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Posts Tagged ‘Goldman Sachs’



2012 Opener: Why eMeg Should Take On HRH DiFi

Monday, November 8th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry’s New Ads; Meyer on Meg; R = eMeg Squared

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

With Team Whitman furiously trying to spin away the story about Meg Whitman’s undocumented housekeeper and both sides preparing for today’s Univision debate in Fresno, Jerry Brown unloaded two new ads designed to keep Whitman on defense.

One is a positive saying Brown balanced budgets without raising taxes and took on Wall Street banks, mortgage scammers and public officials. “Knowledge and know-how that works for you” is the slogan — a subtle suggestion that he has it and she doesn’t.

The negative ad is far more compelling, saying the “real Meg Whitman” was caught reaping millions for insider stock deals when she was on the board of Goldman Sachs, using the words “conflict of interest” and “corrupt,” charging that she paid herself $120 million while laying off 10% of eBay’s workforce, and asking, “Shouldn’t character matter?”

As Calbuzz noted Friday, demonstrating character is exactly Whitman’s challenge, after it was revealed she had employed an illegal immigrant in her home for years — knowingly or not — before she started talking tough about cracking down on them. And with his pals in the SEIU on the air with an ad speaking to that issue, Brown attacked Whitman as a greedy Wall Street predator.

Whitman’s response was fast and furious. Said spokesperson Andrea Jones Rivera:

“This ad is an outright lie. Meg’s salary was under a million dollars and it was approved by the eBay board of directors.* After swearing that voters would ‘always get the truth’, Jerry Brown has abandoned his promise in favor of a smear campaign that intentionally distorts the truth. In the ad, Jerry Brown goes so far as to cynically attack Meg’s brief service on the Goldman Sachs board, despite the fact that Brown’s own sister is currently a high ranking executive at Goldman Sachs. The truth is Meg Whitman was rated one of the top bosses and CEOs for her time at eBay and we will put her business record up against Jerry’s 40 year political career anytime.”

Meanwhile, Whitman continues to pummel Brown as a tax-and-spend liberal who opposed Proposition 13 and drove up unemployment and the state deficit. Surely that’s why Brown argues himself in his positive ad: “As Governor, I’ll cap government salaries and pensions. On the budget – we have to face reality. Make do with what we have, and no taxes without voter approval.”

Polling suggests voters appreciate Whitman’s business background but they aren’t sure they like her or that she’s got the skills and experience (“knowledge and know-how”) to command California government. On the other hand, they know Brown has what it takes to be governor and they like him pretty much; they’re just not sure they can trust him not to pick their pocket.

Although jobs, budgets, environment, water, education and public safety are kinds of issues governors actually must confront, the curbside political world is wondering today how eMeg’s housekeeper issue will come up in the Univision debate — with an expected audience of millions of Latinos — and what Whitman and Brown will say about it.

No doubt, Whitman would like to be asked why, after hammering on the issue of illegal immigration, did she not report Nicky Diaz to the authorities after learning that she was here without documentation. That way she can come across as sympathetic (although she has to be careful not to sound too condescending).

She likely would not like to be asked why she didn’t use a teensy weensy portion of her vast wealth to hire Diaz an immigration attorney or whether she actually said, “You never have seen me and I have never seen you,” as Diaz recounts the conversation. (Of course, denying it is calling Nicky a liar, so that’s tricky, too.)

Brown, the betting suggests, will keep his trap shut and let Whitman stew in her own juices unless Meg charges to his face that he was behind the whole episode. At which point, it’s hard to predict. He could cooly note that it was not he who hired an illegal immigrant to work in her house.  Or he could fire back at how outraged he is to be accused of the “politics of personal destruction.” We’ll know soon enough.

* Thank you Steve Harmon for this reportorial note: “Salaries are rarely the true measure of a CEO’s net worth in their rarified world of dividends, stocks and bonuses. Forbes Magazine, in September, 2008, and the New York Times, reported that Whitman received a $120.4 million, in salary, bonus and the value of her excercised options in her final year, despite eBay’s stock plummeting 49 percent.”

Meyer Carefully Evaluates Meg’s Skills

The slashing pen of Tom Meyer, world renowned editorial cartoonist and dressed-to-the-nines Calbuzzer extraordinaire today examines the deeper political implications of eMeg’s using the famous phrase, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” multiple times during her Tuesday night debate with Jerry Brown.

Us, we’re still wondering why Her Megness used the aphorism over and over and kept expecting a different result; like, maybe somebody might actually laugh when she repeated it, oh say, the 13th or 14th time. Must be that exquisite sense of comic timing she has to go with her wonderful ability to laugh at herself and her highly-developed sense of self-awareness.

All that aside, a wide-ranging Calbuzz investigation of more than 10 minutes worth of Googling reveals that there is not a single shred of citable evidence to support her attribution of the quote to Albert Einstein (not a big week for Meg and documentary evidence). There is , in fact, a considerable debate around the internets about the original source, with the current conventional wisdom crediting Rita Mae Brown, who actually did write it down in a book once. You could look it up.

And speaking of misusing hoary phrases: Calbuzz was appalled this week by the widespread misuse of the phrase “October surprise” to describe the bombshell news about Whitman’s housekeeper, which Gloria Allred dropped on the candidate’s head on Wednesday morning.

In his essential “Political Dictionary,” the late great William Safire traced the phrase back to the 1980 presidential election, when then Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush the Elder warned that President Jimmy Carter “is a politically tough fellow, he’ll do anything to get reelected, and let’s be prepared for some October surprise.”

Of course, it turned out that the surprise was on Carter, as the Iran hostage crisis that had bedeviled him for much of his term was instantly resolved when the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of the hostages shortly after Mr. Jimmy lost to Ronald Reagan. Safire continues:

By 1991, the noun phrase was being applied to any controversial or unpleasant event in October. (emphasis ours)

Let’s be blunt: The Allred-Nicky Diaz press conference triggering the Meg and the Maid drama took place on Wednesday, September 29; while it might qualify as a “September Shocker,” it most definitely was not an “October Surprise.”

And while we’re at it:  Let’s make it perfectly clear that eMeg’s big laugh line at the debate – making Jerry governor is like “putting Dracula in charge of a  blood bank” – is a total rip off from none other than…Jane Fonda. Hanoi Jane used the line in whacking Carter for his appointment of James Schlesinger as Energy Secretary about the same time that October became so surprising:

“Putting Schlesinger in charge of nuclear power is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank,” Jane Fonda orated to the cheering demonstrators at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Mega-kudos and H/T for that catch to Calbuzzer Debra Hall who, besides being brilliant, eagle-eyed and ever-alert, also has the buffest arms of any marketing consultant in California.

Polly Wolly Doodle: Our old friend Steve Lopez of the LA Times has cleverly lined up a polygraph expert, LA PI John Grogan, to give eMeg a polygraph test on whether she ever knew about that letter from the Social Security Administration. After saying she’d be glad to take a lie detector test, Meg backtracked and said she’d do it only if Jerry and Nicky would, too. But what the heck, Meg — this could be a great moment in gubernatorial leadership. All expenses paid!

Duel in Davis: Newbie Plutocrat Versus Labor Stooge

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Here’s your match-up for tonight’s long-awaited debate between wannabe governors Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman:

A washed-up, tax-and-spend liberal in the pocket of greedy labor unions who want to plunder your pocketbook, boost their pensions and bankrupt California will face off against a mendacious plutocrat who flip-flops on key issues, can’t be bothered to vote and wants to enrich avaricious corporations at the expense of the middle class.

At least that’s how the Republican and Democratic candidates would like you to perceive their rivals at the end of their one-hour televised showdown at UC Davis.

While the 6 p.m. event, is unlikely to draw a large viewing audience (among other things, it’s up against reruns of “Seinfeld” and “The King of Queens”) the post-debate news clips and statewide blanket coverage, analysis and commentary about the showdown, by mainstream media and the blogosphere alike, will largely shape the public impressions and narratives of the final weeks of the race — at a time when most voters are just starting to tune in to the campaign.

It’s one thing to use 30-second spots and political surrogates to call a political opponent a “liar,” an epithet both campaigns repeatedly have aimed at the other, but it’s quite another matter to stand on a stage a few feet away from your foe and make the same bombastic charges face-to-face.

In performing under high political pressure, Brown and Whitman face the same opportunity on substance, but distinctly different challenges on style.

The crucial substantive goal for each is to convince voters he or she has fresh ideas and represents change in contrast to the other’s status quo: Stylistically, Brown must combine his slashing aggressiveness with a civil tone, overcome his prickly defensiveness about his past and ensure his famously iconoclastic candor doesn’t lead him into a verbal blunder; Whitman must break through her air of landed gentry aloofness, reach beyond her robotic recitations of tightly disciplined talking points and show she understands and can connect with real-life problems of real people.

Brown is an experienced debater, but hasn’t been in a big-time political arena in almost two decades and, particularly in debating a woman, must avoid coming across as nasty or indulging his habit of showing contempt for those with whom he disagrees. Voters like a gentleman, so watch for him to call her “Ms. Whitman” and try not to get too personal, while keeping the focus on her plans to cut taxes for the rich and lay off tens of thousands of public employees. He’s likely to cite her wobbly inconsistencies during the campaign on immigration, offshore oil drilling and the Proposition 23 climate change issue to undercut her with Latinos and independents, casting her as a poll-tested market brand.

Whitman likes to stay relentlessly on message, but she turned in a shaky performance in the single high-profile debate of the Republican primary, appearing slow in thinking on her feet and adapting her message when being attacked in real time. Look for her to call Brown “governor,” to position him as the incumbent, but try not to seem heavy-handed in portraying him as a too-old, over-the-hill career politician, to avoid insulting senior citizens, who actually vote. She’ll hammer away at his close ties to labor and blame him for ushering in an era of cushy wages, benefits and pensions for unions, while arguing her ideas for creating private sector jobs trump his record of padding public payrolls.

Brown gets wildly irritated when he feels that someone is mischaracterizing his record as governor or mayor of Oakland, so Whitman will try to keep him talking about his past, goading him with charges that he raised billions in taxes and failed miserably in helping the city’s schools, and forcing him to spend time explaining away anew the slashing charges Bill Clinton made against him in their much-discussed 1992 presidential primary debate, all issues she’s highlighted in her tough ads.

Whitman’s Achilles heel, on the other hand, is her difficulty in admitting a mistake, so Brown may try to make her burn up time insisting she’s not unethical, by resurfacing attacks on how she made a killing on IPO shares from Goldman Sachs, a practice later made illegal, when the investment bank was courting her business as CEO of eBay. Brown will likely link her calls to cut the capital gains tax and regulation on business with GOP fiscal policies that triggered the Wall Street meltdown and the recession.

Both candidates have had trouble making a connection to voters but a debate is a difficult format in which to connect. What most voters will see from it – if anything – are a few snappy sound bites and remarks. A put-down, delivered with good humor, is what makes a classic sound bite, as in Ronald Reagan’s comment about Walter Mondale: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

But Brown probably won’t say, “I fully intend to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

And Whitman likely won’t say, “I knew Pat Brown and Jerry, you’re no Pat Brown.” But only because she didn’t know Pat Brown.

Drinking game: Take a shot every time Brown mentions Whitman’s “phony plans,” or the “obscene amounts of money” she has spent on her “campaign attack ads,” and throw one down whenever she says he “raised taxes, ” turned “a surplus into a deficit” or “opposed Proposition 13.”

You’ll be blotto by debate’s end.

Last Chance for Poizner: Make the Case for Himself

Monday, May 24th, 2010

As the PPIC poll made clear last week, Steve Poizner, as of the middle of May, got himself within striking distance of Meg Whitman. But unless he makes all the right moves in the next week or so, he’s toast. In fact, it may already be too late for The Commish: he may have missed his chance to put his puny boot on eMeg’s wattle.

Whitman, the former eBay CEO, is in part a victim of her own success. So thoroughly had she dominated the airwaves and the GOP contest for so long, that only her message was out there, sending her to an unsustainable 61-11% lead over Poizner, the Insurance Commissioner.

So when Poizner FINALLY put some money behind attacking eMeg for her connections to Goldman Sachs, her stand on immigration, her voting record and more, he inevitably brought her down to Earth. In the process, he moved up against her in most polls. Private surveys Calbuzz trusts showed the race had narrowed to about 6-8 points in the first week of May.

It looked as if Poizner might be moving in for the kill. We hear pollsters were finding that he’d driven her unfavorable rating WAY up. GOP primary voters were looking around for somewhere to go. They didn’t like her much because she was tied to Goldman, she was wishy-washy on immigration and she looked kinda arrogant and out of touch. Not like them.

But Poizner a) didn’t sustain the character/ideology attacks and b) didn’t give voters any sense of what he would do, how he would lead or why they should switch to him. After months of singing, “Just you wait Mrs. Whitman, just you wait,” Poizner’s much-anticipated assault was kinda like him: not quite forceful enough.

While we’re awaiting the final pre-primary surveys from Field and the L.A. Times, those private pollsters say now that Poizner’s failure to make a case for himself has allowed those voters whom he shook lose from Whitman to begin to drift back to her in the past week.

Looking back over all of Poizner’s advertising since late March, there are only a few ads in which he gives voters any sense of who he is and what he would do as governor. His negatives on her – on immigration amnesty, support for Barbara Boxer, representing a third term for Arnold Schwarzenegger, supporting tax-payer funded abortion, her voting record, her ties to Goldman Sachs and opposition to Arizona’s immigration law – combined to have an effect.

But why should anyone vote for Poizner? If TV viewers were still listening  after he got done attacking Whitman, they might have caught the briefest mention of him saying he’ll cut taxes, cut spending, support Arizona’s approach to illegal immigration and deny benefits to illegal immigrants and oppose taxpayer funded abortion. The strongest pro-argument was in an ad featuring U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican conservative icon, who said it wasn’t even a close call – Poizner is the only conservative in the race. But that ad was up for just two weeks in late April and early May.

To have any hope of winning this race, Poizner will have to:

1. Put Goldman Sachs and Whitman’s voting record into one ad that argues that eMeg is nothing more than a Wall Street predator who couldn’t even bother to participate in California politics until she decided to buy the governorship with her  ill-gotten lucre.

2. Put McClintock back on the air telling viewers why he’s for Poizner and have Poizner lay out three or four things he’ll do as governor: cut taxes and spending in order to preserve schools and law enforcement; be fair to legal immigrants and tough on illegals, protect the environment but stop job-killing red tape. Or whatever: it’s not our platform; it’s his.

The point is make the case to voters in the GOP primary that not only should they reject Whitman, they should be FOR him because he knows what he’s doing and has a plan to govern California. Or whatever honest and authentic upside message resonates.

The Whitman campaign is spinning furiously that Poizner is falling further behind every day and that he’s not even competing in the Bay Area market he recently suggested was a key to winning.

Poizner’s people insist their guy  is in it to win it – that only in a race where one candidate has blown through something like $80 million could it be a question whether a guy who’s in for $24 million is really serious.

Their argument, from chief strategist Stuart Stevens: This has turned into a race about illegal immigration, amnesty and the Arizona immigration law. And Whitman is on the wrong side from Republican primary voters. Big broad strokes. The “Whitman/Obama amnesty plan,” one ad calls it.

“The question is: who’s more conservative?” Stevens asks. Whitman, who started out with a three-point message, he says, now is “boiling the ocean” — exactly what she said she would never do. And remember, Poizner keeps noting, illegal immigration was never one of eMeg’s top three issues.

“Those who say that Steve hasn’t given voters a reason to be for him probably don’t care much about illegal immigration,” Stevens says. The Poizner ad running that goes after Mexican President Felipe Calderon suggests where Poizner will go in the coming days: they’re going to attack Mexico and argue that Whitman and Calderon are two peas in a pod.

They believe they can win by arguing that Poizner is the guy to vote FOR because he’s the only Republican running who primary voters agree with on immigration and amnesty. We’re skeptical — in part because, in the latest PPIC poll, immigration came in third among Republicans asked to name the most important issue facing Californians (immigration was at 14%, behind jobs and economy at 42% and the state budget and taxes at 24%).

It is clear, however, that Team Steve has driven the Whitman juggernaut off its fundamental three-point message. So we’re hanging on for the ride.

Meyer: eMeg’s Oleaginous Coating of Filthy Lucre

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Champion cartoonist and Calbuzzer Tom Meyer today presents Peewee Pete Wilson in a cameo role as the BP of California politics, desperately seeking a clean-up solution for the Goldman Sachs-sullied  campaign of his protege, Meg Whitman.

The problem for eMeg is that having dug into the public position that she’d done nothing wrong — when, while CEO of eBay, she took initial public offerings of stock at a friends-and-family price from Goldman and then sold those shares for a personal profit — she’s now stuck with the stain of the issue.

Which, of course, is far from the only challenge for Our Meg these days.

At the risk of seeming solipsistic — so unlike us! — it’s pretty clear that all her problems started with eMeg’s ill-advised decision to blow off the standing gracious dinner invitation from Calbuzz (8+ months and counting!)

Or maybe it just seems that way because of the spate of recent stories tracing her troubles to the arrogant belief that she could run a campaign for governor in a fabulously constructed bubble, a bubble-brained idea aimed at shutting out the political press, for which she was ringingly called out by the reliable John Diaz this week, while being nicely dinged by the gaggle over at Newsweek. “I control my media,” indeed.