos; Whores v Klutzes; Lou’s Illegals

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Capitol Weekly preserves integrity: HT  to Anthony York of Capitol Weekly for taking a pass on a survey, done by Orange County Republican pollster Adam Probolsky, that York had intended to release through his respected web site. Turns out the Democratic pollster he had paired with Probolsky – Ben Tulchin of San Francisco, — had significant methodological problems with Probolsky’s survey and York didn’t want to risk his site’s good name with a bad poll.

While just about every pollster in the known universe has recently found the race with Jerry Brown up 5 or more points over Meg Whitman, Probolsky turned in a survey with a virtual dead heat: Brown 41% and Whitman 39%. The survey was taken Sept. 30-Oct 4 among 752 registered voters.

“We wanted a bipartisan poll but we didn’t have bipartisan sign-off,” said York. “This is Adam’s poll. They (Tulchin and Probolsky) couldn’t agree, so we didn’t want to put it out.”

Said Tulchin: “The results that Adam found were based on a sample that I felt was too conservative and too Caucasian and did not accurately represent a statewide sample.   As a result, I could not endorse the poll, so Adam decided to release it on his own.”

What particularly bothered Tulchin was not Probolsky’s projection of a 54.7% turnout, which Ben thought was “a bit conservative but not beyond the realm of possibility.” Rather, the survey under-represents Latinos and blacks, with just  12.8% Latino voters and 2.9% black, instead of 14-15% Latinos and at least 4% blacks, as expected.

“These are critical demographic groups,” Tulchin said.  “To undercount them in a survey has a direct impact on the poll results for the governor’s race.” Probolsky’s poll, he added, with a more conservative and Caucasian turnout model, resembled a Whitman campaign poll “that showed Brown with a slight lead and Gloria Allred with a 92% name ID, which is not very credible.”

As if to prove the point, guess who sent around the Probolsky poll to reporters on Thursday? And thank you for that, Ms. Pompei.

PS: In earlier versions of this post we had a picture of the wrong Anthony York up. Sorry for our stupid misgoogletake.

Gandalf vs. Technology, Round 32: Confronted with the complex and sophisticated 21st century challenge of hanging up the phone, Jerry Brown has failed miserably, the estimable Seema Mehta is reporting Thursday night, thus  setting off another kerfuffle in the governor’s race.

The 72-year old — and-getting-older-by-the-minute — Democratic nominee appears to have left a voicemail message at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Protective League last month, expressing frustration that the cop group planned to endorse eMeg after Krusty refused to exempt law enforcement from his call for reforming public employee pension plans — this after Ms. I’ll-tackle-the-status-quo agreed to enable the police union’s rules-are-different-for-us demands.

Whereupon Brown, the chief law enforcement official of the most populous state in the union, proved unequal to the task of HANGING UP THE TELEPHONE, thereby managing to leave on the cop union’s voice recorder the full, unadulterated contents of an ensuing, full and frank discussion of the political implications of the matter, during which one of Jerry Kid’s referred to eMeg as a “whore.”

No doubt, they meant it in the nicest possible way.

At press time, Team Brown’s Steve Glazer was apologizing profusely to Herself and the usual “anyone who may have been offended” suspects, while the volcanic Sarah Pompei  of Team Whitman was declaring the sexist slur “unforgivable and despicable.” Film at 11.

Next up: Jerry tries to navigate indoor plumbing.

Must read of the week: No word yet if the Legions of eMeg Communications Corps has turned to the task of e-blast, multiple platform dissemination of the cover story in the upcoming issue of The Nation, but if they haven’t, they really should.

In one of the toughest investigative takedowns in memory of a public figure who really had it coming, Isabel Macdonald rips the phony mask of self-righteousness from the immigrant-bashing Lou Dobbs, late of CNN, and in the process makes Our Meg look like a total piker in the employer of undocumented workers category.

Dobbs, who made himself rich and famous by blathering race-baiting demagoguery on cable TV, for quite some time has been living large in two huge and luxurious estates which support the major jones that his 22-year old daughter has for champion show jumper horses.

Turns out his truly sweet set-up is sustained by the labor of illegal immigrants, whom he never tired of bashing on his now-canceled program of self-described “fearless reporting and commentary.” In a piece aptly, if not subtly, titled “Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite,” Macdonald writes:

But with his relentless diatribes against “illegals” and their employers, Dobbs is casting stones from a house—make that an estate—of glass. Based on a yearlong investigation, including interviews with five immigrants who worked without papers on his properties, The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute have found that Dobbs has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper…

Since he left CNN last November, after Latino groups mounted a protest campaign against his inflammatory rhetoric, Dobbs has continued to advocate an enforcement-first approach to immigration, emphasizing, as he did in a March 2010 interview on Univision, that “the illegal employer is the central issue in this entire mess!”

Schadenfreude – sometimes it’s better than sex.

Update: Dobbs vs. Macdonald on MSNBC.

Testing 1, 2, 3: Nate Silver, the NYT’s boy genius of political polling and  statistical computational matters, has reset the betting line in his 538 blog and now makes Jerry Brown a 3-to-1 favorite to win the California governorship.

Written (or, far more likely, edited) into the most genteel Timespeak,  Silver’s item on the race notes that Krusty has become a 75 percent favorite after the column pegged him as the underdog just two weeks ago, and credits Nicky-gate as the reason for the switch:

Still, the allegations are obviously not helpful to Ms. Whitman, whose campaign has reacted with a certain lack of dexterity — with Ms. Whitman, for instance, having volunteered to take a polygraph test to rebut them. Such distractions may be relatively more difficult for a candidate like Ms. Whitman, who is running her first campaign for office, and who is used to writing her own script as the former chief executive of eBay.

Amid all the recent fuss about I-9′s and mileage payments for maids, we’d almost forgotten about last week’s quickly-retracted promise by eMeg to take a lie detector test to back up her story, but we’re glad Nate raised it since it resurfaced one of  our all-time favorite political quotes (h/t Bill Carrick).

Fritz Hollings, the ex-governor and former long-serving Senator from South Carolina, was once challenged by a soon-to-be-vanquished campaign rival to take a drug test. To which the famously blunt-spoken Hollings instantly replied: “I’ll take a drug test if you take an IQ test.”

Corporations are people too: Mega-kudos to Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times for digging out a truly outrageous $30 million sweetheart tax break deal in the Legislature’s compromise budget plan, a reeking piece of rancid fish festering deep inside the secretly negotiated spending plan for the financial benefit of one, and only one, rich and politically influential family.

The provision, which will allow the Humboldt Redwood Co. to deduct $20 million in old losses from future taxes, is also expected to cover penalties and interest for the firm co-owned by three sons of Donald G. Fisher, founder of the Gap and Banana Republic, said company Chairman Sandy Dean.

The tax break was inserted into the draft state spending plan during closed-door negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders, said people close to the talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the deal-making.

While Krusty is working overtime to make the world safe for children’s bouncy houses and eMeg is trembling with fury about a few poor people who may have dared to leave the state while on welfare, we’re still waiting for the howls of outrage from either one of them over this single interest rip-off for one of California’s best-connected families.

Breaking: Dolan busts them on another one.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: On the list of Citizen Kane-wannabes who thought it would be fun to own a newspaper, there is tremendous competition for the title of biggest chucklehead, but it’s tough to top the utter idiocy of Chicago greedhead Sam Zell, who’s still in the process of ruining a whole batch of them, as David Carr reports in painful detail.

Team eMeg Brags on Poll; John Laird Strikes on Oil

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s top campaign strategists convened a conference call with California political writers Tuesday to claim they were on the cusp of victory in the race for the Republican nomination for governor.

Beating their chests over a new internal poll* they said shows eMeg skunking Steve Poizner by 26 points, campaign advisers Mike Murphy and Jeff Randle not only boasted of having “an integrated campaign” machine bristling with more weapons than the Empire’s Death Star but also bragged that their latest TV ads brilliantly succeeded, if they do say so themselves, in effectively vanquishing their GOP rival.

“This is quite a comeback for Meg Whitman,” Murphy said. “There’s no doubt the race is now breaking very strongly in Meg’s favor.”

Mike Murphy

Jeff and I said on the last call we did like this with you all that we would – that voters were confused – by the misleading and in many areas highly inaccurate Poizner/Democratic attack campaign and we would endeavor in the Meg Whitman campaign to unconfuse them.

And so we took a lot of action: Meg is working hard on the stump, some new television ads, some new radio ads. All of which we put into effect about two weeks ago and I’m very happy to say those ads have had an extremely positive effect. Voters are becoming unconfused…

While their triumphalist tone was slightly modulated by some CYA boilerplate – “There is no complacency in the campaign” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) – it seemed pretty clear that Murphy and Randle genuinely believed that what they were saying is true. Which led us to wonder about one nagging question:

Why are they telling us this now?

Think about it: If you’re pitching a no-hitter, ahead by 12 runs with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth, do you suddenly step off the rubber and scream – “I’m really, really winning by a lot now! – to the fans in the stands?

We’re just sayin’.

In seeking an explanation, Calbuzz turned to our Staff Psychiatrist, Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, who posited five possible reasons for Team Whitman’s behavior (solution below):

a) Murphy is like that guy who takes a little blue pill, then calls up his friends and starts yelling,  “Dude – it’s been FOUR HOURS, man!”

b) Henry Gomez ordered them to do it after Meg complained that all the horse people at the Woodside Starbucks were saying she hadn’t got her money’s worth for her $68 million.

c) Meg demanded that her handlers go out and explain to those ruffian reporters that the 60-second ad she had personally written had magically turned the whole thing around.

d) Murphy’s jammed up for cash, and is hoping he’ll get his $500K win bonus a little early.

e) The Whitman campaign badly wants to discourage and depress Poizner, so that he doesn’t complicate their lives in the next two weeks by going to the wallet for another $5-10 million.

Calbuzz sez: a) and e).

*McLaughlin & Associates, paid by the Whitman campaign, says the race is 53-27% after surveying 600 likely GOP primary voters May 23-24, margin of error +/- 4%.

Sam Blakeslee

Laird Draws First Blood on Blakeslee in Maldo’s Old District

If you go to Republican Sam Blakeslee’s campaign web page for the special election in what was Abel Maldonado’s SD15 you’ll find out he’s committed to schools, reforming the state budget, strengthening the economy, energy efficiency, public safety and ethics. What you won’t find is that the Assemblyman from San Luis Obispo was the No. 1 water carrier for the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling proposal.

But his Democratic opponent, John Laird of Santa Cruz, today launches a TV campaign to remind voters in the district that “even as the oil slick harms the Gulf Coast, politicians like former Exxon executive and current State Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee are still saying, ‘Drill baby, drill.’”

John Laird

Which has the effect of raising  two things Blakeslee is apparently not too keen on mentioning: 1) his background as an Exxon executive who fought for PXP’s proposal to  expand offshore oil drilling in Santa Barbara and 2) that he actually is an Assemblyman (his ballot designation will be “independent business owner”).

Blakeslee’s web site does say that after getting his PhD from UC Santa Barbara in geophysics, he “worked as a research scientist at Exxon’s research lab in Texas, where he received a patent for inventing an innovative technique for imaging geological formations. Later, he moved into management and became a strategic planner where he was responsible for creating and managing Exxon budgets.”

It doesn’t mention that he actually joined Exxon’s Production Research in the Borehole Geophysics Group. Maybe that sounds a little too much like an oil driller. (We can just see the tag line, inspired by Dianne Feinstein’s ad against Michael Huffington in 1994: “A San Luis oilman central Californians just can’t trust.”)

If you are one of those Calbuzzers who follows legislative intrigue, you may recall that we noted in September 2009 that “fingers were pointed at Blakeslee last month when Capitol Weekly disclosed that the Assembly vote on the PXP measure had been expunged from the record.” He denied it, but everyone in Sacramento was pretty sure he was the guy – as minority leader — who had the slate wiped.

Laird’s ad buy – about $350,000 in Salinas, Santa Barbara and on cable in San Jose – is likely enough to inject offshore oil drilling into the contest. Armed with a new FM3 survey showing the race a dead heat – each candidate with about a third of the vote – Laird is banking on a finding that 56% of likely special election voters are opposed to allowing more offshore oil drilling.

Blakeslee has his own ad up – a nice positive in which he pledges to “fight to stop the waste and turn California around.” Not one mean word about what a liberal, special-interest, job-killing tree-hugger Laird is. So there’s no question: Laird is firing the first shot here.

It’s his sad good fortune that offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has raised to an extraordinary level an issue on which he actually has fought most of his political career. As he says in his ad:

Enough is enough. I’m John Laird. Protecting California’s coastline is crucial to our economy and our way of life. That’s why I’ve always stood up to the oil companies and worked to prevent more drilling off our coasts. Because the risks to California’s future are just too great.

That’s powerful stuff.

Calbuzz in the News on the Central Coast

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

After Calbuzz was named in the top 50 most influential forces in Sacramento by Capitol Weekly, KSBW-TV stopped by on Sunday to pick our brain — or what little of it there is to pick — about the state of politics in California. You can watch it here.

New Polls: Poizner Inching Up, Tom Beating Carly

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

It’s not much to bank on, but Steve “The Commish” Poizner appears to have knocked eMeg Whitman down below 50% of the vote in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, according to a new public poll.

Following surveys in March from the Field Poll and the Public Policy Institute of California, both of which showed Whitman with better than 60% of the vote, a public poll by Capitol Weekly – this time with Republican and Democratic pollsters collaborating – finds eMeg leading The Commish 47-to-19%.

In addition, the Capitol Weekly survey found Tom Campbell solidly leading the GOP race for U.S. Senate, with 31% of the vote, ahead of Hurricane Carly Fiorina at 17% and Chuck DeVore, R-Stonehenge, at 14%, by far the strongest showing to date by the Orange County legislator.

“The good news for Jerry (Brown) is that Meg’s going to have to sweat this out,” said Ben Tulchin, the Democratic consultant on the poll. “In the Senate race. Fiorina is going to have to start bashing Campbell – she’s running out of time.”

There’s also a Rasmussen Poll – which Calbuzz dislikes because they do robo-calling and don’t disclose their methods – that shows Democrat Crusty the General Brown running ahead of eMeg in a November contest. More intriguing was Rasmussen’s finding that seven in 10 voters like Brown’s idea for three-way pre-primary debates with Whitman and Poizner.

Now, those numbers in the GOP governor’s race might not be much to brag on. But that didn’t stop Team Poizner Communications Director Jarrod Agen:

“Meg Whitman’s candidacy was always like one of those French soufflés one of her private chefs would cook up on her private jet — full of expensive air and destined to deflate.  All of Meg’s Goldman Sachs riches can’t convince California Republicans that we need a Barbara Boxer supporter as our nominee.  The numbers are moving as we expected, which means in this year’s general election Republicans will finally get a chance to vote for a Republican for Governor.”

The Whitman people – claiming that their internal polling has the race 55-24% for eMeg — smell desperation wafting out of the Poizner camp.

“In February, Steve Poizner had a favorable rating of only 15% and an unfavorable rating of 10%. Now, Steve Poizner’s favorable to unfavorable rating is 26% to 30%. For every one Republican voter that became positive to Steve Poizner two Republicans became negative,” wrote Whitman pollster John McLaughlin in a survey analysis.

“The fact of the matter is that Republican primary voters personally like Meg Whitman and when they get to know Poizner, they just dislike him. For that reason alone winning the Republican primary for Steve Poizner is hopeless and pointless,” McLaughlin said.

Conservative pollster Adam Probolsky surveyed 751  registered voters with a past history of voting April 10-13. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.7%. Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin of San Francisco consulted on the survey, ensuring a partisan balance.

While the survey – based on a projected June primary electorate — did not include November match-ups, the pollsters did ask this question:

“Thinking about the economy and jobs, which candidate for Governor do you think would do the best job?”  Interestingly, Brown – a career politician — pulled 32.5%, compared to 30.5% for Whitman and 9.2% for Poizner – both of them Silicon Valley business veterans.

Predictably, 53% of the Democrats gave Brown the edge on the economy and jobs, compared to 14% for Whitman and 4% for Poizner. Among Republicans it was 54% for Whitman, 18% of Poizner and 7% for Brown.

But among independents and others it was 29% for Brown, 25% for Whitman and 6% for Poizner suggesting that — for whatever reason — when party is not a factor, voters appear to trust Brown more than the two business executives on the economy and jobs. At least for now.

Said Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford, with a touch of glee:  “There’s only one candidate in the race who’s actually guided the state through a recessionary period and who, in eight years, helped create 1.9 million jobs.”