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Posts Tagged ‘Mitch Zak’



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.

Team eMeg Grabs the Green, Proves They’re Yellow

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Not since Vice President Dick Cheney hid out in the “secret” bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory following the attacks of 9/11 have we seen an act of political cowardice as brazen as the announced refusal by Meg Whitman’s lavishly paid loser consultants to show up at the upcoming post-election debriefing sponsored by the Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley.

Well, maybe that’s unfair to Cheney. He had an excuse: the military and Secret Service insisted on protecting the chain of command in the face of uncertainty.

But Henry Gomez, Mike Murphy, Rob Stutzman, Jeff Randle, Mitch Zak, Jilian Hasner, Tucker Bounds and Sarah Pompei have no such excuse. Especially our friend Murph, who was paid a $1 million signing bonus (masquerading as an investment in his film company) and $60,000 a month, plus what else we’ll know when the final financial report is released.

“I don’t think we’re going to go,” Stutzman told the L.A. Times. “It’s self-indulgent, by self-important scholars and journalists. It is what it is.”

No, this is what it is: the logical extension of eMeg’s infamous statement to her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz: “You don’t know me and I don’t know you.” Chickenshit, dismissive arrogance.

Since its inception after the 1990 campaign, IGS “has brought together the state’s politicos after each gubernatorial election,” wrote Ethan Rarick in the preface to the book on the 2006 conference. “At the center of the conference are the consultants and staff members who ran the major campaigns, but the event also draws the state’s most involved and observant pollsters, political journalists and political scientists. For two days, the Berkeley campus becomes the center of the state’s political universe, a hotbed of debate and discussion about California and its voters.

“The sessions – open to the public and on the record – are videotaped, and the transcript is then edited into a readable and cohesive form. Published as a book, the conference proceedings serve as the principal historical record of California gubernatorial campaigns.”

Never before has a major campaign failed to represent itself at the conference. Moreover, the 2010 governor’s race – with eMeg’s unprecedented spending (we expect it’ll tilt the scales at $180 million, when all is said and done) – cries out to be studied, dissected, analyzed and understood.

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s team will be there. That will be worthwhile. But truth be told, Steve Glazer, Sterling Clifford, Anne Gust Brown, Jim Moore, Joe Trippi and Krusty the General himself, all were pretty damn accessible and transparent during the campaign. If you had a question about strategy, tactics, intentions, fundraising, polling, whatever, they held back very little.

Maybe they’ll come clean about who called Whitman a “whore” for trading pension benefits for the support of police groups. (Although we guessed it was Anne and tried unsuccessfully to get her to break the news to us.) But we don’t expect to hear a lot of insider details that will alter how we saw their campaign unfold.

Team Whitman, on the other hand, was the most self-important, impenetrable political death star we’ve ever encountered in California politics. And that includes the fact that at least one of your Calbuzzers was frozen out in 1998 by the Al Checchi campaign altogether after writing the (unchallenged) history of his (mis)management of Northwest Airlines.

“It’s amazing to me that somebody [Murphy] would do five minutes on a national television program [Meet the Press] but won’t go back and forth with the California political writers,” said Democrat Roger Salazar, who managed the independent committee California Working Families for Jerry Brown. “Not showing up at one of the most respected forums in California politics is cowardly. You’d think that $60,000 a month would buy you some guts.”

Gomez has no history in California politics. He was eMeg’s lapdog at eBay and was her No. 1 horse whisperer during the race. But Murphy, the longtime strategist who put presidential would-be Lamar Alexander in a Pendleton back in 1996, was the chief political professional in the Armies of eMeg – the only one who had private time with Whitman in the backstage green rooms at all three debates, for example.

He’s not talking about his reasons for not showing up. Which leaves Stutzman as the next most senior strategist to comment. “There’s a lot of things people are going to ask that we’re never going to disclose — and that are none of their business,” he told the S.F. Chronicle the other day.

In other words: fuck you, you fucking fucks.

The Team Whitman principals deny they have non-disclosure agreements that are keeping them from discussing the internal workings of the campaign (although their agreements could require them to deny they exist). Which suggests their refusal really is just about cowardice and arrogance.

Frankly, we don’t get it. It would be in Team Whitman’s interest to justify their decisions and defend their performance. Otherwise, the journalists, scholars and politicos will have to depend on Whitman’s opponents and neutral analysts to explain:

– Why the best they could do — with unprecedented campaign resources, a raging pro-Republican year and a retread 72-year-old opponent – was 10 points more than GOP registration.
– What were their strategic and tactical goals at various points throughout the campaign? How did they craft their messages? What data did they rely on?
– Who knew what and when about Nicky Diaz? What was their initial plan to deal with Whitman’s lack of a voting history? Why did they decide not to emphasize her family?
– How did they intend to overcome the Democratic registration advantage? What did they think Brown’s greatest weaknesses were? Why could they never sustain a message about the issues? What was the effect of the independent expenditure campaigns against Whitman during the summer?
– Who made the decision to shield Whitman from California political writers? What happened to their much-vaunted voter-targeting strategy? How much of their media experimentation was just a test run for future clients? How come they couldn’t help any other Republican candidates?

These are just a few of the questions Team eMeg won’t be answering anytime soon. But Rarick, who runs the program at IGS, is holding out hope that the Whitman campaign will be represented.

“We would be delighted if Ms. Whitman wants to attend personally. I was surprised to see Rob Stutzman quoted on the Chronicle’s blog to the effect that Ms. Whitman was not consulted on the decision to skip the conference,” he told us in an email. “I think it is incumbent upon us to make every possible effort to allow the Whitman campaign to defend itself, and thus although candidates do not normally participate directly in this conference, we have reached out this morning and invited Ms. Whitman to attend personally and participate on the panels. We’d be delighted if she would like to attend.”

As for Calbuzz, we’d still like to have dinner with Meg.

Friday Fishwrap: Road Trip!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Not Exactly Huntley-Brinkley: We’ll be reporting live from the Calbuzz Convention Sky Box in Sacramento this weekend, bringing the vast resources of our far-flung crack political team to the task of bringing you the best and worst of the Democratic state confab and schmoozefest.

With Tony Villar taking a duck, just days after John Boy Garamendi quit the field, the first cattle call of the Democratic primary for governor will be the Jerry and Gavin Show. S.F. Mayor Newsom rolls into River City on the momentum of his statewide announcement Twitter, while Ageless Wonder Brown seeks to keep his crown as the champion of new ideas. Plus: Cameos by Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Howard Dean and a cast of thousands.

Will General Jerry and Prince Gavin come to blows over hair products? Who will win the party’s coveted seat as Male Undersecretary Assistant Treasurer? How’s the food at Lucca? Can John Burton get through an entire sentence without an F-bomb? All this and more, in Calbuzz’s special weekend coverage. . .

Utz vs. Early Bird Special: How do you entertain delegates when the guy trying to paint you as a drooling geezer is being honored by California College Democrats at a hot-ticket block party featuring Wyclef Jean – a Grammy-winning rapper that a lot of vintage members of the California Democratic Council never heard of: Wuddee say? There’s a cleft in his jeans? Whaa? Huh?

If you’re Jerry Brown, you throw a “Recession Reception” kegger with chips and salsa at your Dad’s old home – which just happens to be the historic governor’s mansion, through which you’ll be happy to offer guided tours. That’s the General’s play, during Early Bird Special hours, 5:30-7:00 p.m. Saturday. Not sure what music will be playing, but don’t expect “Fast Car” or “Riot.”

For that, you’ll have to stroll over to the College Dem’s block party which doesn’t even get going until 8 p.m. and likely won’t pick up steam until after 10 when Jerry’s Kids will be back in their rooms with their Polident. Out in the hood, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom will be working the crowd and being honored. Beatbox artist Butterscotch from NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Sacramento’s Utz! and the Shuttlecocks are also scheduled. Plus: Hip-hopper Biz Markie is on for a post-concert “After Party” for special invited guests at Lounge ON20.

Despite all the flash, why is Jerry not too worried about being outflanked by Gavin among young voters? Because, as Brown argued to Calbuzz, those younger voters Newsom is chasing account for no more than 12% of the Democratic primary vote. . .

eMeg leads money primary: Over on the Republican side, Steve Poizner has been winning the battle of earned media in recent weeks, but chief rival Meg Whitman made a little bottom line news of her own this week.

The Whitman camp announced that she’s kicked $4 million of her own dough into her race, and is “on track” to raise at least another $5 million by the June 30 reporting deadline. While her handlers were a little wiggly about exactly what that meant – spokesman Mitch Zak wouldn’t say whether or not she would have $9 million in the bank come July 1 – it’s still an impressive number (especially if they’re actually low-balling at this point to make their eventual fundraising number look bigger).

Zak said that still on the table is the notion of Whitman stepping up to put some bucks opposing Prop. 1A on the May 19 special election ballot, at a time when she and Poizner are competing to be the loudest voice against the measure’s $16 billion extension of tax increases.

The GOP primary has been framed as a battle of two personally wealthy business types squaring off, but so far it looks like there’s only one fighter in that ring.

PS: After we posted we came across this nice piece (here) by Michael Finnegan in the LATimes about troubles Poizner’s having getting his campaign organized. Also, a fairly critical look at Meg’s challenge from the National Review Online (here).

Dr. H’s Old Mailbag: Comes this convention weekend query for esteemed political psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack:

Dear Doctor: My husband told me something troubling: that John Burton is in the Guinness Book of Records for using the f-word as every possible part of speech in a single sentence. Is this true?
– Sarah Saddleback, Orange County

Dear Sarah: WTF?

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.