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Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’



Press Clips: Morain, Marinucci & a Tale of 2 Tic Tocs

Friday, March 26th, 2010

What is eMeg so afraid of? Although our friend Dan Morain has become a full-fledged, thumb-sucking (all rise) Opinion Page Columnist, the guy just can’t stop himself from doing Actual Reporting. That’s why he’s the winner of this week’s coveted Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry, for his look inside Meg Whitman’s Proust-length campaign spending report, a piece that included an angle we didn’t see anywhere else:

She also frets about security.

Whitman has paid $204,000 to John W. Endert, a former eBay security executive who has a permit to carry firearms and describes himself as experienced in corporate investigations, executive protection and threat mitigation. She categorized the $10,500 per month expenditure as a campaign worker salary.

Whitman paid $3,500 to what she called a “campaign consultant.” The recipient, Walsingham Associate Inc., says on its Web site that it specializes in detection of eavesdropping equipment.

Last year, Whitman’s campaign paid $20,383 to a company called Western Limited and called the expenditure “polling and survey research.” Western Limited describes itself as a private investigations firm that seeks to “solve your case – whether it is obtaining damaging video, locating the background records that you need, or obtaining a statement that helps you make a claims or business decision.”

All this, plus details of eMeg’s luxury private jet travel and a close look at her catering bill that was almost as hard-hitting as our own.

Why it matters what candidates say: In his infinite wisdom, Joe Mathews has taught all us geezers that it’s a waste of time to write down the actual words that politicians actually speak. Now, it turns out, once in a while, their utterances actually become newsworthy. Say it ain’t so Joe!

Joe Garofoli and Carla Marinucci, the Twin Terrors of Fifth & Mish, were the first to jump on Her Megness for a total flip flop about releasing her tax returns, which was only fitting as it was Costco Carla who raised the question, during Whitman’s breakthrough media scrum in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara at the GOP convention, that elicited the quickly broken promise to make public 25 years of tax returns.

ABC (Always Believe Calbuzz): The Get a Life Division of our Department of Obscure Campaign Intelligence was the first to throw a penalty flag at eMeg, more than two weeks ago, for her dog-ass idea of organizing legislative “teams” to implement her personal agenda for California:

As we may have mentioned once or twice, eMeg’s major downside is that she appears not to understand that politics is a give-and-take, give-some-to-get-some business, that legislators are also elected by the people, and that the Capitol is a teeming cacophony of conflicting interests, not the site of an Imperial Governorship. In the KNBC interview, she made quite clear that she sees the role of lawmakers as secondary, when she graciously said they’d be welcome to serve on her “jobs team” or her “schools team.”

“Where do I sign up?” Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is no doubt asking.

Now comes the B Minus to report that Whitman not only isn’t backing away from this ludicrous notions, she’s expanding on it, demonstrating once again her staggering lack of understanding of how Sacramento works.

Which begs the question: Since some of the people around her do understand how the legislative process works and how the Legislature and the governor interact, is she just so pig-headed, she simply ignores advice from those in the know around her? Or are her legions of purse carriers just so blinded by the huge sums of money they’re sucking out of the campaign that they’re afraid to challenge her?

Her authentically alien approach to governing — I’ll decide what should happen and everyone will join teams to make those things happen — raises another key question: Is Long Island really another planet?

Health Care Hotline: Who’s the real hero who saved health care reform?

On Sunday, the NYT, in a P1 triple signer tic toc by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse, gave the nod to Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

In a series of impassioned conversations, over the telephone and in the Oval Office, she conveyed her frustration to the president, according to four people familiar with the talks. If she and Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, were going to stick out their necks for Mr. Obama’s top legislative priority, Ms. Pelosi wanted assurances that the president would too. At the White House, aides to Mr. Obama say, he also wanted assurances; he needed to hear that the leaders could pass his far-reaching plan.

“We’re in the majority,” Ms. Pelosi told the president. “We’ll never have a better majority in your presidency in numbers than we’ve got right now. We can make this work.”

One day later, however, the Washpost’s Ceci Connolly credited President Obama for his “singular” performance in saving the day, in her own 8 zillion word narrative reconstruction:

The remarkable change in political fortunes thrust Obama into a period of uncertainty and demonstrated the ability of one person to control the balance of power in Washington. On Jan. 19, that person seemed to be(newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott) Brown.

But as the next 61 days would show, culminating in Sunday night’s historic vote, the fate of the legislation ultimately rested in the hands of Obama, who in the hours before Brown’s victory was growing increasingly frustrated as Pelosi detailed why no answer was in sight.

Intriguingly, both pieces used essentially the same anecdotal lede – the top-dog meetings at the White House in the immediate wake of Brown’s stunning victory – but reached entirely different conclusions.

Three dots are better than two: Credit LAT man Evan Halper for noting Jerry Brown’s nifty job of threading the needle on health care, paying lip service to looking into GOP demands that he join other attorneys general in a constitutional challenge to health care, while making it perfectly clear he would do no such thing…Perceptual scoop honors to Washpost whiz kid Ezra Klein for beating the pack to the story of how Republican Beltway types are now backing away from their angry promise to repeal the health care legislation…

More medical meanderings: Kudos to Dan Weintraub at Healthy Cal for a clear, detailed and useful Sunday look at exactly what was in the damn bill in advance of the big vote…HT to Hall of Fame Calbuzzer Kam Kuwata for pointing us to this excellent health care mash-up.

Just because: Andy Borowitz does it again.

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.

Friday Fishwrap: Jerry’s Secret Eyebrow Makeover

Friday, March 5th, 2010

When Calbuzz speaks: Back in August, our Division of Superficial Issues and Cosmetology made a strongly worded and brilliantly insightful argument that Jerry Brown needed to do something about his Sam Ervin-style eyebrows before voters started mistaking him for the 2000 Year Old Man.

Then, when we caught Crusty the General’s webcentric announcement of candidacy Tuesday, along with his later appearance on Larry King Live –  Voila! –- it was clear he had joined the ranks of candidates who understand the overweening importance of heeding the sage political advice of Calbuzz.

Trimmed, thinned and apparently lightly colored, Brown’s former albino porcupine look had been altered in a way that took 20 years off his face.  While Crusty was at pains to tell us he’d been “eating my veggies,” and later demonstrated his physical fitness for a parade of visitors to his Oakland headquarters , we think the single smartest cosmetic fix he could have made before jumping into the race was following the process  outlined in this You Tube video.

That’s change we can believe in.

Enough to make a hog puke: Nice scooplet by Flash Fleischman beating Team Whitman to the punch on “The Steve Shuffle,” their latest web hit on Poizner, a minor gem, Despite our admiration for the design, production and messaging prowess that went into making it, however, eMeg’s cheap shot at The Commish on Prop 13 is revolting.

Let’s recap: In 2000, Poizner joined a horde of good government pols – led by former Gov. Pete Wilson, who now happens to be Whitman’s campaign chairman – and virtually every CEO and big name in tech in backing Prop. 39, which lowered the vote threshold, from two-thirds to 55 percent, for approval of school bonds. The 53 percent majority of Californians who passed the thing also appeared to agree it was a damned fine idea.

And where was Whitman on the matter? Courageously staking out the position against that she now purports to defend? No, while her Silicon Valley colleagues were taking a stand on behalf of school kids and parents, eMeg was just too damn busy and oh-so-important to even vote on it -  no, more, to even register to be eligible to vote on it, that’s where.

It’s one thing to whack a foe when you have an honest disagreement with them on an issue; it’s quite another to totally cheap shot a rival for making a principled stand, when you were completely clueless and couldn’t be bothered, to get engaged on the policy issue at hand.

UPDATE: No sooner had we posted this when Poizner, acting like a chickenlivered weenie, backed away from his support of the measure to which he’d given $200,000. Sheesh.

And another thing: While eMeg’s eagerness to fork out zillions  to every media consultant, buyer and TV station in the universe automatically makes her formidable in the campaign for governor, it also puts her at risk for being ju-jitsued on the issue of how she spends her money.

The rationale for Whitman’s candidacy is that she’s not a politician, and what supposedly makes her shiny and special is that she brings a new perspective to bad old politics-as-usual. But  since she launched her first ad, eMeg has acted exactly like every candidate in history. By the time she’s burned through her $150 million or whatever she plans to spend, and voters’ eyeballs are seared by her endless sun storm of TV spots, it’s easy to imagine that she’ll be perceived as  just another political hack.

Our national Anthem: While the story of Blue Cross/Anthem’s notorious 39 percent rate increases on Californians who buy their own health insurance has reached critical mass as a national scandal, the one guy in the state you’d figure would have plenty to say about it has been oddly reticent.

Insurance Commissioner Poizner, who – as his title may suggest – actually has some jurisdiction over insurance, has been all but AWOL in the furor over the greed head rate increases. Sure the Commish quietly initiated a small-bore investigation of Anthem’s delays in paying claims, process violations that preceded the current high-end controversy, and earlier wrote a lame-o op-ed for USA Today on health reform in which one of his big beefs was that taxes on insurance companies might be increased. Poor them.

Unlike campaign subjects like the debate over debates, on which Team Poizner has expended endless words, health insurance is actually something people care about in the real world, and it’s an abiding mystery why he isn’t out there pounding on this issue day after day after day.

Must reads of the week: Patrick McGreevy and Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times produced a helluva fine piece of American journalism in probing the history of newly anointed Speaker John Perez doing the bidding of rich folks and special interests, a timely investigation that offers a different perspective on Mr. Speaker’s favored up-by-his-bootstraps narrative . . . Amid the ongoing Oprah-driven canonization of Roger Ebert, Will Leitch at Dead Spin offered a wonderfully moving piece on why the guy actually deserves it . . . The Chronicle’s recent over-the-top reprise of  Crusty’s Moonbeam Factor strike us as the Bright Idea of some Yuppie-era editor who never got over missing out on the 60’s, but Editorial Page High Sheriff John Diaz meanwhile did a nice bit of work with his long view take on Brown getting into the race, which hands down wins the Kicker of the Week award: It appears that voters will have a choice in November between a Democrat they know all too well and a Republican they hardly know at all. . . . Ever wonder who’s putting up the dough to try to take out AB 32, California’s pioneering greenhouse gas emissions law? Check out this post by RL Miller at Daily Kos.