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Posts Tagged ‘Peter Schrag’



Budget War Looms; Why Backers Matter in CD36

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Racking up a big fat collection of political endorsements in an election doesn’t always mean much. But when it’s a low-information, low-turnout contest, where voters are looking for cues, endorsements can have a huge impact.

Which is why Democrats Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen have been scrambling like mad to snag as many as they can in the May 17 special election to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Jane Harman in California’s 36th Congressional District.

Thus far, in the race for endorsements, Hahn, the LA City Councilwoman, is beating the pants off Bowen, the California Secretary of State.

There are, of course, other candidates in this contest including Democrat Marcy Winograd, the progressive left contender, and some Republicans, like Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin, Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, Realty Alert publisher Craig Huey and several others. Here’s the list of candidates and party preferences. In all there are five Democrat, six Republican, five “no party preference,” one Libertarian and one Peace and Freedom candidates.

But the real action – given the district’s partisan cast — is to see who’s gonna be the top Democrat.

The new rule under Proposition 14 is that the top two vote getters in the “primary,” regardless of party, face each other in the general election. But this is a special election and the rules allow that there’s only a runoff election between the top two contenders if no one gets 50%+1 in the initial balloting. And given the large field, it’s likely there will be a runoff on July 12. Whether that’ will be between two Democrats or a Democrat and a Republican depends on how the votes split on May 17.

All of which explains the frantic effort to win endorsements that tell voters who is allied with whose interests.

Bowen has won endorsements from the likes of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Democracy for America (run by Dean’s brother), the Beach Cities Democratic Club and the California Nurses Association. Click here for Bowen’s endorsements.

But Hahn has U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,  Assembly Speaker John Perez, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the LA Police Protective League and unions representing firefighters, longshoremen, electrical workers, letter carriers, laborers, steelworkers, plumbers, communication workers, steamfitters, operating engineers, iron workers, yada yada yada. Plus eight members of Congress, the LA Sheriff…the list goes on and on and on. Here are Hahn’s endorsements.

With her name ID as a statewide elected official and considerable popularity among Democrats in the region, Bowen is by no means a dead duck. But . . .

“That’s a huge, huge tell,” Nate Monroe, assistant professor of political science and an expert in congressional elections at UC Merced, said after hearing the endorsement lists. Not only does the list suggest the range of interests who think one candidate is better than the other, but “they raise the probability that a given voter is going to have a common interest with a given endorsement,” he said.

Bruce Cain, UC Berkeley’s Heller Professor of Political Science and public policy director of the University of California Washington Center, agreed that simply knowing that Dianne Feinstein is on one side and Howard Dean is on the other may be enough for many voters.

“You get into these low-information, low-turnout elections and there’s no question that endorsements matter,” Cain said, in part because voters who do turn out will be more highly informed than the average voter and they will know who the people and institutions are who are lining up behind different candidates.

Hahn’s endorsements, he said, may or may not tell you about her ideology, but they tell you about her strategy: “She’s got a more centrist base.”

Time to Revisit the Calbuzz Plan: “War cannot be avoided,” Niccolo Machiavelli, one of our all-time favorite political writers, famously said. “It can only be postponed to the other’s advantage.”

Old Nick’s sage advice to the Prince came to mind when we heard on Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown had finally thrown in the towel on “negotiations” with legislative Republicans in an attempt to win a handful of votes to put tax extensions on the June ballot.

“Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands,” Brown said.

“Let me be clear: I support pension reform, regulatory reform and a spending cap and offered specific and detailed proposals for each of these during our discussions.  While we made significant progress on these reform issues, the Republicans continued to insist on including demands that would materially undermine any semblance of a balanced budget.  In fact, they sought to worsen the state’s problem by creating a $4 billion hole in the budget.”

In addition to a written statement, Brown released a You Tube video of himself, dressed in a sweater, explaining his reasoning.

“The fact that the governor has now pulled the plug on any further budget talks says only one thing — the only immovable object in Sacramento is Jerry Brown,” replied California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro.

Brown’s extended efforts to use sweet reason to cut a budget deal, while laudable, were starting to make him look silly and weak anyway. The idea that legislative Republicans would ever negotiate seriously over a reality-based solution to California’s $27 billion deficit was probably always an illusion, but it was worth burning some political capital for Brown to at least try to treat them like adults.

But GOP leaders, with their puerile, 11th-hour, 53-point plan for undoing the 2010 election, made it clear that the whole notion that they were interested in helping to govern was a charade all along.

With a June ballot measure — if one could be pushed through by majority vote — apparently now out of the question, Brown and the Democrats are left with basically one option: a November ballot measure which should, as we’ve argued, re-frame the debate. Now that Machiavelli says it’s clearly time to go to war, Brown ought to make it one worth fighting, by battling on behalf of something like the Calbuzz Outside-the Box-Thinking Plan for Fiscal Integrity, Nuclear Safety and Peace in Our Time.

Here’s how it would work: Set things up so that the Democrats  approve, with a majority vote, a conditional all-cuts budget that presumes no tax extensions. (We wonder if Republicans would vote for it.) Then gather signatures to place that on the November ballot, with a provision that if the measure fails the cuts will not occur because the 2009 taxes and fees will be re-instated for five years. As a practical matter, cuts can be delayed to occur after November. And costs can be shifted to local government for local responsibilities whether the measure wins or loses.

Then let Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, radio heads John and Ken and the rest of their not-our-problem cadre be forced to argue for the budget ballot measure while Democrats and labor argue against it.

In other words, make the “yes” position a vote for cutting programs for widows, orphans, fish and fawn and the “no” position a vote for freedom, justice and common decency on our streets and in our homes. Recall: in the history of ballot propositions in California, “no” beats “yes” 67% of the time.

As Peter Schrag shrewdly opined this week, Brown let himself get perilously close to being played for as big a fool by the GOP as did Barack Obama.  Three days after his inauguration, Obama memorably told GOP congressional leaders at the White House that “Elections have consequences and, at the end of the day, I won.”

Then he went out and acted like he’d lost.

Obama’s hideous political blunder was to allow himself to be strung along by bad faith for nearly a year in hopes of getting a bipartisan health care reform bill. All he got for his trouble was months and months of bookend cable chatter about how ugly the sausage-making process was; at the end of the day, he finally rammed through a Democrats-only bill, which he could have done much earlier, with much less damage inflicted by the right-wing echo chamber framing machine to the perception the country had about what was actually in the legislation.

Brown — perhaps too much a believer in his own ability to charm and reason –behaved in much the same way.

Our Department of Second Guessing advises that had he moved early and decisively to use the Democrats’ big majorities in the Assembly and Senate to push a tax-extension measure onto the ballot instead of wasting months on no-negotiation negotiations, he now would be in a stronger position to advocate for the revenue proposal and frame the debate, having already pushed the Legislature to pass the painful budget cut portion of his plan.

Instead he’s got nothing to show for his efforts but the cuts, and a clown car full of Republicans who are only too happy to play Lucy-and-the-football with an ever expanding and evolving agenda of DOA demands.

“This is basically trying to ram through an agenda that does not reflect the fact that we have a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature,” Gandalf flack Gil Duran said of the latest GOP move.

Well said and true enough, but we hasten to add that neither are the Democrats themselves acting like they’re a party that won a huge and sweeping statewide victory last November.

“One defends when his strength is inadequate,” as Sun Tzu, another of our old school fave political writers put it. “He attacks when it is abundant.”

Inquiring minds want to know: Perhaps the best measure of how unseriously California Republicans are taking their responsibility to help govern the state is the cowardly duck nearly all of them took on Brown’s bid to abolish redevelopment agencies in the state.

Lest some sensitive soul over at Flashreport start whining about biased Calbuzz sniping, we highly recommend having a read of Steven Greenhut’s excellent piece on the matter over at conservative Calwatchdog.com.

Redevelopment is about everything Republicans claim to loath: bureaucracy, debt, abuses of property rights, big government, excessive land-use rules, subsidized housing and fiscal irresponsibility. In California cities, redevelopment bureaucrats rule the roost and they leave a path of destruction wherever they go. They bully people and impose enormous burdens on taxpayers. The diversion of tax dollars to welfare queens mandates higher taxes, but the GOP sided with the redevelopment industry. They sided with agencies that run up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed indebtedness. They sided with government-directed stimulus programs, albeit local ones rather than federal ones…

The truth is California Republicans do not believe in limited government. They do not stand up for property owners. They are the party of corporate welfare. They oppose higher taxes, but that’s the only guiding principle of the party these days. And even that is suspect. Many Assembly Republicans, such as the pro-union members of the “no more cuts” caucus (Jim Silva, Brian Nestande and Paul Cook), vote in a way that virtually mandates higher taxes at some point. Then they get on their high horse and sign those bogus tax-fighting pledges. And you wonder why the GOP is fading away in this state?


Calbuzz Democracy vs. Flashreport Feudalism

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The other morning, there was an intriguing headline slapped over a story on Flashreport, the conservative web site run by our favorite knuckle-dragging blogger and Republican operative, Jon Fleischman.

The actual article, from Sign On San Diego, was an interesting yarn about Arnold Schwarznegger’s utter failure to abolish a host of government commissions, despite famously boasting that he would “blow up boxes” within state government.

The bright red overline with which Fleischman festooned the piece, however, had nothing directly to do with its content but everything to do with his latest hobbyhorse, the GOP effort to prevent voters from getting to decide for themselves whether to back Jerry Brown’s tax plan to help balance the budget:

“Yet another reasons (sic) why we shouldn’t put taxes on the ballot,” his hed read.

Our key question about this: Huh?

The Flash’s editorial attempt to jam a square peg in a round hole (or, as we inelegantly used to say on the city desk, to stuff three pounds of shit in a two-pound bag) reflects an anxious political calculation by right-wing legislators and allied anti-tax, anti-government crusaders that they don’t dare allow a popular vote to determine whether Brown’s half-cuts, half-taxes deficit plan should be implemented.

Seemingly fearful that their arguments on the merits would not prevail in a statewide election test, they instead reserve to themselves the right to forbid ordinary people from having a decisive say about a momentous policy question that will shape the future of California.

Like a small band of feudal lords, they seek to dictate to the vassals and serfs what the shape and size of the state’s political and economic landscape shall be, placing their highest priority not on the will of the people, but on their own power, exercised through the tyranny of a tiny minority.

No Relation to Grover Norquist

In this, these tinhorn barons and viscounts are assisted by yeomen and henchmen like Fleischman* and the Washington-based nihilist Grover (“drown it in the bathtub”) Norquist, who darkly threaten with political annihilation any independent-minded Republican who might be inclined to provide Brown one of the handful of votes he needs to put his crucial tax proposal on the June ballot.**

It must be noted that a few thoughtful Republicans, represented by the erudite Tony Quinn, applaud the notion of an election on the budget issue as a bracing and clarifying exercise in direct democracy.

But as we’ve pointed out here and here, the stubborn unwillingness of the Armies of Howard to hear the people’s voice on Brown’s proposal truly is confounding; after all, the Coupal-Fleischman-Fox cabal never tires of hectoring us about their categorical certainty that all right-thinking people hate all taxes always, period, paragraph, end of story.

If that’s true, then why miss the chance to prove it, once and for all, and deal Brown and his allies an early, crushing defeat that will not only inflict a severe blow on his governorship but also mortally wound the public education system, medical and social services they apparently despise? ***

The answer, of course, is that Brown’s tax measure, which calls for extending for five years $12 billion in temporary higher tax rates passed two years ago, is only one piece, albeit a determinative one, of a more complicated fiscal prescription.

It also includes a dramatic realignment plan for state and local governments, as well as $12 billion in cuts that not even his testosterone-soaked Republican predecessor had the cojones to propose  - a total package that the new/old governor might actually have the political skill to explain effectively to voters, despite its enormous complexity. As we argued earlier:

Local officials with the power to determine levels of service — based on local support – will finally, and properly, have the tools to make some tough decisions about local programs and pensions – while also facing the up-close-and-personal political consequences of making them.

And when the drown-the-baby-in-the-bathtub anti-government types scream about all this, proponents can reply: We’re for democracy and for empowering local government. It’s the other guys who are for keeping all the power up in Sacramento and in smoke-filled back rooms where THEY have power. We want to return power to the people, to local communities, where you can keep an eye on how money is spent and for what.

No Relation to Grover Norquist

Beyond this scenario, scary to the Norquists of the world, whose personal livelihoods depend on convincing people that government never does anything good, lies the demonstrable fact that a large majority of Californians haven’t even noticed the allegedly ruinous tax increases they keep blathering about:

Interestingly, only 36% of voters – 30% of Democrats, 47% of Republicans and 21% of independents – were even aware that $8 billion in temporary tax increases were enacted in 2009. Nearly two thirds of the voters – 64% — did not know that taxes had been raised.

More: A solid majority of voters currently supports extending the taxes to avoid deeper budget cuts – although people also want to be convinced they’ll get good value for their money, precisely the assurance Brown stands prepared to try to deliver and demonstrate to them. To quote ourselves:

So there you have the battle lines: One side will argue that Brown’s plan isn’t a plan at all and that it will raise taxes to keep bloated government in Sacramento. The other side will argue that Brown and the Legislature have a plan and that they’re seeking a temporary extension of current taxes in order to streamline government in Sacramento.

It’s all about whose message is more compelling and believable, whose is better framed and delivered.

Bottom line: The no-tax amen corner over at Flashreport is just too chicken to have that argument. Cluck, cluck.

_________

*Steve Harmon did a terrific job  of undercutting Fleischman’s claim that his band of right-wingers effectively punished Republican office holders who voted for taxes the last time around.

** Quinn and Dan Walters both have posited possible alternative pathways to the ballot for Brown’s proposal.

*** Peter Schrag provides a factual look, complete with Actual Reporting, at what an all-cuts deficit plan would look like.

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.

Why Killing AB32 is a Long Shot and Other Bad Bets

Monday, March 29th, 2010

We happen to have in our hot little Calbuzz claws some summary results from a February poll by FM3 (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz) for the defenders of AB32 that found that after voters are read the Attorney General’s title and summary for the measure to repeal AB32 they oppose it 46-37%.

According to the survey — 600 likely November voters, +/- 4% — opposition grows when voters realize oil companies are behind the drive to overturn AB32. Which won’t be hard to argue because it’s TRUE, as the Sac B Minus and others have noted. In fact, says Steve Maviglio, who’s hacking and flacking for the save AB32 forces, more than 72% of the money behind the effort to overturn AB32 has come from — Michael Huffington drum roll please — Texas oil companies you just can’t trust.

Another reason to like the opposition on this one: since the creation of initiatives in California, “no” has beaten “yes” two-thirds of the time. The only other polling we’ve seen was back in July, when PPIC asked whether people support the state law reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Support for what is a description of AB32: 66% favor, 23% opposed.

We’re not sure what the effect will be of having Gov. Schwarzenegger — who has long been a defender of AB32 — suddenly skim back his support by calling for a “more carefully phased approach” in implementing the law. But as we get deeper and deeper into the campaign season, Gov. Schwarzmuscle becomes increasingly less significant. And we expect Crusty the General Brown to hammer on the climate-change issue relentlessly — in part because the environment is an issue that resonates with moderate, non-partisan voters who will ultimately decide the election.

Dumb and dumber: One of the dumbest, and most common, mistakes committed by political writers the world over (even Calbuzz may have succumbed once or twice) is to assume that the future will look like the present.

As Walter Shapiro notes, arguing persuasively in Politics Daily against over-interpreting the impact of health care reform on the mid-term election, the issues that are hot at the end of a campaign are seldom those that pundits focus on in spring or summer:

Cable TV news and hyperdrive Internet publications like the Politico tend to divine major political implications from everything, with the possible exception of Starbucks introducing a soymilk Frappuccino. The institutional bias that governs this type of political coverage is to overreact to the here and now. The working assumption is that the future will be just like the present except for the addition of a few random fluctuations to enhance the story line.

The Shapiro Thesis is, of course, the operating assumption underlying the apparent equanimity of Steve Poizner’s handlers in the face of eMeg’s 8,000 point lead in the Republican primary, and of Jerry Brown’s Zen-like shrugs at the sight of Whitman surging past him in the polls, on the strength of her all-eMeg-all-the-time TV offensive.

While Her Megness so far has had the luxury of framing and defining the election on her terms, should she turn out to be the Republican nominee for governor, things are likely to look very different down the road a piece.

Here’s a look at three low-radar factors that may mushroom into major matters in Whitman’s November match-up with Jerry Brown, or even the final weeks of Poizner’s uphill struggle against Ms. Head and Shoulders Potato Head:

The CEO factor – For now, eMeg keeps gaining traction for her core message that executive business experience is just about the perfect fit for what ails the government of California. But as we’ve noted repeatedly from the first weeks of the campaign, running a business has almost exactly nothing to do with managing the day to day political cross currents and rip tides of Sacramento, a point that is well amplified in a must-read piece by Newsweek’s Andrew Romano and Michael Hirsh:

Very little that happens inside a corporate suite is like governing a state or a country. CEOs, like generals, can issue orders and expect them to be carried out. Jobs and budgets can be pared by fiat, with little public controversy. It’s not nearly as simple for governors or senators—even presidents. Their authority is never absolute. They are constrained by the separation of powers and forced to ride the tiger of public opinion; they must persuade, cajole, and arm-twist to get their way.

As Harry Truman once said about his presidential successor, Dwight Eisenhower: “He’ll sit there all day saying do this, do that, and nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army.” Beyond that, there’s rarely been a time in American industry when CEOs have been so discredited. The last “CEO presidency”—George W. Bush’s—ended up in a ditch. The CEOs of Wall Street have provoked outrage by awarding themselves record bonuses during the worst recession in decades—a recession they mainly caused.

The Goldman Sachs scandal – eMeg’s past shady, and legally questionable, dealings with the world’s largest greed head investment firm is the case study
that precisely makes the point about the dangers of CEOs grabbing the levers of government power, which is one major source of the seething resentment of voters across the nation.

What kind of business relationship can Californians expect their state to have with Goldman Sachs and firms like it if Meg Whitman becomes governor? Here’s a clue: In a report called “Corporate cash boosts Whitman,” the Associated Press reported that “The biggest donations came from New York investment bankers, hedge fund managers, attorneys and others.” If there’s one thing these guys know it’s how to prime the pump.

Not that Whitman’s old pals at Goldman haven’t already been profiting off California’s misery. They were hired to manage some multibillion dollar state bond offerings but, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, millions in fees didn’t stop Goldman from secretly undermining California’s credit rating. That hurt the very sales they were hired to manage. As the Times states, the firm “urged some of its big clients to place investment bets against California bonds” by “proposing a way for … clients to profit from California’s deepening financial misery.”

Ideology – The unintended consequence of Poizner running so hard to the right in the primary is that, for the moment at least, Whitman often appears to be a moderate Republican and, thus, a more attractive and more formidable candidate for the general election race against Brown.

But Press Corps Elders George Skelton and Peter Schrag have dug into eMeg’s much-trumpeted 48-page policy agenda (which the nit-picking Dan Morain estimates actually to be only about 20 pages, after subtracting the page presentation gee-gaws and glam shots of Herself) and concluded that any moderation perceived in eMeg’s views is mostly accidental, a perspective Brown has already seized on in his recent populist pronouncements.

Meg Whitman’s Republican rival calls her a liberal. He’s not even close. Political writers often describe her as moderate. That misses the mark too.

Supporting abortion rights — even state funding of abortions for the poor — doesn’t automatically make her a moderate. Not when she’s prepared to whack benefits for welfare moms — slash almost any program — to avoid raising taxes.

She opposes same-sex marriage but supports recognizing those unions allowed before Proposition 8 passed. That doesn’t make her a moderate either. Not when she insists on eliminating 40,000 state jobs.

Calbuzz bottom line: It’s usually a mistake to confuse rookie phenoms of spring training with the veteran ballplayers who usually make the big plays in the World Series.

Fuck you, you fucking fuck: Kudos to Carl Cannon for putting into clear historic context Joe Biden’s healthy cussing kudo to the President moments before Obama signed the health care reform legislation, a usage much panned by the prudes and prisses of the internets and cable TV. As Cannon notes the f-bomb has a proud and rich history in American politics, not least as used by his own father, the renowned Lou Cannon, upon beholding the beauty of a Sandy Koufax perfect game.

Fishwrap: Jerry Flip Flop and Flip Out; See Carly Run

Friday, July 10th, 2009

EGBrown1EGBrown Flip Floppery: Calbuzz notes with distaste Jerry Brown’s weasley response to Insurance Commish Steve Poizner’s demand that Brown return $52,500 in campaign contributions he had received from an investment firm and relatives of two California businessmen he is investigating in a public pension fund corruption probe.

We scoffed last month when the insurance commissioner called on the AG to give back the money. “What’s the problem?” we asked.

Brown had taken $48,000 in contributions from relatives of Sacramento lobbyist Darius Anderson and another $4,500 from a company run by LA fundraiser Daniel Weinstein, according to the Sacramento Bee. Later, it became known that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was investigating Anderson’s Gold Bridge Capital and Weinstein’s Wetherly Capital for their roles in helping money management firms secure multimillion-dollar investments from public pension funds in several states.

Since Brown was just doing his job, why in the world should he have to give the money back, we wondered. The AG himself called the demand from Poizner “the silliest thing I’ve heard of.”

But on Wednesday, we learned from Peter Hecht in the Sacramento B- that Brown is giving the money back “so that the contributions would not distract from the work of the attorney general’s office,” according to  Rubeena Singh, treasurer of Jerry Brown 2010.

Which sounded to Calbuzz like Brown was weasling.

So of course Poizner jumped in and claimed victory with a press release declaring: “In Case You Missed It: Jerry Brown Returns Campaign Contributions After Pressure From Steve Poizner”

We tracked down Brown on vacation at the Russian River but he wouldn’t explain himself beyond the Singh statement. “This is not a court of law here. We’re just trying to be practical,” he said.

So apparently Brown had an epiphany and decided that returning the contributions would cause him less political grief than keeping them. What a shichen chit move. Is he now going to go through every campaign contribution he’s ever received and return the money from anyone who might “distract from the work of the attorney general’s office?”

We bet that’s a long list that some op researcher will serve up on a silver platter.

jerry_brownPaddle to the left, paddle to the right: Shortly after talking to Calbuzz, General Jerry took another break from vacation to pick a politically intriguing fight with Peter Schrag over at California Progress Report.

Schrag, former longtime pundit for the B-, had posted a CPR piece attacking Mark Leubovich and his Sunday New York Times takeout on California’s governor’s race, as a once-over lightly gloss job overly focused on personalities and not enough on policy substance and ordinary people afflicted by the budget mess.

Along the way, Schrag took some j’accuse shots at Brown, pointing the finger at his sophomoric style during his first reign as governor as being partly responsible for the passage of Prop. 13 and all that has followed.  Schrag wrote:

“And while Jerry Brown, in his prior tenure as governor was indeed labeled “Governor Moonbeam” (by a Chicago columnist) for his space proposals, as Leibovich says, the label applied much more broadly to his inattention to the daily duties of his office and, most particularly to his dithering while the forces that produced Proposition 13 began to roll.

“Brown later acknowledged that he didn’t have the attention span to focus on the property tax reforms that were then so urgently needed to avert the revolt of 1978. But to this day, almost no one has said much of Brown’s role in creating the anti-government climate and resentments that helped fuel the Proposition 13 drive.

“It was Brown, echoing much of the 1970s counter-culture, who, as much as anyone, was poor-mouthing the schools and universities as failing their students and who threatened to cut their funding if they didn’t shape up. It is Brown who spent most of his political career savaging politics and politicians, even as he ran for yet another office. Now this is the guy who wants to be governor again…”

Whereupon Brown leaped from his Russian River mud bath to post a riposte taking sharp and serious issue with Schrag’s analysis, memory and motivations, if not his ancestry:

“Mr. Schrag’s latest screed is a good example of why politics in Sacramento is so dis-functional…In recent years, Schrag has become increasingly bitter…That’s very sad because he once was an open-minded person with real insight into the predicaments of modern society. Finally, his memory is not serving him well regarding Proposition 13 and the factors that constituted the ethos of that period. In fact, there was a long and hard fought battle to get property tax relief that got all the way to the state Senate but foundered just short of the necessary two thirds vote…”

Ad hominems aside, the exchange carries significance for the 2010 race because it marks the start of what is likely to be an extended struggle to frame and define Brown’s role and responsibility in the lead-up, passage and aftermath of Prop. 13.

At a time when California teeters on the abyss of financial failure, and when reformers across the state are urging amendment of Prop. 13 as a crucial first-step for fixing the broken machinery of government, Brown’s blog-burst demonstrates both his extreme sensitivity on the subject, and his determination to shape the historic narrative.

Our own, occasionally fallible, off-the-top recollections lean towards Schrag’s version of history, but it’s an extremely important subject for another day that deserves a full airing of the Calbuzz Dustbin of History files.

For now, we’ll offer one scene from June 29, 1978; three weeks after Prop. 13 passed, Gov. Brown faced an angry crowd of state employees, demonstrating in Capitol Park in support of a pay raise – opposed by Brown – notwithstanding  billions in local government tax cuts the governor and legislative leaders were seeking to backfill through bail-out legislation.

As loud cries of “Bullshit!” repeatedly interrupted his speech, Brown said that “100,000 citizens of our state are facing layoffs” by cities, counties and special districts in the wake of Prop. 13.

To a roar of disapproval for Brown, one heckler shouted: “Whose fault is that?!”

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But which one gets to drive? Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is quietly stepping up preparations to enter the Republican primary race for the right to face off against Senator Barbara Boxer next year, says a dispatch from ace L.A. Timesman Michael Finnegan, who reports Fiorina is winning her battle against cancer and spending her days phoning up key GOPers to enlist their support.

A Fiorina candidacy raises the astonishing scenario that she and Meg Whitman, who both served as surrogates for John McCain last year, could give California Republicans the chance to make party history by putting forth two legitimate, high-profile women candidates for statewide office in the same election, should eMeg triumph in her nomination bid for governor.

Shades of 1992, when Democrats Boxer and Dianne Feinstein both won election to the Senate in what the late, great political reporter Susan Yoachum dubbed the “Thelma and Louise campaign.” Who says the Republicans aren’t cutting edge?

dr-hackenflackPaging Dr. Hackenflack:

Dear Dr. H,
Re: Your web site’s recent attack on the Chronicle. I  understand that you think the paper’s giving the San Francisco mayor a free pass on his record, but I thought saying that Gavin Newsom is “peddling swill” was an overly personal, over-the-top attack. What gives?
E.J. South, Garry, Ind.

Clearly you’ve never heard of the legendary Chronicle editor Scott Newhall; in the future, please do not read Calbuzz unless you’re wearing your Dr. Hackenflack Decoder Ring.

– By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine