Posts Tagged ‘Washington Times’

Fishwrap: Free the Chickens & All Political Prisoners!

Friday, June 19th, 2009

feinsteinglassesDifi Does Lunch: Michael Kinsley famously defined a “gaffe” in Washington as “when a politician tells the truth,” a quote that came to mind this week with word that The Senior Senator From California embarrassed herself politically by stumbling into a bit of inadvertent truth-telling.

Seems DiFi’s crack Beltway political team sent out invites to a fund raising lunch — $2.5 K for PACs, $1K per humanoid –- that cut a little too close to the bone in blatantly marketing her choice committee assignments for would-be donors with business before the panels.

On the menu, according to the invitation: “The Select Committee on Intelligence for the first course, followed by your choice of Appropriations, Judiciary or Rules committees,” a fine example of the kind of soft-core influence peddling that goes on day in and day out in Washington (not to mention Sacramento and every other state capital in America).

Feinstein, the lifelong Coro Intern who loves to portray herself as a Goo Goo Philosopher Queen mulling policy on a lofty plane far above political money grubbing, did not see the invite until Roll Call did a story mentioning it, her flak assured the press with a straight face. She was of course — Shocked! Shocked! –- and abruptly canceled the event.

Chuck Neubauer of the Washington Times quoted Feinstein coat carrier Gil Duran thusly: “It was obvious that this would be subject to misinterpretation by some, and it was canceled to avoid any misinterpretation.”

Misinterpretation, our Aunt Katherine.

Closer to the mark was Nancy Watzman, who keeps an eye on fund raising shenanigans at the Sunlight Foundation: “She was just highlighting what everyone knows. If you have business before a committee, there’s an opportunity to meet-and-greet this politician in a personal way.”

uclaTo Tax or Not To Tax: With High Silly Season upon us in the budget, uh, drama, the D’s made a big move in passing a spending plan that includes tax increases on oil extraction and fire insurance (Calbuzz Says: Never play with fire when extracting oil), which instantly rebooted the inevitable R mantra that California has the highest taxes in the nation.

It’s one of those claims that sounds like it should be true, especially if you repeat over and over again, but turns out to be not at all a settled issue. MediaNews Capitol man Steve Harmon  performed yeoman duty in reporting out the issue and finding that, as with all things statistical, it all depends on what you’re measuring: “The number of tax loopholes that California offers corporations reduces the effect of high tax rates, analysts say.”

In other economic news, California reporters produced a record 62,712 different ledes in covering the new UCLA Anderson Forecast of the state economy, but for those wary of an exclusive cut-cut-cut budget, the money quote was this:

“In California, the worst of the recession is beginning to ease, but any optimism must be tempered by the specter of a state government poised to contract at the worst possible time.”

If it’s news it’s news to us: Three came-and-went stories vaporizedsp_logo1x any lingering shreds of naïve hope for an easy resolution of the Sacramento stalemate: 1) Standard and Poor’s put a “negative credit watch” on California’s outstanding bonds, a signal that our worst-in-the-nation rating may be headed downward yet again, and a clear sign that more borrowing will not be a pathway out of deadlock. 2) Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other administration econ honchos turned down a back channel plea for emergency financial help (this yarn was WAY underplayed and, by the way, why did the Post beat everybody who covers Washington for California news organizations in getting this sucker?). 3) The two whacky, poll-taking Marks, Baldassare and DiCamillo, both declared flat-out that the force-fed political spin about the May 19 election representing a clear and powerful anti-tax message was bushwah; that the informed comments by the smartest guys in the room did nothing to slow down right-wing dervish spinning for an instant guarantees  the River City death march will go on.

“No Exit,” Sartre’s famous 1944 play about three people condemned to be locked in a room with each other forever, seems the perfect metaphor for the budget ménage a trois that keeps going and going and going among and between legislative Dems, Reps and Governor Conan, who existentially keeps reinventing his own political identity.

“Hell is other people,” the Gauloise-puffing philosopher wrote. Just think what he’d say if he’d ever made it to Sacramento.

chickenToday’s sign the end of civilization is near: The Association of California Egg Farmers, fresh from getting their yolks battered in last November’s failed bid to head off Proposition 2’s mandates for hen house construction, are madder than soggy lady chickens at what they say are overly vague standards contained in enabling legislation for the measure.

Angrily clucking at AB 1437, by San Rafael Democrat Jared Huffman, the association has turned to a slow-down offense, claiming wide-spread confusion amid the chicken-and-egg community over a perceived lack of “clear standards for housing egg-laying hens.”

“California egg farmers respect the voters’ desire to give egg-laying hens more space,” said Debbie Murdock, the association’s executive director, with an apparent lack of conviction. “The question is, how much space?”

Your favorite chicken joke kicker goes here.

— By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine

Today’s Must Read: WashTimes Probes Feinstein, Blum

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Reason #357 why Dianne Feinstein won’t run for governor: Today’s Washington Times carries a boffo investigative report detailing the senior senator from California’s legislative efforts “to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband’s real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.”

Reporter Chuck Neubauer drills down in great detail to examine the coincidence of timing involved in Feinstein’s actions and the awarding of a lucrative contract to the commercial real estate firm headed by Dick Blum, her investment banker husband. His piece reports that spokesmen for Feinstein and for Blum’s firm insist neither did anything improper, and that the DC power couple make “an intensive effort” to maintain a wall between their financial interests.

The Dianne and Dick show may be as pure as the driven snow on this and every other Blum business eruption over the years, but the political bottom line was delivered in the WashTimes story by Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group:

The episode “highlights the problem of a senator with a spouse who has extensive business interests that intersect frequently with the federal government,” Sloan said. “Even if there is no actual conflict of interest, it often has the appearance of a conflict.”

As a political matter, the financial machinations of the deal matter far less than the fact that Feinstein again finds herself in a defensive posture, trying to explain her public actions in light of his private business dealings. It’s a story that has surfaced in various forms since the two wed when she was still mayor of San Francisco, and erupted periodically as she’s climbed the political ladder.

Should Feinstein choose to abandon the comforts of Georgetown for the rigors of the California campaign trail and run for governor next year, this and every other of the myriad deals Blum has consummated while she’s held high office, including those examined here and here will immediately become fodder for every mad dog opposition researcher, investigative gunslinger, skeptical political writer and tin-foil-hat blogger in the state, to the detriment of her characteristically earnest efforts to hold forth on the virtues of “governing from the center.”

We just sayin’.