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Liveblogging the Debate: Meg Attacks, Jerry Defends

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

In a well-argued and classic ideological debate for governor, Republican Meg Whitman Tuesday night aggressively attacked Democrat Jerry Brown as a tool of public employee unions who will do nothing to change the status quo in Sacramento while he repeatedly portrayed her as an ill-prepared Schwarzenegger clone with policies designed to serve only the rich.

“I don’t think you can find two more different candidates,” Whitman told reporters moments after the event at UC Davis ended, summing up the sharp contrasts between her and Brown on major issues, especially tax policy, illegal immigration and their ability to work effectively as governor to balance competing interests.

“I think it was a very exciting exchange,” Brown said after the debate. “I think the views and major differences were very well projected and I think people are in a little better position to make a judgment.”

Although the candidates for governor were closely matched, Whitman kept Brown on defense throughout much of the one-hour event at UC Davis, repeating the attack lines from her commercials. Brown, however, was more natural, funny and unrehearsed, as he reached to make a more personal connection with voters who might be just tuning into the race.

“I care a great deal about public service,” Brown said in his best riff. “I think it’s honorable. And I’ve lived in this state all my life. I love it and I voted here all my life. God willing, I’ll spend the rest of my life and die in this state. I love it.

Polished, if somewhat nervous, eMeg was consistently on message and solid in discussing policy as she kept up a steady stream of sharp criticism against Brown’s record on taxes and spending during his first turn as governor, and his performance on schools and crime while mayor of Oakland. Time and again she hit him over the strong financial backing he has from labor, playing on public anger against government and pessimism about the direction the state is headed.

Whitman’s best line, after noting that Brown and the labor unions have been joined at the hip for decades: “Putting Jerry Brown in charge of negotiating with the labor unions around pensions, around how many people we have in the government is like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”

Feisty, funny and self-deprecating about his age, Brown used  rhetorical jujitsu to turn some of Whitman’s attacks back on her, painting her corporate experience as too limited and too shallow to stand up to the pressures of being governor. He not only compared the business executive rationale for her candidacy to Schwarzenegger’s, but also linked her both to the Wall Street meltdown and to George Bush supply side policies in Washington, saying her call for a capital gains tax cut would “benefit millionaires and billionaires” including her. “Unions, yeah, they have their problems, but what about business over there?”

Besides taxes, the clearest difference between the two came on illegal immigration, with Brown saying he would support a “path to citizenship” for the millions of undocumented workers in California and Whitman saying she would oppose it.

Asked how voters could be sure he wouldn’t run for president again like he did the last time he was elected governor, Brown replied: “Age. Hell, if I was younger you know I’d be running again. But I’d say at 74, whatever it’s going to be in a couple of years, I’m ready. One more thing, I now have a wife. And you know, I come home at night. I don’t try to close down the bars of Sacramento like I used to do when I was governor of California.”

Whitman made a strong defense of the $119 million of her own funds she has invested in the campaign.  “I’m up against some very significant forces,” she said. “In the last five years, public employee unions and unions throughout California have spent over $300 million on politics in California. So I’m up against a pretty big set of entrenched interests. But you know what? I think Californians are really smart. I don’t think you can buy elections. I think Californians are too smart.”

Bottom line: an exciting and entertaining event that will not change the dynamic of the race.

Live blog begins here.

4:15 pm The Calbuzz National Affairs Desk is spread coast-to-coast tonight, watching the Dustup in Davis from the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall on the UC Davis campus and from a secret livestream location on the Jersey Shore (where, in a separate campaign, the lines are crackling as voters demand The Situation not get dumped from “Dancing With the Stars”).

Before our vast team of reporters, editors, photographers and IT support settled in for the evening, however, we dropped by the Paul and Lydia Kalmanovitz Appellate Court to hear some friends and eggheads explain to us what to look for in tonight’s event.

Of course, we thought we had a pretty good handle on that when we told you what to look for this morning, but with FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur, SF Chronicle political whirligig Carla Marinucci and three chrome domes from the UCD faculty to inform us, we couldn’t resist.

Here’s what we learned: debates can matter, gotcha moments can be important, how a candidate carries him or herself can affect impressions, voters are angry, the people who will be most affected by the debate aren’t watching — they’ll hear about it on TV, radio, newspapers and the internets.

Stop the presses.

More importantly, it looks like the food at the Mondavi Center is not going to be as good as it was at St. Mary’s, where Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina went at it a few weeks ago. Cookies, jelly beans, bite-sized candy bars, coffee and water. Pretty basic. But hey, as UC Davis’s Claudia Morain explained: “We’re a public university, not a private school.” Point taken.

4:30 pm The press center is now filling up with ink-stained wretches and wretchettes from all the major MSMs and minor ones too, while Whitman’s Sarah Pompei and Brown’s Sterling Clifford schmooze reporters.

This just in — Mitchel Benson, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for University Communications and Baking at UC Davis just dropped off a plate of lemon bars, thereby pushing the food measure beyond St. Mary’s. Also, now, soft drinks! Way to go Mitch.

6 pm : It’s on: Nice quick cuts dramatic open from KCRA.

Jerry entered wearing dark suit, Meg in dark suit with fuschia top underneath, they meet in the middle of the stage and shake hands, like it’s some kind of duel, which actually it is.

Question 1 from SacBee Amy Chance: Is Sacto ungovernable?

eMeg is just delighted to be here. She wants to get Californians back to work. Enacting targeted tax cuts, streamline regs, econ development plan, blah, blah…

(Meg’s eyebags darker and larger than usual – staying up late cramming for debate?)

Amy sez: Yeah, but what about my question?

Brown puts both hands up. “I do know something about budgets.” Budget a “key characteristic of how screwed up things are” – Duh…

Says he’ll start earlier on the budget, a point that eMeg just picked his pocket on…”Transparent, exhaustive process.”

Start with gov office, legislature budget, then the agencies…”We can cut…they’re still fooling around with a lot of fat up there.”

Meg says the only way he’ll bring people together is by bringing special interests and unions  into the same room. Says unions will be there to collect IOUs.

Jerry counter-punches by noting Meg’s tax cut would benefit “millionaires and billionaires like Ms. Whitman.” Says she’d take from education to line the pockets of the rich.

Q2: Death penalty cases take too long?

Jerry reprises his personal opposition but says he will continue to do everything to implement the law.

“I’d rather have a society where we didn’t have to have the death penalty but we have it so we have to make it work.”

Meg : I will be a tough on crime governor no doubt about it.  Says this is a big contrast between her and Brown who, she says, has not been tough on crime for 40 years. Brings up Rose Bird – does anyone remember who she is?

Starts talking about something called the Criminal Justice League getting stiffed by Brown. Is Superman a member of that?

Brown slightly defensive on response. Strange answer on appointing judges by comparing himself to Dwight Eisenhower.

Meg: “Well, the record in Oakland is actually not very good” with weirdo laugh. Claims Brown has “had a change of heart.”

Q3 from Marianne Russ on job creation.

Meg repeats shtick on cutting business taxes, cutting red tape. Says other states are poaching all our jobs and that she was with Texas Governor Rick Perry who told her he comes on “hunting trips” to California looking for businesses.

Brown: Meg’s plan is taken from “the George Bush playbook.” He won’t give a $5 billion tax break to myself himself, much less to the “millionaires and the billionaires.”  He wants to create green jobs and clean energy, and oppose Prop 23 – cutaway shows grinning and looking a little like a bobblehead.

Meg has good eye contact with the camera though.

Amy Chance asks about pensions and why Jerry would reform the system if he’s benefiting from it  me.

Jerry makes night’s first funny. Says he’s worked 40 years for $78K, and if he’s elected won’t take a pension until he’s 76 and if reelected won’t take it until he’s 80: “I’m the best pension buy California has seen.”

How about you Meg – how can you negotiate if you know nothing about government?

Says she doesn’t matter because she owns nothing to unions. Doesn’t answer the question of how she could deal with the unions in favor of usual talking points. Says he has “a spine of steel” and will go to the ballot for pension reform.

Very energetic Brown says Meg is pot calling kettle black. How can she complain about union contributions when she has spent so much and has huge contributions from fat cats who will benefit from her proposal to cut capital gains?

Meg asked about lousy voting record. Briefly repeats by rote her apology and says “If I could change history I would” then immediately moves back to talking points about getting California moving again and creating jobs.

Q pivot to Jerry: You ran for president constantly when governor last time – what’s going to stop you this time?

“Age…one more thing – I now have a wife, I’m not trying to close down the bars of Sacramento.”

Rubs his head and says, “Don’t worry about that” running for president.

Meg rebuttal: Jerry Brown has had “no success improving Sacramento for the better.” Rips Brown record both in Sacramento and Oakland.

Jerry annoyed. It would take me too long to answer all of it but big surplus “didn’t come from the tooth fairy – I created the damn thing.”

Q: Will you roll back spending cuts for higher ed systems?

Brown can’t promise to do it with a $19 billion deficit and can’t even promise to freeze even though he loves UC.

How about you Meg ?

Says she’s going to find $1 billion in new money to give UC by reforming pensions and welfare programs. She thinks higher ed system is “a gem.”

“We’ve got to put Californians back to work” she says for at least for the fourth or fifth time.

She’s going to take “managerial expertise” to Sacramento.

Yeah swell says Marianne but what about my question about holding the line on fee increases?

I’d leave it to the chancellors.

Good question by Amy: How can voters trust you when you distort the truth in your ads?

Meg: I don’t accept the premise of your question. Defends the Clinton/CNN ad and says she “stands by it”. (Someone checking into campaign first time has no idea what she’s talking about). Good close about need to change status quo.

Amy asks Jerry if he’s proud of his Pinocchio ad?

He says it’s “a helluva ad” and that “Pinocchio is standing by” to make Meg’s nose grow for the stuff she’s saying tonight.

Follow-up – Meg what do you think about Jerry saying he likes his ad?

She goes right back to Clinton ad and says Brown opposed Prop. 13. Very good answer about lack of accountability and tut-tuts Brown for letting down parents and kids in Oakland after promising to be “education mayor”.

Jerry jumps in, says yes he did oppose Prop. 13 but Howard Jarvis voted for him and said that Brown made it work. Strong answer.

What about immigration?

Brown supports a “path to citizenship” and “secure the borders.” As AG says he works with ICE on fingerprint program to make sure to deport illegals who break the law.

Workplace inspections part of the solution? Yes, but feds have to do it.

How about you Meg?

I would not support a path to legalization. Workplace inspections. Eliminate sanctuary cities: “The worst, of course, is San Francisco.”

“I’m been very balanced and very fair about this” said she would have opposed Prop. 187, (had she lived here and, perhaps, if she would have voted in any case). Opposes Arizona law.

“Illegal immigration is just that, illegal and we have to stop the magnet” – somewhere out there Steve Poizner is hocking up choking on his beer.

Big difference on path to citizenship.

Q: Aren’t you trying to buy the election?

Says she has to spend this much because unions spent a total of $300 billion over five years. This will give me independence. If you want someone who will just go along, then I’m not your candidate. Casting Jerry as status quo.

Changes in campaign finance laws? “Not the first thing I would tackle.” Ha!

Q to J: How will you be independent given support of unions? There isn’t anybody cheaper: “I was legendary for my frugality.”

“Unions yeah they have their problem – but what about business over here?”

Trying to tie Meg to Wall Street, talking speaking up for the working class – “people who clean bed pans, our police, our fire…I do cherish and appreciate the work they do…We’ve tried this business of the business person coming in with a spine of steel.”

Brown: “The Chamber of the Commerce has a secret slush fund that they use to attack me.” Calls on Meg to make them disclose. Meg looks disapproving with a major smirk.

Meg: “Putting Jerry Brown in charge of (state government) “is like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank.” Good line that Murphy surely told her she had to get in. Now she’s going to convene a statewide grand jury.

Brown response says “I know how to stand up against people and I know how to work with people.”

“I’ve got, at my age, the independence” to do the job.

Amy on water: Will you support Peripheral Canal?

Brown: I’ll support whatever works. Notes he sponsored last PC plan. His basic idea is that if you use the water, you have to pay for it.

Meg: “Turning our backs on water is turning our backs on jobs.” Sound bites: cheaper by the dozen.

She was for Arnold’s water bond plan that got bumped from the ballot. We have a humanitarian crisis in the Central Valley.

Final statements:

Meg: Changes her money line (“I refuse to let California to fail”) to “I refuse to believe this state, our beautiful state, cannot be better than it is. ”

She believes in the power of money many.

Brown thought long and hard about running. It’s a hard job, it’s not for someone who comes from private sector and has just run a business – it’s harder and more complicated and you don’t have all the power.

“Know-how and experience.”

“My values are different in important ways” – repeats his refusal to support tax cut for millionaires, billionaires.

Final word gets to Prop. 23 – should not suspend AB 32.

How the FPPC Should (and Shouldn’t) Meddle Online

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Calbuzz is generally not too keen on any regulatory movement, cause or organization, especially not one that’s intent on regulating us. But we have to say there are good reasons to extend – carefully — to the online world some of the disclosure requirements on political campaigns that now apply in the old media world of broadcast and print.

The trick is for California’s Fair Political Practices Commission to use a light touch so as not to kill the baby in the crib. Internet political communications still are in their infancy. You Tube, for example, by which so much of today’s online political messaging is conveyed, wasn’t even created until February 2005 and it didn’t really catch on in the political world until the 2008 cycle.

When the FPPC considers rule-making this fall, the fundamental principle should be this:

Keep the burden of disclosure on the candidates, campaigns and advocates without creating undue burdens on the media through which they choose to communicate. (Especially us.)

We agree with the FPPC report on this issue that:

When a committee or candidate engages in campaigning, the public should know that the communication is being paid for, regardless of the form that communication takes. In the current networked world, political communication by a regulated committee or candidate that occurs over the Internet is the functional equivalent of a broadcast ad, and an email is the functional equivalent of a mailer.

Fortunately, the FPPC and its staff have been cautious, open and deliberate as they approach the issue. They recognize, for example “that it is difficult to regulate a moving target. Innovation is not predictable and could be stifled by moving too quickly and regulating too strictly.”

Who’s paying for what: The FPPC report recognizes that you can’t require the same disclosure for a postage-stamp-sized web ad, a tweet or a Facebook message that you demand in a TV commercial. But you could require that a web ad or even the name of a tweeter or Facebooker  who’s pushing campaign communications should link to a page on which it’s disclosed who is behind the message so that an online reader understands where the message is coming from and who’s paying for it.

As the report noted:

Some paid advertising does not allow adequate room for disclaimers required by current law (e.g., some forms of electronic advertisements, twitter communication, etc.). In those cases, candidates and committees must provide information in ways that are practicable given the limitations of the medium (e.g., on the website that is accessed when one clicks on an ad; on pages providing information about the source of tweets; on appropriate places in social networking sites; through information that pops up when the mouse is rolled over word or phrase).

The Maryland Board of Elections recently passed new electronic media rules to provide just such flexibility. The Maryland regulations provide that if electronic media advertisements are too small (e.g., a micro bar, a button ad, a paid text advertisement that is 200 characters or less in length, or a small paid graphic or picture link) to contain an “authority line,” the ads will comply with the required disclosure of the political committee authorizing the message if the ad allows the viewer to click on the electronic media advertisement and the user is taken to a landing or home page that prominently displays the authority line information.

That makes sense to us.

Sock puppets and web whores: There’s one place where we’re not sure the FPPC goes far enough: requiring online communicators like bloggers to disclose if they are being paid by a campaign or political committee for more than the standard value of their advertising.

The rationale for not requiring disclosure by sock-puppet bloggers is this: 1) the FPPC does not want to dampen robust free speech on the internet and 2) payments to bloggers will be disclosed in the campaign or political committee’s expenditure reports.

We heartily agree with the principle of doing nothing to dampen free speech on the Internet,or anywhere else. But there is a big difference between Steve Poizner placing an ad on Calbuzz at the same rate that ad space is sold to anyone else, compared to Meg Whitman paying $15,000 a month to Green Faucet, the parent of the Red County blog, in order to secure a steady stream of favorable coverage and support masquerading as news coverage.

One is just a business transaction in which the web site selling advertising is not a paid mouthpiece for a campaign but instead a free agent on the Internet.

The other is little more than paid campaign communications. Blogs that are subsidized by a political committee – and who have thereby crossed the line into paid advocacy — ought to be required to make that clear to their readers.

Voluntary disclosure is not good enough. There are too many unscrupulous cheats out there and too many web whores. Moreover, it’s nothing for a campaign with big resources to set up a web site that looks like a neutral observer but which is, in reality, just an extension of the campaign.

At the very least, expenditure reports should be modified to specify  “internet communications,” and “online advertising.” Something along the lines in the FPPC report, which calls for:

…requiring that expenditure reports contain more detail of payments for activity on the Internet, including payments to bloggers, so that these payments can be more easily discerned. The brief description on the expenditure report would include the name of the recipient of payment for electronic communication, the purpose of the payment, and the name of website or other similar address where the communication (blog, tweet, Facebook page, etc.) appears.

For now, the report says:

We do not recommend requiring disclosure in blogs at this time because of our concern about stifling this robust and growing source of political discourse. We considered an alternative that would require bloggers compensated by a campaign committee to disclose on their blogs that they have material connections to a campaign. This was based, in part, on a recent Federal Trade Commission guideline requiring bloggers endorsing products to disclose their financial connections to the manufacturers of the product. Requiring disclosure of paid bloggers would also be analogous to Section 84511 of the PRA mandating disclosure of paid spokespersons in ballot measure ads.

We recommend instead that the Commission continue to monitor the development of activity on weblogs and assess whether disclosure through expenditure reports is sufficient to ensure voters know when a blogger is part of a political campaign and when she is acting as an interested citizen expressing her political views. If the Commission determines that the failure to require more disclosure of compensated political bloggers has undermined the right of the public to be informed about the course of political communication, the issue of appropriate regulation should be revisited.

Calbuzz prediction: unless the FPPC requires disclosure, plenty of unethical bloggers, tweeters and Facebookers will fail to tell readers who’s buying their loyalty.

In search of a bright line: There are some other issues still to be fleshed out. For example, who is to be considered “news media” and who is not.

The report says the Political Reform Act’s media exemption (on advocacy) “should be interpreted to include online media sources, whether or not they also participate in print or broadcast media.”

Importantly, however, blogging should not automatically be considered to trigger the media exemption unless the blog meets the standards for being considered part of the media. It is not necessary to expand the media exemption to include uncompensated bloggers who are unaffiliated with campaigns because they are protected by the exemption recommended above for volunteer uncompensated political communication.

This gets really tricky.

Relevant passages in the Political Reform Act define news media as “a regularly published newspaper, magazine or other periodical of general circulation which routinely carries news, articles and commentary of general interest” or “a federally regulated broadcast outlet” or certain kinds of newsletters or regularly published periodicals.

What does that make an online political news site like Calbuzz? Or partisan sites like Calitics or FlashReport? Or an aggregator like Rough & Tumble? All of which have or would gladly accept, advertising from candidates and political committees. What would you call Red County? Or California Majority Report? Do they “meet certain standards for being considered part of the media?” Or are they advocates for causes and candidates?

Click on the “eBay: Don’t Buy It Now” ad on this page and you get taken to California Working Families which tells you the page is “Paid for by California Working Families for Jerry Brown for Governor 2010, a Coalition of Public Employees, Firefighters, and Building Trades Organizations. I.D. # 1324632.  Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.” That’s the way it should work.

Likewise, if you click on “It’s Time for a New California” on the FlashReport home page, you get taken to Meg Whitman’s campaign home page which tells you at the bottom “Paid for by Meg Whitman For Governor 2010.” They probably ought to include their FPPC identification, but that’s a quibble.

But if you click on erichogue on Twitter, there’s no way to know that the screeching right-wing tweets from the conservative radio commentator just might be influenced by that $1,000 payment he got in the last reporting period from the Whitman campaign.

So what’s his Hogue News?  He’d like us to believe his site is “news media.” But he’s already proved he’s a for-rent mouth breather. Trouble is, the only people who know are those who’ve followed the arcane news about campaign finance or those who’ve read through Whitman’s expenditure reports and stumbled across the payment to him.

It won’t do for the FPPC to define “news media” in a way that includes only the dead and dying old media, as the current regulations do. But it also won’t do to ignore the fact that some online practitioners feel no compunction to level with the public about their status as paid advocates.

Plenty of free parking: Calbuzz would be happy to participate in further discussions with the FPPC on these issues. And if the FPPC would like to buy an ad on our site, they can find the rate card right here.

Press Clips: Lights! Action! Camera! Bribery! News?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

We don’t know if Michael Luo of the New York Times was just idly rooting around in Meg Whitman’s 19-page FPPC Form 700 financial disclosure when he just happened to stumble across an investment of more than $1 million in “Tools Down! Productions” and knew “ah ha!”  – that’s political consultant Mike Murphy’s Hollywood production company.

Or maybe somebody who doesn’t like Whitman and/or Murphy decided to point Luo in the right direction or slipped him the paperwork. Either way, it’s a good story and since we have a pdf of the actual document in hand (you can’t get it online), we know it’s true:

Right there on page 9, “Tools Down! Productions, Inc c/o Aaron Zimmer, Singer Burke & Co., 6345 Balboa Blvd, Building 4, Suite 375, Encino, CA 91316” a ”Partnership Stock” investment in “Entertainment Production” valued “Over $1,000,000.”

That’s MORE than $1 million, Calbuzzers. Sandwiched between investments in  Magellan Midstream Holdings LP and Abaca Technology Corp. just where you’d expect to find it.

Although some in the news media have been quick to kiss this deal off as totally legal and out of reach of scandal, there remains one question that we probably will never get a real answer to: Was this, on Whitman’s part, a political expenditure disguised as a business investment?

Sure it looks like Whitman, um, bribed Murphy to either stay away from Steve Poizner’s campaign or sign on to hers. But Murphy’s a private citizen. He can – and does – sell his services to the highest bidder. More power to him.

Whitman, on the other hand, has to follow certain rules. She can’t (ethically or legally) pay a retainer or a fee to a political consultant out of her private funds and not count that as a political expenditure made in pursuit of the office she’s seeking.

We don’t know what you might call the actual facts that could shine a light on that issue. We don’t even know how much the total “investment” was. Was it more or less, for example than the “More than $1,000,000” eMeg listed in two different Goldman Sachs Distressed Opportunities Funds?

Of course, not knowing all the facts has little effect on handlers for Whitman’s opponent, Jerry Brown. “By all accounts it was a political payoff masquerading as a so-called legitimate business investment,” said Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer after we goaded him.

“Murphy should disclose his other investors and whether the payment was reported on his income taxes . . .  It’s possible she paid it from one of her Cayman Island accounts,” Glazer added.

Murph’s only on-the-record comment to us was, “I’m absolutely not commenting on this.”

Oil spill, what oil spill? It was Hall of Fame blogger and erstwhile Senate candidate Mickey Kaus who coined the term “Feiler Faster Thesis” to describe the way that online age politics is changing as people learn to process information ever-faster, to keep up with the speed at which information now moves. Kaus in 2000 propounded the thesis based on an idea from writer Bruce Feiler to argue that the whole notion of “momentum” in campaigns is woefully out of date.

The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc. As a result, politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace. Charges and countercharges fly faster, candidates’ fortunes rise and fall faster, etc.

A few years later, he boiled it down further:

The FFT, remember, doesn’t say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days. (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed. [emphasis in the original]

The FFT came to mind Friday, when we read a report from the Washpost’s hypercaffeineated Chris Cillizza noting that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which preoccupied TV and cable news for weeks, is quickly fading as an issue, even as the company and government continue frantic efforts to contain and cleanup the millions of gallons of oil erupting from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked to name the most important problem facing the country, just seven percent of respondents in the July Gallup poll said “natural disaster response/relief” — a major drop off from the 18 percent who said the same in June. (In Gallup’s May poll, just one percent named “natural disaster response” as the most important problem in the country.)

“Americans’ reduced likelihood to see the spill as the top problem could reflect the reality that the spill is no longer ‘new’ news or perhaps that Americans are becoming more confident that they spill will be fixed,” wrote Gallup poll director Frank Newport in a memo detailing the results.

Given their current sorry state, any Democrats desperate for any shred of good news may look to the FFT for hope that fast-moving, and so far unforeseen, events might yet alter the political landscape before they have to face cranky voters.

As dismal as things look for the Dems, amid the current conventional wisdom forecasting a wipe-out and possible loss of the House, cooler head prognosticators and pundits, like NBC political director Chuck Todd, don’t see how the numbers work for the Republicans to take over control.

P.S. After leaving Slate for his quixotic challenge to Barbara Boxer, Kaus has been writing on his campaign site, but says he’s mulling several, no doubt lucrative, alternatives (better get in line!) for where his blog lands next.

But what about the little guy: As eMeg dithers about which of the countless proposals she should accept to debate Jerry Brown, both of them  should summon the courage to show up at a big August event in Ventura County where they can talk to hundreds of real people from around California who are living and working on the front lines of the recession. Timm Herdt of the VenCo Star reports that:

Organizers intend to call it a “shared prosperity forum,” but the precise name they have in mind is a little longer: The 2010 California Shared Prosperity Gubernatorial Candidates Forum.

Whether they can actually call it all that, of course, depends on the two major party candidates for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. If one or both accepts, the governor’s forum is on. If not, well, there’s a Plan B….

Executive director Marcos Vargas tells me that a broad range of groups from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, groups representing low-wage workers, immigrants and seniors, have agreed to attend. A number of those groups, such as the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles, are part of a statewide coalition called Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

It is Vargas’ vision that the event could be a refreshing change from the sort of staged town-hall meetings that pass for dialogue between candidates and voters these days.

Refreshing indeed.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Roaring Virile Fire Disturbs Social Order.

Why Carly and eMeg Aren’t Like Thelma and Louise

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

This just in – GOP admits women: Barring a political miracle, around 8:01 p.m. next Tuesday, Meg Whitman will be declared the California Republican party’s nominee for governor. Not long after, it appears today,  Carly Fiorina will win the GOP slot in the Senate race against Barbara Boxer.

It will be an historic evening, if all goes according to form, as the two uber rich  former Silicon Valley executives become the first Republican women ever nominated for either of the two offices, let alone performing the feat in the same election, factoids confirmed by state party spokeshuman Mark Standriff.

In a year when Sarah Palin is crisscrossing the country, calling for the election of GOP “Mama Grizzlies,” the eMeg-Carly narrative will no doubt prove as irresistible to the national media as the “Thelma and Louise” storyline did back in 1992, when Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer pulled off a similar historic trick by simultaneously winning election to the U.S. Senate in what was then hyped as “the year of the woman.”

It was our late, great colleague Susan Yoachum who memorably pinned the movie moniker on Babs and DiFi, but before the brilliant Beltway Wizards latch onto such a narrative line with Carly and Meg, Calbuzz feels duty bound to quash any such non-analogous comparison to what Herb Caen once dubbed “Bitch Cassidy and the Sundress Kid.”

Two working-class women seeking to break away? Not. Strength through sisterhood? No friggin’ way. Feminist rage? C’mon.

Just one example knocks it down: “I won’t let California fail”  – eMeg’s hubris-infected assertion — just doesn’t have the power of Louise’s famous “You get what you settle for.”

Even Ridley Scott and Callie Khouri couldn’t turn these two wealthy, privileged, and uptight business execs into a pair of gun-totin’ road-runnin’ outlaw fempals. They may wind up flying off a cliff, but even if they do, they’ll land softly on their big fat bank accounts and their elitist lives.

Whitman and Fiorina have pandered and slummed, lurched and lunged so far to the right to win their party’s favor, that the big action for them from June to November will be trying to convince independents, moderates, women and Latinos that they didn’t really mean all those knuckle-dragging statements they made in order to win the primaries.

As the Schnur Turns: Politics writers up and down California were weeping, wailing, tearing their hair and rending their garments Tuesday after word emerged that Gov. Arnold Schwartzmuscle has named our friend Dan Schnur to finish the seven months remaining in Ross Johnson’s term as chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Where will we go for a clever quote,” one reporter wondered. Whined another: “Who can I call on deadline who will say what I want to say myself but can’t unless it comes from a source’s mouth?”A third cried out: “But I don’t know any other Republicans!”

Schnur, former media adviser and spinner for John McCain, Pete Wilson and others, has worked to put his partisan past behind him for several years as a lecturer at UC Berkeley and, most recently, as head of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Not Dan Schnur

Not Dan Schnur

As chairman of the FPPC, Schnur will oversee the agency that enforces state campaign finance and campaign disclosure laws. He’ll fill out the term of former state senator Johnson, who stepped down for health reasons, and plans to return to USC in January.

Schnur said his partisan past will be no more of an impediment than it was for Johnson or former Chairwoman Karen Getman, a Democratic campaign lawyer who served under Gray Davis. “Both did an excellent job of setting aside their personal political leanings,” he said.

Yo, Dan! We’re still waiting for the punch line.

We need to talk: Calbuzzers who fondly remember Al and Tipper snogging over breakfast in the Dunster House dining hall back in the day (this just in: he did inhale) couldn’t help but get a little misty Tuesday at word that ex-vice president and former Second Lady Gore are breaking up.

Even those who don’t know the couple or,  for that matter, never really gave them much thought, felt a pang of rainy day sadness  as they processed the news that the Gores’ 40-year, kissy poo marriage was outlasted by the Clintons, fercrineoutloud.

While wits like Andy Borowitz set about thinking up fake N.Y. Post headlines for the split – “Global Cooling!” (h/t Jim Bettinger) – more gimlet-eyed types at L.A. Biz Observed quickly turned their focus to more bottom line matters:

Now that Al and Tipper have announced plans to separate, they’ll have to deal with their $8.8 million Montecito home that was purchased a couple of months ago. It has an ocean view on 1 1/2 acres with a swimming pool, five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, six fireplaces, a family room, wine cellar and spa. Montecito, of course, is quite the spot for the rich and famous: Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas, and the golfer Fred Couples, among many others.

Talk about your inconvenient truth.

Head Fake of the Day: After sitting happily on the sidelines while Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner fire at one another, Democrat Jerry Brown slapped together a cheesy 30-second spot decrying all the money being spent on negativity while Sacramento is still broken. Calbuzz tried to get Brown Boys Glazer and Clifford to say how much actual TV air time this sad little puppy will see. No comment, basically. So we figure it’s nothing but a web ad that will have no effect on the race for governor. If you want to see it, here’s the link. If they decide to put it on television, we’ll take it seriously. They did manage to bamboozle the online ops at the SF Chronicle, LA Times and Sac Bee into declaring it Brown’s first TV ad, before they caught on that it was just a head fake. (The boys over at Calitics gave it the back of their hand, too.)

Hounding Fox: Hey Joel — saying an opinion poll “was correct” because it reported numbers three weeks ago that happen to be in the ballpark as those found today is a little like saying that the Giants beat the Dodgers because they led 1-0 in the first inning. As the cliche goes, polls are snapshots in time, and we’ll stand by our snarky comments about yours.

AB32 is Popular; Gunning for Campbell and Brown

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Loyal Calbuzzers know that we have argued repeatedly that betting against the environmental impulses of the California voter is risky business and the latest Field Research Corp. data on AB32 — the pioneering measure to control greenhouse gases — confirms that argument.

Nearly six in 10 voters (58%) said they favor the 2006 California law “that requires the state to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming by about 17 percent over the next 10 years.”

Nearly seven in 10 voters (69%) agreed that the state “can reduce greenhouse gases and expand jobs and economic prosperity at the same time.” That, however, was down from 74% in 2008 and 83% in 2007 — a reflection of the effects of recession.

Still, the numbers underscore the strategic problem GOP front-runner Meg Whitman has created for herself in the governor’s race by saying she would suspend AB32 and, in more recent remarks, suggesting she would jettison the law altogether, in the name of saving and expanding jobs.

Republicans oppose AB32 64-32% and conservatives oppose it 66-30%. But non-partisans support it 61-35% and moderates support the measure 64-31%. And among Democrats and liberals — forget about it: 73-23% and 84-12% respectively. (The data are from a Field Research Corp. survey of 503 registered voters March 9-15 with a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.)

So taking a stand against AB32 might help Whitman among conservative Republican primary voters — although it’s not clear she attracts them vis a vis Steve Poizner with this position. But her position will be a serious problem for her among the moderate Democratic and independent voters she would need to attract in November if she hopes to beat Democrat Jerry Brown.

Not only does Whitman continue to cite a study supporting her position that has been thoroughly debunked and repudiated, but she opens herself to Brown’s argument — as he laid it out to Calbuzz — that she is “dead wrong on the importance of reducing carbon pollution” for the sake of the environment in general and for “the lungs of little children in Southern California” in particular. Ouch.

Dudley faces danger: While the new LAT/USC poll showed that Tom Campbell remains the nominal front-runner in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the political landscape in the last two months of the campaign looks very treacherous for him for three key reasons:

1-The National Organization for Marriage, a leader in the fight to pass Proposition 8, has targeted Campbell. The group has announced it is spending $300,000 on ads that call attention to his opposition to Prop. 8 and support for same-sex marriage, positions that are sharply at odds with most Republicans. The same group played a role in helping Scott Brown win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and in driving Democrat Dede Soczzafava in last year’s big special congressional election in New York.

Campbell, whose moderate views on social issues have given him trouble among conservatives in the past, has been in whistle-past-the-graveyard mode for months, insisting that the state of the economy will totally overshadow controversies like gay marriage in 2010. But the LAT poll showed that Republicans oppose it 62-to-28; the anti-gay marriage group has put out results of a poll they commissioned which supposedly shows only 2 percent of GOP voters know of his position on the issue. Even discounting the likely bias in the survey, that’s a helluva hill to climb.

2-The LAT poll shows that Carly Fiorina, Campbell’s chief rival, now holds a tiny lead, 30-to-28, among self described conservatives (who oppose gay marriage 70-to-22). While statistically insignificant, the finding is still a bad omen for Campbell, who holds at least a small lead among  virtually every other category of voter in the survey.

3-Campbell’s first-quarter fund-raising was less than stellar. Having announced a primary goal of $7 million, Dudley managed to raise only $1.6 million in the first quarter, which put him way behind Fiorina – who had $2.5 million in the bank as of December 31 – even before she reports her own first-quarter numbers. Given the advantage she holds in having her own money to spend, it’s not hard to imagine him getting buried under a barrage of negative ads in the next 60 days.

Meanwhile, on the attack ad front: University of California President Mark Yudof, a member of the California Chamber of Commerce Board, when asked whether he approves or disapproves of the attack ad on Brown produced by Chamber CEO Allan Zeremberg (but sold in advance to the board as issue advocacy), at first replied through a spokesman:

“President Yudof was not aware of this ad and did not participate in its approval. As a leader of a public university, he is non-partisan. He is looking into the circumstances surrounding the advertisement.”

When pressed further by Calbuzz to say whether he approves or disapproves of the ad, Yudof said, again through a spokesman, “He did not and does not approve of it.”

We then found this on his Facebook page:

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed would only say — through his spokesman — “The chancellor was not consulted and did not see the ad. That type of political activity is not something the CSU or the chancellor are involved in.”

He would NOT say he disapproves of the ad, leaving Calbuzz to conclude that he must approve of it since the board he serves on approved the expenditure.

As for Community College Chancellor Jack Scott — also a Cal Chamber board member — we couldn’t even get a comment from his outfit. So we assume he, too, must approve of the attack on Brown as well.

Good luck keeping those jobs if Brown gets elected guys.

Meanwhile, The California Democratic Party announced it would be filing an FPPC complaint against Whitman on grounds that her chairman, Pete Wilson, participated in the decision to fund the TV ad which is alleged to be an illegal in-kind contribution.

“This sleazy attack ad is obviously being done at the behest of the Meg Whitman campaign,” said CPD Chairman John Burton. “Clearly, there is collusion taking place and the intent couldn’t be plainer: to circumvent California law with regard to in-kind contributions.”

Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog also fired off a complaint letter to the FPPC.

Brown’s campaign used the ad as an opportunity to appeal for money and then late in the day Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer called on the Chamber to withdraw its  ad after “numerous Chamber Board members denied giving authorization to create it or Chamber dues to put it on the air.”

Said Glazer’s release: “Under the guise of an issue ad, the Chamber falsely ties Brown to job losses and budget shortfalls from the past two years, when California was led by a Republican governor. ”

Addendum: Late Wednesday, the Brown campaign released a letter from four Chamber board members — George Kieffer, Kevin Rattner, Robert Simonds and Cindy Starrett — calling on Zaremberg to stop funding the ads and pull them off the air because “to any reasonably minded person this is nothing more than a typical political attack ad.”

The hard-working Torey Van Oot of the Sac Bee Minus has the story and a link to a pdf of the letter here.