Posts Tagged ‘consultants’



Press Clips: Morain, Marinucci & a Tale of 2 Tic Tocs

Friday, March 26th, 2010

What is eMeg so afraid of? Although our friend Dan Morain has become a full-fledged, thumb-sucking (all rise) Opinion Page Columnist, the guy just can’t stop himself from doing Actual Reporting. That’s why he’s the winner of this week’s coveted Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry, for his look inside Meg Whitman’s Proust-length campaign spending report, a piece that included an angle we didn’t see anywhere else:

She also frets about security.

Whitman has paid $204,000 to John W. Endert, a former eBay security executive who has a permit to carry firearms and describes himself as experienced in corporate investigations, executive protection and threat mitigation. She categorized the $10,500 per month expenditure as a campaign worker salary.

Whitman paid $3,500 to what she called a “campaign consultant.” The recipient, Walsingham Associate Inc., says on its Web site that it specializes in detection of eavesdropping equipment.

Last year, Whitman’s campaign paid $20,383 to a company called Western Limited and called the expenditure “polling and survey research.” Western Limited describes itself as a private investigations firm that seeks to “solve your case – whether it is obtaining damaging video, locating the background records that you need, or obtaining a statement that helps you make a claims or business decision.”

All this, plus details of eMeg’s luxury private jet travel and a close look at her catering bill that was almost as hard-hitting as our own.

Why it matters what candidates say: In his infinite wisdom, Joe Mathews has taught all us geezers that it’s a waste of time to write down the actual words that politicians actually speak. Now, it turns out, once in a while, their utterances actually become newsworthy. Say it ain’t so Joe!

Joe Garofoli and Carla Marinucci, the Twin Terrors of Fifth & Mish, were the first to jump on Her Megness for a total flip flop about releasing her tax returns, which was only fitting as it was Costco Carla who raised the question, during Whitman’s breakthrough media scrum in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara at the GOP convention, that elicited the quickly broken promise to make public 25 years of tax returns.

ABC (Always Believe Calbuzz): The Get a Life Division of our Department of Obscure Campaign Intelligence was the first to throw a penalty flag at eMeg, more than two weeks ago, for her dog-ass idea of organizing legislative “teams” to implement her personal agenda for California:

As we may have mentioned once or twice, eMeg’s major downside is that she appears not to understand that politics is a give-and-take, give-some-to-get-some business, that legislators are also elected by the people, and that the Capitol is a teeming cacophony of conflicting interests, not the site of an Imperial Governorship. In the KNBC interview, she made quite clear that she sees the role of lawmakers as secondary, when she graciously said they’d be welcome to serve on her “jobs team” or her “schools team.”

“Where do I sign up?” Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is no doubt asking.

Now comes the B Minus to report that Whitman not only isn’t backing away from this ludicrous notions, she’s expanding on it, demonstrating once again her staggering lack of understanding of how Sacramento works.

Which begs the question: Since some of the people around her do understand how the legislative process works and how the Legislature and the governor interact, is she just so pig-headed, she simply ignores advice from those in the know around her? Or are her legions of purse carriers just so blinded by the huge sums of money they’re sucking out of the campaign that they’re afraid to challenge her?

Her authentically alien approach to governing — I’ll decide what should happen and everyone will join teams to make those things happen — raises another key question: Is Long Island really another planet?

Health Care Hotline: Who’s the real hero who saved health care reform?

On Sunday, the NYT, in a P1 triple signer tic toc by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse, gave the nod to Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

In a series of impassioned conversations, over the telephone and in the Oval Office, she conveyed her frustration to the president, according to four people familiar with the talks. If she and Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, were going to stick out their necks for Mr. Obama’s top legislative priority, Ms. Pelosi wanted assurances that the president would too. At the White House, aides to Mr. Obama say, he also wanted assurances; he needed to hear that the leaders could pass his far-reaching plan.

“We’re in the majority,” Ms. Pelosi told the president. “We’ll never have a better majority in your presidency in numbers than we’ve got right now. We can make this work.”

One day later, however, the Washpost’s Ceci Connolly credited President Obama for his “singular” performance in saving the day, in her own 8 zillion word narrative reconstruction:

The remarkable change in political fortunes thrust Obama into a period of uncertainty and demonstrated the ability of one person to control the balance of power in Washington. On Jan. 19, that person seemed to be(newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott) Brown.

But as the next 61 days would show, culminating in Sunday night’s historic vote, the fate of the legislation ultimately rested in the hands of Obama, who in the hours before Brown’s victory was growing increasingly frustrated as Pelosi detailed why no answer was in sight.

Intriguingly, both pieces used essentially the same anecdotal lede – the top-dog meetings at the White House in the immediate wake of Brown’s stunning victory – but reached entirely different conclusions.

Three dots are better than two: Credit LAT man Evan Halper for noting Jerry Brown’s nifty job of threading the needle on health care, paying lip service to looking into GOP demands that he join other attorneys general in a constitutional challenge to health care, while making it perfectly clear he would do no such thing…Perceptual scoop honors to Washpost whiz kid Ezra Klein for beating the pack to the story of how Republican Beltway types are now backing away from their angry promise to repeal the health care legislation…

More medical meanderings: Kudos to Dan Weintraub at Healthy Cal for a clear, detailed and useful Sunday look at exactly what was in the damn bill in advance of the big vote…HT to Hall of Fame Calbuzzer Kam Kuwata for pointing us to this excellent health care mash-up.

Just because: Andy Borowitz does it again.

Consultants Hit the Megpot; Chris Parodies Himself

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

When you’re digging through a spending report that shows how $46 million was spent – as in the case of eMeg Whitman’s blockbusting finance tome – you have to be careful not to be fooled by the formal categories in the FPPC form.

By that measure, Whitman has spent $7.3 million on political consultants, including a little more than $2 million in 2010 alone. But that’s not half the story: If you total up what various consultants – political, communication, internet, fund-raising, etc. – have sucked out of the Whitman campaign, it’s a staggering $37.7 million, including $24.7 million since the first of the year.

Now granted, some big piece of that was paid to consultants like Smart Media Group, of Alexandria, Va., to purchase radio and TV air time. But even if 85% of the $20.4 million paid to Smart Media went to buy radio and TV time, various consultants still have already bilked Whitman for at least $20 million. And that doesn’t even count campaign staff salaries of about $2.7 million.

One of the interests that hit the Megpot Calbuzz told you about back in February: Tokoni — the online networking firm founded by her former eBay supplicants Alex Kazim, Mary Lou Song and Rajiv Dutta, and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Their haul in Megabucks is now up to a staggering $3.6 million.

According to her GOP rival Steve Poizner, Meg’s $27,241,338.78 spent in 2010 breaks down to $358,438.67 per day; $14,934.94 per hour; $248.92 per minute, and $4.15 per second. Calbuzz is not sure how pointing this out helps Poizner in the Republican primary, but we’re grateful for the math.

Our Division of Green Eye Shades and #2 Pencils calculates that if you take what Whitman has spent on private aircraft ($371,000), bookkeeping ($466,000) and catering ($113,000), it’s more than Jerry Brown has spent altogether ($716,000). The most catering cash –$67,800 – appears to have gone to Christopher’s Catering for a bunch of events, but our favorite is last May’s $10,962.69 paid to Wolfgang Puck for one event.

Whitman spent $903,000 on polling and research — including $231,000 this year alone, compared to $144,000 Brown has spent since the start of the year.

Mike Murphy, the swashbuckling consultant who was barely in the last report, has now drawn about $496,000 in fees and expenses since his Bonaparte Films signed on back in November. At $90,000 a month, it won’t be long before he eclipses Henry Gomez, eMeg’s longtime sidekick, who’s pulled down about $606,000 since joining the game

Foot in Tweety Disease: As Beltway Wise Men compile lists of winners and losers in the health care reform battle,  one of the biggest “L’s” of all should be inscribed next to the name Chris Matthews.

Even for the routinely insufferable, unbearably repulsive and arrogantly logorrheic Tweety Bird host of “Hard Ball,” the retroactive spectacle of how much of a fool he made of himself on his January 22 show is breathtaking.

As David Waldman shows in a truly superb takedown at Daily Kos,  Matthews couldn’t bother to give his tiny pea brain two seconds to catch up with his endlessly flapping gums to pay attention when he was being handed a legitimate scoop.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., was Matthews’ “guest,” and kept trying to explain that within the Democratic caucus, there were serious discussions underway about having the House approve the Senate-passed health care bill without need of a conference committee, and then send back to the Senate any changes it made for a reconciliation vote, which would take only 51 votes, not a filibuster-busting 60.

This is, of course, precisely the process that the Democrats in the end decided to use. Mr. Motormouth Insider, of course, knew better:

MATTHEWS:and you know you can’t do it. You’re pandering to the netroots right now. I know what you’re doing!

GRAYSON: You are wrong! This is something we talk about with the leadership in our caucus meetings every week!…

M: When will they do this, because I want to write write this down. When are they gonna do something that has never been done before? Create a program through this reconciliation process?

G: You know, they’ve used reconciliation time and time again. You’re saying create a program, as if that’s something dramatically different from everything else the Senate does. It’s not.

M: OK, let me tell you, the purpose of reconciliation is to take measures — cutting taxes, er, raising taxes or cutting spending — to reconcile actual government spending and tax policy with previous legislation that you’ve passed. You haven’t passed a bill to create a health care plan.

G: When did you become the Senate parliamentarian? Did I miss that?

M: Well, I worked over there for many, many years, and I worked for the Speaker for six years, I worked 15 years up there…

G: Well, I’m speaking to the Speaker and the leadership this year…

M: ...and I know what I’m talking about! You ask anybody… you ask anybody in the Senate right now… Go call the Senate legislative counsel’s office and ask them if you can do this. Go ask the parliamentarians if you can do this. You haven’t bothered to do that.

G: No, the leadership…

M: [Laughs.]

Last laugh to Grayson. No word yet on when he’ll be invited back to “Hardball” so Matthews can apologize.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Hard to know who to root for in this fight.

I, Jerry: How Brown Campaign Will Be Run

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

It’s been an open secret* for weeks that Jerry Brown planned to hire longtime aide and Brown family retainer Steve Glazer to run his campaign for governor.

With the MSM now trumpeting this “news” to the skies, it seems like a good time to explain what it actually means.

Brown’s political operation quietly moved out of Jerry’s Oakland loft a couple of months ago, into about 5,000 square feet of  warehouse space about a mile and a half away. That relocation, coupled with the confirmation of Glazers’ status, means his  campaign is finally, if fitfully, under way.

Characteristically, it will not be a typical campaign operation: while Meg Whitman has hired hordes of strategic consultants, Brown will have none.

Glazer, an Orinda city council member and former mayor, organized the student vote for Brown back in 1978; was deputy campaign manager for his 1982 Senate race; press secretary and consultant for Assemblyman Gray Davis (he created Davis’s famous missing-children  milk carton campaign); did policy and press for Kathleen Brown’s 1994 general election campaign and has managed several statewide ballot measures. He’s also been a pilot fish for developers on half a dozen land-use projects.

All of which means Brown’s got a smart, experienced and trusted hand in place as his day-to-day manager — but doesn’t change the fact that Crusty and his very savvy wife, Anne Gust Brown, will function as their own general consultants.

Ads will likely be made by Joe Trippi and David Doak, two former media partners who have since gone their own ways. Trippi, whose clients have included John Edwards and Howard Dean, worked for Brown’s presidential campaigns and also did his media for the 2006 Attorney General’s race.

Doak, who did California media for the late Sen. Alan Cranston and for former Gov. Gray Davis, is essentially retired from the business, playing golf and poker, but eager to help Brown as a volunteer in collaboration with Trippi. We’ll know for sure when spending reports come out, but Calbuzz expects Trippi and Doak will get a fixed fee WAY below market rate for their media work — or no fee at all.

Sterling Clifford, who last worked as communications director for Baltimore Mayor Shiela Dixon before she was indicted on fraud charges, the Baltimore Police Department, looks to be the day-to-day press secretary. But don’t look for a communications director: Brown has always managed his own communications and it’s not likely there’ll be anyone on hand to teach old dog Crusty to bark on command.

Jerry and Richard Maullin, of the survey firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz are old friends from the Mesozoic Era so we expect him to manage polling and focus groups.  But we also hear our old friend Paul Maslin is really interested in the race and we expect Brown will also rely on polling by labor groups and others who piggy-back questions for him on their surveys.

We understand Glazer has hired an opposition researcher and there are some other paid people in the office already. But Brown is apparently going to try to prove his belief that it’s possible to run a bare bones, frugal, heavily-volunteer campaign for governor in the biggest executive-level political contest in America outside of the presidency. Good luck with that.

*In late December, Glazer was already clearly signaling he would be the campaign manager, but asked people to respect his timing in announcing it. We honored his request.

The Commish (sorta, kinda, almost) goes negative: Nice work by Team Poizner putting together a comprehensive, well-sourced, well-linked oppo memo on eMeg, e-blasted to the world on Tuesday.

In honor of the Great Woman’s book launch, Commish campaign operatives framed a three-page dossier around chapter heds of eMeg’s magnum opus, “The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and in Life (Plenty of Free Parking!).” Okay, we made that last part up.

Titled “Meg-A-Tales,” Poizner’s poison pen peppering covers mostly familiar negative ground – from the Great Woman’s sleazy treatment of Craigslist, disgraceful voting record and obscene campaign spending, to her strategic missteps at eBay, political re-invention as a conservative and cowardice in refusing to answer questions from reporters or debate her rivals – but it makes an impressive, hefty package all pulled together.

That said, there are two big problems with the hit: a) Poizner obviously isn’t prepared to put any money behind an attack that goes much beyond the 2,000 people in state politics who talk to each other, plus the rest of the plucky population of Calbuzzville and b) even if he was, there’s a good chance it would blow up in his face; at a time when he’s trailing Whitman by 30 points, two-thirds of Californians have never heard of him and over half of those who have hold a negative opinion.

So Poizner’s Greatest Hits Against eMeg ain’t exactly nothin’, but up against her millions of dollars of earnest, feel good radio ads, it’s pretty damn close.

PXP goes viral: After AP picked up* our story last week on the once-secret offshore oil drilling agreement between PXP oil company and the Environmental Defense Center, Calbuzzer and campaign media consultant Don Ringe worked up an animated political cartoon featuring a monologue by “Mr. PXP” about the deal, which you can find here.

And special Calbuzz T-Ridge props to KQED’s John Myers, who closely questioned Schwarzmuscle about the issue at the governor’s Monday appearance at the Sacto Press Club and offers a smart take on the exchange on his blog at Capital Notes.

Two points worth noting here: a) As Myers reports, it’s interesting to see how breezily Arnold is in abandoning the notion of “principles” when the going gets tough; b) the governor clearly formulates the deal on T-Ridge as a “budget-driven” decision, not an energy vs. environment balancing act.

That is precisely the point that most concerns many environmental opponents of the deal: that California’s landmark environmental protections should be conditioned on the ebb and flow of the budget. In other words, any time Sacramento is in the red, just suspend the Coastal Sanctuary Act or AB 32 or local development guidelines and generate some fresh cash. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

The environmentalists who support the deal, like the EDC, do not agree with this fiscal argument of Arnold’s for the deal: to them T-Ridge has always been a pathway to end some offshore oil drilling permanently, essentially by horsetrading a lease to slant drill in state waters for a promise to decommission four  operations in federal waters.

But: Lay down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

*AP not only picked up but also properly credited the story. Having played the MSM exclusivity rip-off game for many years, your Calbuzzers these days are as scrupulous as possible about crediting and linking to other media sources, new and old alike, and we appreciate the same in return. As for those who jack our stuff, Dr. Hackenflack knows who you are and where you live.

What happens in Mass. stays in Mass: In our piece on the seismic Senate election in Massachusetts, we noted the absence of any election day exit polls that might have provided a data foundation for any of the scenarios spun about Republican Scott Brown’s surprise victory.

Now comes the Washpost, which conducted a survey in the immediate aftermath of the election, in partnership with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard’s School of Public Health.

In their piece on the poll, postmen Dan Balz and Jon Cohen noted that Brown, significantly, won two-thirds of the 63 percent of special-election voters who said the country is on the wrong track:

Dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal-government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals drove the upset election of Republican senatorial candidate Scott Brown…

HT to Bill Carrick for the heads up.

Three Key Questions About the Governor’s Race

Monday, December 7th, 2009

reepcollageSix months before California voters select the major party candidates for governor, the basic shape of the race has become clear, with Jerry Brown having cleared the field of Democratic rivals and Meg Whitman’s early spending establishing her as the Republican favorite.

jerryheadshotIn both the Field Poll and the LA Times/USC survey, eMeg leads among the Republicans from 2-8 points over Tom Campbell, with Steve Poizner in third, a single digit presence in the race.

Within that framework, Calbuzz sees three key questions, the answers to which will largely determine if the fundamental dynamics change significantly between now and June 7:

1. Will Steve Poizner spend serious money in the next 60 days to establish himself as a legitimate rival to Whitman?
2. Will Jerry Brown begin to assemble a serious and professional 21st Century campaign team or will he continue to drift along like a leaf in a Lao Tzu parable?
3. How will change be defined in 2010? Who will claim the mantle of change and who will be saddled with the status quo?

Let’s break it down:

Poizner: Threat or Menace? As we noted last week eMeg’s willingness to toss big money on the table a year before the primary voting has started to  create a perception that she is the presumptive Republican nominee. Latest example: although it’s still way early, the Democratic Governor’s Association last week identified Whitman as one of its five top GOP targets for 2010 and has committed at least $1 million to defeating her.

While we have great admiration for Tom Campbell’s intelligence and commitment to public service, at this point, we still don’t see a way for him to pull together the resources needed to make a serious run at mega-bucks Meg. That leaves Poizner, whose personal fortune provides him the table stakes needed in this rich-blood race, potentially positioned to emerge as a conservative foil to Whitman.

tort-hare

Team Poizner eblasted a memo last week trying to calm supporters fretting that The Commish has already waited too long to get into the game; on one level, Camp Steve’s people are right, of course, that the calendar shows it’s still very early and there’s plenty of time to make up last ground. At the same time, however, Whitman’s demonstrated willingness to spend Whatever It Takes means it’ll cost major bucks just to get even with the name ID she’s already bought, let alone cruise by her by sharpening contrasts in ways that convince conservative GOP primary voters.

In other words, by waiting…and waiting…to throw at least a couple million into the pot, Poizner runs the risk of falling out of striking distance and never being able to catch up.

muhammad-ali-listonAn important corollary of this question: Does eMeg have a glass jaw? Whitman so far has seemed terrified to show up for tough duty –- making herself accessible to California reporters and engaging her rivals in face-to-face debates — so she remains an unproven commodity in being able to handle the (HT to Jack Kavanagh) rough and tumble of a campaign.

She’s headed back to Delaware this week to testify in a major lawsuit involving her tenure at eBay and it also remains to be seen whether her record as a business executive comes back to bite her the way former airlines executive Al Checchi’s did in 1998.

What’s next for Jerry? Campaign potholders, distributed door to door?   Bumper strips reading “This time he’ll get it right?” How about campaign photos posing with Linda Ronstadt next to the ’74 Plymouth?

Brown so far seems content to settle for ’80s-era campaign strategy and tactics, and determined to try to  ad lib and improvise this way back to the Horseshoe. He’s expressed contempt for political consultants and he’s a notorious tightwad.

As we’ve argued, however, it’s well past time for him to hire a cadre of political professionals to manage and focus his scattershot un-campaign for governor. True, he’s been successful to date in quietly raising several million while keeping a low profile; his big haul down in Bel-Air at the $32-million home of Sandy Gallin, former agent for the likes of Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson, in particular was “a huge success and a great launch for his effort down here,” as noted by organizer Andy Spahn, Steven Spielberg’s former political ramrod.

Still, even if Brown raises $20 million before the primary, that will barely match what Whitman as spent already. He simply can’t compete with her for money, so he needs to beat her on message and tight campaign organization, or she could bury him in paid media.

linda&jerryBrown has considerable strength among voters 50 and over and among minorities, especially Latinos, as the guy who put Cruz Reynoso on the Supreme Court and Mario Obledo in his cabinet, who marched with Caesar Chavez, signed the Agricultural Relations Act and dated the aforementioned Ms. Ronstadt all the way to South Africa.

While it would be short-sighted to underestimate Brown’s non-monetary assets, the widespread anger of voters towards elected officials, coupled with the, um, complexities of his own political record, create a treacherous landscape which will require strategic thinking and planning that goes well beyond his abiding belief in his own ability to wing it.

Who represents change? The numbers speak for themselves: More than two-thirds of voters think California is on the wrong track, the same number who think the governor is doing a lousy job, while the number of those who like the Legislature hovers barely above 10 percent.

Clearly people are disgusted with government and want change. But what kind of change, and who best represents it?

Wterminatorhitman is already banging Brown as a washed-up hack and vivid symbol of what’s wrong with the Sacramento political class. But will voters see her as what’s needed – a moderate Republican outsider from the private sector promising to reform the Capitol – after seven years of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failed star turn in the same movie?

While it may be hard to portray iconclast Brown as behind the curve, how exactly does his ceaseless seeking of office — eight years as governor, former Secretary of State, Attorney General, Oakland Mayor, Democratic Party Chairman, three-time candidate for president and US Senate wannabe –- make the case that he’s just the guy to shake things up?

Poizner and Campbell have both put forward detailed and specific plans for addressing the state’s budget woes; putting aside the fiscal arguments on the merits, neither has come close to making a convincing political case that they’ll be able to implement their ideas.

Amid the chronic deficits, unshakeable political gridlock and the voter’s utter cynicism, nobody yet has offered a game-changing political and policy  formulation for leading California out of its historic decline. And that’s the biggest unanswered question of all.