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Posts Tagged ‘IE’



Sifting the Detritus of the CA Dem Convention

Monday, April 19th, 2010

It’s a measure of the small bore political stakes of the California Democratic Party convention that the weekend’s only drama played out over an inconclusive fight for the party’s endorsement in an internecine contest for lieutenant governor — a conflict over a second-tier office that has far more to do with personalities than policy.

During a two-day convention when one officeholder after another pleaded with 3,000 activists to match the passion of the conservative Tea Party movement in the 2010 campaign, the convention remained a mostly sedate affair, with delegates wistfully recalling the sense of purpose in President Obama’s historic 2008 victory, while trying to get excited about candidates for insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor, ferhevensakes.

“At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party (movement)” Senator Barbara Boxer candidly told reporters, “and I think it is absolutely a fact that we have to match that enthusiasm.”

This just in: in the long-awaited balloting in the Lite Gov’s race, S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom out-polled L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn, 52-to-42. According to a furious exchange of late-night spinning memos eblasted by the two camps, this was either a great victory for Hahn, for denying her rival the 60 percent needed for the endorsement, or a key tactical win for Newsom, who skunked his foe in her own back yard.

Zzzzzzz.

As a practical matter, the question of how much energy and enthusiasm the Dems can muster  — in a non-presidential election year, when the political winds now strongly favor Republicans, when the Donkey Ticket is led by two old war horses, aged 69 and 72, and when the GOP’s statewide entry is led by an Empire Strikes Back campaign bristling with more money than God -– will be a major factor in determining the size and make-up of the November electorate.

When handlers for Jerry Brown are only half-joking in telling reporters the party’s presumptive nominee for governor just needs to win by one vote, the question of turnout, and whether Democrats can expand the size of their base to pick up a sizable chunk of younger and independent voters, is crucial.

And you have to wonder how forward-thinking comprehensive a strategy the Democrats have for doing so, when party chairman John Burton says he thinks that a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana will be the key to motivating the under-30 crowd to come to the polls.

Brown insists he’s sanguine about his chances against Republican front-runner Meg Whitman, despite her surge in the polls and her clear intent to recycle many of the millions she pocketed from shady dealings at Goldman Sachs and other high-end investments. And, on one level at least, his unruffled display of patience is a reminder that it’s still very, very early in the campaign season – “I only have to win on one day,” he told reporters Saturday.

But facing a likely foe who’s equipped to outspend him by orders of magnitude, Brown faces a stark choice between spending his own resources defending himself over the summer, when either Whitman or fellow zillionaire wannabe governor Steve Poizner will surely be bashing him daily on the airwaves, or hanging on to his pile until fall, when voters will be more engaged.

Brown must hope that at least one of the several Independent Expenditure committees that have popped up with promises to help him – but have so far shown a far greater ability to trash Whitman than to raise cash to beat her – will gain enough traction to mount a serious summer TV campaign to go after the GOP nominee and watch Brown’s back.

IE operatives in the Calbuzz orbit tell us they believe they’ll have the money in place and a plan of attack to mount a TV-radio-internet-bus stop-anywhere-you-frequent campaign that will find like-minded voters — especially independents — during the summer, giving Brown some breathing room to husband resources for the fall. We’ll see.

“The rules of democracy are not changed just because a billionaire decides she wants to be governor,” Brown told Calbuzz. But the rules have changed — and Brown knows it.

Paging Pamela Harriman: In the absence of heavyweight political skirmishes at the convention, the sharpest competition played out over who put on the best party.

Speaker John Perez and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg tossed the Best Bash for the Masses, with their Saturday afternoon free Taco Truck Throwdown with mobile catering from such favorite as  Calbi Fusion (whose pulled pork was good but hardly Mexican)  and El Principio (which served up a killer carnitas).  Friday’s elegant soiree thrown by the  California Correctional Peace Officers union, with salmon caviar and free booze,  captured top honors in the Intimate Setting Category.

But in the end, Calbuzz can report with complete immodesty, the most entertaining event was the Second Annual Dr. P.J. Hackenflack’s Hack and Flack dinner at Café Pinot, where Brown Himself and heavyweight consultant Garry South got into a cage match battle over electoral strategy at one table, with LA political wheelhouse Donna Bojarsky and political analysts Sherry and Doug Jeffe in the mix. At another table Boxer strategist Rose Kapolcynski, Brown’s Steve Glazer, L.A. premier blogger Kevin Roderick and Laurel Canyon media meisters Julie Buckner and Celia Fischer all compared notes on the political landscape and the chocolate mouse gateau. Other Calbuzzers kicking around strategic insights included poll taker Ben Tulchin and his wife consultant Laurie Biejen,  Kaufman Campaigns’ Richard Stapler, plus reporters from the Chronicle, Media News, KQED and more, who dined on a choice of duo of beef, pan roasted Jidori chicken and Atlantic salmon.

Although Dr. H briefly considered hiring a couple of leg breakers to go after a couple of confirmed guests who were no shows (we know where you live) and one gate crasher, there were no injuries.

Paging Mr. Bartlett: Brown’s three best weird comments of the weekend:

1-“The menu is not the meal,” a big-think overview of where the governor’s race stands today. 2-“I believe in the  papal doctrine of subsidiarism,” a reference to his belief that government authority should be pushed back to locals from Sacramento. 3-”The sherpas will meet soon,” his proposal for a process of arranging debates between him and his Republican rivals.

We’re just sayin’: Can the Democratic party staff please arrange for Burton to have a makeover? The unbuttoned red safari shirt look makes him look like a cheesy Vegas weekend low-roller from Cleveland.

Big Union Leaders to Chair and Fund Pro-Brown IE

Monday, April 12th, 2010

SAN JOSE — Leaders of the second* major independent expenditure committee supporting Democrat Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor on Monday said their group will be chaired by representatives of the influential firefighters, construction trades and public employees unions.

The union leaders, operating as California Working Families 2010, were in San Jose Monday for a meeting of the California Labor Federation where they agreed on leadership and a strategic plan to coordinate research, polling, focus groups and a paid television and media campaign to drive the message “about why billionaire corporate CEOs with no government experience and other Republican candidates are bad for California’s future.”

“What distinguishes us,” said Larry Grisolano, chief strategist for the group, “is that these are folks coming to the table with the expectation of making serious commitments . . . An IE cannot replace a campaign or a candidate but we can give people important information for when they make their choice.”

Chairmen of the group, announced Monday, will be Lou Paulson of the California Professional Firefighters, Bob Balgenorth of the California State Building and Construction Trades and Bill Lloyd of Service Employees International Union.

Each of them told Calbuzz on Monday they will contribute at least $1 million to the effort which is modeled, as a coalition, after the drive that defeated Proposition 75 (“paycheck protection”) in 2005 with a $35 million unified campaign.

“Our number one goal has to be to elect Jerry Brown,” said Lloyd of SEIU. “The IE will compare and contrast” the Republican candidate with Jerry Brown, added Balgenorth. Paluson, too, said the goal would be to “improve the quality of California.”

But if past is prologue, the union-backed IE is likely to be mostly a vehicle for sharply attacking the Republican candidate — most likely Meg Whitman — especially for her Wall Street connections and her avowed desire to fire 40,000 state employees and cut spending on state services.

In addition to union support, the coalition expects to add environmental, women’s and other progressive groups and have been promised support from billionaire Democrat Ron Burkle, CEO of Yucaipa Companies, whose representative, Frank Quintero is serving as the IE’s treasurer.

Operatives who will run the IE have close ties to the Obama administration and former Gov. Gray Davis. Among them:

– Grisolano, a partner in the Chicago-based political firm AKPD, where Obama political strategist David Axelrod is a partner. Grisolano also ran Davis’s re-election campaign and has worked closely with SEIU.

– Roger Salazar, principal of Acosta|Salazar consulting and former press and communications meister for Davis, in whose operation Quintero and Jason Kruger of SK Impact also first cut their political teeth.

– David Binder, of David Binder Research, is doing polling and focus groups; Marjan Philhour of the California Group is doing fundraising and Link Strategies is doing research.

Another pro-Brown IE already is up and running – Level the Playing Field – with is own cluster of Democratic operatives and strategists and an active online and social media presence. While it has been a constant thorn in Whitman’s side through its online activities, LTPF has yet to put together the resources for a serious television ad campaign.

The California Chamber of Commerce, through its political arm, is likely to be part of an IE effort to counter the unions and oppose Brown. Its first effort in that regard however – an anti-Brown ad masquerading as an “issues ad” — was aborted last week because instead of being run through the Chamber’s political action committee, it was funded, crafted and placed by the non-partisan Chamber itself.

* There’s actually a third group operating independently if you count the California Accountability Project of the Democratic Governors Association.

eMeg Offshore Tax Dodge? Why’s Poiz Waiting?

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

By pledging to release his income taxes for public inspection, Steve Poizner has set a trap for Meg Whitman: If she doesn’t release them, you gotta ask, “What’s she hiding?” And if she does, we can expect a treasure trove of damned interesting reading.

To wit: The question raised by the California Accountability Project – a wholly owned, million-dollar subsidiary of the Democratic Governors Association – “Is Meg Whitman still shifting her millions into offshore tax havens to avoid having to pay her fair share?”

In a tidy op research package — tied up in a bow and delivered as a “Memo to Reporters: Meg Whitman’s Bermuda and Cayman Islands Tax Shelters; Why She Must Release Her Taxes”‏ — Nick Velasquez of the CAP showed what’s needed to take a good whack at Meg is already in the public domain.

“According to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, in 2007 Meg Whitman’s charitable foundation invested $4 million offshore, in Hedge Funds based in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands,” Velasquez wrote. Then he proceeded to provide citations for every charge in the missive, including this one. (in pdf).

Archipelago Holdings, Mason Capital, TPG-Axon Partners – all in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands, and all with a kind of, um, fishy odor, sitting there in the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C. Whitman Charitable Foundation – per her foundation’s 2007 and 2008 tax returns, according to our old friend Ken McLaughlin of the Mercury News.

Is eMeg one of those sneaky billionaires who’s sheltering income in offshore investments? Is she trying to avoid paying taxes that most citizens have to pay? Can we trust her to manage California’s budget if she won’t show us how she spend her own money?

(Response from Bounds or Pompei goes here). (Hey, it’s midnight, I’m going to bed – Ed.)

For eMeg, these kinds of nagging questions can be cumulatively damaging if they go unanswered. As a practical matter, ordinary folks fork over their tax returns every time they apply for a mortgage or car loan or money for their kid’s college, so sympathizing with the sanctity of a rich person’s demand for privacy about their returns is a bit of a stretch for most voters.

Which is why you can almost hear the doomsday baritone in the Poizner ad:

“What does Meg Whitman have to hide?”

It’s time for your close-up, Commish: In an interview with the AP’s Juliet Williams, Poizner took issue with anonymous sources recently quoted by the Contra Costa Times (and deconstructed by us) to the effect that The Commish intended to wait until May to start advertising on TV.

Writing that Poizner now is “set to launch an aggressive television advertising campaign to counter months of advertising by billionaire rival Meg Whitman,” Williams reported that:

Poizner acknowledged that Whitman has had free rein to define herself to voters in part because of his failure to launch a paid media campaign but he said that would soon end.

Whitman has given her campaign $39 million so far and has been spending at an unprecedented pace. Poizner, a multimillionaire who developed GPS chips for cell phones, said Tuesday that he will add to the $19 million he already has given his campaign.

“We’re going to spend it all,” he said. “I mean, it’s not like I’m trying to keep my resources for the general (election) or something. We’re going to spend what it takes.”

It isn’t clear from his comments how soon “soon” might be, however. We hear nothing is imminent in terms of advertising, and the campaign may in fact be dark for several weeks. Which all right-thinking people agree would be a miscalculation.

Job one for Team Poizner right now is to reassure his supporters, as well the media and political  professionals, that he’s in the race for real. Nothing would make that point more clearly or swiftly than putting a couple million dollars on the air right here, right now.

Hoping that eMeg takes a few hits from the Jerry Brown IE’s is wishful thinking – we hear there’s no there there yet, cashbox-wise – and while eMeg may take a few love taps from editorial writers over the tax disclosure issue, what will be gained by waiting, if the game plan is to “spend it all?” Inquiring minds want to know.

(Memo to Poizner Accounting: Kindly remember to pay that Calbuzz ad invoice before spending it all.)

IE Hit on eMeg Targets Indie Voters, Not Poizner

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

When “Level the Playing Field 2010” – the Democratic, pro-Jerry Brown independent campaign committee – launched their first ads against Meg Whitman, the Armies of eMeg immediately accused the group of  meddling in the Republican primary race for governor in a bid to help Steve Poizner.

Team Whitman pointed as precedent to the ad campaign run by the Gray Davis’s consultants against former L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan starting in January 2002. That attack helped cause Riordan’s support to collapse in the GOP primary, leaving Davis facing a weaker general election candidate in conservative businessman Bill Simon.

The argument now, from communications director Tucker Bounds and others in eMeg’s camp, is that the Brown-for-governor Democrats would rather face Poizner in November, so are trying to knock eMeg out, as Davis did to Riordan.

“Clearly, Team Brown not only prefers to run against Steve Poizner in the general election, but is taking steps to achieve that with a radio buy targeting Republican primary voters,” Bounds said in an email to reporters.

But the argument is bogus, based on a false premise that has become false conventional wisdom: that  Davis strategists Garry South, David Doak and Paul Maslin set out in 2002 to take Riordan out of the GOP primary. That’s not what they aimed to do. And it’s not what the “Level the Playing Field” guys are trying to do today

The goal of the anti-Meg campaign (as it was for Davis’s people in 2002) is to increase negative perceptions – especially among conservative Democrats and moderate independents – toward the candidate they expect to face in the fall. In this case: Meg Whitman. It has nothing to do with Poizner, really. If they help him, so much the better, from their point of view. But that’s not the design.

In the December 2001 Field Poll, Gov. Gray Davis’s favorability was 42% positive and 47% negative. Riordan’s was 39% positive and just 24% negative. Worse for Davis, Riordan’s favorability was 32-31% among Democrats and 34-18% among independents. Riordan was so far ahead in the primary that South and the others had no doubt they’d be facing Riordan in the general election. They had to begin cutting Democrats and independents away from Riordan’s base.

Which is why they attacked him from the LEFT, with devastating ads showing Riordan himself calling abortion “murder” and pointing out that while he was calling himself pro-choice, he’d given serious money to anti-abortion causes.

Unlike the “Level the Playing Field” forces, however, who have launched with a puny little radio buy, Davis unloaded on Riordan with $9 million on TV in five weeks. Actually, they were about to take down the ads when Maslin found that the ads – originally designed to hurt Riordan with Democrats and independents – were also hurting him with Republicans, who began to see him as a weasel. So they kept the ads up and Riordan’s GOP support cratered.

Today, Meg Whitman’s overall favorability is 25% positive and 20% negative in the January Field Poll. It’s 34-8% among Republicans and only 16-31% among Democrats. But it’s 27-13% among independents – about 2-1 positive – and that’s what the pro-Brown forces now want to alter.

The initial strike against Meg – in their opening 30-second spot that was designed mostly to grab some media attention – charged Whitman has “taken the side of the corporate special interests who want to roll back California’s bi-partisan law fighting global warming.”

And the Level 2010 web site includes a link to a Calbuzz analysis explaining why Whitman injected the environment as an issue in the governor’s race and how she had made a strategic mistake by assailing AB 32, California’s pioneering greenhouse gas reduction law.

In short, the opening shot at eMeg was, as with Davis and Riordan, from the left. And the ensuing 60-second spot – with its argument that she won’t debate, won’t release her tax returns and won’t explain her income and bonuses at eBay, plus the charge that she billed shareholders for use of her corporate jet – seems more aimed at independents than it does Republicans.

Kyle Roberts of Smart Media Group, eMeg’s media consultants, argued in a campaign memo that the initial radio buy was aimed at Republican listeners in Fresno, Sacramento and San Francisco in a campaign “designed to target and persuade Republicans during their primary election.”

Well, Kyle, that might be a side benefit. But the real goal here is to take Meg down a notch or two among those independents and Democrats who – for now — think she’s OK.

“They’re coming at her from the left, which isn’t a strategy to get Poizner as a nominee,” said South. “They’re assuming Meg Whitman is going to be the Republican nominee just like we assumed Riordan was going to be the nominee.”

What Level the Playing Field 2010 doesn’t have is what the Davis campaign team had in January 2002 when they threw down $9 million and bet the farm on early advertising against the guy they thought they’d be facing in November: a big budget and brass balls.

[Posted 12:01 am; updated 5:25 am]