Newsom and the Elvis Primary Meet Izzy’s Stones


clinton-elvisWhen we read Steve Harmon’s very nice piece about the “paucity of large donations from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s fundraiser headlined by former President Bill Clinton,” we thought, “Uh-oh,” Elvis didn’t come through.

And when we saw Garry South’s explanation that “The Clinton event, being at 5 p.m. on a workday Monday in downtown L.A., was not designed to be the sort of sit-down gala that brings in millions,”  we thought that was just a weasely excuse for an excuse.

After all, this wasn’t some little West Side cocktail party with Howard Berman or Henry Waxman. This was the by God FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES who was in town to endorse Newsom and raise him a big chuck of change – or so we thought.

With good reason: It was the ABC News scoop on the endorsement — leaked by the Newsom campaign — that had breathlessly announced:  “Clinton’s trip to California next month is expected to include an event in predominantly Latino East Los Angeles as well as a high-dollar fundraiser.” (emphasis ours)

So if Bubba could only bring in a few $5,000 checks and if, in the month after announcing his endorsement, Newsom raised about $168,417 compared to $427,700 for Democratic rival Jerry Brown, well maybe this endorsement deal isn’t delivering much juju and South was just trying to spin it away.

Or maybe not. Apparently, the best Newsom could do was grab Clinton for the cocktail hour where most of the contributions were going to be less than $5,000. So whatever they came up with is gravy, South said, and mostly what the Clinton endorsement and visit did for Newsom was bolster his bona fides.

“Clinton’s endorsement is not going to put us even with Jerry Brown on the money front,” South said. “It was never going to. But it’s opened up a lot of doors for us, especially out of state.” What’s the main value of winning the Elvis Primary? “It’s given credibility to the candidate and the campaign that we did not have before.”

Said Steve Glazer, Crusty the General’s spokesman: “My mistake. We thought a fundraiser was actually a fundraiser.”

And one other thing: when Calbuzz deconstructed Gavin’s online ad last week, we noted that it was unclear about whether he wanted to lower the two-thirds vote requirement to make it easier to pass a budget or to raise taxes.

South insists it was all spelled out in the ad, the script of which said:

“This is the race that will shake the system, that will change the state constitution,
that will lower the 2/3 majority, that will pass the budget, that will fund the schools,
that will create the jobs, that will provide the health care, that will treat the millions of Californians, that will join the race, that will shake the system, that will change the state constitution, that will lower the 2/3 majority, that will pass the budget…”

Calbuzz read each of the items to be separate and discrete: this is the race that will shake the system; this is the race that will lower the 2/3 majority; this is the race that will pass the budget . . . etc., etc., etc. The ad did not say: “This is the race that will lower the 2/3 majority to pass the state budget.” We found it fuzzy, at best.

South insists Calbuzz missed the point and, besides, is just stupid. Apparently, we were supposed to read the Newsom ad like this:

“There was an old woman who swallowed a cow. I don’t know how she swallowed a cow! She swallowed the cow to catch the goat. She swallowed the goat to catch the dog. She swallowed the dog to catch the cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird. She swallowed the bird to catch the spider, that wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die.”

We criticize ourselves severely, Garry.


Grease the skids: The legislative battle over offshore oil drilling is quiet for the moment, but don’t be surprised if it suddenly surfaces in Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s upcoming special session on taxes.

The session is being convened ostensibly to consider the doomed and dog-ass Parsky Commission report on tax reform, which basically recommends getting those pesky poor people to start paying their fair share; however, some lawmakers may use it as an opening to take up other matters related to state revenues.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, told us it would be appropriate to raise the issue of a 10 percent severance tax on California oil producers, an idea he’s been pushing for months, during a special session called to discuss tax revenue; he also said he won’t be surprised if backers of the governor’s twice defeated plan to grant a state lease to the PXP oil company for drilling from Platform Irene, in federal waters off the coast of his district, try to resurrect the plan once again.

Nava also has been involved in below-the-radar sniping with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, who conducted a recent statewide poll for PXP. The company eblasted a happy-face memo claiming that the survey showed widespread voter support for the plan; at which point Nava went nuts and issued what became of 20 press releases attacking the poll’s methodology and demanding PXP release all the questions, findings and cross-tabs.

After Nava wrote an op-ed about in a Santa Barbara paper, Maullin fired back with a letter to the editor saying the assemblyman was “clearly off base characterizing (the survey) as self-serving and intended to manipulate public opinion.”

“People have come to us for 28 years because we have high standards that render trustworthy results,” Maullin sniffed, without a hint of defensiveness. “In short we make a living by listening accurately to others.”

Sez Nava: “How threatened does Fairbank etc. feel, that they have to come after the local Assemblymember? It looks to me that the polling guys are beginning to act like Emperors without any clothes…If I can pull the veil off the industry with a few questions-my, my-what else do they have to hide ?”

In other oily news: A little-noticed L.A. Times yarn reports that a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report recommends “drastically” reducing efforts to expand offshore oil and gas drilling because of possible threats to marine life.

The federal government’s top ocean scientists recommend “establishing buffer zones around the Southern California Ecological Preserve off Santa Barbara. In addition, it suggests that its broader recommendations, such as taking greater account of drilling’s effects on marine life, could affect potential lease sales off California.”

stone200R.I.P. Izzy: We’re not much for anniversary stories, but 2009 marks 20 years since the passing of I.F. Stone, the patron saint of Calbuzz.

Over at Op Ed News, blogger Stephen Lendman offers a nice, complete profile of our hero, that describes and explains how and why the great muckraker got blacklisted, becoming what Stone called “a former person” for his lefty political views and afflict-the-comfortable journalistic methods.

Stone was a regular on Meet the Press for about three years, until he suddenly got dumped in 1949. His crime? Grilling the president of the American Medical Associaton on national TV about why his group opposed single payer health care, according to Lendman’s cite of “American Radical,” the doorstop Stone biography by D.D. Guttenplan.

In his preface, Guttenplan described the fateful December 12, 1949 moment when Stone went from prominence to a non-person in American politics and his profession. It was during an interchange with the AMA’s Dr. Morris Fishbein on Meet the Press, an ardent foe of universal single-payer health insurance he denounced as “socialistic.” Quoting Stone, Guttenplan wrote:

“Dr. Fishbein, let’s get nice and rough. In view of his advocacy of compulsory health insurance, do you regard Mr. Harry Truman as a card-carrying communist, or just a deluded fellow-traveler?”

After that, he slowly vanished, was never again on Meet the Press, couldn’t get his passport renewed after a year in Paris as foreign correspondent for the Compass, and when it closed in 1952 was blacklisted as a reporter. As he put it at age 40: “I feel for the moment like a ghost.”

The more things change…

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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar david says:

    The Newsom campaign e-mail that accompanied the video distribution made it explicit that he is calling for lowering the 2/3 rule on adopting the budget. It said nothing about the 2/3 rule on taxes. Also, the term “lowering” is vague about whether he is supporting reducing it to a 55% majority, or to the simple majority that is sufficient for normal legislation.

    It is the 2/3 rule on taxes that is the knife in the heart of the state — it abolished majority rule, and allows a small minority to control state policy. Calling for “lowering the 2/3 rule on budget” is window-dressing that does not touch the real problem.

  2. avatar Ave7 says:

    Apparently South’s only mistake is that when CalBuzz asks an uncomfortable question, he’s supposed to chastise them and then hide behind a piece of white paper. (Guaranteed to garner positive blog!)

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