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Posts Tagged ‘Ross Johnson’



Why Carly and eMeg Aren’t Like Thelma and Louise

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

This just in – GOP admits women: Barring a political miracle, around 8:01 p.m. next Tuesday, Meg Whitman will be declared the California Republican party’s nominee for governor. Not long after, it appears today,  Carly Fiorina will win the GOP slot in the Senate race against Barbara Boxer.

It will be an historic evening, if all goes according to form, as the two uber rich  former Silicon Valley executives become the first Republican women ever nominated for either of the two offices, let alone performing the feat in the same election, factoids confirmed by state party spokeshuman Mark Standriff.

In a year when Sarah Palin is crisscrossing the country, calling for the election of GOP “Mama Grizzlies,” the eMeg-Carly narrative will no doubt prove as irresistible to the national media as the “Thelma and Louise” storyline did back in 1992, when Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer pulled off a similar historic trick by simultaneously winning election to the U.S. Senate in what was then hyped as “the year of the woman.”

It was our late, great colleague Susan Yoachum who memorably pinned the movie moniker on Babs and DiFi, but before the brilliant Beltway Wizards latch onto such a narrative line with Carly and Meg, Calbuzz feels duty bound to quash any such non-analogous comparison to what Herb Caen once dubbed “Bitch Cassidy and the Sundress Kid.”

Two working-class women seeking to break away? Not. Strength through sisterhood? No friggin’ way. Feminist rage? C’mon.

Just one example knocks it down: “I won’t let California fail”  – eMeg’s hubris-infected assertion — just doesn’t have the power of Louise’s famous “You get what you settle for.”

Even Ridley Scott and Callie Khouri couldn’t turn these two wealthy, privileged, and uptight business execs into a pair of gun-totin’ road-runnin’ outlaw fempals. They may wind up flying off a cliff, but even if they do, they’ll land softly on their big fat bank accounts and their elitist lives.

Whitman and Fiorina have pandered and slummed, lurched and lunged so far to the right to win their party’s favor, that the big action for them from June to November will be trying to convince independents, moderates, women and Latinos that they didn’t really mean all those knuckle-dragging statements they made in order to win the primaries.

As the Schnur Turns: Politics writers up and down California were weeping, wailing, tearing their hair and rending their garments Tuesday after word emerged that Gov. Arnold Schwartzmuscle has named our friend Dan Schnur to finish the seven months remaining in Ross Johnson’s term as chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Where will we go for a clever quote,” one reporter wondered. Whined another: “Who can I call on deadline who will say what I want to say myself but can’t unless it comes from a source’s mouth?”A third cried out: “But I don’t know any other Republicans!”

Schnur, former media adviser and spinner for John McCain, Pete Wilson and others, has worked to put his partisan past behind him for several years as a lecturer at UC Berkeley and, most recently, as head of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Not Dan Schnur

Not Dan Schnur

As chairman of the FPPC, Schnur will oversee the agency that enforces state campaign finance and campaign disclosure laws. He’ll fill out the term of former state senator Johnson, who stepped down for health reasons, and plans to return to USC in January.

Schnur said his partisan past will be no more of an impediment than it was for Johnson or former Chairwoman Karen Getman, a Democratic campaign lawyer who served under Gray Davis. “Both did an excellent job of setting aside their personal political leanings,” he said.

Yo, Dan! We’re still waiting for the punch line.

We need to talk: Calbuzzers who fondly remember Al and Tipper snogging over breakfast in the Dunster House dining hall back in the day (this just in: he did inhale) couldn’t help but get a little misty Tuesday at word that ex-vice president and former Second Lady Gore are breaking up.

Even those who don’t know the couple or,  for that matter, never really gave them much thought, felt a pang of rainy day sadness  as they processed the news that the Gores’ 40-year, kissy poo marriage was outlasted by the Clintons, fercrineoutloud.

While wits like Andy Borowitz set about thinking up fake N.Y. Post headlines for the split – “Global Cooling!” (h/t Jim Bettinger) – more gimlet-eyed types at L.A. Biz Observed quickly turned their focus to more bottom line matters:

Now that Al and Tipper have announced plans to separate, they’ll have to deal with their $8.8 million Montecito home that was purchased a couple of months ago. It has an ocean view on 1 1/2 acres with a swimming pool, five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, six fireplaces, a family room, wine cellar and spa. Montecito, of course, is quite the spot for the rich and famous: Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas, and the golfer Fred Couples, among many others.

Talk about your inconvenient truth.

Head Fake of the Day: After sitting happily on the sidelines while Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner fire at one another, Democrat Jerry Brown slapped together a cheesy 30-second spot decrying all the money being spent on negativity while Sacramento is still broken. Calbuzz tried to get Brown Boys Glazer and Clifford to say how much actual TV air time this sad little puppy will see. No comment, basically. So we figure it’s nothing but a web ad that will have no effect on the race for governor. If you want to see it, here’s the link. If they decide to put it on television, we’ll take it seriously. They did manage to bamboozle the online ops at the SF Chronicle, LA Times and Sac Bee into declaring it Brown’s first TV ad, before they caught on that it was just a head fake. (The boys over at Calitics gave it the back of their hand, too.)

Hounding Fox: Hey Joel — saying an opinion poll “was correct” because it reported numbers three weeks ago that happen to be in the ballpark as those found today is a little like saying that the Giants beat the Dodgers because they led 1-0 in the first inning. As the cliche goes, polls are snapshots in time, and we’ll stand by our snarky comments about yours.

Should the FPPC Regulate Tweeters, Facebookers?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

By Steve Maviglio
Special to Calbuzz

In the Age of the Internet, when campaigns, advocates, consultants and engaged citizens are using all forms of social media — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail Buzz, etc. — to communicate about politics, the Fair Political Practices Commission is struggling to figure out what in all that constitutes political communication that ought to be regulated — like paid advertising — and what is purely a function of free speech.

It’s a fair question.

Last week, I testified (and Tweeted) before the FPPC’s Subcommittee examining electronic communication in political campaigns as part of a panel of political consultants (also at the table was Julia Rosen, the Courage Campaign’s Online Political Directorm and Bryan Merica from ID Media and Fox & Hounds Daily). We were followed by Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, Derek Cressman of Common Cause, Tiffany Mok of the ACLU and Professor Barbara O’Connor, Sacramento State University.

The subcommittee wanted to hear from us if it should develop, in the words of Chairman Ross Johnson, “appropriate responses to new political realities.”

My advice was straightforward: do no harm. Don’t regulate independent bloggers. Don’t do anything that will stunt the growth of the Internet to attract and involve voters. But do provide clear guidelines for disclosure if there’s campaign money involved. And while you’re at it, provide clarity on the advice campaigns are getting from the commission, and conform to Federal Election Commission requirements.

Halfway through my testimony — where I was trying to detail the multiple changes on Facebook that would make it difficult for the FPPC to mandate where disclosure requirements might be posted — I looked up and saw all three commissioner’s with “what the hell are you talking about” faces. They were clearly baffled by technology they’d never dealt with personally (indeed, there was no wifi in the room, the hearing wasn’t webcast and the three commissioners admitted to never having used Twitter). That wasn’t encouraging.

But while three commissioners were dazed and confused by comments about pixels and Google Adwords, they seemed get what all the panelists were saying: proceed with caution. As  commissioner Tim Hodson told me afterward, the hearing “underscored both the perils of addressing such wide open and ever changing area and the need to ensure minimal disclosure.”

Hodson and his fellow commissioners are picking up on FPPC’s decade-long review of political campaign activity on the web. Back in the stone age of internet campaigning, Assemblyman Keith Olberg penned AB 2720, which created a Bipartisan Commission on Internet Political Practices. The Commission’s job was to determine if and how web-based communication could confirm to the mother of California’s campaign law, the oft-amended Political Reform Act, which was authored in 1974, well before Al Gore invented the Internet.

After toiling for a year, the Internet Commission reported “we do not think it would be wise or necessary to adopt new laws or a new administrative vehicle specifically aimed at  limiting or regulating the use of the Internet by political actor.”

The December 2003 report also presciently warned of regulating ever-changing web campaign technology:

When government attempts to regulate the use of technology, what we do not know can indeed hurt us. The speed of technological change and the ability of practitioners to adapt to new rules make regulatory efforts in these areas difficult. Swift changes can make old rules inoperable or inappropriate.

Technological changes that affect how hyperlinks are generated, how content from one Web site is framed by another, how online advertising is delivered to users, and how lists for unsolicited email campaigns are constructed, for example, could all change the meaning and the impact of regulations written prior to these innovations.

And things did change. Twitter, Facebook, viral YouTube videos, and Google email blasts all have become de rigueur elements of modern campaigning. First Democrats Howard Dean and then Barack Obama, set the pace for developing innovative electronic communications. In January, Scott Brown dumped more than 10 percent of his advertising budget in online advertising, and credited it, in part, for his win.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg, as campaigns get smarter about microtargeting on the  web. A recent study by Tulchin Research found that 57 percent of Californians access political news and information via Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Some 40 percent of social media users are following or supporting candidates for office via Facebook and Twitter. One in five voters use their smart phones to get political news and information.

FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson seems to be hinting that he’s not inclined to do anything to hamper this rapid growth electronic communication. And that’ s good.

“The Commission is not interested in requiring individuals to report as committees when they are merely exercising their First Amendment rights, but if this is paid political speech, then perhaps tighter regulation requiring greater disclosure and transparency is in order,” he said in a press release before the hearing

That’s the path I’d expect the FPPC to go: requiring greater disclosure, somewhere, somehow on all campaign-paid electronic communication. That’s not as easy as it sounds, though, and the commission has its work cut out for it to make that regulation work.

Later this year the subcommittee will present its findings to the full Commission for consideration of whether new rules are necessary to require the disclosure of who is behind electronic messages advocating for or against the election of California’s state and local candidates or ballot measures.

These changes could require the adoption of regulations by the Commission, or entirely new state laws, which must be adopted as a bill by the Legislature, or as a proposition by a vote of the people.

The Commission is right to investigate this new landscape as long as it first does no damage.

(The FPPC will hold another subcommittee hearing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. , March 24  at the University of Southern California Law School, Ackerman Courtroom, Room 107, located at 699 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles. Full information can be found here.)