Archive for 2010

Swap Meet: Dr. H & eMeg Conquer Time & Space

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

We regret the whole thing: It’s hard to believe, but your Calbuzzards were just a couple years too young to cover the dramatic political events that unfolded in California in January 1860. As a result, we missed our chance to interview Lt. Gov. John Downey, or we would have known that he, not Jerry Brown, is the youngest governor in state history.

Here’s a full report from our Dr. P.J. Hackenflack who was on the scene:

Born June 24, 1827 in Rosscommon County, Ireland, , the late Gov. John Gately Downey constitutionally ascended to the governorship just five days after the inauguration of Gov. Milton Latham.

Milt, it turned out, coveted the chief executive post primarily so he could appoint himself to a seat in the U.S. Senate. It became open when incumbent David C. Broderick was  shot and killed in a duel by state Supreme Court Chief Justice David Terry, a month before in San Francisco. Their dispute was either over slavery or a bunch of trash-talking,  depending on who you ask.

In any case, Downey was just 32 when he stepped up, as Latham split for Washington less than a week after being sworn in. Downey not only captures youngest governor honors, but also owns the historic distinction of being the first foreign-born chief executive of the state; move over Arnold Schwarzenegger. (It seems likely that members of the Legislature were greatly relieved when Latham left town: his inaugural address droned on for 4947 words, while the youngster Downey brought his in at a crisp 206 words. But we digress).

The claim that Brown was the state’s youngest governor when he was first elected at the age of 36 in 1974 has been widely disseminated and a standard part of the journalistic narrative about him for years. But wrong.

With a big HT to alert L.A. Times reader Henry Fuhrmann, we apologize for the confusion.

Make way, make way for Her Megness: Meg Whitman did a round of live feed interviews from a studio on the Stanford campus with TV stations around the state this week, one more weapon in the carpet bomb strategy she’s using to fight a two-front war against Brown and Commish Steve Poizner, along with her ubiquitous broadcast ads, web attacks and staged meeting with voters.

With eMeg sitting for a one-shot in front of a “Meg Whitman 2010” backdrop, she uplinked to local newsers around the state, some of whom preceded mysteriously to pretend she’d come by the studio for an excloo.

“Meg Whitman stopped by today,” one interviewer began.

“I’m happy to be here,” responded our Meg, a moment later.

At one point Wednesday,  she did a 9:07 stretch with KNBC’s “Raw News” in which she not only covered all her tiresome talking points but also dropped this bombshell:

“You have to veto everything that isn’t on the focused agenda,” Whitman said, vowing twice not to sign any bills passed by the Legislature that don’t conform to her agenda of creating jobs, improving schools and cutting spending.

Really? Veto everything?

As we may have mentioned once or twice, eMeg’s major downside is that she appears not to understand that politics is a give-and-take, give-some-to-get-some business, that legislators are also elected by the people, and that the Capitol is a teeming cacophony of conflicting interests, not the site of an Imperial Governorship. In the KNBC interview, she made quite clear that she sees the role of lawmakers as secondary, when she graciously said they’d be welcome to serve on her “jobs team” or her “schools team.”

“Where do I sign up?” Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is no doubt asking.

If Her Megness does manage to get elected, it’ll be interesting to see how  smoothly the confirmation process goes for her nominees – “the appointment process is incredibly important,” she noted duhhly in the interview – when she swaggers into the Capitol and announces her game plan to “veto everything.”

And thank you for that.

Press Clips: Most interesting take on Roy Ashburn, the Republican state Senator who was outed after getting busted for drunk driving the other night, comes from his hometown Bakersfield California. Seems the Californian interviewed Ashburn previously about his sexuality but didn’t print anything because the editors decided it wasn’t relevant.

They outed their own well-considered, if overly cautious, decision in their follow-up story on Ashburn’s arrest for drunk, a very complete piece with lots of background, context and detail, as the paper hustled to focus what became a national, and then a viral, story through a local news lens for their readers…For more on the subject, check this smart post by Brian Leubitz over at Calitics…Worth a look: a one-minute history of the world of media – including What It All Means – from Columbia J-School chrome dome  Richard Wald.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: When in Rome…

Friday Fishwrap: Jerry’s Secret Eyebrow Makeover

Friday, March 5th, 2010

When Calbuzz speaks: Back in August, our Division of Superficial Issues and Cosmetology made a strongly worded and brilliantly insightful argument that Jerry Brown needed to do something about his Sam Ervin-style eyebrows before voters started mistaking him for the 2000 Year Old Man.

Then, when we caught Crusty the General’s webcentric announcement of candidacy Tuesday, along with his later appearance on Larry King Live —  Voila! –- it was clear he had joined the ranks of candidates who understand the overweening importance of heeding the sage political advice of Calbuzz.

Trimmed, thinned and apparently lightly colored, Brown’s former albino porcupine look had been altered in a way that took 20 years off his face.  While Crusty was at pains to tell us he’d been “eating my veggies,” and later demonstrated his physical fitness for a parade of visitors to his Oakland headquarters , we think the single smartest cosmetic fix he could have made before jumping into the race was following the process  outlined in this You Tube video.

That’s change we can believe in.

Enough to make a hog puke: Nice scooplet by Flash Fleischman beating Team Whitman to the punch on “The Steve Shuffle,” their latest web hit on Poizner, a minor gem, Despite our admiration for the design, production and messaging prowess that went into making it, however, eMeg’s cheap shot at The Commish on Prop 13 is revolting.

Let’s recap: In 2000, Poizner joined a horde of good government pols – led by former Gov. Pete Wilson, who now happens to be Whitman’s campaign chairman – and virtually every CEO and big name in tech in backing Prop. 39, which lowered the vote threshold, from two-thirds to 55 percent, for approval of school bonds. The 53 percent majority of Californians who passed the thing also appeared to agree it was a damned fine idea.

And where was Whitman on the matter? Courageously staking out the position against that she now purports to defend? No, while her Silicon Valley colleagues were taking a stand on behalf of school kids and parents, eMeg was just too damn busy and oh-so-important to even vote on it –  no, more, to even register to be eligible to vote on it, that’s where.

It’s one thing to whack a foe when you have an honest disagreement with them on an issue; it’s quite another to totally cheap shot a rival for making a principled stand, when you were completely clueless and couldn’t be bothered, to get engaged on the policy issue at hand.

UPDATE: No sooner had we posted this when Poizner, acting like a chickenlivered weenie, backed away from his support of the measure to which he’d given $200,000. Sheesh.

And another thing: While eMeg’s eagerness to fork out zillions  to every media consultant, buyer and TV station in the universe automatically makes her formidable in the campaign for governor, it also puts her at risk for being ju-jitsued on the issue of how she spends her money.

The rationale for Whitman’s candidacy is that she’s not a politician, and what supposedly makes her shiny and special is that she brings a new perspective to bad old politics-as-usual. But  since she launched her first ad, eMeg has acted exactly like every candidate in history. By the time she’s burned through her $150 million or whatever she plans to spend, and voters’ eyeballs are seared by her endless sun storm of TV spots, it’s easy to imagine that she’ll be perceived as  just another political hack.

Our national Anthem: While the story of Blue Cross/Anthem’s notorious 39 percent rate increases on Californians who buy their own health insurance has reached critical mass as a national scandal, the one guy in the state you’d figure would have plenty to say about it has been oddly reticent.

Insurance Commissioner Poizner, who – as his title may suggest – actually has some jurisdiction over insurance, has been all but AWOL in the furor over the greed head rate increases. Sure the Commish quietly initiated a small-bore investigation of Anthem’s delays in paying claims, process violations that preceded the current high-end controversy, and earlier wrote a lame-o op-ed for USA Today on health reform in which one of his big beefs was that taxes on insurance companies might be increased. Poor them.

Unlike campaign subjects like the debate over debates, on which Team Poizner has expended endless words, health insurance is actually something people care about in the real world, and it’s an abiding mystery why he isn’t out there pounding on this issue day after day after day.

Must reads of the week: Patrick McGreevy and Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times produced a helluva fine piece of American journalism in probing the history of newly anointed Speaker John Perez doing the bidding of rich folks and special interests, a timely investigation that offers a different perspective on Mr. Speaker’s favored up-by-his-bootstraps narrative . . . Amid the ongoing Oprah-driven canonization of Roger Ebert, Will Leitch at Dead Spin offered a wonderfully moving piece on why the guy actually deserves it . . . The Chronicle’s recent over-the-top reprise of  Crusty’s Moonbeam Factor strike us as the Bright Idea of some Yuppie-era editor who never got over missing out on the 60’s, but Editorial Page High Sheriff John Diaz meanwhile did a nice bit of work with his long view take on Brown getting into the race, which hands down wins the Kicker of the Week award: It appears that voters will have a choice in November between a Democrat they know all too well and a Republican they hardly know at all. . . . Ever wonder who’s putting up the dough to try to take out AB 32, California’s pioneering greenhouse gas emissions law? Check out this post by RL Miller at Daily Kos.

Brown Speaks: “This Is Very Different From 1975”

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Since his youthful days as governor, Jerry Brown told Calbuzz, he’s learned the political importance of  personalities and patience – two lessons that, if elected again, he would use to shatter Sacramento’s “specter of paralysis.”

One day after formally announcing he’s a candidate for governor, the 71-year old Democratic state attorney general told us he would “focus like a laser beam” on curing California’s chronic budget deficits by “pressing and engaging” all 120 legislators into a grinding process to find authentic solutions to the budget mess.

“This is very different from 1975 when I was in a hurry, I was impatient, I wanted to hit the ball out of the park, new ideas and bold appointments,” Brown said of his years as a brash, 30-something governor. “Now what I’ve seen is that things take time.”

In a 45-minute telephone interview from his car, Brown ranged from St. Ignatius to the Serrano-Priest legal decision on school finance, discoursing in a high-energy, low-punctuation style on everything from taxes to teaching citizenship in public education. Brown’s detailed and substantive answers to a host of policy questions showed a level of personal interest and intellectual engagement that belied the ambivalence he appeared to feel about running for governor in the months leading up his announcement.

“I like this kind of work and I think I could really make a contribution to clean up the mess in Sacramento. . . . I feel I’ve invested an enormous part of my life in understanding many of the issues that are alive today and urgent and very much call out for solutions,” he told us. “So on balance it struck me as something that I’d like to do. I’m very excited about doing it . . . I found myself, boy, I was very very excited about this opportunity.”

In the interview, Brown’s Kerouacian verbal style careened from point to point, as he marshaled facts and recalled figures from history to build and embroider his arguments without regard to the norms of periods and commas or, seemingly at times, even the need to draw breath.

Here are some highlights of the interview:


For those who have watched Brown for years, his most surprising comments came when he talked about the personal dimension of politics. In Sacramento,  he earned a reputation as a brilliant but self-involved cold-fish with a high-handed disregard, even contempt, for the personal niceties of politics and the subjective perspectives of other politicians. His current expressed attitude, however, conjured comparisons to the style of his late father, Gov. Pat Brown, a politician of the hail-fellow-well-met old school.

Brown recalled the advice given him when he was governor by the late Brien T. (B.T.) Collins. A legendary Capitol figure, Collins was a hard drinking, foul-mouthed former Green Beret who lost an arm and a leg in combat in Vietnam —  a conservative Republican who served Brown first as director of the California Conservation Corps and later as his chief of staff. Beloved by the press corps, whom he excoriated as “scumbags of the fourth estate,”  Collins never hesitated to tell his boss exactly what was on his mind.

Another thing that I’ve learned, that I’ve really learned – personalities. I remember B.T. Collins would say, “Brown, you don’t get it. Politics is about personalities.” And I get that – it’s about the personalities of the Republicans and the Democrats. And I’m going to take that very seriously. I’m going to listen to them.


In a 180-degree reversal from his previous tenure, Brown said that he would work to restore civility and affability to Sacramento, by entertaining with his wife, Anne Gust Brown, groups of legislators and policy makers in an atmosphere of bonhomie and open interchange.

I’d like to meet them in public, in private. I’m going to have . . . you know my father used to have dinners at the ranch and people from both parties would bring their wives over . . . I’m sure Anne will be a great hostess here, we’re going to have a lot of interaction . . .

The last time I didn’t have a wife and I had a spartan furnished apartment. Now I’ve got a wife and a beautiful home in Oakland and I’ll find an appropriate venue in Sacramento but I certainly think we can use the old mansion for dinners with the legislature to carry on the kind of camaraderie that built this state up until the recent descent into dysfunctionality.


Brown said California’s need is for a governor who will focus relentlessly on ending “the charade” of years of smoke and mirrors budgeting and find a bipartisan political solution based on dragging every member of the Legislature into a process that would force each of them to “take ownership” of a solution. He’d show the Legislature exactly where the hole in the budget is and insist they help fix it (without increasing taxes, absent a vote of the people, which he said is one of his fundamental principles).

There’s no one in elected office who has spent more time on the state budget of California than I have…

But I’m not going to engage in a charade. The budget I present is going to be an honest budget . . . and we’re going to have to take several years to get it done, and I understand that now – and the patience and dealing with the personalities and no smoke and mirrors . . . starting in December. I won’t be governor yet, but if I’m elected I’ll be there and I’m going to know how to spend the time.


I’m extremely excited and I have this idea that I hope is not delusional that by engaging all 120 legislators, by starting in December, by focusing on the budget, by not going to Washington, not going to Israel, not going anywhere, (no) photo ops, but just dealing with this problem and personally engaging these people.

And I’m not talking about a couple of hours with the Big Five in January, I’m talking about starting in December with the entire legislature, asking them to send their staffs to another room and taking as long,  as many hours a week, as many hours a day, as many days a week, weeks,  months, however long it takes, I’m going to wrestle this budget to the ground and shape up a few key components that we have to deal with, after cutting the obvious and the obvious I think you have to start with the governor’s office . . .

I’m going to call in the campaign patrons of all these legislators and union and business people maybe religious activists, Tea Party people for the Republicans, and just discuss with them the future of California. Because I didn’t make this mess. I’ve been watching it, as a mayor and now as the lawyer to these people, but substantively, it’s been the governor and the legislature and they’re confronting this thing.

But you know, it’s not about brains, they’ve been balancing on the debt-fueled bubble that the people in Washington – Greenspan, credit swaps, Bush tax cuts, all that stuff, the war,  mortgages – this has created a false economy that has now been substantially reduced by trillions and we’ve got a real problem here – high unemployment, people losing their jobs, houses – and I think the key is to come in with the experience and where I am in my life and give it . . . to engage people sincerely, with empathy, with patience and we’ll do the best job we can.


And at the end of that time, I believe, whether it takes two or three months or four or five months, the people in this state are going to understand these are the choices and we’ll make whatever choices we have to make to align the spending with the revenues, because that’s what we gotta do that the end of the day.

The real motto here, which is the motto of the Oakland Military Institute, is age quod agis – which is “do what you are doing.” Do that which you are doing, focus on it entirely. And I’m going to focus on this budget like a laser beam . . . because the spectacle of a failed state is scaring away business investment . . . So I want to wrestle the budget to the ground, get it in shape, then [develop] a work-out plan,  that while it will take several years, the framework will be there to inspire confidence. That’s my goal.


You can admire Brown’s earnestly expressed commitment to ensuring that every legislator — Democrats and Republicans alike — has a stake in solving the budget crisis in Sacramento. But there’s problem in all this. If past is prologue, a substantial cadre of Republican legislators have made it clear — as Abel Maldonado told us they did in caucus last year — that they don’t want to solve California’s budget crisis. They’d rather see the state face bankruptcy, to hasten the dismantling of government. In other words, no matter how good his intentions may be, Brown (or any governor) may face an immovable ideological object that cannot be cajoled, cadiddled or otherwise convinced to participate in fixing the budget mess.

Brown: Insider’s Outsider … or Outsider’s Insider?

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Jerry Brown cast himself as the candidate with “insider’s knowledge but an outsider’s mind” in formally launching his campaign for governor Tuesday, seeking to balance and merge conflicting political messages of experience and change.

With a simple, energetic and straight-to-the-camera delivery, Brown argued in a three-minute 17-second video, posted on his web site,  Facebook and You Tube, that he has the preparation, knowledge and consummate understanding of how government and politics work to break the partisan gridlock in Sacramento and “get California working again.”

In positioning himself as the candidate of practical experience, Brown contrasted himself by implication, not only with Republican challengers Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, but also with incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger, arguing that California has proved that electing “an outsider who knows virtually nothing about state government” doesn’t work “What we need,” he said, taking aim at his highly-funded and tightly-managed opponents, “is not a scripted plan cooked up by consultants or mere ambition to be governor . .. . We can get through this crisis leaner and more efficient, poised for a comeback that will lead to a whole new period of prosperity . . . but it’s not going to happen overnight or with empty promises or photo ops.”

Brown, who spoke without notes or a teleprompter, obliquely addressed concerns that throughout his career — as secretary of state, governor, mayor and attorney general — he has appeared at times to leap from one cause to another, with the attention span of a gnat. “At this stage in my life,” said the 71-year-old Democrat, “I’m prepared to focus on nothing else, but fixing this state I love.”

The spare, almost ascetic, announcement of candidacy (with no mention of his political party) was an effort to make virtues of what are perceived as his greatest vulnerabilities in the race – his age and his four-decade record in politics. He offered no soaring rhetoric about the future, but focused instead on the need for gritty work in overcoming a chronic and crippling budget deficit and repairing the broken structure of a state government viewed as the most dysfunctional in the nation.

Where Whitman is selling corporate competence and Poizner is selling ideological conservatism, Brown is selling authenticity, experience and knowledge. The strongest point in his video was when he offered three straightforward governing principles “that will guide me and that you can count on.”

— First, I’ll tell you the truth. No more smoke and mirrors on the budget. No more puffy slogans and platitudes. You deserve the truth and that’s what you’ll get from me.

— Second, in this time of recession when people are financially strapped, there will be no new taxes unless you the people vote for them.

— Third, we have to downsize state government from Sacramento and return decisions and authority to the cities, to the counties and to local schools.

Positioning himself as the candidate of experience is in some ways a risky gambit, at a time of Tea Party anger and disenchantment with career politicians and the political status quo. In the December statewide poll by the Public Policy Institute of California*, for example, voters were divided evenly on whether they prefer experience in office or experience in business when selecting candidates for governor or senator. Democrats, liberals and moderates preferred experience in office while Republicans, conservatives and independents preferred experience in business.

But Brown sought to portray the twin specter of the novice billionaire Whitman and a consultant-driven Poizner as even riskier. By implication, he suggested that while he has insider’s experience but an outsider’s approach, they would be pre-packaged, know-nothing outsiders. California already knows, he said, that “not knowing is not good.”

There was no hint of the populist, anti-corporate rhetoric that Brown has wielded at various times in his career, as recently as last year’s California Democratic Party convention. The change Brown offered in his opening salvo – making California “the leader in renewable energy, good jobs and quality schools”—sounded as if he was  channeling his inner Warren G. Harding, who, in 1920, advocated a “return to normalcy.”

It was essentially a conservative Jerry Brown, speaking directly to the camera, pledging to pull together “Republicans and Democrats, oil companies and environmentalists, unions and businesses.”

The response from the Armies of eMeg:

I welcome Jerry Brown to the race and look forward to an important conversation with Californians. Never before have voters had a bigger choice about the future. I have spent my career in the private sector, creating jobs and delivering results. Jerry Brown has had a 40-year career in politics which has resulted in a trail of failed experiments, undelivered promises, big government spending and higher taxes. I look forward to the coming campaign debate over which path California will choose in the future; repeating the mistakes of the past or working together to build A New California with more jobs, less wasteful spending and greatly improved schools.

And from The Commish:

This election will be about the future of California, not the past. Our state needs bold, new conservative solutions that will jumpstart our economy and bring jobs back to California. We cannot fall prey to the same high-tax policies and special interest-run government that has led our state into a fiscal disaster. The next Governor will need specific economic solutions, like my plan for across-the-board tax cuts, and also be willing to stand up to the powerful unions who control Sacramento.

Game on.

Crusty potpourri: About Brown not mentioning that he’s a Democrat? “I suppose we take it for granted that people know that,” said spokesman Sterling Clifford (or as we like to call him, Clifford Sterling). “It’s not like he just registered as a Democrat three years ago or something.”

Actually, since he’s got the Democratic Party nomination in the bag, he has every reason to play down party and seek independent and moderate GOP votes. Brown underscored that point in an interview with Larry King Tuesday evening in which he said he’d welcome President Obama’s support but that he would be running “an independent campaign.”

He denied that he’s separating himself from his party, but, he added, “I’m separating myself from politics as usual.” That certainly would be true in the case in the nuttiest remark Brown made all day — his suggestion that to solve the budget crisis he’d sit all 120 members of the Legislature in a room until they came up with a compromise. Good luck with that.

And for those wondering about Brown’s reputation as a liberal, check out the clips posted on California Majority Report by Richard Stapler.

*Fun with numbers: The contrast between Brown’s positioning as the candidate of political experience and GOP front-runner Whitman’s strong focus on her business-side C.V. offers an intriguing glimpse of voter attitudes, at a time when the public despises career pols and career CEOs alike.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll published in December sought to measure sentiment on the issue by asking voters what was more important to them: experience in elected office or experience running a business.

Perhaps auguring a close election, 43 percent of respondents said elective experience, and 43 percent picked business. Not surprisingly Democrats would overwhelmingly favor a veteran of politics over one from the business world, by a 60-to-26 percent margin, the mirror image of Republicans, who picked private sector experience 61-to-27 percent.

As for Independents, they said experience running a business was more important than experience serving in office, by a 50-to-32 percent margin. As on so many other issues, it appears, indie voters represent a key battleground on which the fall election will be fought.

How General Jerry Brown Won the Sun Tzu Primary

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

“I assume most of you have read ‘The Art of War,’” Attorney General Jerry Brown said to the California Young Democrats last weekend. “The good general,” he said, paraphrasing Sun Tzu, “wins the war by not fighting. You defeat your adversary’s strategy. I’m going to do that.”

Which sent us running to the bookshelf to grab our own Thomas Cleary translation of the 2,000 year old text of the great warrior philosopher, whose writings were mandatory reading among insiders in the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign.

We’re not sure when Jerry took up Sun Tzu. We thought he was one of  Tom Paine’s  Winter Soldiers, or an acolyte of C.K. Chesterton or something. Whatever, there’s much in “The Art of War” that helps illuminate Brown’s dealings — more of which we’ll see today when he formally announces his candidacy.

If, as Mao Zedong — another student of Sun Tzu – concluded, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” then we need to ratchet back a notch or two to substitute political arts for military arts, and read Sun Tzu as a guide to the modern-day partisan battlefield:

A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective . . . Deception is for the purpose of seeking victory over an enemy; to command a group requires truthfulness.

Brown has followed this advice in spades, which led the California Republican Party to spend countless hours drawing attention to Brown by constantly sending out emails wondering when he’ll enter the fray.

Whether Brown was formally a candidate or not makes a difference only in the most superficial sense, however. And while a few Democratic insiders have fretted over Brown’s late engagement in the campaign, why in the world the GOP thought  it could affect the race by wondering “Where’s Jerry?” is beyond comprehension. Brown has followed Sun Tzu’s advice that:

…those who win every battle are not really skillful – those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.


When you induce others to construct a formation while you yourself are formless, then you are concentrated while the opponent is divided.

And, after all, what could be more formless than Brown’s non-campaign to date, in which he has husbanded resources and waited for the right moment to leap because, as Sun Tzu always liked to say:

If you know the place and time of battle, you can join the fight from a thousand miles away. If you do not know the place and time of battle, then your left flank cannot save your right, your right cannot save your left, your vanguard cannot save your rearguard and your rearguard cannot save your vanguard.

Whether Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner – with their many millions of dollars – is Brown’s opponent, he will be outspent in the general election. Even if labor, environmental, ethnic, gay and other liberal Democratic constituencies pool their money independently from the Brown campaign, it’s unlikely as much will be spent on Brown’s behalf as either of the potential GOP rivals can spend individually.

Which means Brown must fight a guerrilla war, feeding off the masses, merging with the people, striking swiftly and withdrawing, refusing to stand his puny, small-arms militia against the clanking, armored divisions of eMeg and the Commish.

So we won’t be surprised if Crusty the General Brown soon starts quoting from another military expert and tome: Lin Biao’s “Long Live the Victory of  People’s War!”

Even lamer than we thought: More details have emerged on our report on how the big-bucks corporations of the Bay Area Council bailed on financing its own signature reform initiative for a constitutional convention.

Our sources say that council corporate members had pledged, both at the group’s annual dinner and at two board meetings, to ante up $2 million to seed the campaign. But BAC CEO Jim Wunderman, and John Grubb, a senior vice president who resigned in order to manage the campaign on behalf of an arms-length group called Repair California, were blindsided when actual contributions from council members amounted to less than $300K.

Worse yet, two-thirds of that money came from one guy – Lenny Mendonca, managing director of the S.F. consulting firm McKensie & Co., while AT&T, BofA, PG&E, et. al, sat on their hands. Pathetic.

This far and no farther: After we noted in our deconstruction of Ken McLaughlin’s good interview with eMeg that she’s all over the lot on social issues, a sharp-eyed Calbuzzer alerted us to another contradiction in her stance on immigration:

On illegal immigration, Whitman said she disagreed with her campaign chairman, former Gov. Pete Wilson, over Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that was ruled unconstitutional.

She said it was wrong to write an initiative aimed “mostly at children” by denying them health services and an education. “The children did not come here on their own,” she said.

But she said the state has to draw the line when it comes to many other services. For example, she doesn’t believe illegal immigrants should — as is currently the law — be entitled to in-state tuition at California’s public colleges and universities.

In other words, the government should pay the K-12 school costs to educate children of undocumented immigrants – but then draw the line at affording them in-state tuition rates for attending UC and CSUs.

The policy implications for this are curious to say the least: once California has borne the full cost of primary schooling for these students, what is the self-interest for the state suddenly to impose a ceiling on the extent of their educational achievement? We’d hate to think eMeg figures that limiting the children of immigrants to a high school diploma will help drive down the costs of good help in Atherton and Woodside.

Hi, this is Osama and I’m a first time caller: Seeking to stop the bleeding from a self-inflicted wound, wannabe GOP Senator Tom Campbell challenged rivals Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore to a radio debate on foreign policy and, miracle of miracles, the whole thing came together swiftly and is actually going to happen.

Campbell has found himself in the free fire zone for his past links to jihadist professor Sami Al-Arian, which raised the broader question of the depth of his commitment to Israel’s security. With his debate play, Dudley Do Right clearly is trying to ju-jitsu the issue in hopes of stomping Hurricane Carly and Red Meat Chuck with his superior knowledge of national security issues.

Kudos to Calbuzz blogroller and Sacto radio yakker Eric Hogue for putting the whole thing together in record time. The debate is set to air Friday, March 5 from 12 to 1 pm on the Eric Hogue Show on KTKZ 1380 and scheduled to be real time webcast.