Posts Tagged ‘Kam Kuwata’



Kam Kuwata, RIP

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Kam Kuwata, one of the smartest, most effective and beloved political consultants in California, has died, friends in Los Angeles said this morning. He was 57.

In a business filled with rats, skunks and rattlesnakes, Kuwata was a gentle bear of a man. Politically, he was relentlessly determined, intense and fierce on behalf of his clients and causes, but always did his work with a civility and kindness that reflected the compassionate and humanistic perspective he brought to the business.

Among his many clients in California and Hawaii were Senators Dianne Feinstein and Daniel Akaka, and the late Senator Alan Cranston. He also worked as a consultant for Gray Davis, Jane Harman, Bob Matsui, Jim Hahn and Leo McCarthy, among others. In 2008, he served as the program director for the Obama campaign at the Democratic National Convention.

Kam was a valued and trusted source for political reporters throughout California and the nation, an extraordinarily plugged-in guy, an insightful analyst and a world-class communications operative who never insulted journalists’ intelligence with his spin.

Details of his passing are still unclear, as are plans for a service. We’ll update as we can.

Update 12:26 PDT: Mark Barabak just posted and has more reporting on the circumstances and Kam’s background.

Update: 20:11 PDT: Formal statements are coming in from all over now, from Kam’s clients, colleagues and friends. Here’s Dianne’s:

I am deeply saddened at the passing of Kam Kuwata.  California has lost a sharp political mind, and I’ve lost a loyal and dear friend of more than 20 years.

Kam managed my first Senate campaign in 1992.  We went through a lot together in those days, and no matter the circumstances, I could always rely on Kam’s great sense of humor, his good advice and his compassion for the people of California.  He was respected by people in politics and journalism, something I always thought spoke volumes about the kind of person he was.

I am shocked by Kam’s death and reminded at how short life is.  There will never be another like Kam, and I will miss him.

And here’s the statement from President Obama:

I was saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Kam Kuwata. Kam’s brilliance as a political strategist was matched by his passion for our country and the process by which we govern ourselves.

I’ll never forget the critical contribution Kam made to our efforts in 2008, planning an open, vibrant convention that really captured the spirit of our campaign. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Kam’s extended family of friends and to so many in California who mourn his passing.

Update 4/12, 2:45 pm: Over at the Facebook page that’s been created “Remembering Kam Kuwata” there’s a comment from Peter Sears that’s so poignant, we had to add it here:

So you walk into the bar and Kam’s face lights up and he grabs your hand solidly, yanks you to him and affectionately squeezes your arm, unabashedly making sure you know how happy he is to see you. Now you can’t stop smiling. Then, although he’s only asking you questions, he makes you feel like you’re the most interesting person he’s talked to that day even though, given the circles he travels in, there’s almost no chance that’s true. Now you’re thinking you’re warm and kind and witty and whip smart when really, it’s him. And now that he’s gone you think to yourself, “Boy, that’s how to be a human.”

Alan Cranston campaign bus, November 1986

Carly: Pass Reforms, Dump ‘Bitter Partisan’ Babs

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

SAN DIEGO – With a slashing attack on Sen. Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina called Saturday for sweeping reforms to shake up Washington, a bid to steer the race away from issues where she is to the right of mainstream voters and to frame her Republican candidacy as a strike against the status quo.

Portraying Boxer as a left-wing ideologue and prime example of a failed liberal Democratic establishment, Fiorina cast herself as an agent of change who would fight for Congressional term limits and rules changes to make Senate legislation more transparent to citizens.

It’s doubtful that Boxer will rise to the bait by engaging Fiorina on issues like term limits and open government, however. Her campaign would rather keep voters focused on matters where her rival has taken positions more conservative than the more moderate, independent voters who will decide the election — immigration, climate change and abortion , for example  — as well as the Republican’s record as the fired CEO of Hewlett Packard.

In her crisply delivered mid-day speech to state Republican convention delegates, Fiorina repeatedly criticized Boxer as a career politician who long ago overstayed her welcome in Washington.

“They say Washington is a place where people go to do good and stay to do well,” she said, in launching her verbal assault.

“To be blunt, for four decades, (Boxer) has earned her keep not by the sweat of her brow, but by the toil and struggle of hard-working Americans in the private sector. And her left-wing ideology allows her to avoid agonizing over tough decisions,” she said.

Fiorina called for an end to “a system where politicians make backroom deals to ensure their eternal re-election and the re-election of their buddies in Congress.” To that end, she pledged to serve only two terms in the Senate and called for limiting House and Senate terms to 12 years each.

“Ours was intended to be a citizen government and 12 years in each chamber of Congress is enough time to get something done without losing touch with the real world,” she said.

Fiorina also endorsed Proposition 20, an initiative that calls for a citizens commission to draw Congressional district boundaries, instead of leaving the job to the state Legislature. She also called for the defeat of Prop. 27, a measure sponsored by legislative leaders to reverse earlier, voter-approved state redistricting reforms, and for posting federal legislation online for public comment for at least two weeks before voting begins, including complete cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Fiorina repeated the charge that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill– which Boxer supported — has been an utter failure, noting that California’s unemployment rate , now 12.3%, was 10.2% when the stimulus was passed.

She cast Boxer as a “bitter partisan” who has achieved little in her 34 years in public office, 28 as a U.S. Senator and House member.  “Barbara Boxer,” she said, “the only job you are fighting for is your own.”

Carly and the little people: Hurricane Carly blew past a crowd of about 100 cheering volunteers her campaign had assembled to greet her at the entrance of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, barely pausing to acknowledge them, let alone offer personal thank yous,  handshakes or hugs.

Fiorina was nearly 45 minutes late when she swept in at 11:25 a.m., stopping for just a few seconds to wave at her supporters, who had assembled early and lined up to practice chanting her name (weirdest sign: “Carly – Rep Our Hood,” held by a woman with a baseball cap on sideways). Then the candidate quickly made a sharp right turn, briskly walking through the crowd, up the escalator and out of sight.

A trio of elderly folks from central California, all clad in bright red “Carly” caps and t-shirts, told  Calbuzz as they walked away through the hotel lobby that they’d waited an hour to see their party’s nominee and were disappointed that she hadn’t spent some time meeting and greeting her grassroots backers.

Another reason why we call her Hurricane Carly.

Dems come to town: While Fiorina was inside getting ready for her big speech, we found our old friend Kam Kuwata outside the Hyatt, overseeing a rag-tag picket line of Boxer supporters who carried handwritten signs (“Fiorina = Massive Job Losses”) and chanted (“Bad for California – Bad for H-P”) as they marched on the sidewalk to protest the Republicans’ position on tax cuts for the rich and her record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

Kuwata is coordinating a new truth squad operation called “CEO Watch,” financed by the L.A. County Democratic Party, to “educate the voters about the Republican candidates for office.” He had a pink flyer, headlined “Carly Fiorina’s ‘Pink Slip’ for California,” affixed to his lapel with the biggest safety pin in California.

There were no injuries.

LATE BREAKING UPDATE: For those of you who were dying to know what happened to the California Republican Assembly’s resolution putting the state GOP on record supporting Arizona’s “papers please you immigrant suspect” law, here’s the poop: It died in the Resolutions Committee for a lack of a second (and opposition from Meg Whitman’s loyalists). Bee Person, Torey “Don’t Call Me Dutch” Van Oot (who,btw, is NOT Dutch, thereby embarrassing Calbuzz who called her “The Tulip”) has all the intel here.

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.

Friday Fishwrap: Cheap Shots, Drive-Bys, Three Dots

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Snark alert: Count Kam Kuwata among the minority of political insiders who thought Steve Poizner’s “Happy 40th Anniversary” blast at Jerry Brown this week was a swing and a miss.

Poizner noted that April Fool’s Day marked exactly four decades since The Man Formerly Known as Moonbeam won his first election to the L.A. Community College Board, in not-no-subtly jabbing at Brown’s never-ending electioneering and his septuagenarian status: When Brown first won office, Poizner’s mouthpiece said in an e-blast, “Nixon was the newly inaugurated President, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were going strong, people were still using carbon paper, an Apple was something you ate and the Apollo Mission had not yet landed on the moon.”

Said Kuwata, who’s on the gubernatorial sidelines while his liege, Lady DiFi, clenches her furrowed brow in contemplation of whether to run: “It’s a surprise that Steve Poizner, who hasn’t been defined yet, comes out and starts talking about negative things before he starts talking about a vision about how to get California out of this mess.”

“Political hacks have a way of telling voters what they should believe about people,” Kuwata added, warming to the task. “But the reality is the age argument in California was tried against Ronald Reagan and failed and tried against Alan Cranston and failed. My experience is that voters care more about your ideas and how credible you are.”

While Kuwata makes a valid historical point, count on geezer digs at Brown –- born the same year “Gone With the Wind” was released and before Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling –- to abide, at least subtly, in a campaign when generational change could be an important theme (see Newsom, Gavin incited by South, Garry). Besides, the grumpy old men at calbuzz found the combination of acid and wit in the Poizner hit -– “Jerry Brown, what a long strange trip it’s been” –- kind of a refreshing change from usual attack fare.

In fact, we liked it enough that we suspected Poizner supporter Ken Khachigian — who once said he has studied Brown “like Patton studied Rommel” — was the invisible hand behind it. But the GOP senior statesman, who became Social Security eligible two years ago, demurred, and gave full credit to Poizner’s press point man, Kevin Spillane.

“Actually wish I could take credit,” Khachigian emailed calbuzz. “But my clone – Spillane, who I trained in the Rosario Marin and Chuck Poochigian campaigns — is trying to outshine the Yoda. Nice little blast, huh? I think Jerry’s free ride might be over.”

Limbering up for his shot at Brown, Spillane earlier in the week also fired on Republican state Sen. Abel Maldonado, who got all huffy with Poizner for opposing the tax-raising, budget-enacting Proposition 1A. Maldonado had released an apropos-of-nothing, two-page blistering letter saying the Insurance Commissioner’s stance would “let the state fall into financial ruin just to win a political campaign.”

Said Spillane: “Senator Maldonado’s letter is a bit like the arsonist lashing out at the fire department for not stopping him from burning the village.”

Not exactly a Michelle Obama squeeze for HRH . . .

Two-fisted giver: At first glance, it seemed perplexing that Jerry Perenchio, late of Spanish-language TV giant Univision, would fork over $1.5 million to help Gov. Arnold pass Prop. 1A, while maxing out — $25,900 from him and a like amount from his bride — to wannabe governor Meg Whitman, who’s been huffing and puffing against 1A.

But then it occurred that a total of fifty grand to Ms. Meg is a cheap date for Perenchio, while the 1.5 large ensures he’ll have a seat at the Terminator’s table in the year-and-a-half plus the gov has left to dole out favors.

As the esteemed Dr. Hackenflack points out: “Listen fellas, if you’re worth $3 billion, giving $25,900 is the equivalent of giving $8.63 if you’re worth $1 million, right?” . . .

Democratic firing squad: The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill is often cited as the event that hatched the environmental movement in the U.S. Now the debate of how best to battle offshore oil is pitting enviros and progressives against each other in S.B. in a divisive Democratic primary feud that may draw statewide attention. Details here . . .

A good man leaves the trail: A calbuzz hats-off to John Wildermuth, longtime political writer for the Chronicle, who’s taking the buy-out in the latest episode of that paper’s slow-death movie. Chron suits prevailed on him to stay through the May 19 special but after that, he’s gone from 5th and Mission and, for now, from the trail. Big John covered a lot of big stories, but says his favorite memory is a small, intimate one: watching Barbara Boxer literally do a dance in a motel bar in Fresno, after reporters told her the next day’s L.A. Times poll put her ahead for the first time in her 1998 re-election campaign.

“These days, campaigns can rent a compact car, not a bus, to accommodate the traveling press,” he says, “since most papers are convinced you can cover politics by reading releases, watching videocasts of speeches and blogging from your desk. But it was the very human moments that made the trips worthwhile, both for reporters and their readers. I’ll miss it.” Safe travels, man.

This photo has been around the block already, but in case you missed it, and to underscore Wildermuth’s point, here’s what a campaign bus used to look like in California. This was Alan Cranston’s final campaign swing in 1986 including calbuzz founder Phil Trounstine and the aforementioned Kam Kuwata. For more detail, check here.

Photo courtesy of Dave Lesher’s Facebook

Deconstructing the props: BTW, for simplified explanations of the May 19 ballot propositions, you might want to check out the League of Women Voters site here.