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Posts Tagged ‘Gale Kaufman’



Final Thoughts on IGS 2010 Gov Race Conference

Monday, January 24th, 2011

In the end, the weekend conference on California’s just-concluded campaign for governor looked a lot like the race itself: Meg Whitman refused to talk to an audience not of her choosing, got trashed for it and ended up the biggest loser for her selfish and self-absorbed behavior.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies confab, held every four years, drew its largest crowd ever, an eclectic collection of media and political hacks, earnest students and academic chrome domes, professional pollsters and political wannabes, all drawn by the opportunity to hear, first-hand from the operatives who ran the campaigns, the inside story of how the deal went down.

Beyond its sheer entertainment value for an audience of obsessed political junkies, the conference in the past also served the more serious purpose of establishing a permanent record of the process by which Californians chose their chief executive, an important resource for scholars, authors and journalists. But the 2011 version was unfortunately flawed by two big shortcomings:

First, not a single member of the mighty Legions of eMeg had the courage, concern for history, not to mention common courtesy, to show his or her face; despite heroic efforts to represent the Republican perspective by top-rank GOP pols who didn’t work on the campaign (about whom more later) this left a huge hole in the record, given that Herself and Her Money, in many ways, became the story of the campaign.

Second, there was way too much spin and way too little candor by too many of those who did participate – an unfortunate departure from past years, which will leave a distorted and incomplete record of what was one of the most important campaigns in recent decades: “It just wasn’t the real story of the campaign,” one prominent political scientist complained at a post-conference reception. (Suggested reading for future scholars: this and this.)

That said, there still was value in the event, even if it was often to be found in the bar of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and around the tables of nearby Berkeley restaurants, where war stories and unvarnished opinions were more frequently to be found. Some observations:

Most Valuable Player – The MVP of the conference was Jim Bognet, manager of Steve Poizner’s losing GOP primary effort. Funny, smart and honest, Bognet offered a sense of what it was like day-after-day to go up against a rival funded by $180 million (Meg’s spending “created its own center of gravity”) and displayed how personal the battle got between the Republicans (“never was so much spent on so many for so little”). He also provided – in the form of advice to students in the room thinking about going into politics — the best single riff of the weekend, defining the ethical rot at the center of Team Whitman that led to the most expensive disaster in the history of American politics:

When you’re getting paid a lot of money – and there were many consultants in this race that got paid a lot of money – it gives you an incentive not to speak truth to power. It gives you an incentive not to tell them what they don’t want to hear as candidates. You are more valuable as a campaign staffer and as a human being if you’re willing to say to the person who is paying your paycheck, “You are wrong. You need to talk to the press. You need to go out and answer these questions. You need to answer for why you switched your position.” It is a conflict of interest because the same person that is paying you, you have to give hard advice and talk about things, personal things that are not comfortable to talk about. So I would say, you have to fight against that continuously in order to add value to your candidate.

Least Valuable Player – The LVP of the conference was Peter Ragone, representing Gavin Newsom’s short and stunted primary bid for governor. Ragone is a nice guy and a competent operative, but his endless, obviously phony spin on behalf of the new Lite Governor had the audience groaning and looking for barf bags.

Newsom, it seems, is a politician of uncommon moral courage, motivated by only two idealistic factors – his unstinting and unselfish determination to do what is right and true and good for all the rest of us (after trashing the office of lieutenant governor, he changed his mind and ran because “he decided this was where he could the most good”) and the high moral courage that drives him to put his family above all else (no mention of him boinking the wife of his chief of staff in the mayor’s office). Self-interest never figures into it, Ragone would have us believe. Enough to make a hog puke. No matter what new UC Regent Newsom wanted, IGS should have invited Garry South and Nick Clemons, his actual gubernatorial campaign directors.

The missing characters –  The transcript of the proceedings will be turned into a book which purportedly will serve as the final word on the governor’s race. Puh-leeze. Consider this: the three most important behind-the-scenes players in the race – Brown’s wife Anne Gust, Whitman major domo Henry Gomez and top strategist Mike Murphy – didn’t figure in any of the discussions and, unless we missed it during a trip to the head or the cookie table, their names were never even mentioned. That’s like doing Hamlet without Hamlet.

Kudos to the stand-ins. While eMeg’s minions cowered in fear far away from Berkeley, former state chairmen Duf Sundheim and Bob Naylor, along with veteran strategist Jim Brulte, did a terrific job of describing the GOP perspective, their limited contacts with the candidate and her turf-conscious consultants, and how the establishment watched in horror as Whitman melted down.

“As Republicans, we were really concerned as the primary went on because since they were so close on the issues, it was really going to come down to a very nasty, personal fight,” Sundheim said. Said Naylor: “When the dust settled in the primary, the Whitman campaign was over.” And Brulte, who with his commentary reaffirmed his position as the sharpest Republican mind in the state, observed that except for Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – celebrities who transcended politics – California voters have always wanted  an experienced hand as governor. By spending so much money on television without a break, Whitman undercut her own ability to be the next best thing, he argued. “By Labor Day, Jerry Brown, who was governor when I was in high school, was the fresh new face.”

Message trumps money – Since we’re kvetching about others for a lack of self-criticism, Calbuzz should acknowledge that our own coverage may have suffered from putting too much focus on the extraordinary spectacle of Meg’s crazed spending, which at times led us to the misassumption that she could make up for her lack of a clear and consistent winning message by throwing money at the problem.

“I never understood it,” said Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. “Every time you turned on the TV, there were four or five tracks of (Whitman) ads that were completely different. They were switching ads all the time. You had no idea what their strategy was and never had anyone explain it to me.”  The Whitman campaign never had a compelling message, agreed consultant Rick Claussen: “Tactics is just a way to talk to voters.” You can spend all you want reaching out to voters, but if you don’t have something worth listening to, it’s a huge waste of money.

Brown was both lucky and good – In the final session of the conference, Brulte put his partisan perspective aside and offered his bottom line: Brown “ran a picture perfect campaign,” he said, a strategy built on keeping its focus on fundraising, using the office of Attorney General to keep him in the news and steering their own course no matter how much the winds emanating from Camp Whitman tried to blow them off course.

In Jim Moore, Brown had the best pollster in the race, the best ad man in Joe Trippi and the most disciplined manager in Glazer; their game plan to hold their fire until Labor Day, while many top Democrats and the political peanut gallery were hollering for them to answer eMeg’s summer assault, made all the difference. But Brown’s strategists also admitted that they benefited from missteps by eMeg. Said Glazer:

The one worry that I had when we went through that (2009) fall period into the new year was that Meg Whitman was going to use her resources to use Jerry Brown as the foil to be a stronger Republican . . . I thought that she would — even before the new year struck — that she would start to use Jerry Brown and start to raise our negatives by running against us as the presumptive Republican nominee. And I expected that all the way through until the primary day. I was very surprised that that actually never happened.

Once the primary was over, Trippi’s greatest fear was that Whitman would “go dark” over the summer, giving voters a respite from her 24/7 invasion of their living rooms and allowing her to re-emerge as a fresh face in the fall. Instead she essentially turned herself into the incumbent in a year when voters wanted change.

As Bognet had put it earlier: “She built herself a $180 million brand. Unfortunately, by the time the general came around her brand was, ‘She’s the woman with the money who won’t get off my TV.’”

Panelists also agreed that Whitman made a huge error by trying to portray Brown as a traditional tax and spend liberal, which simply misstates his record. As Republican Naylor, who served in the Assembly during Brown’s first turn as governor, put it: “Tax and spend doesn’t stick with Jerry Brown.”

Tone matters – Trippi correctly observed that the relentlessly snarky tone of Whitman’s relentless attack ads didn’t resonate with voters – “failure has followed him everywhere” he intoned — because they have a much more complex and long-running, if not always fond, relationship with him. Better for the Whitman people, Trippi said, to have been respectful to Brown by crafting a  more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger “gold watch” message, saying that he had performed valuable service to the state but adding that it was simply time for him to go, and to elect a “governor for the 21st century.”

Trying to avoid the press was a huge blunder — Speaker after speaker pointed to Whitman’s strategy of stiffing the media as a costly error for several reasons: it sent a message to voters that she thought she was too good to go through the usual hoops candidates for high office have always faced; it established a narrative that Whitman was secretive, and must have something to hide; it was a clear affront to the working press of the state, and their frustration showed up in the stories. As Poizner’s Jarrod Agen put it: “It never works to avoid the press.”

Bill Lockyer is the Diogenes of state politics — California’s treasurer was the keynote speaker of the conference and he turned in a boffo performance that provided a full-on and utterly frank look at the state of the state’s finances. Ask Lockyer what time it is and he’s liable to tell you how to make a watch, so some of his discourse on the niceties of the municipal bond market were a bit windy, but he’s smart, funny and seen it all. We’ll be running the text of his speech later this week.

Worst advice – The model for a California GOP comeback is Chris Christie in New Jersey, said Republican Tony Quinn. Sustained attacks on public employee unions and bloated government are the key to victory, he said. When Calbuzz rose to note that Whitman had done exactly that, he replied that she hadn’t done it very well.

Immigration sunk Whitman – Even before Meg’s Nicky Diaz housekeeper scandal, the immigration issue was a huge problem for Whitman. As Glazer explained, she had many liabilities on the issue even without Nicky – from shifting positions on a path to citizenship to her opposition to the Dream Act. Poizner’s hardline position in the primary forced her to move far right, which made her efforts to get back to the center in the general look pathetically calculated. When the Nicky story erupted, it merely personalized the hypocrisy and brazen opportunism of her political stances.

As Poizner’s Agen explained:

If we’d gotten into the general, it would have been a policy debate between Steve and Governor Brown on the policy issue of immigration. Jerry Brown would have had one stance on immigration, Steve would have had the other. But it would have been a policy discussion on immigration . . . What ended up happening, though, was immigration turned into a character issue and that is what ultimately hurts the Republican Party hugely is if immigration is a character issue. If it stays a policy issue, people are going to disagree with it and we felt that if you get to the general election, we’ll have it out, we’ll have that debate with Jerry on immigration, we’ll see how people, where people stand.

Best line – The strategists were asked at one point to name one thing they would have done that they didn’t do. “Telephone operational training,” said Glazer, a big laugh reference to Brown’s failure to hang up the phone when leaving a message with a law enforcement union, which led to the flap over someone in Brown headquarters (hello, Anne) referring to eMeg as a political “whore.”

Best fights – Field Pollster Mark Dicamillo ripped off the face of robopollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA (in the nicest possible way), who responded with a furious defense of his methodology, a screed that included some whacks at Calbuzz. The Cage Match of the pollsters was only matched for excitement when Democratic operative Bob Mulholland and Tony Quinn got into a finger-pointing duel about the rules and political significance of the new “top two” primary system. Talk about don’t-invite-ems.

The new Whig party — A number of speakers at the conference strongly argued that the California Republican party is essentially dead. Brulte for one said there was no way Whitman could have won the race because of the structural and demographic political landscape of the state, while Sundheim said “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.” Speaker after speaker noted how the Republican hostility to Latinos and other minorities, coupled with tired messaging that has nothing for younger voters, has made them an isolated and marginal party of old white people. Most seemed to have read and adopted the Calbuzz Memo to CA GOP: Time to Do Something Different.

Speaking of Whigs — Sacramento consultant Ray McNally, proving that there’s not much new in American politics, read from an 1840 confidential memo written by Abraham Lincoln that laid out a complete organizing strategy for the “overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country,” which included everything from polling and GOTV to voter contact and fundraising. Example: “3) It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month, the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls.” You can read it here.

The two minds of the voters – Political scientist Kim Nalder from Sac State honed in on the most fundamental factor driving state politics today: the disconnect that voters feel between demanding high levels of service and their determination not to pay taxes. Lockyer underscored a Calbuzz report that voters think 48% of the money the state spends is wasted –  a high hurdle for Brown to overcome if he is to sell his cuts-and-taxes budget plan to fix the state’s $28 billion budget shortfall.

Deep thoughts: Thad Kousser of UC San Diego made some points that cut against the notion that California is forever blue (an argument that effectively lets the Armies of eMeg off the hook). A panel of political scientists agreed that “campaign effects” are marginal – but that marginal effects matter big time in close races, so the Whitman-Brown race could have been close – “Nothing was inevitable in this campaign.” And a note to future mega-spending candidates: “Campaigns can’t tell voters what to think, but they can tell them what to think about.”

Nice work — There were too many journalists from the LA Times on the program (although we were wrong to say two of the three didn’t cover the governor’s race: only one did not) and not enough from other major papers or news agencies. But the four who participated — Mark Barabak, Cathy Decker and Anthony York of the Times, and Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star — did a fine job of moving the conversation along.

Jerry Brown Sex Scandal Meets eMeg’s Pixel Dust

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

This just in – 34 years after the fact.

Former White House Press Secretary and  Calbuzz old friend Mike McCurry on Thursday revealed that his first job in politics was working for Jerry Brown’s 1976 stop-Jimmy Carter campaign for president in New Jersey, where Mike had just graduated from Princeton.

McCurry shared some juicy dish from those long-ago days, as he held forth at Brews & Views, the micro-public affairs forum that Lenny Mendoca of McKinsey and Co. organizes at his Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

It was kind of a homecoming for McCurry, who used to fish off the Pillar Point Pier in nearby Princeton-by-the Sea when he was a San Carlos teenager at the late Ravenswood High School. Sipping a  Mavericks and answering questions, he noted that his first political gig included picking up Brown one morning at his hotel, where there was a bit of a stir because the bachelor California governor had had a sleep-over visitor in his room: Linda Ronstadt.

How synchronous that Jerry’s young driver would one day go on to serve as press secretary for Bill Clinton, against whom Brown would also run in 1992, and with whom Krusty famously nearly came to blows during a presidential debate.

My page views are bigger than your page views: Must read of the week is Ken McLaughlin’s take out on Meg Whitman’s extensive use of new technology tools, the best piece we’ve read detailing the scope and specifics of how Team eMeg is adapting them for campaign purposes.

Most intriguing to us is their practice of live streaming video from Brown’s campaign events back to their headquarters, which enables them to respond in real time to his every flip, flop and foible; coincidentally, Ken’s piece ran the same day we reported on Krusty’s caterwauling about being constantly recorded by the Empire of Meg, a wheeze that underscores the considerable distance between the communications capabilities of the Democrat and Republican candidates.

The former eBay CEO’s carpet-bombing of the airwaves generated the most political buzz during her $80 million march to victory over Steve Poizner in the GOP primary. But behind the scenes, her campaign served as a laboratory for new technology that will be unleashed against her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, in the months leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

A glimpse into Whitman’s tech spending is startling: The latest campaign expenditure reports show she had spent $2.7 million through May 22 on website development and information technology alone — seven times more than Brown spent on his entire campaign.

“The incredible amount of money Whitman is spending allows her to buy every bell and whistle ever invented,” said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State political science professor. “And it fosters the perception that Jerry Brown is late to the party.”

Gee, we must have missed his arrival.

Jack Chang’s good yarn comparing and contrasting the two campaign’s ops  touched some of the same ground, but was most notable for the extraordinary exertions of Tucker Bounds, who actually portrayed Her Megness – presumably with a straight face – as the leader of “a movement.”

We’ve been innovative in the way we communicate, and that’s a product of the campaign trying to be as effective as possible in building support for what we see as a movement type of candidate,” said campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

He’s right, of course: listening to Meg, we can almost the strains of Dr. King: “Rich at last, rich at last, thank God Almighty, I’m obscenely rich at last.”

There he goes being thoughtful again: NYU’s Jay Rosen is one of the most imaginative, original and articulate thinkers about the future of the news industry, and the intersection of new media, old media and politics, and his recent essay, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right: On the actual ideology of the American press,” despite its windy title, is worth a read for newsroom rats and political hacks alike.

Rosen rejects the clashing conventional wisdoms of the political right and left, that hold that political reporters are either a) liberal ideologues or b) corporate handmaidens, in favor of a perspective and vocabulary that examines the press as tribal creatures far more interested in the values and good opinions of peer members of what he calls “the church of the savvy” than any  belief system based on mere politics.

The Church of the Savvy…is my name for the actual belief system that prevails in political journalism….

Prohibited from joining in political struggles, dedicated to observing what is, regardless of whether it ought to be, the savvy believe that these disciplines afford them a special view of the arena, cured of excess sentiment, useless passon, ideological certitude and other defects of vision that players in the system routinely exhibit. As I wrote on Twitter the other day, “the savvy don’t say: I have a better argument than you… They say: I am closer to reality than you. And more mature.”

Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his or her observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sighted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy. This is part of what’s so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog realism to itself.

Calbuzz sez check it out.

Seema seems everywhere: The ubiquitous Seema Mehta penned the best analysis of the whys and wherefores of Whitman picking a fight with the California Nurses Association as the forward shot of a broader attack to scapegoat unions as the source of most of California’s problems.

Laden with foreshadowing is the kicker of the piece, a strong quote from SacDem consultant Gale Kaufman, who led labor’s successful beat back of  Governor Schwarzmuscle’s attempt to make the same play back in 2005:

“She’s very used to getting her own way, and she’s used to buying things. Those two parts of her personality have become pretty clear during this campaign,” Kaufman said. “She just assumes that somehow if she bullies the unions, the unions are going to back off. Well, she doesn’t know the nurses, because they never back off.”

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: White House press corps goes completely native.

Chicken eMeg Ducks; Primary Winners and Losers

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Jerry Brown kicked off his general election campaign for governor by reprising the Call-Meg-Out-to-Debate gambit he played at the California Democratic state convention. And eMeg, true to form, repeated her Chicken Little with a Fat Checkbook routine, refusing to meet Krusty on neutral turf.

So began the race to November: Brown moved to maximize his big advantage as a skillful debater while minimizing her great strength as a world-class spender, as she pooh-poohed his invitation to a series of 10 town hall joint appearances, clearly recognizing the pitch as that of a poor man desperate to substitute free airtime for the countless TV ads only she can afford.

“I’m inviting Meg Whitman to join with me to run a campaign that will put the focus on town halls where each of us in an unscripted manner will discuss our positions and answer questions,” Brown said Wednesday, in a move that echoed his call in April for three-way gubernatorial debates that included the now-vanquished Steve Poizner.

“Let’s tell people how we’ll manage their tax dollars, how we’ll hold down taxes, how we’ll make government work better and more efficiently, how we’ll fix our schools and how we’ll create jobs,” he added.

Whitman ducked and hid behind Mike Murphy’s clown pants while turning the rhetorical tables back on Krusty the General whom, she quite correctly noted, has not laid out plans for managing the state budget, taxes and spending:

“There will be plenty of debates in the future,” Whitman told reporters (hmmm, where have we heard that before?).  “But in the present what I recommend to Jerry Brown, instead of playing political games, is to lay out his plan for California.

“His website has virtually nothing on it and he hasn’t told Californians much of anything. I put out a 48-page policy book and detailed the plans that I have to turn California around.  I call on Jerry Brown to lay out a plan for California, and then at least we’ll have something to debate about.”

The elbow exchanges began on Tuesday night, within moments of confirmation that they were their parties’ nominees  for governor.

“It’s not enough for someone rich and restless to look in the mirror one morning and decide, ‘Hey, it’s time to be governor of California,’” Brown said, in the best line of the night. “We tried that [nudge, nudge, wink, wink Gov. Schwarzmuscle]. It didn’t work. Puffery, platitudes and promises won’t balance our budget, won’t fix our schools and won’t create any new jobs.”

“Career politicians in Sacramento and Washington be warned [take a note Babs],” Whitman replied, joining herself at the hip with U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina. “You now face your worst nightmare; two businesswomen from the real world who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done.”

“Jerry Brown has spent a lifetime in politics and the results have not been good. Failure seems to follow Jerry Brown everywhere,” eMeg added.

God, we love the smell of sniping in the morning.

The bottom line: The Green Eyeshade Division of the Calbuzz Department of Weights and Measures has concluded – after several shots of espresso and rubber covers on our fingertips – that Whitman spent about $90 per vote in the primary while Brown spent about 20 cents per vote. So if the debate going forward is partly about who knows how to wring results out of a scarce dollar, well, you gotta give the edge to Krusty.

Pressing the populist income equality point, Brown flackster Sterling Clifford responded to Meg’s refusal to debate:  “Whitman is acting as though she’s the queen of California and wants to be crowned without the need to face her subjects. . .Since Meg Whitman only has a record of not voting, it’s time for her to get out from behind her gilded curtain and engage in a open exchange about how we can get California working again.”

Brown himself got a little steamed when asked about Whitman’s repeated charge that his record shows he would tax and spend too much.

“Look, she wasn’t here most of the time, and she wasn’t voting or paying attention,” he said, a reference to the fact that Whitman has only a passing acquaintance with civic engagement. “When I was governor of California, we built up the largest surplus in history — $4.5 billion. We created 1.9 million jobs. We reduced taxes by billions, OK?”

True that, but when Brown started as governor in January 1975, Whitman was still attending just out of Cold Spring Harbor High School in Long Island and studying at Princeton, where she might have learned about Brown’s tax and spending practices  in a class on ancient and medieval history.

Election pool results: The breathtakingly close race for second place in the Democratic primary for governor, matching retired San Diego Realtor Richard Aguirre and Sacramento-based parole board judge Charles “Chuck” Pineda Jr., had our team of polling officials working into the  early morning hours Wednesday to determine the election pool winners.

Secretary of State Deborah Bowen reported the photo finish result this way:

Aguirre 71,493  (0.0406288%)
Pineda 71,484  (0.0406237%)

As of noon Wednesday, we hadn’t heard of Pineda calling for a recount, so although these are the unofficial, not- for-the-record-books-not-exactly-final numbers, the Calbuzz Department of Close Enough for Government Work & Election Returns made a command decision to give  Aguirre 2nd place for pool purposes. Because, after all, why not?

That said, the winners, with number of Right and Wrong answers are:

1st Place – Brian Kraft       6R 1W
2nd Place – Jeremy Wolf   5R 2W (won tiebreaker*)
3rd Place – Justin Salenik 5R 2W (2nd tiebreaker)

*The tiebreaker question was how many votes birther screwball Orly Taitz would capture in the Secretary of State race. Players were all over the lot on this, with Michael Tamariz estimating a low-ball 7,845 and Andrew Westall and Alex Hirsch both projecting 1.1 million for the widely known whack job. In the end, the demented loon won 359,490 Republican votes. Which is pretty scary, if you think about it.

Thanks to everyone for playing.

Damn the iceberg, I’m in charge here: Speaking of knuckleheads, Chris Matthews made an even bigger fool of himself than usual Tuesday night when he ranted on MSNBC air for several hours about the damage that was going to be inflicted upon the California Republican ticket because GOP voters were about to nominate Taitz – even though GOP voters never came close to nominating her and she badly trailed nominee Damon Dunn all night long, starting with the first vote dump.

Starting well before the polls closed in California at 8 p.m. and continuing until after 9 p.m., Matthews kept putting on a frightful frown to repeatedly raise the subject of Taitz and thunder that she was a “malignancy” for Republicans who was likely to “drag down” Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, as if her nomination was an accomplished fact, rather than the headline on a  lazy speculation piece that he’d read on Politico the day before.

Just when it appeared his tweety bird head would surely explode, NBC political director Chuck Todd saved the day by gently pointing out to Matthews that what he was saying lacked what you like to call your factual foundation.

Nonplussed by having uttered utter nonsense for hours, Matthews quickly moved on to his next imaginary opinion.

Unsung heroine: Progressives, populists and all right-thinking people everywhere owe a big Ooh Rah to Gale Kaufman, who worked pro bono managing the David-Goliath upset campaign against Prop. 16.

While Pacific Greed & Extortion Co. spent $46 million of ratepayers money on its cynical scheme to block local governments from contracting for cheap public power around the state, Kaufman had a campaign budget of $90,000 which she expertly deployed to foil the evil corporate plot.

Final score:

Good guys 2,015,297   $  0.04 per vote.
Bad guys 1,830,278   $ 25.13 per vote.

Mwahaha.

We’re just sayin’: Our Department of So Ten Minutes Ago Cliches and Worn Out Slang is calling for a moratorium on the use of the phrase “Game On” in all California political stories between now and the November election. Don’t make us use your names.

Year of the Woman meets Mean Girls: Hurricane Carly, who was bald fercrineoutloud after chemo for breast cancer and got a pass from everyone about her ravaged looks, now has dyed her growback hair black with some greasy product she got at Target and while she’s waiting to do an interview on KXTV in Sacramento, she makes a crack about Barbara Boxer’s hair! (Not to mention her [jealous?] trash talking of eMeg for going on Sean Hannity). CNN has the outtake. This is the kind of stuff that makes her so repulsive to some people (we name no names).

DBI: Cal Forward, Con Con, Campaign Finance

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

A plague in the newsroom: When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the Old Chronicle had a cityside editing slot known as the “Plague Desk,” assigned to whatever unfortunate assistant city editor was tasked with herding the cats who covered Politics, Law and Government.

In due time, old school Old Chronicler Carl Nolte invented a fanciful PLAG  desk publication, which he called “DBI: The magazine of politics, law and government.”

DBI stood for “dull but important,” and, thanks to Nolte’s abiding interest in designing and drawing covers for his imaginary mag, it featured headlines like, “Infrastructure: Threat or Menace?” and “The Secret World of the Bay Area Air Pollution Control District,” or “Up Close and Personal with Regional Planning Superstars” and “What’s New in Waste Water Management.”

For whatever reason, in recent weeks the News Gods have favored Calbuzz with a plague of DBI stories, from tax reform to T-Ridge, so today we honor Nolte’s extraordinary contributions to newsroom saloon humor with our own version of DBI.

Kaufman, wearing a Calbuzz botton

Cal Forward moves forward: California Forward has hired ace Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman to quarterback their 2010 campaign for two reform initiatives, after their efforts to get things started faced some delays, thanks in part to a big assist from Calbuzz.

Facing an April 16 deadline to collect 694,354 valid signatures — which means a million or so raw ones — Cal Forward is still awaiting title and summary for its proposed constitutional amendment to revamp the state’s budget process. AG Jerry Brown’s office, which appears to be struggling to keep up with the zillion or so would-be  initiatives flying around, only recently signed off on the group’s other measure, aimed at keeping the state’s hands off local government revenues.

“We’re definitely going ahead with the initiatives. The deadline is tight, but we’ll have enough time,” Kaufman told us, adding that she is confident Cal-Forward, a business-labor-goo goo coalition, will have no problem raising money for the campaign.

Kaufman, who’s elected half the Democrats in the Assembly and whose  client list also includes the CTA, is coming on board amid a batch of rumors about Cal Forward floundering to qualify its initiatives.

Some members have been grumbling that the bipartisan group should scrap its local finance measure, because it’s too similar to an initiative backed by the League of California Cities. Cal Forward’s John Stevens defended the measure, noting that it would give cities, counties and school districts new authority to gain voter approval of one-percent increases in the local sales tax with a majority, instead of a two-thirds, vote. Passage would be pegged to a comprehensive government finance plan prepared by local pols, Stevens told us.

Their second initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment which, at post time, was  still gathering moss in Crusty’s office, has gained more attention and discussion.

Among other provisions, it would require the governor and Legislature to put in place a performance-based budget and a two-year spending plan. It also would reduce the two-thirds requirement for passage of a budget to a majority of both houses.

Amid the initiative push, some legislators are still screwing around with their own version of a similar ballot measure, a rear guard action which isn’t helping the urgency of Cal Forward’s own effort.

Cal Forward submitted an amended version of the budget reform initiative after Calbuzz reported that the original would place restrictions on the Legislature’s ability to enact new fees for state services under the Sinclair Paint decision, an obscure but important policy procedure. After we blew the whistle on the play, some liberal-leaning Cal Forward types screamed bloody murder, and the Sinclair section was rewritten, a move which is partially responsible for the delay.

And thank you for that.

Con Con petitioners vs. pros: We hear there’s a story percolating about the, um, questionable actions by agents of some statewide signature gathering firms unhappy about the initiative petitions being circulated by backers of a constitutional convention.

Apparently some of the professional petition movers fear that delegates to a constitutional convention will, among other things, seek to change the current ballot initiative process, disrupting or killing their business. They want nothing to do with the con con effort, which instead is trying to organize its own, largely volunteer, petition force of 400 people on the street by President’s Day.

Word is that some of the opposition to the convention petitions has been expressed in what you might call your allegedly extra-legal manner. Nobody’s talking for the record about this yet, but don’t be surprised if there’s some action on this front within the week.

What campaign finance decision means for us: The best line we’ve read about last week’s big U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to buy elections contribute to federal campaigns appeared in the NYT’s thundering editorial of outrage about it, which summed up the politics pretty well:

The ruling is likely to be viewed as a shameful bookend to Bush v. Gore. With one 5-to-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority stopped valid votes from being counted to ensure the election of a conservative president. Now a similar conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.

Beyond the bald facts of partisan politics, two other things seem perfectly clear about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: 1) it will create more work for lawyers; 2) its practical impact in California this year will likely be limited to Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate race.

“There’s no impact on state races,” said Karen Getman, one of the smartest campaign law attorneys in the state, with Remcho, Johansen & Purcell.  “But in House races and the U.S. Senate race, the dynamic has changed.”

With most of the state’s congressional districts nicely gerrymandered for one party or the other (this could change in the future if a proposed initiative for a new redistricting commission to redraw House seats passes), it’s unlikely to cause huge changes on that front.

But Boxer, who’s already facing a very tough political environment for Democrats, could well become a test case for how the new court decision affects a big, expensive Senate race. It’s easy to imagine any of the three contenders for the Republican nomination – even third-place runner Chuck DeVore, who could benefit from Tea Party astroturfing right-wing donors or industry-specific hit squads – flooding the zone with big corporate bucks against Babs.

Of course, the decision also allows labor to contribute freely to independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of candidates, so it’s likely Boxer would get a boost from SEIU and AFL-CIO types if she runs into trouble. Bottom line, of course, is that the big winners will be campaign media buyers and TV stations throughout the state, which could find corporations and campaigns road blocking available ad times.

Our own discount copy

Costco Carla strikes again: The forces of eMeg are being weirder than ever in providing info about “The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and in Life,” the Great Woman’s new self-serving propaganda piece memoir.

Seems like Her Megness is concerned about running afoul of state laws that might look askance on her using the private book venture for campaign purposes, and so has engaged a new battalion of purse holders and coat carriers to staff her book tour.

While campaign types insist they couldn’t possibly scare up a review copy of the thing for the Sensitive New Media Guys covering the governor’s race, the Chron’s resourceful Carla Marinucci scored one in her weekend big box foray:

With less than five months until the June 8 gubernatorial primary, the release of Whitman’s book – listed at $26, but available at Costco over the weekend for $14.99 – is as much a skillfully timed campaign effort as it is a literary one.

Following Costco Carla’s leadership on the matter, Calbuzz managed to secure our own copy of the book at the Santa Cruz Costco Monday, fighting off hordes of fellow shoppers who were actually looking for bargain prices on cargo shorts and shrink-wrapped cartons of dental floss.

We know you’ll find it as scintillating as we have already to hear eMeg tell us, “I personally would have passed on buying Shatner’s old toupee, but I found getting Weird Al for eBay Live! an irresistible opportunity.” We’ll have a full report once we manage to work our way through the damn thing, which clocks in at 277 pages.