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Posts Tagged ‘Darrell Issa’



Berkeley Gov Panel Outrage; Brown’s Bitter Medicine

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

The Calbuzz State, National, International, Global and Intergalactic Desks will be attending the quadrennial governor’s race post-mortem sponsored by the august Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley Jan. 21-22. We’ve already noted our disappointment and disgust that no one from eMeg Whitman’s loser campaign has accepted an invitation to attend what has always been an informative conference.

Now we are incredulous that the head of the program, Ethan Rarick, chose not to invite either the chief strategist or the campaign manager for Gavin Newsom’s bid for governor to the upcoming conference. Nor has he included on the panels anyone from the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News or the Associated Press. Not to mention Calitics or Flash Report or any other on-line media outlet.

Rarick insists he did what IGS has always done – allowed the campaigns to pick their spokespeople. But in a Nov. 18 email to strategist Garry South – who was the key player in the Newsom campaign for governor for 15 months – he said, “After some consideration, I decided not to put you on the panel representing Newsom since you went on to run a competing campaign against Newsom, and therefore I think you cannot really represent the Newsom viewpoint.”

Which is bullshit, since Newsom dropped out of the governor’s race in October, South joined Janice Hahn’s campaign for lite gov in December, and Newsom didn’t jump into the LG’s race until mid-March. Nor does it explain why he didn’t invite Nick Clemons, the Newsom campaign’s day-to-day manager and former executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party who ran five successful state campaigns for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Rarick said he spoke to Newsom “through an intermediary” who said the former SF Mayor wanted Peter Ragone, who was an unpaid communications adviser to the campaign, to represent him. We have nothing against Peter. He’s a friend. But he wasn’t in the daily nitty-gritty of the campaign and we suspect can’t really add much to the historical record – which is what the IGS post-mortem is supposed to be all about. (See Rarick, E, “California Votes.”)

Rarick also chose four journalists to moderate panels – three from the By God (“maybe they’ll subsidize us”) Los Angeles Times,  two of whom (both from the Times) didn’t actually, you know, cover the campaign, leaving out of the mix people like Carla Marinucci, Joe Garafoli, Jack Chang, Juliet Williams, Judy Lin, Ken McLaughlin, Steve Harmon and others who labored day-in and day-out to keep California informed.

When we told Rarick that some reporters who busted their asses covering the campaign were insulted that they’d been stepped over, Rarick told us, “If they’re offended or insulted I’m sorry, but I’m not terribly concerned if they feel insulted.”

Interestingly, after we got off the phone with Rarick, we got a call from our old friend Darius Anderson of Platinum Advisors of Sacramento and Chairman of the IGS National Advisory Council – the program’s chief fundraiser.

He wondered why we’d been beating up on poor Ethan on the phone. We explained why, in a perhaps intemperate voice in which the words “craven” and “boot-licking” may have been uttered.

But when we asked Darius why Rarick had said he’d been the one who decided not to invite South or why Clemons hadn’t been asked to participate, Anderson asked: “Do you think it would be smart to piss off a member of the Board of Regents?”

Ah, ha. So when Rarick wrote in his book on the 2006 post-mortem that “the conference proceedings serve as the principal historical record of California gubernatorial campaigns,” he forgot to add, “unless they piss off a Regent, in which case we redact them.”

Take that, California! Tom Meyer’s instantly iconic image of the supersized suppository Jerry Brown believes will cure what ails state finances provides a clear and unflinching look at the challenge the new/old governor faces in ramming his fiscal fix through the body politic.

The half-cuts, half taxes prescription that Dr. Silver Fox is offering is already drawing shrieks of terror, both from goofballs on the left and nitwits on the right, not to mention newly-minted solons whose goo-goo concerns about the realignment of state and local government responsibilities apparently keep them awake nights, or OCD-crazed process junkies who insist nothing in the Capitol can be done in ONLY SIX WEEKS!

Amid all the predictable grievance-peddling, umbrage-taking and bumper strip sloganeering that has greeted Brown’s presentation of the first honest budget in memory, none rankles more than the cuckoo caucus’s insistence that California voters do not deserve the right to decide for themselves whether or not to raise their own taxes.

Thus, a surly collection of Howard Jarvis fetishists, union bashers and gold standard crackpots summoned the press this week to hurl mighty oaths and cheap threats at any Republican lawmaker who might dare think about casting a procedural vote to put Brown’s plan on the ballot:

“From the perspective of taxpayers, any official who supports placing a tax increase on the ballot is expressly supporting that tax increase,” said their statement.

With all due respect to the ringleaders of this ragtag outfit, our friends Jon Fleischman and Jon Coupal, who elected you guys to anything? (Come to think of it, Fleischman was elected as the state GOP’s Chief Deputy Undercommisar for Enforcement of Non-Deviationist Thinking, but that doesn’t really go to our point).

Do you honestly believe that people aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves what’s in their best interest? Or is it just that you live in mortal fear of what they might say? Hmmm?

Press Clip:  Moments after Calbuzz finally received in the mail the handsome fake gold tie clasps commemorating our capture of Second Place in the 2010 Best Correction sweepstakes, word reached here that our chances of repeating in 2011 already are at huge risk.

Seems that self-styled media critic Howard Kurtz, who’s trying to reinvent himself as a cool new media guy after spending a couple centuries at the WashPost, has not only committed a boner for the ages, but also covered it up for six weeks, then promptly tried to pin the blame on someone else.

As first reported at Gawker, Howie the Putz last November churned out a beastly post about California Rep. Darrell Issa, the GOP’s Torquemada, and his plans to re-institute the Inquisition on Capitol Hill. The piece was based on a rather long telephone interview with Issa.

Except it wasn’t.

Turns out that during his no doubt probing interview, Howie was actually talking to, um,  Issa’s flak. A small factoid that Kurtz chose not to share with his readers for over a month, before he assured them it wasn’t his fault anyway. Exactly the kind of top-drawer ethical journalism that we’ve come to expect from this fraud.

Jason Linkins at Huffpo has the best take.

Block that Dick: Now that Obama’s enjoying a little uptick in the polls, we’re betting the White House staff redoubles their efforts to keep him off the phone for any locker room calls he’s inclined to make during this weekend’s NFL divisional round.

Obama stepped in it a few weeks back, when he rang up the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to congratulate him for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance, after Vick’s imprisonment for canine serial killing, a bonehead move that earned the president the wrath of pooch lovers across the political spectrum.

Tevi Troy now provides full context for the misstep, in a lovely little piece recounting the many problems presidents have had with football through the ages:

Even back in the 1920s, when gridiron great Red Grange visited the White House, the laconic Calvin Coolidge bizarrely said “Nice to meet you, young man. I’ve always enjoyed animal acts.” But Coolidge’s comment was relatively harmless to his presidency. Other presidents have made enough mistakes on football to populate an entire blooper bowl, particularly Richard Nixon.

Nixon’s poor judgment in sending failed football plays to Washington Redskins coach George Allen prompted the columnist Art Buchwald to write “If George Allen doesn’t accept any more plays from Richard Nixon, he may go down in history as one of pro football’s greatest coaches.”

And in 1969, Nixon handed University of Texas coach Darrell Royal a plaque after his team defeated Arkansas and completed an undefeated season. The problem was that Penn State also went undefeated that season, and the national title, which was decided by the AP and UPI polls in those pre-BCS days, went to the Longhorns. Penn State fans have forever blamed Nixon for Texas finishing No. 1 that year. Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno was so bitter that, years later, he publicly wondered, “How could Nixon know so little about Watergate and so much about football?”

Calbuzz picks: Take the points and Ravens, Packers & Seahawks, give the points and take the Pats.

2012 Opener: Why eMeg Should Take On HRH DiFi

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Senator Dianne Feinstein is normally the most coy and flirtatious of politicians, famously performing the Dance of the Seven Veils whenever some rumpled reporter asks if she’s planning to run in some future election.

So it spoke volumes when California’s Queen Mum stomped all over a campaign event for colleague Barbara Boxer a few days before last week’s election to shout from the rooftops that she, The Great and Wondrous Difi, would — da-da-da-daah — be running to keep her precious seat in 2012.

It’s clearly a sign of the times, as incumbent Democratic Senators become more endangered than snowy plovers, that the professionally neurotic Dianne is evincing more political anxiety than usual. And it’s telling that the first trial balloon about the race took flight just one day after the election, as Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner felt compelled to issue an aw-shucks non-denial denial about a (heaven help us) Twitter message pimping his chances as the anti-Dianne.

As California Republicans proved anew last week that they ain’t exactly deep off the bench with contenders, the Calbuzz Department of Prognostication, Dowsing and Divining Rods prepared a first, long-off gaze at the GOP Senate field. And it looks now that there’s one, and only one, possible answer for the Party of Lincoln. Here’s the early line:

Steve Poizner – The Commish was one of our first and most loyal advertisers, so it pains us to say that the crazed lunge to the right on immigration issues by this previously perfectly rational Republican moderate during the primary made us question the scruples, if not the sanity, of our old friend. John Seymour long ago proved the folly of a garden variety right-winger challenging Dianne, and Poizner himself showed against Meg that he can’t match up in the paint with a big woman who towers over him. Candidate Rank: 4.

Orly Taitz – The Birther Movement whack job , who’s never categorically denied she’s a space alien, has kept a low profile since delivering heart palpitations to establishment Republican types by making a run at the party’s nomination for Secretary of State in the June primary. But in the current atmosphere of right-wing madness and all-around political weirdness, who better to make the GOP case for incoherent, conspiracy-based, constitutional creationist Palinism? Perhaps the California Republicans, still nursing the wounds of being hit by a bus, could warm to an authentic Mama Grizzly?  Candidate Rank: 2.

Carly Fiorina – A slightly more moderate version of Orly Taitz (same hair salon?), the former robber baron CEO of Hewlett-Packard lost a squeaker big time to Sen. Barbara Boxer, despite iCarly’s innovative platform calling for debtor prisons, the death penalty for abortion docs and open carry laws for assault rifles on airliners. While Californians came to love her rare combination of mean-spirited condescension and patronizing arrogance, word is Hurricane Carly is eying a move to Idaho, where she’ll feel politically more at home. Candidate Rank: 5.

Darrell Issa - One of the more widely-respected car alarm magnates south of the Tehachapis, Issa has already played an outsized role in California politics by financing the 2003 recall of Gray Davis and getting beat by, um, Matt Fong, in his one try at a statewide GOP nomination. Now, however, he’s positioned to grab national headlines in his role as a White House-investigating demagogue House committee chairman; who knows how popular he can become once he waterboards David Axelrod in public?  It’s not like anybody’s going to bring up his sketchy Army record or the stolen Dodge,  Maserati and Mercedes. Or the hidden handgun, either. Candidate Rank: 3.

Tom Campbell – A moderate Republican who…oh, never mind. Candidate Rank: 6.

Meg Whitman – Sure, she’s feeling beat up, bruised and unappreciated right now, but don’t forget it was none other than Dianne Feinstein her ownself who showed that before you can get elected to the U.S. Senate, you have to run for governor and lose. Dianne paved the way, winning her Senate seat  just two years after a bitter defeat to Pete Wilson in 1990. If she’s got the heart, eMeg could trace a similar political career path and keep hope alive for her dream of becoming the first woman president.

Seasoned and toughened by a brutal statewide race, she needs to find a high-profile perch at a think tank, private charity or public policy-oriented non-profit shop to keep her hand in the game, secure in knowing that the character issues which tripped her up this year – Goldman Sachs, sweetheart IPOs and her treatment of her illegal housekeeper, for starters – will be old news by the time 2012 rolls around.

Time to start spending some of that Whitman/Harsh foundation money on something other than protection of the valley floor around her Skyline Ranch in Telluride. Memo to Meg: a) Don’t forget to invite the press corps along when you go to vote next year. b) Go to dinner with Calbuzz this time and (here’s two words we bet you seldom hear) – we’ll pay.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, Calbuzz acknowledges that we get a thrill up our leg at the image of Dick Blum choking on his wallet when DiFi announces she’ll need 150 Large for the re-elect. Candidate Rank: 1

This Week’s Standings
1-Meg Whitman
2-Orly Taitz
3-Darrell Issa
4-Steve Poizner
5-Carly Fiorina
6-Tom Campbell

California Voters Turn Back the Angry Red Tide

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives, pounding Democrats in states throughout the South, Midwest and Northeast, but the raging red wave that swept across the country crashed against the Sierra Nevada and washed back, as California voters rejected Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for U.S. Senate.

The crushing victories of Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer in the nation’s largest and most diverse state –with an electorate that is increasingly younger, more Latino and more non-partisan — represented a counterpoint to the Beltway notion that America is in the throes of a massive and structural shift to the ideological right.

As of midnight, when Calbuzz first posted this report based on exit polling and partial vote counts, neither Whitman nor Fiorina had yet conceded. But as Brown told his supporters at the Fox Theater in Oakland: “They haven’t got all the votes in yet but hell, it’s good enough for government work. So it looks like I’m going back again.” (Whitman conceded a few minutes after midnight.)

Despite the most expensive race ever run in any state, Whitman, 54, the former CEO of eBay with the platinum resume and gold-plated consultancy was unable to overcome a crusty, former two-term governor who, at 72, will be twice the age he was when first elected in 1974.  At the last accounting, eMeg had spent more than $160 million, including $142 million of her own fortune, while Krusty the General had raised $32 million, supplemented by $25 million spent on his behalf by labor and other Democratic interests.

With his bare-bones staff and his flinty resolve not to start spending money until after Labor Day, Brown accomplished the one political challenge that eluded his father, the late Edmund G. “Pat” Brown — a third term. Pat Brown lost an attempt for a third term to a political newcomer in 1966: Ronald Reagan. (Term limits were adopted after Jerry Brown had already served twice.)

Brown’s “knowledge and know-how to get California working again” proved a compelling argument to voters who saw in the Attorney General and former mayor of Oakland, a candidate with both a hard head and a soft heart. Whitman, who fired her illegal immigrant housekeeper and ran a relentless barrage of negative ads against her opponents, was seen as hard-headed but hard-hearted, too.

Speaking to supporters Tuesday night before Whitman had conceded, Brown talked about the impulses, honed in his long-ago training to be a Jesuit priest and his study of theology, that drives him back to Sacramento.

“I take as my challenge forging a common purpose, but a common purpose based not just on compromise but on a vision of what California can be . . . We’re all God’s children and while I’m really into this politics thing I still carry with me my sense of kind of that missionary zeal to transform the world and that’s always been a part of what I do,” he said. “So I understand the political part but I also understand what it’s all about – the vision. And I’m hoping and I’m praying that this breakdown that’s gone on for so many years in the state capital and we’re watching it in Washington – that the breakdown paves the way for a breakthrough.”

And Fiorina, 56, who clutched as tightly as she could to the same policies and politics that carried conservative Republicans to victory in smaller states, was unable to dislodge 69-year-old Boxer, one of the most durable liberals in the Senate.

“The Giants beat the Texas Rangers and we beat the Texas polluters tonight,” Boxer told her supporters as she claimed victory before the final votes were tallied.

Certainly, the elevation of Tea Party favorites like Senator-elect Rand Paul in Kentucky – who said we are “enslaved by debt” and will have the singular power to plunge the world economy into darkness by filibustering raising of the U.S. debt ceiling limit – is a resounding victory for the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

But the anger propelling the Tea Party is less a positive vote for any Republican agenda than it is a vote to punish President Obama and the Democrats for the perceived failure to bring about the change they promised in 2008. It’s a vote to “just say no.”

Whether the new members of Congress and the Senate — which remains under Democratic control — will be rewarded for obstructionism or not remains uncertain. But as they seek re-election, Obama and the Democrats will now have the recalcitrant Republicans to blame for gridlock in Washington – an argument that Bill Clinton and his party made in 1996 with considerable success after their losses two years earlier.

The biggest loser among California Democrats, of course, is soon-to-be-former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who oversaw a crushing defeat that cost her the leadership mantle she had historically claimed in another mid-term just four years ago. Along with her, House committee chairs like Representatives Howard Berman and Henry Waxman were reduced to minority status by the Republican sweep that rolled through other states.

On the other hand, Southern California Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa, Buck McKeon and Jerry Lewis are in line to become chairmen of powerful committees in the House under speaker-presumptive John Boehner of Ohio. Issa, the conservative car-alarm magnate who lost the GOP nomination for Senate in 1998 and who has dedicated himself to opposing Obama and his policies, was all over TV Tuesday night promising a new era in Congress.

The weepy Boehner along with Eric Cantor of Virginia, Issa and other triumphant Republicans spoke over and over Tuesday night about “the message sent by the American people.” Apparently Californians, who represent one-eighth of the nation’s population, aren’t included among the American people.

Democrats in California and their progressive allies also won two important victories by rejecting Prop. 23,  which would have overturned the state’s ground-breaking law to roll black greenhouse gas emissions and by approving Prop. 25, which will reduce to a majority, from two-thirds,  the vote required in the Legislature to approve the California budget. These represented huge political statements by the voters on behalf of the environment and in favor of streamlining the budget process in Sacramento.

As expected, Prop. 19, the measure to legalize personal use of marijuana, went up in smoke.

Although Democrats and their progressive allies did not carry every office or measure,  the Brown win at the top of the ticket, which came despite high unemployment and despair about the direction of the state, suggested that voters have grown tired, at least for now, of divided government in Sacramento as they rejected Whitman’s mirror-image candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s just four years ago.

[Updated 7:30 am] The only Republican statewide candidate who appeared to have a chance for victory early Wednesday morning was Steve Cooley who was slightly behind Kamala Harris in the race for Attorney General. Gavin Newsom was well ahead of Abel Maldonado in the race for Lieutenant Governor; Debra Bowen was crushing Damon Dunn in the race for Secretary of State; John Chiang was way ahead of Tony Strickland in the race for Controller; Bill Lockyer was cruising to victory over Mimi Walters in the race for Treasurer, and Dave Jones was crushing Mike Villines in the race for Insurance Commissioner.

Why Rich Guys Don’t Win Top Offices in California

Monday, May 4th, 2009

poiznerAs the 2010 field for governor takes shape, the top Republican contenders are a pair of successful former Silicon Valley businesspeople, each armed for the campaign with a self-made fortune.

megcropBoth Meg Whitman, who scored big at eBay, and Steve Poizner, who made his pile as a high-tech innovator, begin the race with the wherewithal to spend whatever it takes to win. If past is prologue, however, Whitman and Poizner will both end up political losers.

Pity the poor billionaire seeking high office in California : Not once in modern political history has a self-financed candidate captured a top-of-ticket party nomination and gone on to be elected governor or U.S. senator in the state.

This historic trend again marks California as a great exception, in contrast to states like New Jersey and Texas , where multimillionaires routinely prevail.
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Industrialist Norton Simon set the bar low for wealthy candidates in California when he tried and failed to oust Senator George Murphy in the 1970 GOP primary. Liberal shipping magnate William Matson Roth kept the losing streak intact when he lost the 1974 Democratic gubernatorial primary to a guy named Jerry Brown.

Since then, three wealthy businessmen who would be governor – Al Checchi (1998) Bill Simon (2002) and Steve Westly (2006) spent big but finished out of the money. So did Michael Huffington, who spent $100 million in losing to Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 1994, and Darrell Issa, who forked out millions of his car alarm fortune to stumble in the 1998 GOP Senate primary.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only self-funded candidate who’s made it to a top slot. However, he short-circuited the odds by avoiding a primary, where the Republican right wing would have battered him, to capture the governorship in the anomalous 2003 recall (funded largely by Issa) of Gray Davis.

“The problem is that there’s an innate suspicion about people running without a history in politics,” said Bill Carrick, a California-based political strategist who crafted Feinstein’s 1994 campaign defense against Huffington’s millions.

It is instructive that Feinstein prevailed with a bit of political ju-jitsu, transforming Huffington’s limitless resources from an asset into a liability, with TV attack ads that labeled him “a Texas oilman Californians just can’t trust.”

“There’s a group of voters who find the outsider, business candidate attractive,” Carrick said. “They’re white men over 50, with anti-establishment political views, who don’t like the status quo. But it never gets beyond that universe.”

Garry South, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s chief strategist — who helped Davis defeat former Northwest Airlines CEO Checchi in the 1998 primary, and Republican financier Simon in the 2002 general election — cited several reasons for the failure of Golden State silver spoon candidates.

“They have too much money,” South said, noting that without normal budget constraints, rich candidates often fail to develop a coherent message or target it to voters. Checchi’s consultants, for example, produced a staggering 102 TV spots in 1998, airing 42 of them. Said South: “They think they can say everything about themselves to everybody.”

Unlike professional politicians, wealthy rookies lack a group of seasoned advisers, “so they go out and hire everybody in the Western Hemisphere and wind up with a big bloated campaign team with no real chain of command,” South said, adding that successful executives often underestimate the difficulty of running for office.

“They think because they’re successful in business, they’re smarter, better and more clever than anybody in politics,” he said. “They honestly don’t get that the things that they’re most proud of in their business life don’t compute in the political world.”

But Republican consultant Rob Stutzman, who works for Whitman, the richest of the current candidate crop, argued that as political reforms have squeezed contribution limits, individual wealth is almost a prerequisite for running in California .

“You have to have self-funding in order to run credibly statewide,” he said. “You can’t raise enough money at a fast enough clip to compete.”

Whitman strategists emphasize that she (like her rival, Insurance Commissioner Poizner) is aggressively raising money to supplement self-donations.

“Meg believes there have to be investors in the message and the mission,” said spokesman Mitch Zak, predicting that she will raise $5 million in outside contributions to go with $4 million she’s kicked in herself, by summer.

Although a third wealthy candidate – Guess Jeans co-founder Georges Marciano – plans to run as an independent, polltaker Mervin Field foresees that the economic meltdown will create a daunting political climate for rich candidates of every stripe.

“The state is in one hell of a mess,” Field said. “I believe voters will be looking for someone with a different resume.”

This article is also scheduled for publication in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, May 4.