Posts Tagged ‘FPPC’



Why Goo Goo Plans are Toast; Labor Runs Amok

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

We come to bury California Forward, not to praise it. The goo goo reform plan, now subsumed into SCA 19, contains a host of worthy measures affecting budgeting and spending. But it’s the much-needed centerpiece – reducing the two-thirds vote needed to approve the state budget – that is its undoing. For now.

Why? Because to put the measure on the ballot will itself require a two-thirds vote, which won’t happen because even if all the Democrats lined up together – and that’s not at all certain – the Republicans would kill it.

As His Royal Walters wrote last week: “Politically, the plan appears to be a nonstarter.”

Loyal Calbuzzers know that we have long argued that without a variety of reforms – including majority vote on the state budget — California will remain fundamentally ungovernable.

Sure, a governor and Legislature will play their roles, budgets will be passed, schools and prisons will operate, the state will function. But California will continue to float along like a raft on the ocean, not like a true ship of state being steered along a certain course.

Besides the majority-vote budget provision, the SCA 19 – at the request of California Forward – also includes a provision that says:

any bill that imposes a fee shall be passed by not less than two-thirds of all Members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature if revenue from the fee would be used to fund a program, service, or activity that was previously funded by revenue from a tax that is repealed or reduced in the same fiscal year or in a prior fiscal year.”

Now, Jim Mayer and Fred Silva of Cal Forward – two really smart guys whose thinking we respect – say this is NOT an attack on the Sinclair Paint decision (which Calbuzz has covered exhaustively) that allows the Legislature to raise fees by majority vote as long as there is a “nexus” between the fee and the service it pays for.

They say it only would apply to a limited situation in which a fee was proposed to replace a specific excise tax used to fund a specific program, service or activity. The measure was inserted, Mayer said, “in order to build some support for majority vote from business groups who would otherwise kill the bill.”

Which kinda underscores our point:  If it doesn’t affect Sinclair, why do it at all? Because, they say, some business interests are worried that the Legislature will try a massive bait-and-switch, swapping out tax-based revenues with majority-vote fees.

The way we read the measure, it does affect Sinclair since every program, service and activity is funded by “revenue from a tax,” and so, any place where the Legislature wanted to subvent tax funds with fee funds would require a two-thirds vote – which under Sinclair only requires a majority. But we’re not what you might call your “tax experts.”

Anyway, even if the liberals go along – and if just a few of them read this like we do, that’s not likely – the Republicans are not likely to give away their one-third-vote leverage. Which is why we say you can stick a fork in Cal Forward’s proposal.

Back Away From the IPhone!

Back in January, Calbuzz was first to break the news that three longtime Democrats from a new Silicon Valley firm were rolling out “a product that – for better or worse — promises to cut dramatically the cost of gathering signatures for ballot initiatives by using social networking and touch-screen technology.”

Verafirma Inc.’s Democracy Project, founded by Jude Barry, Michael Marubio and Steve Churchwell, we reported, makes it possible for activists to use email, Facebook and other social networking venues to distribute ballot initiative language and arguments, and to collect and verify signatures from users who have an iPhone, Droid or other new generation touch-screen device.

So when we heard about Barry, a Calbuzz contributor, getting blacklisted by Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, we thought it was just a case of union protectionism run amok.

The ostensible reason for placing Barry and his firm, Catapult Strategies, on the  “do not patronize” list was that Verafirma is selling its signature-gathering technology to the folks trying to qualify a ballot measure for “paycheck protection” — labor’s most-hated proposal which would ban use of union dues for political purposes.

This didn’t make any sense. Verafirma is licensing use of a technology that anybody can use. It’s as if they’d come up with a pedestrian GPS system and Republican precinct walkers wanted to use it. It’s like selling electronic clipboards and pens. The technology is neutral. It’s like blacklisting an iPod dealer because right-wingers are buying and using his product.

But then we read Internal Affairs in the Mercury News and nosed around a bit more and it all came clear: Pulaski was doing the dirty work for Cindy Chavez, who heads the South Bay Labor Council and who is supporting Forrest Williams for county supervisor. Barry is working for Teresa Alvarado, seeking that same seat on the county board.

Chavez told the Mercury News she didn’t draft the Pulaski letter, although she knew it was in the works. And she took a whack at Barry for allowing “a company of his to support taking the right away from working men and women to speak politically.”

Calbuzz has no candidate in the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors race. We just think Barry  — who worked for Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean, ferchristsake — is getting rat-fucked. Sure paycheck protection is anti-union. And one of Barry’s defenses — that it wasn’t his personal account at Verafirma — is specious.

But none of that should matter: he’s done nothing to challenge labor’s right to organize or influence politics. This stinks.

FPPC Lets Newsom Double Dip: Calbuzz called attention to a loophole in the law governing contributions a while back but the FPPC has decided that you can run for one office, max out to the limit, drop from that race and enter another and max out again from the same donors. This lets Gavin Newsom, now a candidate for gov lite, go back to all those donors who gave him $25,900 when he was a candidate for governor. Whatever.

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.

Should the FPPC Regulate Tweeters, Facebookers?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

By Steve Maviglio
Special to Calbuzz

In the Age of the Internet, when campaigns, advocates, consultants and engaged citizens are using all forms of social media — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail Buzz, etc. — to communicate about politics, the Fair Political Practices Commission is struggling to figure out what in all that constitutes political communication that ought to be regulated — like paid advertising — and what is purely a function of free speech.

It’s a fair question.

Last week, I testified (and Tweeted) before the FPPC’s Subcommittee examining electronic communication in political campaigns as part of a panel of political consultants (also at the table was Julia Rosen, the Courage Campaign’s Online Political Directorm and Bryan Merica from ID Media and Fox & Hounds Daily). We were followed by Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, Derek Cressman of Common Cause, Tiffany Mok of the ACLU and Professor Barbara O’Connor, Sacramento State University.

The subcommittee wanted to hear from us if it should develop, in the words of Chairman Ross Johnson, “appropriate responses to new political realities.”

My advice was straightforward: do no harm. Don’t regulate independent bloggers. Don’t do anything that will stunt the growth of the Internet to attract and involve voters. But do provide clear guidelines for disclosure if there’s campaign money involved. And while you’re at it, provide clarity on the advice campaigns are getting from the commission, and conform to Federal Election Commission requirements.

Halfway through my testimony — where I was trying to detail the multiple changes on Facebook that would make it difficult for the FPPC to mandate where disclosure requirements might be posted — I looked up and saw all three commissioner’s with “what the hell are you talking about” faces. They were clearly baffled by technology they’d never dealt with personally (indeed, there was no wifi in the room, the hearing wasn’t webcast and the three commissioners admitted to never having used Twitter). That wasn’t encouraging.

But while three commissioners were dazed and confused by comments about pixels and Google Adwords, they seemed get what all the panelists were saying: proceed with caution. As  commissioner Tim Hodson told me afterward, the hearing “underscored both the perils of addressing such wide open and ever changing area and the need to ensure minimal disclosure.”

Hodson and his fellow commissioners are picking up on FPPC’s decade-long review of political campaign activity on the web. Back in the stone age of internet campaigning, Assemblyman Keith Olberg penned AB 2720, which created a Bipartisan Commission on Internet Political Practices. The Commission’s job was to determine if and how web-based communication could confirm to the mother of California’s campaign law, the oft-amended Political Reform Act, which was authored in 1974, well before Al Gore invented the Internet.

After toiling for a year, the Internet Commission reported “we do not think it would be wise or necessary to adopt new laws or a new administrative vehicle specifically aimed at  limiting or regulating the use of the Internet by political actor.”

The December 2003 report also presciently warned of regulating ever-changing web campaign technology:

When government attempts to regulate the use of technology, what we do not know can indeed hurt us. The speed of technological change and the ability of practitioners to adapt to new rules make regulatory efforts in these areas difficult. Swift changes can make old rules inoperable or inappropriate.

Technological changes that affect how hyperlinks are generated, how content from one Web site is framed by another, how online advertising is delivered to users, and how lists for unsolicited email campaigns are constructed, for example, could all change the meaning and the impact of regulations written prior to these innovations.

And things did change. Twitter, Facebook, viral YouTube videos, and Google email blasts all have become de rigueur elements of modern campaigning. First Democrats Howard Dean and then Barack Obama, set the pace for developing innovative electronic communications. In January, Scott Brown dumped more than 10 percent of his advertising budget in online advertising, and credited it, in part, for his win.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg, as campaigns get smarter about microtargeting on the  web. A recent study by Tulchin Research found that 57 percent of Californians access political news and information via Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Some 40 percent of social media users are following or supporting candidates for office via Facebook and Twitter. One in five voters use their smart phones to get political news and information.

FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson seems to be hinting that he’s not inclined to do anything to hamper this rapid growth electronic communication. And that’ s good.

“The Commission is not interested in requiring individuals to report as committees when they are merely exercising their First Amendment rights, but if this is paid political speech, then perhaps tighter regulation requiring greater disclosure and transparency is in order,” he said in a press release before the hearing

That’s the path I’d expect the FPPC to go: requiring greater disclosure, somewhere, somehow on all campaign-paid electronic communication. That’s not as easy as it sounds, though, and the commission has its work cut out for it to make that regulation work.

Later this year the subcommittee will present its findings to the full Commission for consideration of whether new rules are necessary to require the disclosure of who is behind electronic messages advocating for or against the election of California’s state and local candidates or ballot measures.

These changes could require the adoption of regulations by the Commission, or entirely new state laws, which must be adopted as a bill by the Legislature, or as a proposition by a vote of the people.

The Commission is right to investigate this new landscape as long as it first does no damage.

(The FPPC will hold another subcommittee hearing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. , March 24  at the University of Southern California Law School, Ackerman Courtroom, Room 107, located at 699 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles. Full information can be found here.)

Gavin’$ Problem; M&R and the Politics of Outing

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Calbuzz has assiduously avoided writing about the race for (and machinations around) the office of Lieutenant Governor because we think  a) it’s a stupid statewide post that b) nobody cares about.

But while chatting with consultant Garry South about something else altogether, he mentioned that our old pal (and his former client) Prince Gavin Newsom of San Francisco could have some trouble if he decides to jump into the Gov Lite race.

South, a serious student of fund-raising rules in California, argued that under Fair Political Practices Commission regulations, as amended in 2000 by Prop. 34, Newsom’s major donors from the governor’s race – those who gave him anything more than the $6,500 limit in the LG’s race – cannot be tapped for more cash.

“They can’t give him another dime,” South insisted. “They’re maxed out.”

Of course, South is conflicted on this issue, since he’s now working for Lite Gov candidate Janice Hahn of the L.A. City Council, who, until Newsom started nosing around in the race, appeared to be facing only Kern County state Sen. Dean Florez for the Democratic nomination.

This isn’t about transferring money from one account to another, which Jerry Brown can do – making it possible for him to go back to the same people who gave him $6,500 for Attorney General and ask them for the difference up to $25,900, the maximum for a governor’s race.

We don’t recall a situation in California in which a candidate wipes out a governor’s campaign account and then wants trade down to another statewide office.

But Newsom friend and (for now) unpaid adviser Jason Kinney (South’s old ally and partner at California Strategies), says the Prince’s people have consulted with two different campaign law attorneys and have been told that Newsom can indeed go back to those maxed-out donors and get cash for a lite gov run – if he decides to file.

And Roman Porter, executive director of the FPPC, told Calbuzz he agrees with Kinney Newsom et al. The limits, he said, apply “per candidate, per election – it’s a separate election.” (BTW, Porter was actually at the hospital where his wife was in labor when he came to the phone to offer his perspective – way above and beyond the call of duty.)

Now, we’re not lawyers (we just pay them). But when we read the law (including the definition of a candidate) and when we think about it, South’s got a point. When you strip away all the parenthetical and qualifying clauses and update the dollar amounts the law says: Except a candidate for governor, a candidate for statewide elective office may not accept from a person any contribution totaling more than $6,500 per election.

 

If the law is designed to limit influence by a donor, why would it allow the donor to buy $25,900 in Gavin Newsom for Governor and then, when that collapses, another $6,500 in Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor?

On the other hand, you can see why South would want to wipe out that $3 million funder base that Newsom tapped in his aborted governor’s campaign.

Injunction to follow.

In & out burger: Chroniclers Phil Matier and Andy Ross, the Butch and Sundance of California political reporters, fearlessly jumped off a journalistic cliff Sunday Feb. 7, when they identified as gay the federal judge now presiding over the volatile Prop. 8 case — Vaughn Walker.

A case study pitting an individual’s right to privacy versus the public’s right to know, the uncharacteristically nuanced M&R column stirred upset and concern in several quarters  – including their own newsroom. By outing Walker with their hetero-normative insensitivity, the argument went, the boys not only created an irrelevant distraction in the middle of the trial, but also handed gay marriage foes a handy argument to discount any trial rulings, or eventual decision, that undercut Prop. 8.

“What’s next?” one denizen of Fifth & Mission bitterly complained, “Tailing him to a bar? Peeking at his magazine subscriptions or his Netflix account?”

The thoughtful Brian Leubitz, who blogs about the trial at the Courage Campaign’s excellent Prop 8 Trial Tracker , argued the case against publicly disclosing Walker’s sexual orientation by raising this comparison:

So, did anybody comment about Justice Alito’s gender when he wrote the outrageous opinion in Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire that said that under the Civil Rights Act women could not sue after 180 days from the discriminatory decision, even if they didn’t know about the decision for years? The decision that ultimately spurred the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act because it was so egregious?

Breaking it down, Calbuzz sees three key questions:

1-Did M&R “out” Walker?

No. Our dictionary defines “outing” as “The exposing of one assumed to be, or wishing to be, considered heterosexual as being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.” Although he hasn’t advertised his sexual orientation, Walker by all accounts has made no secret of it, either.

Matier and Ross went out of their way not to out Walker, and their reporting showed pretty clearly that he didn’t feel outed: First, they called him up to ask him directly about his sexual orientation, to which he gave a “no comment.” Not long after, however, they received a call from another federal judge, described as a “friend (and) confidant” of Walker; this judge told them he had spoken to Walker, who was concerned that “people will come to the conclusion that (Walker) wants to conceal his sexuality.”

“He has a private life and he doesn’t conceal it, but doesn’t think it is relevant to his decisions in any case, and he doesn’t bring it to bear in any decisions,” said the judge, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the Prop. 8 trial.

“Is it newsworthy?” he said of Walker’s orientation, and laughed, “Yes.”

2-Is Walker’s sexual orientation a story? Yes.

The backgrounds of judges matters, and Walker’s is no less a story as Alito holding  membership in the Federalist Society, or Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” speech. Walker clearly doesn’t hide his sexuality and, if he ends up overturning Prop. 8, its backers will use everything they can to challenge the legitimacy of his opinion in the appeal or the media, or both.

At that point, the Chronicle would find itself explaining why they didn’t report the fact in the first place, just as the Portland Oregonian did a disservice to readers in the 1990s by sitting on information about former Senator Bob Packwood sexually harassing a series of staffers, and then was caught out when the facts were disclosed by another news organization. Journalists are in the business of making information public, not withholding it, or calculating in advance the potential political impacts of publishing or not.

3-Does it make a difference to the case? It shouldn’t.

For starters, as state Senator Mark Leno pointed out to M&R, no one made an issue of the sexual orientation of members of the state Supreme Court when they heard the first challenge to Prop. 8. So why should Walker being gay matter any more or less?

Also, there’s plenty of evidence that the judge keeps his personal beliefs separate from his professional actions and values, and holds himself to the ethical standard famously compounded by the late Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter:

As a member of this court, I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard.

 

Walker was reviled in the gay community for years because he represented, as an attorney, the U.S. Olympic Committee when it won a case disallowing San Francisco’s Gay Olympics from using that name. In fact, as Chron editorial page editor John Diaz pointed out in a strong follow-up edit on Tuesday, there’s great irony in the suggestion that Walker is in the tank for the gay community:

Vaughn Walker almost lost his chance to reach the federal bench because of claims that he was anti-gay and hostile to civil rights. Two dozen House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, opposed his nomination because of his alleged “insensitivity” to gays and the poor. His first appointment, from President Ronald Reagan in 1987, stalled out in the Senate Judiciary Committee…Back then, Walker struggled to assure skeptical liberals that, as a judge, he could rule with impartiality…

Bottom line: Chronicle editors made the right call in publishing the M&R column as is, and in doing so followed the most fundamental principle of the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists:

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Press Clips: Nice work by Jackson West at NBC Bay Area in shedding light on eMeg Whitman’s claims about layoffs during her tenure at eBay…High Concept of the Week, from Steven Pearlstein in the Washpost: Obama should show some leadership…High Concept II, from Alan Mutter: journalists should get paid.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: It’s open season on Smokey the Bear.

High on the Hog: A Look Inside eMeg’s $pending

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The amounts of expenditures officially categorized in Meg Whitman’s 1,041-page, $29.4 million campaign finance report mask the staggering sums she has actually paid to political and business consultants and cronies, a Calbuzz analysis of her filing shows.

The formal FPPC category for “campaign consultants” totals $5.25 million on Whitman’s electronic statement for 2009. But when fees, travel and other expenses are totaled for consultants, it turns out that eMeg actually has forked out about $12.7 million to various strategic, research, media, fund-raising and other consultants.

A close reading of the report also reveals eMeg’s eye-popping financial relationships with a cadre of political and business associates.

For example: Not only has Whitman paid $350,000 categorized as “campaign consultants” to Tokoni – the online networking firm founded by her former eBay retainers Alex Kazim, Mary Lou Song and Rajiv Dutta, and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar – but the report elsewhere  lists $2.55 million in payments to Tokoni for information technology costs and web services. That’s a total of $2.9 million for her pals who built and operate her poppy-festooned campaign web site.

Which makes sense, since Kazim was her point man at Skype – eMeg’s $3 billion flop investment for eBay. Calbuzz doesn’t expect to hear any critical eMeg war stories from these guys; for sheer interlocking intertwinedeness,  the Tokoni connection is unmatched.

Our Department of Linguistics and Obscurata assures us that “tokoni” is the Tongan word for “help.” (Not as in: eMeg is not known to be nice to the help, but more like, We’re from Calbuzz, we’re here to help.) The firm is a social networking operation that recently began selling help for  companies to brand themselves, in part by developing online communities for their customers and/or clients.

That’s what they’re doing for eMeg, Mary Lou Song told Helzerman’s Odd Bits a while back: “If you look at Meg Whitman as a brand it makes sense,” she said. “What makes politics so great is talking about life stories and the impact.  She was excited about her site and letting Californians talk about their lives.”

In addition to infusing her campaign with $19 million of her own fortune, Whitman raised about $10.2 million from other donors. But it cost her about $3.6 million, in fees to fund-raising consultants, costs and event expenses to raise that $10.2 million. That’s way too high, several veteran California campaign consultants told us, saying that 15-20% is the rule of thumb: “If you’re paying more than 15% on all the money raised,” said one, “you’re getting hosed.”

Some of eMeg’s largest expenditures were made to a fund-raiser and his business operation. Her FPPC report lists SJZ Inc., Solamere Capital and MJF, LLC.

WTF is all that, we asked.

SJZ Inc. is Spencer J. Zwick. Like Meg, he’s one of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s closest political allies, and now her national finance chairman. At a price: $564,046 to be exact, which is loyalty you can depend on.

Beyond that, eMeg also shelled out $96,000 to Solamere Capital – the investment firm founded by Zwick and his pal Tagg Romney (Mitt’s boy) – apparently for the services of Solamere employee Mason J. Fink. Those payments — $16,000 a month — stopped after July and instead eMeg started paying MJF LLC (Fink’s independent business) directly at a rate of $10,000 a month.

The reason the campaign stopped paying Solamere and started paying Fink directly in August may have something to do with Griff Harsh – Meg’s son with her husband, Stanford neurosurgeon Dr. Griffith R. Harsh IV. Young Griff went to work at Solamere that month as a junior analyst.

Valleywag, a part of Gawker, posted an item – a cheap, sleazy rumor, really — that suggested, without saying so, that eMeg’s campaign was paying Solamere to employ Griff. But according to Tucker Bounds, Meg’s communications honcho, the campaign made the switch when Griff went to work at Solamere specifically to avoid even the appearance of an impropriety, which Valleywag tried to imply.

Still, the connections between Meg and the Romneys are pretty deep, since – according to eMeg narrative – Mitt was her mentor at Bain and Company years ago. Having Mom shovel something like $700,000 to Solamere’s founder, company and an employee appears, at least, not to have hurt Griff’s employment chances.

The most head-banging number in the report is the $3.9 million paid to Smart Media Group of Alexandia, Va., for what appears to be Meg’s online videos and her radio advertising and air time.

Smart Media’s clients include other branded commodities like American Airlines, MasterCard, Columbian coffee and the Dallas Cowboys, along with some entities in search of a brand (like Meg is) – the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican Governor’s Association.

There’s much more fun with numbers: Like $290,662 to ACM Aviation for private jets. Or $1.96 million spent on campaign worker’s salaries, of which $50,000 was to California Choice Benefit Administrators for health insurance.

Or how about $528,121 to HSG Communications LLC for salary at $36,000 a month, plus expenses. That’s campaign ayatollah Henry Gomez. As consultant fees go, it’s a very large number, especially for a guy whose experience was as an uberflack at eBay, not a commander in the political trenches.

Atop the food chain – at least until we see in the next report what Mike Murphy’s getting paid* – is Scott Howell & Co, the media consultants from DC, who have thus far been paid $825,000 at $75,000 a month. That’s more even than eMeg has spent on polling and research — $672,463. (As veterans of the polling biz, Calbuzz can testify that with  $670,000 you could find out what left-handed, Basque rutabaga farmers in Fresno County think about global warming, if that’s what you wanted to know.)

Campaign manager Jillian Hasner’s a consultant at $28,500 a month while Jeff Randle, who had been top dog (after Gomez) at $27,500 is now down to a lousy $25,000 a month. Geez. Don’t get too upset: Jeff made $287,500 last year from Meg’s campaign, plus $79,652 billed to Randle Communications; his partner, Mitch Zak, made another $180,000.

Not sure how the salaries get set inside the campaign, with Sara Myers, who had been at $6,000, now pulling $8Gs bi-weekly** a month; Tucker Bounds and Todd Cranney at $7,500; Michael Saragosa and William Semmes at $6,250; John Endert at $5,250 and the Volcanic Sarah Pompei at $5,200. At those rates, our old colleague, Mary Anne Ostrom, is worth much more than the $4,250 she’s pulling now.

As for catering, the expense always most important to Calbuzz: eMeg dished out $12,275 to Wolfgang Puck. Burp.

* The report does include $27,500 a month for November and December for Bonaparte Films LLC for which Murphy is writer, producer and consultant. Total payments to Bonaparte thus far = $57,975 (for two months).

** Imagine our embarrassment when a reader notified us that we had underpaid all those staffers by half!