Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Action Committee’



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.

Small Biz Group Attacks Brown in Phony ‘Issues’ Ad

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

The Small Business Action Committee, an advocacy group run by Joel Fox, proprietor of the Fox & Hounds web site, is about to unload a $1.6 million anti-Jerry Brown ad masquerading as an “issue advocacy” ad. That’s the sneaky (unethical but legal) way to take a whack at Brown without having to disclose who the donors are.

An announcer in the ad says:

Two million Californians out of work, and Attorney General Jerry Brown makes it harder to create jobs, saying he has 1,100 attorneys ready to sue over government regulations.  As a forty-year politician, he doesn’t “get” what it takes to create jobs. As governor, he grew spending, turned a surplus into a deficit and left office with 11% unemployment. And Brown’s solution to California’s deficit: more debt, which will kill jobs.  Tell Jerry Brown we need more jobs.

When we first heard about a new ad, we sent an email to Fox asking what was up. His reply was that he was in the Midwest with limited Internet access and that “SBAC is doing issue advocacy.”

That’s BS, and our friend Joel knows it. Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer is right when he told us, “The idea that small businesses have contributed $1.6 million for this ad is ludicrous on its face. The ad is being run with the single-minded purpose of defeating Jerry Brown for governor.”

So who’s financing the ad? We don’t know. Yet. Probably not the same big-money guys who financed SBAC’s actual issue ad.

The SBAC scam is just like the phony baloney issue ad the California Chamber of Commerce tried to pass off as an issue ad a while back. Except that Joel Fox is someone you wouldn’t normally expect to be behind a hide-the-ball maneuver to work as a functionary for Meg Whitman and against Jerry Brown.

In the meantime, said Glazer: “The SBAC is acting as a front group for narrow interests who know that public disclosure would severely taint their message. This is despicable gutter politics and Joel Fox should not be involved in this sleazy activity.”

We’ve asked Joel to tell us who paid for the ad and when he tells us, we’ll tell you.

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!

Grabbag: Big Ideas, Bad Ideas, Burton Ideas

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

One of the coolest new campaign tools we’ve ever seen was developed recently by 32-year-old Crystal Martin, a marketing consultant in Yuba City, who thought up and produced an audio mailer for Democrat Jim Reed of Redding, who is running against U.S. Rep. Wally Herger (R-Chico).

It’s an audio mailer — like those greeting cards you can get with recorded songs and voices — that recounts how Herger said “Amen, God bless you, now that’s a great American,” after a man stood up at one of his town hall meetings in Redding and declared himself a “proud right-wing terrorist.”

You can see the mailer here and listen to the pitch — mostly in Reed’s voice. But the mailer also includes a recording of  Keith Olbermann of MSNBC’s “Countdown,” who labeled Herger the “Worst Person in the World.”

Having raised very little money, Reed’s initial mailing was just 2,500. But the mailers generated attention, in the Redding Record Searchlight and on Daily Kos, after a writer for the blog got one in the mail and immediately wrote it up.

Martin, a graduate of UC Davis, said she came up with the idea at her daughter Lorelai’s fourth birthday party when the little girl threw away other birthday cards and was only interested in the one that had audio. “I had an epiphany,” Martin said. If she could do that for clients, people might actually listen to what they had to say.

So she searched until she found a company that could produce the voice chip in bulk and made it happen — for about $1.50 per mailer. The idea was so hot, she’s already picked up jobs from AARP and from a big conservation group.

Martin’s consulting business is Smart Marketing and her new venture is Mailpow, which also now has a system for recording individual voices which can then be sent to legislators, voters or whomever. Calbuzz is impressed.

Keeping score: We have great respect for Joel Fox, keeper of the Prop. 13 flame, even if we often disagree with him on policy matters, but his attempt to trumpet a third-rate poll, purportedly showing Meg Whitman 17 points ahead of Steve Poizner in the GOP primary, is utterly lame.

The survey is sponsored by Fox’s own Small Business Action Committee, and with him and his Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association cronies strongly backing eMeg, the poll has zero credibility.

Its fanfare release was no doubt aimed at changing the campaign narrative showing Poizner closing fast on Whitman, but if the new PPIC poll, scheduled to be made public tonight, confirms that the GOP race is close, Fox’s move will look just plain silly.

As the outfit most afflicted with OCD about public opinion research methodology, Calbuzz is pleased to see that no one in and around the Rough and Tumble orbit bit on the Fox poll, except for radio talk show host and blogger Eric Hogue, who’s in the tank for Whitman anyway.

On the other hand, we totally agree with Hogue’s argument that Poizner’s dumb attack on eMeg over pornography is beyond the pale.

Putting aside the constitutional issues, the move not only looks desperate but also is likely to backfire: Whitman’s connection to porn being peddled on eBay is tangential at best, and raising the subject three weeks out from the election makes Poizner, not her, the one who seems sleazy.

As for Whitman’s new big idea, convening a statewide “grand jury” to investigate alleged waste, fraud and abuse in government spending: Really?  Brother Lucas over at California’s Capitol reported out this dog with fleas, and said most of what needed to be said to put it to rest.

Except for one item: As far as Calbuzz can tell, the governor doesn’t have the power to convene a grand jury. We asked Whitman’s campaign to tell us what authority would allow it and spokesman Tucker Bounds told us: “Meg would pursue legislation to create the Statewide Grand Jury on Fraud, Waste and Abuse.” Oh. So she wouldn’t have the power to do what she’s proposing unless the Democrats gave it to her? Right.

Shooting at lifeboats: Although Governor Schwarzmuscle’s abrupt withdrawal of support for the Tranquillon Ridge oil project off  Santa Barbara effectively killed the project, a just released analysis by the State Lands Commission suggests the proposal probably wouldn’t have won approval in any case.

The study, sent by Executive Officer Paul Thayer to the three members of the commission Tuesday, concludes that a revised agreement between the PXP oil company and Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center did not allay several environmental and legal concerns that led to the project’s defeat last year.

After the commission, on a 2-to-1 vote, turned down the first PXP-EDC agreement in 2009, the oil company and the enviros reworked their previously-secret agreement and released a new version last month,  hoping the changes would overcome opposition by commissioner and state Controller John Chiang, or win the support of recently appointed Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado; the third member of the commission represents the governor, who strongly backed the T-Ridge proposal until his recent flip flop.

But a review by the staff of the commission concluded that promises by PXP to stop drilling in federal waters, in exchange for a new lease to drill into state waters from an existing platform, might not be legally enforceable, because authority for the federal leases would rest with U.S. Mineral Management Service, regardless of the terms of the PXP-EDC agreement.

The staff also said that a new state lease could encourage oil industry efforts to gain more leases for drilling in federal waters, by breaking a 40-year precedent of not allowing new drilling in waters controlled by California, up to three miles from shore.

“Further, the new agreement does not address the Commission’s concern over the increased risk of oil spills created by oil and gas development at Tranquillon Ridge,” the report said. “This risk and its consequences have been demonstrated in the past off Santa Barbara and are now affirmed by the huge spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion and loss of the Deepwater Horizon platform.”

The Burton correction goes national: Check out NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”. Go to the 00:49 mark in the “Lightning Fill in the Blank” portion of the show to hear John Burton and his “Go bleep yourself” correction on Calbuzz as an answer in the national news quiz.

Also, Jason Linkins at Huffington Post took note in his Eat the Press column.

If that’s not enough, check out Craig Silverman’s “Regret the Error” column in Columbia Journalism Review, in which the whole back story is spelled out and the “correction” is analyzed in terms of who wanted (and got) what out of the deal.