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Posts Tagged ‘Seema Metha’



Notebook: eMeg, DiFi, Gay Rights, Pensions, Districts

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The week’s most distressing political post comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, reporting that Meg Whitman says she is “definitely not” running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Say it ain’t so, Meg.

As the rumor mongers who first proposed the notion that Her Megness should challenge Dianne Feinstein for Senate in 2012, we were disappointed beyond measure to read the piece, filed by Cari Tuna of the Journal’s San Francisco bureau. Beyond our pride of political authorship on this one, let’s face it, a Herself vs. Herself match-up between these two would be one of those once-in-a-lifetime campaigns we’d pay to cover.

Although eMeg threw cold water on our dream scenario, a close reading of the WSJ piece shows that she didn’t slam the door shut, either. Consider:

1-“Definitely not” ain’t exactly a Shermanesque statement, and it leaves her plenty of wiggle room down the road.

2-Even at that, there’s no full quote from Whitman saying she won’t run. The headline and the lede both attribute the fragment phrase “definitely not,” to eMeg, but she doesn’t utter those words inside the story.

3-In fact, her quotes suggest she remains quite interested in public office:

“I want to stay involved in public policy,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview Friday evening. “Now I see things in a way that I” had not prior to running for public office, she said.

4-The aforementioned Ms. Tuna went to Yale, ferhevinsake.  Boola frickin’ boola.

Yeah, we understand that taking on DiFi at this point looks like an absolute  fool’s errand. She’s the most popular pol in California, and the only survey taken on potential match-ups shows her skunking every possible Republican foe, including eMeg, 55-to-35 percent. Plus, the current lineup of loony tunes, losers and snoozers in the GOP’s 2012 presidential field won’t make such a run any easier.

But  eMeg is and, to us, always will be, a special case. Some key factors that make a Senate bid worth her consideration:

1-Despite spending $144 million to lose to Jerry Brown, Whitman’s net worth stayed steady, as the reliable Seema Mehta reports, leaving plenty more where that came from.

2-While Feinstein eked out a win against mega-bucks Michael Huffington in 1994, she still has scars from that campaign, and the prospect of another year-long brawl against a free-spending zillionaire at this stage of her career is not a happy one.

3-Whitman doesn’t have to hire Mike Murphy this time.

4) While eMeg got badly burned in the governor’s race because she illegally employed Nicky Diaz, Feinstein back in the day had her own, murky,  undocumented worker situation, as the late, great Susan Yoachum reported, which could neutralize the issue in a second Whitman statewide run.

5-Whitman’s business record, from eBay to Goldman Sachs, got a pretty fair airing last year, but it’s been a while since reporters and Republican oppo types took a close look at the financial dealings of Feinstein hubby Dick Blum, which could make for some interesting campaign reading, not to mention TV attack ads.

6) Most importantly, a Senate run would afford Her Megness a splendid second chance to have dinner with Calbuzz, thereby reversing the biggest blunder of her failed campaign for governor.

We’re just sayin’.

DiFi update: Feinstein meanwhile has been staking out a very high-profile position on behalf of gay rights. Our old friend Hank Plante, the former longtime political editor of KPIX-TV, reports:

“Senator Feinstein on Wednesday introduced legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a target of the gay rights movement since it was passed in 1996.

The law, which DiFi voted against when it was enacted, blocks the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples:

‘My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that,’ she said.

Her move is the latest twist in her long evolution on the rights of gays and lesbians. Feinstein was one of the first San Francisco politicians to actively court gay voters when she first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1969.

In 1982, as the city’s mayor, however, she angered many in the gay community by vetoing the city’s first domestic partners’ bill, saying the bill was poorly drafted.  Later in her term, however,  Feinstein’s AIDS budget for S.F. was bigger than President Reagan’s AIDS budget was for the entire nation.

‘Of all the big-league Democrats in the United States, Feinstein’s was undoubtedly the most consistently pro-gay voice,’ the late Randy Shilts wrote in “And the Band Played On,” his history of the AIDS epidemic.

In 2008, Feinstein became the most prominent political voice opposing Proposition 8, the ban on California’s same-sex marriages. She said that her views on gay marriage had ‘evolved’ over the years from originally not supporting it, to enthusiastically supporting it today.

At her Wednesday press conference, DiFi cited the 18,000 same-sex couples who were legally married in California before Prop. 8 passed. DOMA prevents those couples, and other legally married lesbian and gay Americans, from receiving survivors’ social security benefits, from filing joint federal income taxes and from taking unpaid leave to care for a sick partner.

Her bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Feinstein is a long-time member.”

New Field Poll: California voters now believe pension benefits for public employees are too generous and strongly support a host of reforms – but oppose the idea of taking away their collective bargaining rights as part of a budget deal.

The new findings are certain to sharpen the Capitol debate over public pensions, which not only  is a key issue in negotiations between Governor Gandalf and Republican lawmakers, but also the focus of a war of words between Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Little Hoover Commission, which recently recommended many of the reforms tested in the Field survey.

Field honcho Mark DiCamillo reported that a 42% plurality of voters believes that pension benefits for public workers are too generous, while 34% say they are about right and 14% that they are not generous enough. This represents a marked shift from 2009, when just 32% of registered voters told Field benefits were too generous, 40% said they were about right and 16% not generous enough.

Significantly, however, 50% of voters oppose combining a deficit reduction measure with legislation that would take away some collective bargaining rights of unionized public sector workers, a move that was taken by Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, and set off a volatile political battle between labor and Republican politicians across the country. In California, 42% say they would support an effort to limit public employee collective bargaining.

The complete Field Poll can be found here after about 6 am today.

Partisanship and Redistricting: While Republicans squawked at the notion of hiring Karin MacDonald of the  nonpartisan Statewide Database at UC Berkeley to draw new district lines, they’re suddenly silent about the only other candidate for the job — Republican Douglas Johnson,  a fellow at the conservative Rose Institute and the head of National Demographics, Inc. Wonder whyHere’s an idea: hire them both and make them split the contract and agree on a proposal — like newspapers do when they hire a Democratic and Republican pollster.

Jerry Blows His Only Play, Turns on Clinton

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Updated 8 am: In our original post, Calbuzz set out what we thought was Jerry Brown’s best option for dealing with Meg Whitman’s new killer ad.

Brown then turned around and did the one, ridiculous thing it never occurred to us he could be dumb enough to do: Pick a new fight with Clinton, as shown on this video clip reported by Time’s Mark Halperin and ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

Unbelievable. Good luck with getting help from the Clintons now, Gandalf.

(For the record, at 8 am, we also updated the hed on this post, which originally read: “Jerry’s Only Play: Get Clinton to Attack Brooks Jackson”).

Fueled by 5-Hour Energy Berry Flavor shots, Calbuzz spent an edgy, sleepless weekend closely monitoring short-wave radio reports about the blazing fusillades of budget facts and figures the rival campaigns for governor exchanged over Meg Whitman’s latest ad attack on Jerry Brown.

The ad features a short clip from a contentious April 1992 Democratic presidential primary debate between Brown and Bill Clinton, during which Bubba cited CNN to charge that a) Krusty raised taxes as California governor and b) lied about his record in doing so.

As we forecast on Friday, shortly after Team Whitman first aired the tough spot, the truthiness of its allegations would be found in weighing the conflicting evidence presented by Brown’s campaign and Brooks Jackson, the former CNN reporter who now runs factcheck.org at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Whitman’s (and Clinton’s) evidence is a report by CNN’s Brooks Jackson; Brown’s claim that taxes were cut by about $16 billion during his tenure (not counting Prop. 13) cites the 1981 Economic Report of the Governor from the California Department of Finance.

There followed a 48-hour whirl of unstinting effort by Department of Finance flack H.D. (“guess I lost your number”) Palmer, determined persistence by MSM journos Ken McLaughlin and Seema Metha, and fact-checking of two decade old fact-checking by stand-up-guy Jackson himself.

“I was wrong when I said that “state taxes were still higher” during his last year than when he began. In fact, they were a bit lower,” Jackson wrote after reviewing the actual facts.

Now that the smoke has cleared over the battlefield, Calbuzz can ride in to shoot the wounded while reporting the clear and unequivocal bottom line of the episode as follows:

1-Taxes inarguably went down over the period of Brown’s two terms as governor, according to non-partisan state budget records.

2-Jackson’s 1992 report, and therefore Clinton’s derivative attack on Brown, was incorrect, because, as he acknowledged, Brooks used the wrong start and end dates to make his calculations.

3-The Empire of eMeg couldn’t care less about the truth or falsity of the substance of the attack they’re making, and intend to keep running their killer ad.

Sez eMeg chief deputy under assistant purse carrier Tucker Bounds:

CNN is a lot less relevant than the indisputable fact that Bill Clinton, not me, said that Jerry Brown turned a $6-billion surplus into a $1-billion deficit, opposed Proposition 13 and ‘doesn’t tell people’ the truth.

To which Sterling Clifford, trusty Gandalf message bearer, stamps his foot and responds:

For Meg Whitman to continue running an ad she knows is false is intentional dishonesty, and voters should expect better from a candidate for governor.

Oh, that.

No truth, no consequences: As all loyal Calbuzzers know, the Whitman for Governor campaign represents Exhibit A for the most distressing national and state political trend of the millennium (“Ground Zero mosque” anyone?) which we termed in this essay, “The Death of  Truth.”

It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

To summarize the instant case: independent, unbought-and-unpaid-for, third party finders of fact determine that Whitman’s charge is untrue, but she pays no price for continuing to air it, as her army of lavishly paid water-muddiers simply persist in performing an ape dance of ersatz fact-based debate, which to an average voter may seem so…confusing…and…boring and…oh look, there’s Bill Clinton calling Jerry Brown a liar again…

Why take down the ad if it’s working? That’s got to be eMeg’s calculation.

So what’s a 72-year old Zen Jesuit to do? Brown has four options:

a-Put up his own ad calling Meg a liar for continuing to run an ad which isn’t true. Problem: talk about your expensive He-Said-She-Saids.

b-Complain endlessly to the MSM. Problem: Have you looked at newspaper circulation trends lately?

c-Ignore it and move on. Problem: The key to his campaign narrative is his authenticity vs. her phony marketing campaign – he can’t afford to have a debate over honesty simply be a draw.

d-Get Clinton to make an ad, or at least a public statement, on Brown’s behalf, to wit: “My charge back in 1992 that Jerry Brown raised taxes when he was governor was based on a news report we now know was incorrect.  Jerry Brown didn’t raise taxes. And Meg Whitman knows it. It’s just dishonest of her to use me to make her case. ‘Cause if I could vote in California, I’d vote for Jerry Brown and I think you should too.”

As a tactical matter, Brown has at least a couple of plays here: Plead with Dianne Feinstein to make a call to her pal Hillary Clinton to have her make a call to Bubba, if she can find him. Or enlist AFSCME president Jerry McEntee or another labor bigwig close to Hillary, to make the ask. Or call on Barbara Boxer, who is close to the Clintons, or Ron Burkle, or Steven Spielberg.

Oh sure, there’s a long history of, um, really bad blood there. But Brown can certainly appeal to Clinton’s historic relationship to California — in 1992, he became the first Democrat to win the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and, in the process, picked what was at the time called “the lock” Republicans had on the electoral college. If he ever wants Hillary (Chelsea?) to be president, he sure doesn’t want Whitman as governor of California. He may not like Brown, but wouldn’t he rather have him as governor than her?

And as Shimon Peres famously said, “Peace is made with yesterday’s enemies – what is the alternative?”

eMeg Asks: What Does Jerry Have to Hide?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

In the summer silly season of California’s 1990 campaign for governor, a  strategist for Dianne Feinstein used to say that running against Pete Wilson  was like “getting up every morning and having somebody throw marbles in front of you” all day.

The description perfectly expressed the challenge of facing the aggressive, always-on-offense style of Republican Wilson’s camp, which worked assiduously to keep Democrat Difi constantly off balance before defeating her in November.

The phrase came to mind Tuesday with word that Meg Whitman’s campaign  has filed a Public Records Act request seeking reams of documents at the state Department of Justice, ostensibly to discover if Attorney General Jerry Brown has been nefariously using state employees or resources to advance his bid for governor against eMeg.

The request, formally made by Sacramento GOP oppo research consultant Mark Bogetich, came one day after Seema Metha did a feature in the L.A. Times, which examined the line that Brown must walk between his official duties and campaign activities; the piece presented no evidence that he’d crossed it, nefariously or otherwise.

Rising with its usual, over-inflated self-righteousness, the eMeg Empire nonetheless pointed to Mehta’s story to explain its PRA demand, a cheap head fake used to justify a smart political play.

The demand, which Brown’s office has 10 days to answer, is a tactical move to strew marbles in Krusty’s path, a distraction that interferes with his effort to gain some traction, let alone momentum, in at least three ways:

1-It pushes out the idea that Brown must be guilty of something – planting the suggestion that he’s committed some kind of official misconduct into both the campaign debate and the public consciousness (especially if Team Whitman throws some advertising dough behind it).

By putting Brown in the position of having to prove a negative, in a year when politicians are more subject than ever to perceptions of chicanery, it sets up a new line of attack over his character, at a time when his camp is trying to push a narrative that questions her personal integrity; as the money quote from eMeg spokeshuman Sarah Pompei announcing the PRA request  clearly shows, Whitman is already treating her so-far baseless suspicions as proven fact:

After 40 years in politics, Governor Brown appears to be someone who will try to take advantage of his incumbency, even if it costs taxpayers money. Voters deserve to know what they’re spending on Jerry Brown’s personal P.R. campaign.”

Deserve to know “what they’re spending,” not “whether they’re spending,” mind you.

2-It opens the possibility that the records search might actually reveal something embarrassing or, at least, something commonplace that can be twisted to seem embarrassing.

The PRA letter from Bogetich  is actually pretty mundane: asking for hiring and payroll records, calendars and travel expense sheets (have a blast reading those maintenance logs for state cars, man) for DOJ employees who work on communications matters. Given Brown’s experience in office, and the micromanaging he does over anything involving media, it’s unlikely there are any bombshells there, but, hey, a girl can always hope.

Whatever else the PRA demand does, it creates a tiresome, day job distraction for Brown, his professional staff and his Merry Band of campaigners to locate, pull, examine and assess thousands of pages of boring documents, all of it time not spent plotting and running against eMeg.

3-It’s a brush back pitch that serves to warn Brown that he needs to be extremely careful in wielding the most effective weapon of his el cheapo campaign – the constant free publicity he receives from weighing in on every high-profile case, from Anna Nicole Smith to the Grim Sleeper, and suing every populist target from investment firms to health care insurers.

In putting Brown into a defensive posture, the move seeks to transform his greatest strength into a potential liability and make it harder for Krusty to frame the election as a referendum on Meg – and easier for her to make it about him.

It’s worth noting that Bogetich markets his firm by offering “political vulnerability research” that “helps clients…de-position opponents.” Orwell would be proud.

It’s also telling that he’s part of a broader oppo research division within the mighty Empire: in describing the operation a few months ago, Politico quoted an inside source who made a point we keep harping on:

We believe that (Brown) hasn’t undergone the rigors of modern campaigning. He hasn’t run a competitive race at this level since the early eighties. It’s a different news cycle than he has experienced. He’s incredibly skilled and incredibly talented. But this is a new challenge for him.

Not to worry Gandolf fans: he’ll gets things cranked up on the fax, as soon as the typeball gets replaced on the Selectric.

P.S. Things could be worse for Democrats.

If they had nominated Gavin Newsom instead of Brown, they would have had to contend with “vulnerability research” Bogetich was doing a while back on the cost of the only-in-San Francisco “Healthy Penis” campaign. (Answer: $122,575).

In case you missed it: Slate’s mashup of Mel Gibson’s abusive phone calls to Oksana Grigorieva and the trailer for his movie, “What Women Want,” is a must-see. Fair warning: X-rated and strictly not for the easily offended.