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Posts Tagged ‘SBAC’



eMeg’s Charm Offensive (Take 47); Foxy & Brown

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s new ad, “130 Miles,” is an attempt to use the glamor of Silicon Valley to reboot eMeg’s image as a can-do business executive whose skill is needed to repair California’s “mismanaged, ineffective” government. It’s polished and – if you knew nothing else about her, Silicon Valley or how government works – a persuasive 30-second argument.

But alas, reality bites. Give eMeg’s ad minions props for drawing a sharp line between Sacramento and Silicon Valley, which “gave us Apple, Intel, eBay.” Of course, as Jerry Brown’s campaign noted in its response, “At least eight Fortune 500 companies were founded in California during Brown’s governorship,” including Apple, Oracle, Amgen, Symantec, Electronic Arts and Sun (purchased by Oracle in 2009).

BTW, the choice of Apple, Intel and eBay is clever cherry-picking, but actually, the largest Silicon Valley companies in terms of 2009 sales were Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, Google and Sun, in that order Then came eBay.

Calbuzz: The Prairie Years (With Actual Longhorn)

Brown can quibble but can’t really refute the ad’s assertion that Whitman “started with 30 people, led them, managed them, executed the plan that grew this main street company to 15,000 employees and made small business dreams come true.” But they did come up with a nice little gotcha: seems the eBay small-business success story featured visually in the ad – EasySale – is based in Arlington, Texas, and isn’t licensed to do business in California. Go Longhorns! Oops.

But we digress. What this very slick ad does not address is perhaps the most important question facing Whitman’s candidacy for governor: Even if she was a smashing success in Silicon Valley (and there’s certainly debate about that), what does that have to do with governing in Sacramento?

Since at least half of your Calbuzz team cut his teeth in Silicon Valley, we know that there are plenty of big fish who’ve come out of the Valley – Larry Ellison, Jerry Sanders, John Scully, Frank Quattrone, Mark Hurd, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy to name a few – who don’t belong in politics. (Note: We’re not even mentioning Carly Fiorina.)

Running a company, answering to venture capitalists or a board of directors and shareholders, placing profit at the core of your soul, issuing commands to underlings, laying out an action plan and ordering people to implement it – these skills may serve the bottom line. But they don’t remotely resemble the abilities a governor needs: civic vision, coupled with facility for cajoling, compromising and co-operating, to name a small part of the collaborative, consensus-building skill set required of an effective political leader.

That 130 miles between Silicon Valley and Sacramento is indeed more like the distance between two planets. It’s Whitman’s challenge to demonstrate that she can do more than yammer about how she understands what it takes to create jobs. She needs to convince Californians that she could actually govern.

One more intriguing note: In this new version of eMeg’s Charm Offensive (she’s trying to get her favorables up from 40%) there are shots of her from four different magazines but no live footage of Her Megness Herself.  Guess they just ran out of time.

Department of burning pants: As we noted Wednesday, state Republican leaders are spinning like Schwins the claim that the GOP statewide ticket represents not only a breakthrough for their white man’s party, but, more broadly, a stirring display of never-before-seen diversity in the history of California politics.

The latest reporter to bite on this story is Araceli Martinez Ortega, writing at the Spanish language site Impre.com. Here’s a bit of a translated excerpt eblasted by the GOP:

As never before in its history, Republicans have managed to put together a formula that represents the diversity of the state – two female candidates, a Latino, and an African-American – with the goal of winning the general election in November…They face a Democratic ticket consisting primarily of Caucasians (emphasis ours).

Sigh. Ortega can probably be forgiven for peddling this canard; after all, for her him to have discovered that the two party tickets have exactly the same numbers of men, women, whites and minorities would have taken incredible effort, on the order of the complex and wide-ranging investigation Calbuzz conducted by counting up the demographic traits of those on the ballot.

But the state party is a different story.  They sent this stinky cheese around the state, knowing full well that the claim of an ethnic and gender difference between the two slates is a total crock.

For that we’re awarding them a copy of the shortest book ever published – “Richard Nixon’s Guide to Telling the Truth” (Introduction by Meg Whitman).

Out-foxed: There’s no bigger sacred cow in politics these days than small business (the phrase “small business is the backbone of the economy” Google generates 469,000 results).

Just now, for example, folks in Washington who favor extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest one percent of Americans constantly cloak their position in the self-righteous and cynical argument that anyone who opposes such an  outrageous homage to oligarchy is a pinko socialist determined to ruin poor old Uncle Chester’s hardware store, a stance that happens to be a lie.

In California, few are the equal of the wily Joel Fox in hoisting the small business fig leaf to disguise the big balls corporate beneficiaries of such policies. The resourceful Anthony York was the first to offer a glimpse behind this political pretense of plucky Main Street merchants, with a post detailing the actual sources of contributions to the Fox-run Small Business Action Committee PAC:

The SBAPAC revealed Tuesday evening that it received more than $1 million from alcohol, tobacco and real estate groups. Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, donated $500,000. Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser, gave $200,000 and the Wine Institute chipped in another $50,000. Los Angeles-based Cypress Management Company gave the group $250,000.

Ah yes, Anheuser-Busch, your favorite neighborhood brewer, and good old Philip Morris, who runs the family farm out on the old River Road. Sheesh.

The $1 million detailed in the SBAPAC’s new spending report is only a fraction of the total amount of contributions to the group. That’s just the money earmarked for campaigns over two ballot measures, Propositions 25 and 27, in which corporations are fighting to preserve their sacred right (in California, anyway) to avoid being taxed just because a mere majority of lawmakers elected by the voters thinks it’s a good idea. Perish the thought.

What the SBAPAC report does not account for is another $3 million in contributions now being used to air ersatz “issue ads” whose clear purpose is to rip Jerry Brown’s face off on behalf of poor little rich girl eMeg.

Fox’s group uses a gaping loophole in the law to avoid disclosing those special interests donations, an avoidance he’s tried to tart up in the flag, the First Amendment and the Boston Tea Party several times over at his Fox and Hounds web site (we’d link to his recent pieces but F&H appears to be crashed at the moment).

Your Calbuzzards, however, think he got much closer to the nut of the matter when he told York: “I’ve got two lawyers who have looked at all of this, and there are different rules for the PAC. This has all been lawyered to death.”

We just bet it has.

Gandalf Pension Secrets Revealed; Fox Ad Scam II

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

To his credit, Jerry Brown finally followed the advice of Calbuzz and pushed out a batch of info Monday that cleared up most of the confusion and questions about his taxpayer-funded pension.

To his detriment, Gandalf should not have let the matter become a campaign issue in the first place; it did so only because he’s too cheap to hire enough staff to deal with the unstinting demands of running for governor of California in what most of the rest of us recognize as the 21st Century.

Next up: Jerry and Ann organize names and contact info of his supporters on alphabetized, color-coded 3X5 cards arranged on the dining room table.

To recap: At a time when the Democratic candidate for governor has been shattering glass with his howls of outrage about the scandalous salary and pensions being funneled into the pockets of public swindlers officials in the L.A. suburb of Bell, the Orange County Register raised some tough questions about Brown’s own public retirement benefits.

That gave Republican foe Meg Whitman an opening to bash the attorney general as a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrite on pensions, and to suggest that he had something to hide on the issue.

This resulted in Sterling Clifford, Brown’s indefatigable flack, spending much of Monday putting out the fire ignited by the OCR story, providing a squadron of campaign reporters answers to their questions, but only after Brown personally, and belatedly, rang up the state Public Employees Retirement System to inquire, uh, what his benefits, uh, actually are.

More on that later; first, the facts that matter about Krusty the General’s pension:

1-Brown soon will have 25+ years of service – eight as governor, four as secretary of state, four as attorney general, eight as mayor of Oakland and one year as a state Supreme Court law clerk – vested in two different state pension plans – the Legislature Retirement System (LRS) and the aforementioned PERS.

2-Taken together this qualifies him for an annual, combined pension of $78,450, which he would receive if he were to lose the election and retire at the end of 2010; if he wins, he would not receive the pension until after serving as governor, at which point it would be slightly higher to reflect the salary of that job.

3-Brown is not receiving a pension now, although he did receive about $20,000 a year between 1998 and 2006, a period during which he served  two terms as the mayor of Oakland, for which he was paid an additional $115,000 a year in salary.

Brief weed whacker alert: There’s also a whole magilla that’s still being reported out by the Register’s Brian Joseph about some apparent goofy accounting of Brown’s pension at LRS, but frankly that one makes our heads hurt and doesn’t affect the bottom line of what benefits  Krusty has received and will be eligible for in the future.

(As a policy matter, it’s worth noting again that state retirement administrators consider the LRS records to be double-secret super-confidential, no doubt from concern about the sensibilities of the 16 politicians who are the only ones covered by that plan. For the record, Brown on Monday called for the records to be opened up to the public: “If public employees salaries are public record, there is no reason for pensions not to be,” said Clifford).

Alert lifted: As a political matter, the pension controversy is just the latest evidence that Brown’s pastoral, nostalgic ideas about how you run a nationally-watched, high-pressure, high-stakes statewide campaign in the digital age lack, um, a certain sense of urgency.

In a 24/7 news environment, the only thing that’s for sure is that there will be a constant series of brush fires that erupt on the campaign trail which will require immediate attention so they don’t go from being one-day stories to five-day stories, the way the pension kerfuffle did; recall that Brown earlier allowed the story about his former spokesman in the AG’s office taping reporters’ calls to get legs and linger when there was no reason for it.

At some point Brown needs to realize he is not just dealing with the run-of-the-mill energies and demands of a baying pack of political reporters filing daily print and TV stories, while blogging, tweeting, pod and videocasting in their spare time.

He’s also facing about 72 heavily armed press and communications Storm Troopers on the eMeg Death Star, all equipped with real time feeds of his daily, random pronouncements, off-the-cuff punditry and various perorations, not to mention reams of high-quality opposition research worthy of the National Security Agency, each one of whom gets up in the morning thinking about how best to tear his face off.

Brown’s man Clifford is a total pro, a highly talented, street-smart, fast-thinking, multi-tasking veteran operative who’s always got the candidate’s back. But at some point, Krusty really needs to get the poor guy some help. What if he gets whooping cough or something?

We’re just sayin’.

Folo that story: Our scoop on the Small Business Action Committee’s so-called ”issues ad” attacking Brown while not disclosing who’s paying for it was picked up and advanced by Torey Van Oot, who got a copy of the spot, and Carla Marinucci, who disclosed that Whitman gave $10,000 to the group, run by Joel Fox, a couple days before they endorsed her. Just a little more walkin’ around money from Meg.

In case you missed it: Greatest cable news freakout since CNN stopped inviting Orly Taitz to come on and perform logorrhea.

eMeg to Calbuzz: Big Mo Moving Back to Me

Friday, May 21st, 2010

In a stunning and sudden display of accessibility, Republican front-runner Meg Whitman sat down for a 10-minute interview with Calbuzz Thursday, saying she can “feel the momentum” moving back to her campaign for governor despite a new poll showing the race in single digits.

eMeg sat on the edge of a stage in the auditorium of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where she had just held a town hall meeting with about 75 local residents, and answered questions about the budget, immigration, offshore drilling, taxes and the campaign: fueled by Red Bull and uncertain when we’d get another chance at her, we were talking as fast as we could.

Asked about the new PPIC poll, which shows that GOP rival Steve Poizner has slashed her once massive lead, Whitman laughed at our suggestion that she’s spent an awful lot of dough for a nine-point edge:

“So you’re nine points up – you think you got your money’s worth for $68 million?” Calbuzz asked.

“Well. We are ahead and I knew the polls would close and I can feel the momentum beginning to shift back my way on the campaign trail…”

eMeg’s reaction reflects the campaign’s internal view that, after the race with Poizner got extremely close about 10 days ago, she’s since been pulling back ahead. Strategists say that the 38-29% edge that PPIC pollster Mark Baldassare reported Wednesday that she holds over Poizner is a snapshot of a dynamic situation, and that their latest TV ads pushing back  on attacks by the Commish already have re-established a double digit lead.

“There’ve been a lot of attacks, a lot of stuff,” the candidate said, “but I think I feel the momentum coming back.”

At the end of the interview, our South Central Coast Bureau Chief solemnly presented eMeg with a limited edition copy of the world-famous Calbuzz button, featuring the red-haired guy with his finger in the socket. Closely examining the rare objet d’art, she immediately demonstrated  the financial savvy and eye for the main chance that shaped her career as a successful business executive:

“ I wonder what this would go for on eBay?” she said. “Maybe if you signed it? You sign it, and we’ll put it up on eBay and…put the money in the campaign coffers.”

Now that we got the horse race stuff out of the way, Calbuzz will publish the wonky, issue stuff from our eMeg interview tomorrow, including a few surprises. The post goes up at 12:01 a.m. for those who just can’t wait until morning.

(PS: David K. Yamamoto took that photo for the Ventura County Star, at an event in Camarillo before eMeg’s appearance in Santa Barbara).

Beginning of the end or end of the beginning? The other day we bashed a poll, done by M4 Strategies and sponsored by Joel Fox’s Small Business Action Committee, that showed Meg Whitman 17 points ahead of Steve Poizner, saying the thing would be debunked  if the new PPIC survey showed the Commish within single digits of eMeg.

Lo and behold , PPIC showed exactly that but, far from slinking into his cave, the estimable Fox promptly doubled down on his survey.

Echoing arguments feverishly made by Whitman strategist Mike Murphy, Fox argues the  timing, sample size, margin and results of his SBAC/M4 survey have it all over that produced by polling guru Mark Baldassare.

SBAC/M4 may be measuring a momentum shift in the race.

What strengthens the momentum argument are the daily returns gathered by the M4 poll. Chris St. Hilaire, who oversees the poll for M4 Strategies, points out that Whitman gained strength over the course of the poll. The first day of the poll, Whitman’s lead was the same as what PPIC had at 9-percent. Her lead grew a couple of points the next day and after the two day layoff, when the poll resumed on Sunday, May 16, she gained an additional 5-percent.

We’re not going to get all technical here, but a few points: the number of completed surveys on the second (175) and third (151) night of calling was considerably lower than the first night (274). Moreover, it’s unlikely that each night was its own random sample of the whole GOP voter file. And even if it was, the margins of error for each night individually would be very large.

PPIC didn’t push voters for how they were leaning; M4 did. Meg’s margin in the M4 survey among those who said they were “definitely” voting for her: 9%. That wasn’t good spin, however, so the only number put out was the number that included those who said they would “probably vote” for each candidate and those “leaning” for each contender. That’s where they got the 49-32% with just 17% undecided.

There’s also some problems with the distribution of the sample in the M4 survey. Just a few examples: too few voters in the Central Valley and Inland Empire; too many in the North Coast/Sierra and Bay Area counties.

The M4 poll also found Tom Campbell still ahead of Carly Fiorina (33-28%)  in the U.S. Senate race — another discrepancy with PPIC which had Fiorina with a slight lead.

We could go on, but suffice it to say there are valid reasons why it makes sense to take partisan polls with a grain of salt. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong. In fact, Whitman may indeed have moved up since PPIC finished its survey on Sunday. We’re hearing that from Democratic pollsters, too. But we can bank on the non-partisan, open-source polls and the others — well, you gotta be careful how you use ‘em. (We do give major props to Fox’s pollsters, however, for answering every question we put to them.)

Dudley doomed? Given the volatile political atmosphere of 2010 , reflected most recently by Tuesday’s special elections in Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, making any bets on California’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate is a fool’s errand.

In fact, we could make the case for any of the entrants in the three-way brawl — not least of whom is Chuck DeVore, the only guy who’s showing any movement and who just got a big fist bump from conservative blogstar Erick Erickson calling on Hurricane Carly Fiorina to quit the race  in favor of the Big Fella.

If some Second Amendment purist held a gun to our head, however, we’d have to put our money down on Fiorina, the only one who appears to have enough cash for a TV blitz that could crack the race open in the stretch. Besides the first-I-look-at-the-purse factor, her neck-and-neck rival Tom Campbell looks in danger of being pecked to death by ducks, as he ducks and covers factional attacks from the hard right wing of the GOP, on issues from abortion to taxes.

Latest dis comes from the National Rifle Association, which did a statewide postcard mailing urging its members to vote against Campbell. Sez the By God LAT politics blog:

The bright orange postcard, which went out over the weekend, faults Campbell for favoring gun show regulations, a waiting period for handgun purchases and restrictions on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons.

As a matter of campaign messaging, we’re not sure what’s worse, that Campbell is trying to explain his positions on these issues with actual facts, complexity and nuance, or that he’s doing it via email. We do know that the desert of California politics is littered with the bleached white bones of those who got blasted by the NRA (see Bradley, Governor Tom).

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Laissez les bons temps rouler!

PPIC Confirms Poiz Surge, eMeg Drop: It’s a Race!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Amid the most expensive and one of the meaner Republican primary fights ever in California,  Steve Poizner has moved within striking distance of Meg Whitman, whose support has plummeted in the last 60 days, according to the latest survey by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California.

The survey, completed Sunday and including 411 likely Republican primary voters, found Whitman with 38% and Poizner at 29% leaving 31% undecided. The finding represented a huge surge for The Commish, from 11% in March, and a precipitous drop for eMeg, from 61% in March. The margin of error for the GOP primary results was ±5%.

The new survey is the first substantive, independent evidence of the big Poizner move, a trend first claimed by his own campaign two weeks ago, when his strategists released some of their internal polling, and suggested by other private and media polls.

According to PPIC, the biggest movement away from Whitman was among non-college graduates, among whom she lost 29 percentage points, and — somewhat counter-intuitively — voters with incomes greater than $80,000, among whom she lost 28 points. The survey did not shed much light on why the race has tightened.

Nevertheless, the often low-key, academic and understated PPIC was impressed enough by the results to title its release:  “Stunning Drop in Whitman’s Support Transforms GOP Race for Governor.”

With Whitman dropping another $4 million on Tuesday, bringing her total to a staggering $68 million, it remains an open question whether Poizner has the will to throw enough of his own money into the race.  He’s in for $24 million thus far. But unless he pours big money into the final weeks — and spends it on a sharp and effective message –  it’s hard to see how he can close the gap.

PPIC also found that while the Republicans have been slicing and dicing one another, Democrat Jerry Brown has retaken the lead in simulated November match-ups against Whitman and Poizner. Krusty the General leads eMeg 42-37% (compared to trailing 39-44% in March) and he leads the Commish 45-32%, unchanged from previous surveys.

The general election match-ups were based on interviews with 1,168 likely voters for a margin of error of ±3%.

In the increasingly contentious GOP race for the U.S. Senate, Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell remain locked at 25-23% (it was 24-23% in March), while Chuck DeVore has doubled his support to 16%. Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer still defeats all three GOP challenges in simulated match-ups: 46-40% over Campbell; 48-39% over Fiorina, and 50-39% over DeVore.

Against Whitman, Brown holds 70% of the Democrats, while she holds 69% of the Republicans. But Brown has a small lead — 38-34% — among the pivotal independent voters, according to PPIC.

The survey also shows a marked gender gap, with Whitman holding a tiny 42-40% lead among men but Brown holding a substantial 45-33% lead among women. This could prove highly significant since part of the rationale for a Whitman candidacy is that she would have a theoretical possibility of peeling women away from Brown in a general election. Thus far, that dynamic is not in evidence.

Bad News for Our Friends at Flash Report

Straight from PPIC’s release:

“Of the four main spending categories of the state budget, Californians are the most willing to consider a tax increase to spare K–12 education from budget cuts (69%), while just over half would pay higher taxes to maintain current funding levels for higher education (54%) or for health and human services (54%). A large majority (79%) opposes paying higher taxes to spare prisons and corrections from budget cuts.

“Californians would consider some other ways to raise revenues: 67 percent favor raising the top rate of the state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians and 58 percent would favor raising state taxes paid by California corporations. Residents are much less likely to support extending the state sales tax to services that are not currently taxed (35%) or increasing the vehicle license fee (28%).”

Pre-Gnawing on a Fresh Bone

BTW, when we read Steve Harmon’s piece about eMeg’s Mike Murphy trying to pre-spin the PPIC poll, we were really proud that Ye Ole Swashbuckler Murph hadn’t tried to pre-spin Calbuzz. We figured he thought we wouldn’t drink his Kool-Aid. But after our Wednesday item dissing the Fox & Hounds poll, Murph wrote to us insisting we are dead wrong.

“You’re 12 days behind,” Murph wrote. ” Truth is Meg is way up now.  SBAC poll is right.  Actually latest numbers are more than +25.  Two new private polls.  Why do you think Poiz won’t release his POS tracking?  Ad you panned worked really well.  You gotta spend more time with GOP primary voters and you’d understand.   I’m not trying to place an item, just telling you what’s true.”

And thank you for that.