Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Spillane’



Calbuzz Rescues Inaugural from Crashing Boredom

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Calbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack greatly enhanced his reputation as the Perle Mesta of California Monday night, as he tossed the toughest-ticket bash of Inaugural Week, featuring fine cuisine and libation, fine fellowship and the brightest stars in the state’s glittering political firmament.

In a political social whirl otherwise dominated by an event where the big payoff was a couple of dogs and a small bag of chips, Calbuzz party organizers agreed with each other that their gathering of First Amendment scumbags and rapacious consultants was by far the best shindig of the week.

Unfortunately for the good Doctor H., he missed his own soiree, after passing out cold beneath a banquet room table from rapidly throwing down 13 or 14  double Jamesons on the rocks several hours before his guests arrived.

Still, the 90 or so revelers who were actually conscious for the big party, held at fabulous Lucca restaurant (plenty of valet parking), did their best to overcome their disappointment at his absence, dining on smoked chicken risotto, chicken saltimbocca, pan roasted salmon and grilled bistro steak, consuming mass quantities of Ray Station Merlot, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Camelot Cabernet, and enjoying an evening utterly bereft of the tedious, mind-numbing speechifying that characterizes most such events in Sacramento.

Plus, they got a really cool credential — the type which the skinflint Brown operation provided to no one covering his big day.

Consistent with the post-post-partisan values and ethics of Calbuzz — which hold that folks of differing political persuasions are to view their rivals not as bitter enemies, but as nutty neighbors — Republican operatives like Adam Mendelsohn, Jim Brulte, Kevin Spillane, Marty Wilson, Beth Miller and Julie Soderlund (special kudos to Rob Stutzman and Mitch Zak for being the only ex-members of the GOP’s Legions of eMeg with the stones to show up) mixed and mingled with leading Democratic lights, including Tom Quinn, David Townsend, Joe Trippi, Donna Bojarsky, Jim Moore, Steve Glazer, Jason Kinney, Roger Salazar, Steve Maviglio, Karen Skelton  and Garry South (whose frequent harsh criticisms of Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor make him an intraparty marked man, matched Stutz and Zak’s raw courage in taking his place  at the festivities), while other hacks (widely suspected of  RINO tendencies by some in the Neanderthal Caucus) including Jack Flanigan, Bob Naylor, Donna Lucas and Don Sipple, added to a gemutlicht ambience of general hilarity.

Along with members of the Capitol press corps that Calbuzz actually knows (apologies to Sactown hacks we don’t know), world-class media types, including New York Times L.A. bureau chief Adam Ngourney, by-God L.A. Times sage George Skelton and national political correspondent Mark Barabak, A.P. political writers Juliet Williams and Judy Lin and KCRA-TV’s inimitable Kevin Riggs sprinkled the crowd, as Greg Lucas of “California’s Capitol,” Joel Fox of “Fox and Hounds” and Torey Van Oot of “Capitol Alert” ably represented the political blogosphere and blindingly insightful eggheads and policy makers like Dan Schnur, H.D. Palmer, Dave Lesher, Nancy McFadden and Peter Schrag raised the average I.Q. of the room at least a point or two.

Here stood newly sworn-in governor Brown, huddling with newly named Resources Secretary John Laird over matters of apparent great urgency.

There was new First Lady Anne Gust, explaining to an astonished inaugural witness how she was surprised to find out she was introducing her husband about two minutes before his swearing in.

Across the room,  almost Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom passionately held forth on the insider intricacies of San Francisco politics that have delayed his swearing in (see Agnos, Art and his five votes).

We even have a boozy recollection of overhearing Krusty and the Prince dividing up the world: Gavin focuses on economic development and UC and stays out of Jerry’s way as he tries to run the government. Such a deal.

Worried Democrats meanwhile kept an anxious eye on Brown, lest he keel over and make incumbent Lite Gov Abel Maldonado a full-term governor before Newsom takes the oath of office.

A good time was had by all, except for the aforementioned, utterly plastered Dr. H. There were no injuries.

Poizner Blasts Whitman on eBay Management

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Steve Poizner lashed out Thursday at Meg Whitman, his chief rival for conservative support in the battle for the Republican nomination for governor, charging that the former eBay CEO has a “disastrous record of fiscal mismanagement” in business.

Citing a Wednesday Wall Street Journal report (subscription required), Insurance Commissioner Poizner’s campaign spokesman put out a release that said eBay’s 2005 acquisition of the online telephone service Skype during Whitman’s tenure has resulted in a $2 billion loss for shareholders and left her successor to “clean up the failure.”

“If past performance is indicative of future results, Californians can’t afford Meg Whitman’s disastrous record of fiscal mismanagement,” said Poizner spokesman Kevin Spillane.

Coming 14 months before the GOP primary, the sudden attack reflected not only the aggressive style of campaigning that Poizner has adopted in the early going but also the potential vulnerability of political candidates who come directly to politics from the world of business and finance. The shot at Whitman is surely only the first that will be aimed at her management record.

“She’s making her business career the entire rationale for her candidacy,” Spillane told calbuzz. “And this is the cornerstone of her record at eBay.”

The Journal story, by Geoffrey Fowler, reported that “the online-auction giant purchased Skype in 2005 for about $2.6 billion in cash and stock, on the premise that eBay buyers would use Skype’s service to communicate. But two years later, eBay took a $1.4 billion charge for Skype, reflecting the unit’s shrinking value.”

Whitman spokesman Mitch Zak would not venture to explain why Poizner had decided to attack the former eBay CEO.

“Meg Whitman has a tremendous record of accomplishment in her decade leading eBay. She joined the company when it had 30 employees and $4 million in revenues. When she left it had 15,000 employees and $8 billion in revenues,” Zak said. “She has been recognized throughout the world as one of the most impressive and accomplished business leaders,” he said.

The salvo against Whitman recalled the troubles that faced former Northwest Airlines Chairman Al Checchi in 1998 when he attempted to use his business acumen as the fundamental rationale for his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor. News articles and research by competing candidates delving into his tumultuous leadership of the airline undercut the central argument for his candidacy.

The Poizner statement also took on former Skype President Henry Gomez, now a key Whitman adviser, calling him “her campaign majordomo.” Through his spokesman Poizner said that current eBay chairman John Donahoe is “now cleaning up the failure” of Whitman and Gomez.

Zak elected not to reply to any of the charges.

“Meg doesn’t need to do anything more than share her vision for California and demonstrate that she’s not a Sacramento politician but a leader who will bring this state back,” he said.

Mad Dog Poizner Strikes Again

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Steve Poizner has yet to spend a dime from his multi-million-dollar bank account opposing Proposition 1A on TV, but the Insurance Commissioner was once again seeking free media Monday, attacking Attorney General Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for backing the May 19 election measure.

“Jerry’s endorsement has reminded us that the tired Sacramento status quo offers insincere excuses instead of real results when it comes to ending the state’s structural budget deficit,” said Poizner, who so far not has not articulated a genuine solution of his own to California’s budget mess.

“Using bankruptcy as a scare tactic is just an excuse for lack of leadership,” Poizner added, in attacking Villaraigosa, who predicted Friday that the state could go broke if Prop.1A fails. “The financial integrity and budgeting process of this state is already bankrupt.”

Pretty boilerplate stuff except for one thing:

How come Poizner skipped over San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who also supports Prop.1A? Was this an oversight, a tactical decision or a snub?

None of the above, insisted Poizner spokesmouth Kevin Spillane, citing the timeliness of Villaraigosa’s comments, made Friday, and Brown’s, reported Saturday in calbuzz.

Besides, he said, “At this point, they (Brown and Villaraigosa) are the top two Democratic candidates. We’ll be having fun with Gavin in the future. And we just wanted to get out there and promote calbuzz.” (Sounds okay to us).

So the omission of Newsom was a kind of a snub. And given that the Field Poll shows nearly four in 10 Democrats and independents have no opinion about Newsom, why waste too much time making him better known?

But why hasn’t Poizner or Megabucks Meg Whitman , the former eBay auctioneer in chief, spent any of their millions to rail against Prop. 1A – and get themselves known statewide — on TV?

“Everyone’s in such a hurry! All in due time,” Whitman mouthpiece Rob Stutzman told us in an email. “Keeping our options open in 1A.”

Said Spillane: “It’s still up in the air. A million here, a million there – it adds up. . . At the end of the day, it’s not my money.”

All of which lends credence to speculation by estimable SacB columnizer Dan Walters who wondered in print the other day: “Could it be that Whitman and Poizner are denouncing the measures to gain traction with GOP conservatives but secretly want them to pass to make their hoped-for governorships easier? An old saying reveals the answer: Money talks while B.S. walks.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, big guy.

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.