Gandalf Pension Secrets Revealed; Fox Ad Scam II


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.

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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar Divebomber says:

    I know that public pensions are the latest “hot button” for pundits to pontificate about, and the knuckleheads at Bell didn’t help the situation much, but one should keep in mind that the AVERAGE PERS retirement is… wait for it… $17,000 annually. No – I didn’t miss a zero. And note that is an AVERAGE, which means that the +$100,000 PERS retirements that seem to be so ubiquitous these days are a VERY small portion… more like an anomaly. Frankly, with all the crap one gets to put up with in a public job (and I am one of those evil bureaucrats with a stake in the greedy PERS pie), Mr. Brown’s retirement benefit is a paultry sum compared to his counterparts in private industry – most of whom have less responsibility and headaches. In my book, Mr. Brown has earned every penny of his pension (which, by the way, is more in line with what someone would earn in the upper-levels of the state or other government offices. And, his pension is considerably more than mine will be – for the same amount of service time. And I don’t begrudge him that one bit…)

    And finally, why do you care who’s running attack ads and whom they endorsed later? There’s tons of examples of that on both sides of the aisle, and was especially apparent in the 2008 Presidential race. And Gray Davis’ campaigns and “My signature for your dollars” actions in the Governor’s mansion didn’t seem to cause a CalBuzz whimper.

    In fact, you might want to do a little “D-side of the aisle” investigating on how Gray Davis came to sign the union pay-back legislation that contributed to the current fiscal and retirement problems.

    Don’t worry – I won’t hold my breath waiting for that report…

  2. avatar gdewar says:

    It would be nice to think at this late date Jerry and the gang would realize that their down home ma and pa bullshit campaign needs to go, and to use the Internet to energize a shock wave of volunteers who’ll get out the vote in November. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

    Once again Democratic bumbling and relying on the unions to toss a guy over the finish line will result in some stupid, know nothing who wants to be Maximum Leader of California like That Low Rated Governor We Have Now will get elected ,and low-paid teachers and their ilk will see their pensions stolen. Meanwhile the Bell types keep their loot.

    BTW, this shit about little LA suburbs with oversized pay is NOTHING NEW. Hell, I wrote about this crapola 7 years ago. Where the fuck was the LA Times?


    Pardon my language but I hate seeing our State slide into failwhale territory over and over again because Republicans don’t have a plan and Democrats literally invent new ways to lose and be a joke sidelined by their own capitulation. I’m tired of this.

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