Archive for 2009

Swap Meet: Newsom, Poizner Up; Jerry, Meg Down

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

newsomsCalbuzz kudos to Jen and Gavin Newsom, who welcomed their new daughter, Montana Tessa, tipping the Toledos at 7 lbs 12 oz, shortly after noon on Friday.

Not long after, Prince Tweety was sending 240140-character digital messages to the world: “Jen’s doing great…not sure she’s happy I am on Twitter.” Trust us, man: she’s not. Jeez.

Even before the baby arrived, it was already Newsom’s best week of the campaign since he announced his candidacy back in the spring. Bill Clinton’s delivery of the official Bubba Seal of Approval gave Prince Gavin a sudden boost in stature, not to mention access to the wallets of Hollywood Clintonistas.

And the almost overlooked endorsement of former state Senator Sheila Kuehl a few days later bought him street cred among leftist netroot types, though that may be cancelled out by the SEIU’s hounding of the San Francisco mayor over budget issues, as the resourceful Brian Leubitz noted over at Calitics. (Also, the netroots libs are still heartsick that Newsom bounced Eric Jaye for Garry South.)

Newsom also benefitted from Jerry Brown’s increasingly annoying public pretense that he might not run for governor after all; as one loyal Calbuzzer who’s otherwise inclined to be for Brown wrote us, “Someone needs to tell Jerry that this courting dance is getting really BORING.”

young brown

Brown sometimes seems to think it’s still 1974, he’s still 36, and we’re all watching with fascination while he mutters smug tautologies in the guise of koan wisdom: “Tune in,” he told the SacBee this week, when questioned about his gubernatorial plans. What are you, dude  – Timothy Leary?

While Brown so far has been skillful in using the Attorney General’s office to boost his chances for governor, he’d be well advised to move swiftly to investigate this whole ACORN mess.

Sure, the conservatives’  years-long crusade against a community based organization set up to benefit poor people is a shooting-at-lifeboats right-wing jihad, but that doesn’t alter the sleazy stuff happening in ACORN offices that’s been revealed by the now-famous undercover tapes made by the spawn of Yuppie Scum.

The ACORN employees’ apparently eager aiding and abetting of prostitution, not to mention the sexual exploitation of teenagers,  is not only political dynamite but possibly illegal and California’s highest ranking law enforcement officer ignores it at his peril.

Gubernatorial GOPers: Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman meanwhile both lurched hard right this week, the better to butt-smooch Republican primary voters.

The Commish launched a libertarian-style fiscal offensive that did everything but call for a flat tax (including the groveling spectacle of signing a no-new-taxes pledge for the tiresome talk show yakkers John and Ken) while Her Megness ramped up her patented l’etat c’est moi strategy by vowing to act unilaterally on her first day in office to suspend the state’s landmark AB32 greenhouse gas reduction law, and then start moving to dismantle the historic California Environmental Quality Act.

meg-whitmaneMeg’s singular absence from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s lineup of wannabe’ guv candidates buttressed Poizner’s campaign frame that she’s seeking to win the governor’s race without bothering to climb into the arena with all those dreadful Other People who are running  (bawk, bawk!) a narrative that’s gaining traction at all points of the political spectrum.

Perhaps this is why eMeg decided it was a good time to buy a little love from state Republicans by funneling $250,000 into voter registration programs, or what Willie Brown more indecorously might call “walkin’ around money.”

Tom (The Turtle) Campbell meanwhile unveiled his new health care plan, which is characteristically serious and earnest but which seemed to us to be totally out of sync with the rhythm of state politics at a time when all the action on that issue is in Washington.

P.S. While political junkies await eMeg’s deigning decision to debate Poizner and Campbell, you can check out back-to-back appearances by the Commish and Her Megness on Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show here and here.


Part-time legislature: Just 23% of the voters in the most recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California said they favor returning to a part-time Legislature, but there’s an organized group of proponents pushing an initiative. So it made sense this week that an opposition force was announced by consultant Steve Maviglio, former  spokesperson for Gov. Gray Davis and then the Assembly Speaker’s Office.

What was a bit surprising was the bipartisan trio who stepped up to front the group —  Democrats John Laird of Santa Cruz and Dario Frommer of Burbank and Republican Bob Naylor of Sacramento – which will operate as “Californians for an Effective Legislature.”

“While we understand that many Californians are frustrated with their government, turning back the clock and making the legislature part-time will make matters worse,” said Laird, former chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “The seventh largest economy in the world with a $131 billion budget needs committed legislators, not amateurs who will have only 90 days a year on the job before they make decisions affecting millions of Californians.”

“This initiative will be a wrecking ball to the carefully crafted balance of powers between the governor and the legislature, and will give special interests more power than ever,” says Naylor, former chairman of the California Republican Party. “It makes little sense to expect our legislature to be more effective if we say to lawmakers: ‘take less time to study and tackle California’s complex problems.’”

The initiative – if it qualifies for the November 2010 ballot —  would seek to limit the legislature to meet for 30 days every January, and then only 60 days additional days beginning in May each year.

Calbuzz has to anastosadmit that there’s something delicious about the idea of smacking down those legislators who spend their time being sanctimonious, pompous jackasses. But we recognize that if the legislature meets for 90 days, all the institutional memory and  legislative expertise would transfer to lobbyists and the governor’s office – further weakening the influence ordinary people might have in Sacramento.

Today’s signs the end of civilization is near: TV blow dry twit goes mad on the air while academia shows anew why the web will kill off colleges and universities within a decade.

Newsom & Clinton: How the Endorse Deal Got Done

Friday, September 18th, 2009

newsomclintonThe key guy in putting together Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Gavin Newsom for governor is a 30-ish, big-time California political fundraiser named Yashar Hedayat, campaign insiders say.

Hedayat, who often travels with the San Francisco mayor on the campaign trail, is personal friends with both the Clintons and was a major bundler for Hillary’s presidential bid.

Hedayat “knows everybody in the Western Hemisphere,” one source said. “He nailed down the (endorsement) commitment and the date.”

Bill Clinton has been a political ally of Newsom’s dating back at least to 2003, when he campaigned for him during his run-off against former S.F. supervisor Matt Gonzalez. Newsom later became a national co-chair of Hillary’s campaign (in which Hedayat served as a “Hillraiser”) and also spoke at a Clinton Global Initiative event last year.

In April, while back East on a fundraising trip, Newsom paid a call on Bill Clinton to discuss the governor’s race, and received a characteristically prolific raft of political advice from the former president, who considers himself the Democratic consultant-in-chief.

When L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also strongly backed Hillary Clinton,  announced his decision not to run for governor two months later, “that set the ball in motion” for the endorsement, Calbuzz learned – and set the table for Hedayat to close the deal.

The former president was already well-motivated, as we reported on Tuesday, because there has long been bad blood Clinton and Jerry Brown, Newsom’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination for governor.

jerry and bill

In addition to the now well-publicized clashes between the two in the 1992 presidential campaign, Brown as early as 1991 charged in an interview that Clinton was “bought and paid for” by special interests, a theme he pounded for months. For example, Brown at one point called Clinton “the prince of sleaze,” and condemned him for “begging and groveling for money.”

Brown’s attacks grew so fierce that Jimmy Carter (whom Brown had challenged in the 1976 presidential primaries and again in 1980, when Carter was the incumbent president) publicly chastised him, while the late  Ron Brown, then the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ripped Jerry Brown for “a scorched earth policy” of  “inappropriate attacks.”

hillary-clinton-gavin-newsomAfter Clinton was elected, Brown evolved into his full “We the People” populist identity, which included a radio show on which he regularly dumped on Clinton as a corporate tool.

And in 1996, Brown famously punctuated a state Democratic party convention tribute to his father, the late Gov. Pat Brown, with a jeremiad in which he ripped Clinton – as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer – for supporting a “fascistic” and “phony” anti-terrorism bill.

Further alienating Clintonista party regulars, Brown in 1998 turned his back on Democrats entirely,  later acknowledging that he voted for Ralph Nader **over Clinton veep Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign in 1996. He later re-registered as a nonpartisan independent to run successfully for mayor of Oakland.

In fact, walking down memory lane, the only mystery is why Clinton didn’t endorse Newsom sooner.

For his part, Brown seems sanguine about the endorsement. He wouldn’t bite when Calbuzz asked him about it at the Silicon Valley Leadership Conference Wednesday, an attitude that spokesman Steve Glazer summed up in a comment to the Chron’s Matier and Ross: “Have you ever quoted a shrug?”

Crusty the General did note, as a matter of fact, that Clinton had endorsed Terry McAuliffe in the 2009 governor’s race in Virginia and that his candidate was beaten in the Democratic primary.

**In an earlier version, we inaccurately reported that Brown endorsed Ralph Nader for president in 2000, a statement based on this widely-circulated story, which is in error. In fact, Brown voted for Nader in 1996, which he acknowledged on CNN in 1998. We criticize ourselves severely.

Gov Cattle Call Draws All but eMeg to Silicon Valley

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

beattySnapshots from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group governor’s race cattle call in Santa Clara on Wednesday, at which the big-spending Margaret Cushing “Meg” Whitman chose not to appear because she was too busy not being one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful women:

— Attorney General Jerry Brown, seemingly pretty bored by his assigned topic: energy and the environment. Did make a little news when (after Steve Poizner said he’d push for nuclear power) he allowed that, “I’m not opposed to anything that is going to deal with climate change in a responsible way that makes sense in competition with the alternatives.”

jerryBest Crusty the General item: word that he had lunch at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverley Hills on Tuesday (where room rates start at $555 a night and go up to $5,000) with former Gov. Gray Davis and former Davis Chief of Staff Lynn Schenk (they were Jerry’s Chief of Staff and Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing) and – drumroll please – actor and Hollywood lefty Warren Beatty – all of whom are helping him with his unannounced campaign for governor. Beatty picked up the tab, Crusty told Calbuzz.


— Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, evangelizing his favorite Arthur Lafferesque mantra: “When tax rates go down, total tax revenue will go up.” Also arguing that he’d have the political power to get what he wants from a Democratic Legislature because he’d have a mandate from voters to whom he’ll say, “Please don’t vote for me unless you agree with me.”

But best of all, taking up the stick when asked if Meg is afraid to debate him: “So far, it looks that way. Where is Meg? This is not a campaign where you can just sit in your living room and buy the nomination. That’s not the way it works.”

And thanks to the intrepid Ken McLaughlin of the Murky News for pressing Steverino about whether he’s actually a quote unquote billionaire. “Is it accurate to say you’re a billionaire?” “No,” said Steve-o. (He sold his company for a billion but a lot of employees owned stock…not, he said in response to reporters’ snarky remarks, because he lost the rest in the stock market.)

crusaderrabbit— Tom “Crusader Rabbit” Campbell, refusing to take a shot at her Megness for stiffing the field again. And Prince Gavin of San Francisco, being passionate about education (as in “I’m passionate about education.”) and declaring that the biggest issue in education is dropouts – a smart move really because that’s the Latino angle on education and could help him with that potential bloc of Jerry Brown voters.

Newsom stiffed reporters waiting to interview him after his panel except for a pre-arranged interview with Jack Chang of the Sac Bee Minus who apparently asked him whether Bill Clinton had endorsed him because of bad blood between Bubba and Crusty the General Browngavindash

“This guy has been attacked not just by Jerry Brown but by the best of them. And I’m not sure he thinks about those things,” Newsom said. “Does he forget those things? I don’t know. It’s a little too convenient to say it’s just about that one moment, that it’s just about one exchange. Politics is heated. That was nothing compared to what he’s endured from real opponents.”

Prince Gavin line he probably shouldn’ta said to KTVU-TV when asked about the effect of the Clinton endorsement: “Mark my words, these polls are going to change dramatically.”

Who’s This Man? Poizner Gets No Respect from WSJ

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

downloadPaging Rodney Dangerfield: The national press corps’s bumbling attempts to cover the California governor’s race took another wrong turn over the weekend, when the Wall Street Journal ran a profile of Steve Poizner. Only problem was, the piece featured a mug shot of a broadly beaming fellow who was decidedly not Steve Poizner.

Political stenographer Stu Woo churned out a dutiful piece on Poizner, his latest no-news coverage of the GOP wannabe govs, and was no doubt surprised to pick up the paper to find that Journal photo editors had apparently decided that if you’ve seen one guy whose name starts with “Po…” you’ve seen ‘em all.

In a wide-ranging investigation, consisting of at least one email and a couple of Google searches, Calbuzz has learned that the smiling gentleman pictured with the Journal piece (and above) is named Tom Pokorsky, who appears to have at least 50 lbs, one receding hairline and a possible round of Lasik surgery on Poizner.  Pokorsky apparently runs Aquarius Technologies, a high-tech, wastewater treatment company based in Port Washington, Wisconsin; Steve Poizner is the Insurance Commissioner for the state of California, with offices in Sacramento.

Reached for comment, Poizner campaign communications director Jarrod Agen provided the following, diplomatic-to-a-fault statement:

“I just want to say to the Wall Street Journal that we love your paper and want your endorsement. We fully understand that you are not based in California and therefore we want to help you out. The person you have captioned as Steve Poizner looks like a very nice man, however we have no idea who that person is. The national press seems intent on weighing in on this race and we hope that you’ll please pass along that it’s very important to know not just the local issues that this state faces, but also what the candidates actually look like.”

Stevie Wba-insidepolitic_0499824462onder steals a march: Staking his claim as the candidate of substance and specificity in the GOP race, Poizner on Tuesday released a detailed recovery plan for the state economy, squarely based on Arthur  Laffer back-of-the-napkin orthodoxy, that includes sweeping tax cuts, rollbacks in business and workplace regulations and a tort reform proposal aimed at reducing the number of lawsuits and the size of legal awards in California.

The centerpiece of the 11-page plan, which you can find here, is a 10 percent across the board cut in state income, sales and corporation tax rates, plus a 50 percent reduction in capital gains rates. If this seems a trifle, um,  Republican, to fly in the Democrat-dominated Legislature, not to worry, says the Commish.

Poizner’s claim is that by engaging voters with a high level of detail on a substantive platform, he will 1) win a popular mandate; 2) couple it with his personal “tenacity and backbone” to, 3) roll over Democratic policy and political objections, causing them to fall in line. For the efficacy of that notion in practice, he might check in on how Barack  Obama, who creamed John McCain and led the Dems to big majorities in both houses of Congress, is having his way with GOPers in Washington in the debate over the meritorious nature of his ideas.

As a political matter,  Poizner’s fallback answer to the question of how on earth he gains support in Sacramento for his radical tax cut plan is his enthusiastic support for an initiative to return the Legislature to part-time status. That argument  gets a more than a little wobbly when you look at the most recent PPIC poll, which had the measure losing by about a 3-to-1 margin.

While Poizner’s pitch has its faults as a general election strategy, it’s still a smart play in the GOP primary. So far, the moderate Tom Campbell has successfully portrayed himself as the man of substance, primarily with a detailed budget analysis and program released months ago, which has won him considerable huzzahs among reporters if not doing much to goose his fund raising.

Now, the wealthy Poizner is clearly better positioned to put money behind the meat of his proposals, not only leaving Campbell in the dust, but also  contrasting himself as the candidate of ideas against front-runner Meg Whitman, who, so far at least, seems content to wander the state, endlessly mouthing platitudes.

Social conservative Steve: An interesting piece deconstructing in detail Poizner’s positioning of his pro-choice position for pro-life voters is found here.


Last word on Spankypants (maybe): We’re kinda’ confused about why the MSM keeps reporting that ex-Assman and noted big brain Mike Duvall, he of the eyepatch unmentionables, has “denied” that he actually had the sleazy affairs he brilliantly boasted about into an open mic during a committee hearing.

Although the headline on Duvall’s pathetic online statement, posted on his former Assembly campaign site, says he “denies” the affairs, parsing what you might call his actual words makes clear that he’s doing no such thing:

“I want to make it clear that my decision to resign is in no way an admission that I had an affair or affairs.”

And Calbuzzhorses20ass03 wants to make it clear that stating that he’s not admitting having affairs is not the same as denying it. Seems to us the statement is some lawyer’s crafted attempt to avoid self-incrimination by Duvall, should there be a serious investigation of whether he traded his vote on a bunch of bills lobbied by his Third House inamorata for a couple of rump shots.

Still, we brim with admiration at the chutzpah of Duvall’s claim that his only “offense was engaging in inappropriate story-telling,” which ranks right there with “I didn’t inhale” and “I didn’t have sex with THAT woman”  in the all-time Shameless Whopper Hall of Fame.

Gavin’s Big Splash: Why Clinton Hearts Newsom

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

002-235Gavin Newsom got a big news splash with his surprise e-blast Tuesday that former President Bill Clinton will headline a. L.A. fundraiser to benefit the S.F. mayor’s campaign for governor.

Who better to raise cash for the lagging Newsom campaign treasury and try to goose the Latino vote than California’s favorite Bubba (who might be able to win the Democratic primary for governor himself.)

Which immediately kicked the Calbuzz Archival Research and Old Guys Are Good for Something Department into gear, pulling our own clips from the 1992 presidential campaign when Jerry Brown attacked Clinton relentlessly and, like a terrier with razor-sharp teeth sunk into Bill’s ankle, refused to let go.

Far be it from us to suggest that the globe-trotting Great Statesman would permit an unworthy feeling — such as an unquenchable, blood-thirst for revenge — to influence his decision to help Brown’s chief rival, but Crusty the General  really did take it to him that year, in a race that got very personal and stayed that way up until the Place Called Hope convention.

Most memorable was this angry, finger-pointing clash between Clinton and Brown a few days before the key Illinois primary, when California’s current attorney general presaged what would come to be known as the Whitewater scandal. (That’s the You Tube link there.)

Brown: He is funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business, that’s No. 1 . . .
Clinton: I don’t care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself (pointing) for jumping on my wife. You’re not worthy to be on the same platform as my wife . . .
Brown: I tell you something (pointing), Mr. Clinton, don’t try to escape it . . .
Clinton: I did not . . .
Brown: . . . Ralph Nader called me this afternoon, he read me the article from the Washington Post . . .
Clinton: Does that make it true?
Brown: . . . I was shocked by it. . .
Moderator (to Clinton’s rescue): (to Clinton) You’re saying in effect, ‘Governor Brown, That’s garbage and you know it.’ Is that what you’re saying to him?”
Clinton: It is garbage
Moderator: OK, let’s get on to something else. . . It doesn’t sound like Mr. Brown is going to be your vice president . . .

Calbuzz recalls that because Clinton had Secret Service protection and Brown didn’t, the speculation in the press room — when the SS boys got a little nervous — was, “What were they gonna do — shoot Jerry?”


(Footnote to history: The day after the Clinton-Brown set-to, Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray herself, defending not only her integrity while at the Rose Law Firm, but also her feminist right to pursue a career: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” she famously said, in comments that made campaign handlers cringe, and required a new round of damage control among middle class mom voters).

Despite scarce resources — because he limited himself to $100 contributions —  Brown beat Clinton in Maine, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, Utah and Nevada during the primaries.

During the New York primary, where he announced his vice-presidential candidate would be the Rev. Jesse Jackson (thereby alienating huge numbers of Jewish voters), Brown portrayed Clinton as part of  a decaying, corrupt political system.

”I know the way the game is played, and I’m making myself available for all the people who haven’t had that advantage and who don’t want to be ripped off any longer and lied to,” Brown told a breakfast gathering of black journalists and publishers, leaning heavily on his Jackson-for-VP gambit to demonstrate his civil rights bona fides.  “I want people to use me as a battering ram to tear down the citadel of arrogance and privilege and corruption.”

”This is a campaign of insurgency,” Brown thundered on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street, where George Washington took the presidential oath in 1789. “It’s a campaign to drive the moneylenders out of the temple of power.”

letjerryspeakBy August, it was clear that Clinton had the nomination in the bag. But, trailing in the polls behind George Bush and Ross Perot, he desperately wanted to put on a harmonious convention with a single, controlled message.

Jerry would have none of that. First he was denied a speaking spot but eventually– after much noisy protest — he scored one, but not in prime time.

Still refusing to endorse Clinton, or even to mention him, Brown called on his fellow partisans to “create the power for the powerless, for there is no other reason for a Democratic Party to exist.”

“We have to break the growing and dangerous tie-in of economic and political power,” he said, as his 618 delegates and hundreds of other supporters cheered, clapped and cried. “We have to save our souls as Democrats, return to our roots, listen to our ancestors and once again fight on the side of the people who pay the bills and fight the wars but never come to our receptions.

”Those are the people I want to fight for. I know you want to fight for them. And we have to show it as we walk out of here.”

To say the Clintons were pissed off, is a slight understatement. They were enraged. So, Bill may really, really, really think Gavin is a prince. He may be just crazy about the guy. Or not. If the alternative is Jerry Brown — get out of the way.

PS:  Shhhh! Don’t ask, don’t tell. ‘Cause if you ask who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, someone might tell you that it was Bill Clinton. And that might wreck today’s Gavin Newsom announcement. (HO to Richie Ross).