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Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Kaus’



Press Clips: Lights! Action! Camera! Bribery! News?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

We don’t know if Michael Luo of the New York Times was just idly rooting around in Meg Whitman’s 19-page FPPC Form 700 financial disclosure when he just happened to stumble across an investment of more than $1 million in “Tools Down! Productions” and knew “ah ha!”  – that’s political consultant Mike Murphy’s Hollywood production company.

Or maybe somebody who doesn’t like Whitman and/or Murphy decided to point Luo in the right direction or slipped him the paperwork. Either way, it’s a good story and since we have a pdf of the actual document in hand (you can’t get it online), we know it’s true:

Right there on page 9, “Tools Down! Productions, Inc c/o Aaron Zimmer, Singer Burke & Co., 6345 Balboa Blvd, Building 4, Suite 375, Encino, CA 91316” a ”Partnership Stock” investment in “Entertainment Production” valued “Over $1,000,000.”

That’s MORE than $1 million, Calbuzzers. Sandwiched between investments in  Magellan Midstream Holdings LP and Abaca Technology Corp. just where you’d expect to find it.

Although some in the news media have been quick to kiss this deal off as totally legal and out of reach of scandal, there remains one question that we probably will never get a real answer to: Was this, on Whitman’s part, a political expenditure disguised as a business investment?

Sure it looks like Whitman, um, bribed Murphy to either stay away from Steve Poizner’s campaign or sign on to hers. But Murphy’s a private citizen. He can – and does – sell his services to the highest bidder. More power to him.

Whitman, on the other hand, has to follow certain rules. She can’t (ethically or legally) pay a retainer or a fee to a political consultant out of her private funds and not count that as a political expenditure made in pursuit of the office she’s seeking.

We don’t know what you might call the actual facts that could shine a light on that issue. We don’t even know how much the total “investment” was. Was it more or less, for example than the “More than $1,000,000” eMeg listed in two different Goldman Sachs Distressed Opportunities Funds?

Of course, not knowing all the facts has little effect on handlers for Whitman’s opponent, Jerry Brown. “By all accounts it was a political payoff masquerading as a so-called legitimate business investment,” said Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer after we goaded him.

“Murphy should disclose his other investors and whether the payment was reported on his income taxes . . .  It’s possible she paid it from one of her Cayman Island accounts,” Glazer added.

Murph’s only on-the-record comment to us was, “I’m absolutely not commenting on this.”

Oil spill, what oil spill? It was Hall of Fame blogger and erstwhile Senate candidate Mickey Kaus who coined the term “Feiler Faster Thesis” to describe the way that online age politics is changing as people learn to process information ever-faster, to keep up with the speed at which information now moves. Kaus in 2000 propounded the thesis based on an idea from writer Bruce Feiler to argue that the whole notion of “momentum” in campaigns is woefully out of date.

The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc. As a result, politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace. Charges and countercharges fly faster, candidates’ fortunes rise and fall faster, etc.

A few years later, he boiled it down further:

The FFT, remember, doesn’t say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days. (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed. [emphasis in the original]

The FFT came to mind Friday, when we read a report from the Washpost’s hypercaffeineated Chris Cillizza noting that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which preoccupied TV and cable news for weeks, is quickly fading as an issue, even as the company and government continue frantic efforts to contain and cleanup the millions of gallons of oil erupting from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked to name the most important problem facing the country, just seven percent of respondents in the July Gallup poll said “natural disaster response/relief” — a major drop off from the 18 percent who said the same in June. (In Gallup’s May poll, just one percent named “natural disaster response” as the most important problem in the country.)

“Americans’ reduced likelihood to see the spill as the top problem could reflect the reality that the spill is no longer ‘new’ news or perhaps that Americans are becoming more confident that they spill will be fixed,” wrote Gallup poll director Frank Newport in a memo detailing the results.

Given their current sorry state, any Democrats desperate for any shred of good news may look to the FFT for hope that fast-moving, and so far unforeseen, events might yet alter the political landscape before they have to face cranky voters.

As dismal as things look for the Dems, amid the current conventional wisdom forecasting a wipe-out and possible loss of the House, cooler head prognosticators and pundits, like NBC political director Chuck Todd, don’t see how the numbers work for the Republicans to take over control.

P.S. After leaving Slate for his quixotic challenge to Barbara Boxer, Kaus has been writing on his campaign site, but says he’s mulling several, no doubt lucrative, alternatives (better get in line!) for where his blog lands next.

But what about the little guy: As eMeg dithers about which of the countless proposals she should accept to debate Jerry Brown, both of them  should summon the courage to show up at a big August event in Ventura County where they can talk to hundreds of real people from around California who are living and working on the front lines of the recession. Timm Herdt of the VenCo Star reports that:

Organizers intend to call it a “shared prosperity forum,” but the precise name they have in mind is a little longer: The 2010 California Shared Prosperity Gubernatorial Candidates Forum.

Whether they can actually call it all that, of course, depends on the two major party candidates for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. If one or both accepts, the governor’s forum is on. If not, well, there’s a Plan B….

Executive director Marcos Vargas tells me that a broad range of groups from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, groups representing low-wage workers, immigrants and seniors, have agreed to attend. A number of those groups, such as the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles, are part of a statewide coalition called Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

It is Vargas’ vision that the event could be a refreshing change from the sort of staged town-hall meetings that pass for dialogue between candidates and voters these days.

Refreshing indeed.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Roaring Virile Fire Disturbs Social Order.

Q&A with Mickey; Babs v Carly; Team Krusty Forming

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

The best thing about Mickey Kaus’s hopeless bid for the U.S. Senate is that he’s the only candidate we’ve ever met who talks down expectations about his own chances. A contrarian counterintuitive (reverse those words? -ed.) Mr. Crankypants Kaus is a pioneering practitioner of online political journalism who is breaking new ground — the first Californian ever to carry the ballot designation of “blogger.” Seeing a cheap opportunity to squeeze into the footnotes of media history books, Calbuzz asked him five questions about his primary challenge to Barbara Boxer

1. What’s the over-under on your final percentage of the vote in the Dem primary?

My friend Jill Stewart of L.A. Weekly bet a friend dinner that I wouldn’t top 5%. But I don’t want to set expectations that high. I’d say anything over 3% is a startling rebuke of Barbara Boxer’s lockstep Democratic orthodoxy. Every vote for me makes that point. I don’t have to win to win.

2. What’s your beef with public employees getting good benefits and pensions?

I have no beef with good benefits and pensions. But, as Willie Brown said, the deal was always that public employees traded a bit of pay for security. Now they have the security plus more pay than the private sector. Many can retire in their 50s at more than they made working.  We need to restore a balance and not just spend more and more tax money on the same employees while cutting service to the public. Democrats are the party of government–we’re the ones who need to make it work at a price we can afford.

3. As a Senator, what specific steps would you push for the government to “secure the border”? Finish the dang fence?

Yes, I’d build the actual, physical fence–not the failed “virtual” fence promoted by those who opposed a physical fence. Physical fences work. We also need a) wide adoption of a system for verifying the legal status of new hires; b) stiff sanctions against employers who skirt the law; c) a system for tracking visa overstays; d) greater avenues for legal immigration, including immigration from Mexico. And we need to stop talking about amnesty until we’re sure all these things work.

4. It is alleged you believe that the Democratic Party is in the thrall of labor unions. How do you respond?

Guilty as charged. Every reporter I’ve talked to thinks the unions basically own the state party. That’s why we don’t get Obama’s “race-to-the-top” education money — teachers’ unions block reform. It’s why pension costs are threatening to bankrupt us. It’s why we bailed out the UAW without asking much sacrifice, and why the party still pursues the doomed, unpopular, bad idea of letting unions organize a workplace without a secret ballot.

5. You bear a heavy responsibility as the first person in California history to carry the ballot label of “blogger.” Has running for office been everything you dreamed?

I’ll have a better perspective on June 9. The idea was to make a point, not have a great time. It’s been hard work with some big rewards. I’ve been treated fairly, so far, by all sorts of people I was worried would be underhanded. Every time I talk to actual voters, it’s been great — especially voters who argue back. Starting arguments is the idea. I learn every day, even from the annoying ”friends” who say “you’re doing this all wrong.” Mass rallies with thousands cheering … well, they haven’t really happened for anyone, have they? There’s a week left! I’m not peaking too soon.

These two teams just don’t like each other: With Tom Campbell’s campaign apparently collapsing near the finish line, GOP Senate front-runner Carly Fiorina decided to jump start the general election race Tuesday.

Hurricane Carly threw a quick right elbow with the e-blast release of a TV ad attacking Senator Barbara Boxer as soft on terrorism; just 57 minutes later, however, Team Babs hit back with a tough 2,082 word rapid response bashing Fiorina over a host of issues, including one of our personal favorites, Hewlett Packard’s controversial third-party sales to Iran during her tenure as CEO.

Cowardly Fiorina handlers refused to provide details of their purported ad buy, which they claimed was “significant and statewide.” The spot features Carly, full face to the camera, mocking a brief 2007 news clip of Boxer saying that climate change is “one of the very important national security issues we face.”

“Terrorism kills and Barbara Boxer’s worried about the weather?” sez Carly.

Not a bad line, but as Boxer World quickly noted, the CIA last fall set up a center to investigate the interlocking problems of global warming and political instability around the world, a concern sounded publicly by a pack of military, national security and spook types.

“Fiorina obviously isn’t aware that in October 2009, the CIA established a Center for the Study of Climate Change and National Security,” sniffed Boxer, in her tome-sized counter-punch.

Woo hoo! Only 153 days until the election!

Dudley still doomed: As for Campbell, the favored candidate of editorial boards everywhere, we forecast two weeks ago that the combination of Fiorina’s late-breaking move to the wallet, and the host of independent expenditure attacks he was enduring, would position Carly to crack it open down the stretch.

With the new L.A. Times poll showing she apparently has done just that, it looks like Campbell’s chronically anemic fund-raising has now gone on total life support, as he pulled all his final week TV ads and announced his determination to win the campaign with phone calls and email. Good luck with that.

UPDATE 6 AM Thursday: Politico says Campbell is going back on the air with an ad that makes his best argument: That only he among the GOP candidates for Senate, can actually beat Barbara Boxer. We’ll see how much money Dudley has scraped together to make the case on TV. He’d need a few million, at least, we suspect.

United Front for Brown Forming: California Working Families 2010 — the pro-Jerry Brown independent group that already includes the California Professional Firefighters, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, SEIU California State Council, the Professional Engineers in California Government — today is expected to announce that they’re being joined by the Democratic Governors Association and its California Accountability Project.

That puts Emily DeRose of the DGA on the field for Brown, along with CAWF’s Roger Salazar. Level the Playing Field, with the likes of Ace Smith and Chris Lehane,  also has been active in the pro-Jerry-anti-Meg universe> But it’s beginning to look like CAWF is the Big Dog.

Of course, we don’t know yet what heaters like the California Teachers Association and California Correctional Peace Officers Association plan to do in the governor’s race. If anything.

Live from Los Angeles: Donkeys Run Wild

Saturday, April 17th, 2010


The big news at the convention: Jerry Brown challenges Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner to a three-way, pre-primary debate. It has to be all three of them, he said later at a news conference. More from Calbuzz on Jerry’s intriguing proposal to come.

11:10 Treasurer Bill Lockyer is challenging Meg Whitman’s assertions that California has one of the largest state governments and highest state tax rates in the nation, using a blizzard of stats and assailing Republicans for “selfish, scare-mongering, stupid and silly” policies.

10:33: The diminutive Barbara Boxer is asking delegates to stand with us against “Wall Street on steroids” and to join her in making California the hub for clean energy jobs  and ending tax breaks for corporations and the rich and add tax breaks for the middle class and small businesses.

Biggest whoppers: Boxer boasting of “working across party lines” on Capitol Hill and making a priority of reducing  the deficit. Best Line: Talking up health care as a big positive for Dems, she said: “Why would I want to pull the plug on grandma – I am grandma!”

10:24 Boxer was introduced and came through the center of the convention platform to a loud and enthusiastic non-spontaneous demonstration to the sounds of “Aint’ No Mountain High Enough” by Tammy Terrell and Marvin Gaye.

10:00 Chairman John Burton introduced Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis as “the only liberal in the Cabinet.” She delivered a tough partisan speech in which she challenged Republicans to campaign on a platform of opposing health care: “Bring it on,” she said repeatedly.

9:30 – After taking two buses, three cabs and a shuttle, Calbuzz finally made our way from the J.W. Marriott lobby to the L.A. Convention Center at the far end of the Earth.

Barbara Boxer scheduled a press conference before her speech. When she walked in, she went out of her way to greet Mickey Kaus, the pioneer blogger who’s filed a Democratic primary challenge to her. “I wanted to meet my opponent,” she said shaking his hand.

Kaus, who’s been banned from addressing the convention, told us he was allowed to come Boxer’s newser on condition he not ask any questions. In other non-news, Boxer said two reasons that the polls are close in her race is that she has “three strong (Republican) opponents who’ve been beating her up for months and voters haven’t been“paying attention to what I’ve done.”

In response to Calbuzz, she also offered a strong endorsement of AB32, arguing that Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s climate change legislation is necessary to jump-start a green energy industry in the state.  A batch of assembled press and bloggers had a bunch of questions left, but Boxer’s handlers cut it off at 9:45, saying she had to go make her speech to the delegates.

Key Questions Emerge as Dem Party Confab Opens

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

As the Calbuzz National Affairs desk settled into our sky box high above the floor of the California Democratic Convention, our battalion of political correspondents buttonholed delegates, honored guests and party hacks alike to answer the 10 key questions looming over the weekend events:

1-Will Jerry Brown manage to stay awake for the Young Democrats party? With Brown’s unopposed stroll to the party’s nomination for governor sucking all drama from the proceedings, Crusty’s job this weekend is to energize the several thousand activists on hand, who are in a grumpy frame of mind because of Meg-a-Million’s fast start on the Republican side. The under-30 set, who weren’t born the last time Jerry was governor but whose enthusiasm will be important come November, are in particular need of wooing; alas they don’t start partying until 9 p.m. tonight, and the 72-year old Brown’s handlers must hope he hasn’t slipped into his jammies by then.

2-Can Dr. H avoid the paparazzi? The second annual Dr. P.J. Hackenflack Democratic Convention Dinner is scheduled for tonight at a hush-hush exclusive location, with a celebrity-packed A list roster of glittering guests. But in the land of TMZ, a fish as big as Dr. H will be hard-pressed to protect his privacy.

3-Will United States Senator Barbara Boxer Herself stalk out when some rude blogger calls her “Ma’am”? At last year’s convention, California’s junior senator looked like a mortal lock for re-election, but things seemed to start to unravel for her when she famously condescended to a top military officer at a committee hearing not long after. Now the episode has become a metaphor for Boxer’s arrogance and sense of entitlement after 18 years in office, amid the worst political atmosphere for arrogant, entitled incumbent Democrats in a generation.

4-Has Jerry improved his salsa steps? The headline act of the weekend is Los Lobos, which will be performing at the L.A. Convention Center on Saturday night. Political observers will be watching closely to see if Brown’s awkward moves have improved from the ’70s when he was kicking it with girlfriend Linda Ronstadt at Lucy’s El Adobe.

5-Will this be Nancy Pelosi’s last state convention as Speaker? Talking to the most liberal crowd outside of Cuba, Pelosi will no doubt be hozannaed to the heavens, if not nominated for sainthood, for her leadership in passing health care reform.  She should enjoy it while she can, since the legislation is viewed considerably less favorably by voters in the districts of dozens of Democratic members, whose defeats could trigger a Republican takeover of the House.

6-Will Mickey Kaus collect any items for his blog? Kaus, the Mr. Crankypants blogger who’s mounted a symbolic centrist challenge to Boxer, has been banned from speaking to the convention by Democratic Party Minister of Annoyance John Burton.  Mickey writes some of the smartest contrarianisms on the web, so hopefully he’ll at least pick up some stuff for his site.

7-How many times will the words “Goldman Sachs” be uttered from the podium? Even before theSEC’s legal move against the giant investment bank on Friday, Goldman Sachs was emerging as a leading villain of coming Democratic rip jobs on eMeg, whose seamy history as a board member challenged the limits of ethics, if not the law. Brown previewed the line of attack late Friday, when he combined a shot at Whitman’s Wall Street connections with her effort to buy the election: “The rules of democracy are not changed just because a billionaire decides she wants to be governor…You can’t have a hostile takeover of the democratic process.”

8-Will Gavin Newsom and Garry South make it pistols at 10 paces? Political consultant South has done some serious trash talking about Prince Gavin, who quit the campaign  for governor that South was running and now is running for Lieutenant Governor, against South’s new client, L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn. The pair got within a few feet of each other at a convention bash last night, but Gavin wouldn’t even look at Garry: “He’s conflict and confrontation averse,” said South.

9-Will anybody top the spread put on by the CCPOA? The California Correctional Peace Officers Association– thank you Michael Flores –  set a high bar with their Friday cocktail party reception honoring Speaker John Perez: salmon-caviar canapés, satay chicken, crab cake balls, fresh shrimp, pot stickers, egg rolls and an open bar. Today’s “Taco Truck Throwdown,” presented by Perez and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg could mount a serious challenge. Rest  assured Calbuzz will be there to do some Actual Reporting.

10-Will live blogging drive traffic or drive away traffic? Calbuzz will be indefatigably bringing every minute of non-stop action from the podium, assuming we get up in time.

P.S. Late Friday Calbuzz stumbled onto an oddity: Newsom’s reception — sponsored and approved by labor unions — was catered by non-union restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.  At first, Calbuzz thought this might have been a bonehead,  rookie mistake at the all-union-all-the-time Demo convention. But it turns out steady hand Cal Strat consultant Jason Kinney, who worked his butt off to organize the event, got the whole deal sanctioned by all the key state and local labor groups. And in fact, the sponsors of the event included the teachers, nurses, faculty and farm workers unions.  On your behalf, Calbuzz tested the martinis and the chocolate at Newsom rival Janice Hahn’s and found them far superior to Puck’s potato chip, red licorice and crudite spread. But, Newsom’s event at the Target Terrace above the Grammy Museum had live entertainment with Lisa Loeb, Benji Madden and Steven Weber while Hahn just had a boom box.

Wrap: Megablunder; Offshore Blues; Free Mickey!

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

The Calbuzz Department of Handicapping and Short Jockeys has been pretty darn impressed with how few major mistakes Team eMeg has made thus far in her maiden voyage into big-time California politics.

With a couple of exceptions.

Blunder #1, as we’ve noted before, was Whitman’s stand against AB32, California’s historic measure to control greenhouse gasses. It was unnecessary in the Republican primary and will pose a problem for her among moderates and independents in the general election.

And now comes Blunder #2: Whitman’s call last week to build more prisons, to be paid for by cutting other programs. We saw the story, by Torey Van Oot in the Sacramento B Minus but didn’t see any follow-up, which was odd, given what a huge strategic screw-up this was on Meg’s part.

“Whitman, who opposes raising taxes and wants to reduce the state work force, declined to identify a specific funding source for the costly new facilities, saying instead that cash could be freed up by cutting other areas of government,” Van Oot reported.

It didn’t take Attorney General Jerry Brown long to see that Meg had drawn a line dividing prisons on the one hand and schools on the other.  Crusty jumped right in where any good Democrat would be – on the side of schools.

Brown called Whitman’s plan to build prisons while reducing spending “snake-oil math.” Moreover, he said, “It is a gross misrepresentation to say you’re going to cut taxes, you’re going to somehow build more prisons and you’re not going to cut (education and other) spending.

“When you build more prisons, that costs money, then you put people in it, that costs money, then you have to build more hospital beds … it’s gigantic.”

Don’t say Calbuzz didn’t give you a heads-up that a dichotomy between schools and prisons – with Jerry on one side and Meg on the other – will be a major line of attack when Brown gets around to engaging Whitman one-on-one.

We’re just sayin’.

Let Mickey Speak! You don’t have to agree with Mickey Kaus, the pioneer political blogger and rabble-rousing Democrat who has declared himself a candidate for U.S. Senate, to believe the guy ought to have a chance to speak at the California Democratic Party state convention in a couple of weeks.

But he’s not on the official list of approved speakers Party Chairman John Burton has deemed viable to seek the party’s nomination.

Of course, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is the incumbent. She’s beloved within the Democratic Party. And she’s going to win the nomination. But Kaus is a serious political thinker who argues 1) the Democratic Party’s approach to immigration is essentially an open-border policy that is unfair to native-born, low-income workers and 2) the party is so beholden to big unions — especially the California Teachers Association — that it has conceded its positions on virtually every issue to what’s best for the preservation of the unions, not necessarily for California’s schools or its working class.

“I have no beef with Barbara Boxer. I’ve voted for her twice,” said Kaus. “I’m not running against Boxer as a person. If she wins, I’ll support her.” But, he argues, Boxer has the wrong stand on his two critical issues and so he’s challenging her.

“If I can just reach half the people who agree with me, I’ll do shockingly well,” he said, pointing for inspiration to Ron Unz’s run against Gov. Pete Wilson in  1994, when he won 34% of the Republican primary vote.

“It seems odd that John Burton can just scratch me off the list,” Kaus said of the CDP chairman. “He’s a little like Ahmed Chalabi in Iraq.”

See, that’s another reason — besides the fact that he’s a blog hero — that Kaus should be allowed to speak: he’s entertaining. Which is a lot more than we can say for most of the characters who will be hogging the microphone at the convention.

Offshore Obama: The president’s Sister Souljah play on expanding offshore oil drilling, at least off the coasts of red states,  won’t change the debate over Governor Schwarzmuscle’s push for the Tranquillon Ridge project in Santa Barbara (the defining piece on the issue is here ): Arnold will keep trying to resurrect it, and both sides in the enviro feud over its virtues will claim that Obama’s new policy confirms their position is the correct one.

Green backers of the plan, to allow the PXP energy company a state lease to drill from an existing platform in federal waters, can properly argue that the Administration’s decision not to allow new drilling off California removes, at least for now, the specter of the Minerals Management Service awarding new federal drilling rights for the site, after the current lease expires.

That issue has been central to the debate about whether an agreement with PXP, negotiated by the Environmental Defense Center, has enforceable “end dates” for drilling.

However, opponents of the project can now rightfully claim that last year’s vociferous campaign against T-Ridge by much of the state’s environmental community was partly responsible for the hands-off California policy, by sending a clear and strong political signal to Obama that he’d be touching a very hot stove in California if he even suggested expanded drilling here.

If Schwarzenegger now gets his way on T-Ridge, it will re-open the door for drill-baby-drill types to point to the new state lease as evidence that expanded drilling off the coast is still politically tenable.

Calbuzz bottom line: Advantage opponents.