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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« June 2003 | | August 2003 »
July 31, 2003

Sharon: Gray is an "average guy"

Gray’s been on tv or radio just about every day lately, and most of the interviews have been fairly uneventful. But today he was on KQED radio with his wife, Sharon, and the interview produced a couple of quotable quotes. The best stuff came from Sharon, who, when pressed by host Scott Shafer to tell us about the real Gray, described him as “kind of the average guy” who is unable to “let it all hang out” because he grew up in an era when people didn’t brag on themselves. She continued:

“And so, what Gray has always said is, he has to be himself. The voters want to know who you are, obviously, and for some reason Gray presents himself as who he is, and they go, ‘Well, we don't know if we like that. Be a little bit different.’ But you can't be genuine if you're trying to be a person that you're not.”

Then Gray, summing up what the recall election is all about, said this:

“(The voters) have to ask themselves, when we went to the polls last November, did we mean it, and do we have a right to second guess ourselves every five minutes? That's really what's at stake.”

I imagine most California voters believe they have a right to second-guess themselves. Implying that they don’t might not be a real fruitful way to win them over.

See the entire transcript here.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:56 PM



If Cruz loses, he wins

With inspiration from our admittedly paranoid friend Tony Quinn, we continue now on the theme of what might go wrong with the "if appropriate" lawsuits pending at the Supreme Court. To refresh, these are the suits seeking to block the second part of the recall election, in which the voters choose someone to replace Gray should he be removed. The defendants in those suits are Kevin Shelley and Cruz Bustamante, both of whom are represented by Bill Lockyer. And so we will have people who opposed the recall defending these lawsuits. Perhaps someone else might want to weigh in with an amicus brief. For context, some might remember what happened with the litigation to stop Prop. 187. The original lawsuit against the initiative prevailed at trial court, and Pete Wilson, who was governor at the time, appealed that judgment on behalf of the state's voters. Then Gray Davis, who had opposed 187, took office, and took over as defendant. You then had opponents of 187 on one side and opponents of 187 on the other. Gray soon sent the matter to "mediation" and the parties emerged with a deal that dropped the suit and struck down virtually all of the initiative. And no one could appeal. At the moment there is nothing to stop the "defendants" in this case from doing the same thing. If Cruz loses this suit, he's in line to be governor if Davis is recalled.

UPDATE: A member of the Establishment responds with some counterpoints:

Even if Ron George wants to help the Establishment, it's not clear what he should do. Is helping Cruz get elected helping the poltiical establishment? Further, would dropping the second part of the election help or hurt Gray? Some people think the "if appropriate" suits are a way to screw Gray because removing the conservatives from the ballot would make Democrats more comfortable voting for the recall. Also: It is not in Lockyer's interest to take a dive on this, because he is getting older, and his last best chance to run for governor is in 06. He can only do that if Gray serves out his term or is replaced by a caretaker. Elevating Cruz serves neither purpose.

TWO MORE UPDATES:

First, here is a piece at politicsus.com comparing the "if appropriate" case to the dispute in last year's New Jersey Senate election, and suggesting that the California Supremes might just bend to the political will of the powerful (if we can only figure out what that is).

And, from a reader, this retort to the Ron-George-is-suspect theory:

Ronald George is Chief Justice, but has only one vote out of seven. He does not control the other justices, so he could hardly rescue the political establishment. My experience with the California Supreme Court is that its members decide cases on their merits, and not on what is politically expedient. Of course, I thought the same of the U.S. Supreme Court until Bush v. Gore. I have read the petition filed by Mr. and Mrs. Frankel against Kevin Shelley, and the argument is not quite so far-fetched. Besides, the California Supreme Court is not bold enough to interfere with the political process, Tony Quinn's paranoia notwithstanding.

As for the Ted Costa initiative, Mr. Quinn should remember that under the California Constitution, initiatives can cover only a "single subject." The Costa initiative's primary goal was to reduce the salaries of legislators, and that is how Costa and his supporters marketed it to voters. They did not tell voters that the initiative also would change the reapportionment process. Now, common sense should tell anybody that reapportionment has nothing to do with legislative salaries, even if you stretch the English language to the breaking point. That is why the Court took the initiative off the ballot. If Mr. Costa had been honest and limited his measure just to salaries, the Court would have let it remain on the ballot. He overreached and suffered for it.


Posted by dweintraub at 2:10 PM



Gray won't take the money

Gray's been getting hammered for refusing to say he wouldn't take taxpayer reimbursement for his campaign costs if he beats the recall. He just announced that he won't take the money, and in a clever twist, has challenged his "millionaire" opponents to promise to help pay for the recall if they lose. Of course they won't, but it's a good line that I am sure you will hear again.

It's too bad, because this was a great story line. The special interests could invest in Gray one more time, then, if they saved his rear, not only would he be indebted to them but they'd get a refund! Not to be.


Here's the statement:

"Over the past several weeks, it has become clear just how much this recall effort is costing the state. Estimates range up to $60 million just to hold the election.

The state's constitution allows my campaign to be reimbursed by the state when I defeat this.

I have decided not to seek any reimbursements because I know that taxpayer money would be better spent on our kids' schools, health care and public safety.

In addition, I'm issuing this challenge to the millionaire Republicans - Michael Huffington, Darrell Issa, Richard Riordan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger - who are currently considering a candidacy.

Should they lose, I challenge them to pledge to reimburse the taxpayers an amount equal to the amount they spend on their campaigns.

This will help the taxpayers defray the cost of this extraordinarily expensive recall election."

NOTE. An earlier version of this item said Gray's campaign was the only source for his $60 million estimate. A reader points out that Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has updated his estimate to between $53 million and $66 million. See the new estimate of county costs here. State costs are added on top of that.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:53 AM



Arnold watch

Irritated that I keep quoting people who say Arnold is out, George Gorton, the actor's political guru, left a message on my voice mail in the middle of the night insisting that no decision has been made and that no announcements are planned for today. And that, he says, is official.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:40 AM



Live and learn

Here's my column in today's Bee on why Dick Riordan is wasting his time (and ours) if he hasn't learned any lessons from last year's campaign disaster.


Posted by dweintraub at 6:45 AM



If we keep him, it costs even more

Gray has been telling voters that the recall is a cost the state cannot afford. But he hasn't been telling them that if they vote no and keep him in office, the taxpayers might be on the hook for his campaign costs, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars. The Bee's Sam Stanton has the story here.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:37 AM



July 30, 2003

The pay raise that's counted as a cut

Every time you pick up a fiscal rock in the California budget, little deficit bugs scurry out. Here's one that illustrates the point: the state announced Wednesday that CHP officers agreed to take “pay cuts” that are supposed to save about $19 million this year. But it turns out the pay cut is actually a raise -- of 2.7 percent. How can a raise save the taxpayers money? Because without the agreement, the officers would have received a 7.7 percent raise this year. So they took 5 percent less than they were entitled to. In exchange, they get an extra paid day off a month and a cap on the cost of their health benefits. What does a day off per month cost? Well if you work 20 days a month, and you get one extra day off, that’s 5 percent -- exactly the amount they supposedly gave up. That exchange doesn’t cost the state any more money in the short-term, because we pay them the same whether they work or not, but if too many officers take their days off, overtime costs will likely climb. And if too few take them, the credits will accrue until they retire, costing taxpayers more then. And the cost of health care? It’s only going up, so if we are capping it for the officers, the taxpayers are going to pay more. I’d love to be able to follow the costs/savings of this deal in micro-detail over the course of the year. Because I suspect it really won’t save much at all. And over the long term, it is certain to be a loser. Imagine this scenario repeated with 20 different public employee unions, and similar accounting for “cuts” in programs. Now you know why the deficit never goes away.

UPDATE: A reader notes that the CHP example doesn't necessarily apply to all the state employee contracts because while almost all are getting a 5 percent pay raise this year, for most employees that raise will be offset by an increase in their share of their retirement premiums. For those employees in that category, denying them their raise actually would result in a loss of take-home pay, even if their gross salary goes up.


Posted by dweintraub at 9:46 PM



Will Ron George ride to the rescue?

Republican analyst Tony Quinn agrees that the "if appropriate" claim is dubious but suggests we not overlook California Chief Justice Ron George's close ties with the political establishment. George was a Wilson appointee but has been very cozy with the leaders of both parties over the years. Quinn suggests he might be looking for a way to end the recall madness. He says he is convinced that "the political class is circling the wagons and I would not be surprised to see the California Supreme Court do them another favor."

More: "The fact they took the case on successor elections suggests they plan to do something. Don't forget this is the same court that took Ted Costa's last initiative (Prop 24) off the ballot for spurious reasons -- it would have reformed reapportionment, something the political class didn't want. Ron George cares a lot about keeping the legislature and governor happy for budget purposes -- sooo, don't be surprised if we have no successor election."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:10 PM



Gore 2000 chief to fight "voter disenfranchisement' in recall

Everyone, including me, has pointed out the parallels between the California recall and Florida 2000. It's really starting to look now as if the two are mirror images of each other, with California's run-up to the election a repeat of Florida's post-election madness. One reason for that is that all the players learned in Florida that it's damn hard to change the outcome after the votes have been cast, no matter how righteous you think your position might be. Along those lines, three Democratic heavyweights will announce tomorrow an action they say is aimed at preventing "voter disenfranchisement" in the Oct. 7 election. Donna Brazile, who was the Gore 2000 campaign manager, Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, and Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation have a morning press conference planned. I'm not sure, but I have a hunch it will be about punchcard voting, which lingers in some California precincts, and perhaps plans by some registrars to limit the number of polling places in order to save money and reduce the need for staffing. Don't be surprised if they file some action in the courts or with a civil rights agency seeking to delay the election.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:43 PM



Repeat: Davis cannot run

I know most of the people who read this blog know this, but I want to repeat for newcomers that Gray Davis cannot run to succeed himself. Davis and Pete Wilson, who served the maximum two terms from 1991-98, are the only two registered voters ineligible to run in the "race to replace." By the way, this is the number one question I am getting, which suggests that we still have a ways to go before folks understand how all this will go down....

Posted by dweintraub at 4:36 PM



"If appropriate" author joins lawsuit

Former state legislator Barry Keene, the author of the infamous words “if appropriate” in Article II of the constitution, has researched his records and refreshed his memory of the 1974 amendment he sponsored that added those words while striking hundreds of others from the recall provision. When I first spoke to him a week ago, Keene said he did not remember why he put the words in there. Now he does. He says they were intended to ensure that the lieutenant governor would become governor in the case of a recall. He said he meant to ensure that Article V, which provides for the succession, applied to all vacancies in the governor's office, and that a recall would create a vacancy, to be filled not by the voters but by the constitutional elevation of the lieutenant governor.

Keene says he is joining a petition to be filed today in the Supreme Court on this matter, “in order to make it clear that the intent of the succession provisions in Article V was to prevail against any and all other law or legislation that might be passed to the contrary, such as a recall-plus election.” He adds: “The words ‘if appropriate’ are quite significant, very significant. They apply not only to judges but charter municipalities and other kinds of situations, to protect those situations from being steamrolled by the recall language in Article II.”

If accepted by the Supreme Court, Keene’s take would cancel the second half of the recall ballot, which is an election to replace the governor if he is recalled in the first half of the election. I am skeptical. Keene was a careful legislator who was not known to sneak things past people. I find it very hard to believe that he would put a constitutional amendment before the people of California taking away their right to elect a governor to replace one being recalled and not bother mentioning it to anyone. The issue doesn’t appear anywhere in Keene’s argument for the constitutional revision he sponsored in 1974, or in the analysis in the ballot pamphlet prepared by the legislative analyst’s office. It is my understanding that those documents, and not the memory of the author, is where the courts normally look to guide them on interpreting the meaning of a ballot measure.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:25 PM



GOP spokesman: Arnold out

Republican Party spokesman Rob Stutzman, speaking on Eric Hogue's radio show on KTKZ in Sacramento, says it's official: Arnold is out. "I had that confirmed late last night," Stutzman said.

UPDATE: There's been some confusion about the word "official" I used above. Stutzman is the official spokesman for the Republican Party, but he is not an official spokesman for Arnold. We await word from the man himself.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:20 AM



Craziness


Having trouble keeping up? Don't blame you. These are crazy times in California. Here is some of what happened Tuesday:

The Assembly, after the speaker locked the members in overnight, passed a budget to end a 29-day partisan stalemate.

In San Francisco, top Democrats met to either a) shore up their unity in the fight to save Gray Davis or b) figure out a strategy to offer a replacement candidate while not dooming their man to defeat.

In a related development, two Democratic members of Congress –Cal Dooley and Loretta Sanchez – called on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to enter the fray as a back-up option should Davis lose. They were the first elected Democrats to call publicly for a party candidate to replace Gray.

In Los Angeles, top Republicans from opposing campaigns met to plot recall strategy, hoping to increase their chances of dumping Davis while reserving the right to savage each other in the campaign to replace him.

In Brentwood, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan met with strategists to help shape a possible campaign for governor and prepared to accept the baton from his friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Down the street, columnist Arianna Huffington met with advisers to consider her own potential as an independent candidate in the replacement election.

In San Diego, a federal court changed the rules of the recall vote, deciding that voters can participate in the replacement election even if they express no opinion on the question of whether Davis should be recalled.

In San Francisco, the state Supreme Court took up the question of whether a replacement election is even necessary. This is the same idea floated briefly and then dropped by Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. Bustamante would become governor if Davis were recalled and there was no election to replace him.

Presumably, the pace of developments will slow once the filing deadline passes Aug. 9 and the courts work their way through the challenges. It better. We cannot keep this up.


Posted by dweintraub at 8:06 AM



July 29, 2003

Schwarzenriordan

Calblogger Justene Adamec, always prescient, has an especially pointed analysis of the Arnold-Riordan dance, suggesting that one of them had better get on this train before it leaves the station.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:49 PM



Connell rips budget, rules out run

While everyone is busy adding names to the list of recall candidates, I've taken to crossing some off. The latest: Kathleen Connell. The former state controller seemed to fit the profile of the perfect Democratic ship-jumper: no love for Gray Davis, decent name ID, money in the bank, ambition. But I just spoke with her and she said she wouldn't be running, under any circumstances. "I want to squash that rumor," she said. "It won't be me." She did have a few choice words about the budget passed today, suggesting that it's a house of cards built on a legally and fiscally shaky foundation. "It's a budget of denial," she said.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:38 PM



Assembly passes budget

The Assembly, after what Speaker Herb Wesson described as the longest legislative day in the history of the body, voted 56-22 to pass the budget and send it to Gov. Gray Davis. The vote on the budget was not made immediately official, pending votes on a series of bills needed to implement the spending plan. Once all those are taken, the votes will be made final and the package will be complete. This should happen within minutes.

UPDATE
: It's official.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:18 PM



Assembly Republicans: spend more

Assembly budget negotiators say they are closing in on a deal, but we will have to see. I think the lock-down by Speaker Wesson was probably a good idea. End the drift, bang some heads and get it done. I think the public will love it. The amusing thing is that all the negotiators have been talking about today is increasing spending to satisfy Republican requests to add or restore things to the budget passed by the Senate. To be fair, the Republicans say they have offered lists of cuts they would like to pass to offset their spending increases. But since the Dems don’t want to talk about cuts, the Republicans say they are willing to take just the spending hikes, or some of them, in return for their votes. Among other things, the Republicans are asking to restore about $150 million in local government redevelopment funds cut by the Senate, about $70 million for local law enforcement, $100 million for the Highway Patrol. Much of this is law enforcement, which is a high priority for everyone, but it would seem that given how tough times are, even law enforcement could absorb part of the blow. The Reeps are also trying to block two fee increases, on pesticides and timber harvests, and replace the revenue with money from the general fund. It sounds as if the final package will cost the treasury about $250 million, which would be deducted from the “reserve” built into the Senate version of the budget. The reserve, however, is probably phony. This budget is almost certainly going to end with a deficit and produce a shortfall in the $10 billion range going into 04-05. So the Assembly deal closers, if they come, will just make that gap a little bit wider.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:05 PM



Congressman starts draft Feinstein movement

From the AP, via SF GATE:

Rep. Cal Dooley on Tuesday became the first prominent California Democrat to call on Sen. Dianne Feinstein to run for governor to replace Gov. Gray Davis in the recall election.

Dooley, a moderate Democrat from Hanford in the Central Valley, said Democrats must have an alternative to Davis on the Oct. 7 ballot and pronounced Feinstein the state's most popular politician.

"It is no secret that Gov. Davis is in trouble, and I seriously doubt that he can survive the recall effort," Dooley said in a statement.

This could be a sign of things to come.

UPDATE. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County has joined Dooley in his call for Feinstein to run. Feinstein has no comment, which in itself is ominous. Is this choreographed?

Posted by dweintraub at 2:43 PM



Everybody gets to vote

The federal court in San Diego struck down the California requirement that voters must vote on the recall question in order to qualify to vote on the question of who should replace the governor, if he is recalled. At the moment I see this as no big deal. I can't imagine that it gives an advantage to one side or the other. If someone is out there who is dying to skip the recall question but vote on the replacement, please call me. I want to know more about who that would be and why they would want to do it.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:39 PM



Simon prepares to run

Bill Simon plans to pull papers this morning in preparation for a run for governor, his office says.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:26 AM



No whining

Here's today's column on why there's so much energy behind the recall, and why the elites should stop whining about the election and get on with it.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:53 AM



Arnold watch: It's all about Riordan

The San Jose Mercury reports that Arnold is “preparing to pass up” a shot at the governor’s office. The New York Times says he is “leaning strongly against” it. The Chronicle writes that Arnold had a 2 p.m. press conference planned Monday to announce his withdrawal but called it off to think about it for another day or two. And The LA Times says the news conference was postponed because Dick Riordan wasn’t ready to appear by Arnold’s side to receive the baton. But The Times says Riordan is edging closer. Noelia Rodriguez, press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush and Riordan's former close aide, spent Monday at his house in Brentwood helping him assemble a possible campaign team, the paper reports.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:39 AM



Two recall cases to watch

The legal wrangling is far from over. At least two court cases remain alive and viable at the moment. One is in San Diego, where two University of San Diego lawyers are asking a federal court to declare California’s recall provision unconstitutional because it requires voters to vote yes or no on the recall question before being allowed to vote on the candidate replacement question. And in the state Supreme Court, the “if appropriate” question has reared its head again, with a suit asking the court to throw out the candidate election because California’s constitution calls for the lieutenant governor to take the office when there is a vacancy. Here is an AP story in the Bee on the lawsuits.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:35 AM



Davis eager to sign drivers license bill for immigrants

The Bee reports this morning on the governor’s vow to sign a bill to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Citing security concerns, Davis vetoed the bill a year ago, but the new measure does not include the provisions he said he would demand before changing his position. Namely, the governor wanted background checks done to ensure that immigrants with a criminal past did not get licenses. Also, this bill is broader, removing the provision in last year’s measure that allowed licenses only for those immigrants who had already applied for legal residency. Latino lawmakers are selling this bill to Davis as a way to win favor with Hispanic voters. But it is a huge gamble. Signing this bill could just as easily backfire on Davis, setting off a firestorm of protest from opponents of the bill and getting people to the polls who otherwise would have stayed home. The campaign on behalf of the bill also suffers from the condescending assumption that all Latinos, including those who waited years to enter this country lawfully, support expanding services and privileges to illegal immigrants.



Posted by dweintraub at 6:33 AM



July 28, 2003

State spending cuts aren't "dragging down" the economy

The New York Times on Monday had a big story saying California’s budget crisis – and budget cutting – had, along with similar events in other states, “stripped the nation of a source of economic growth” and begun to “drag down the national economy.” With all due respect, I think this is nonsense. And, because it’s becoming part of the conventional wisdom, it needs to be stopped, now.

First of all, The Times swallows whole the notion that California’s emerging budget deal will cut $8 billion in current spending, and says the state will see $12 billion in cuts over two years. I don’t know where they got the $12 billion – it’s not attributed – but even on paper, state general fund spending will shrink only from a high of $78.1 billion last year to $70.8 billion next year, a drop of $7.3 billion.

And even that is an accounting fiction. Actual spending won’t drop by nearly that much, if at all. More than half of the reported spending reduction is actually a tax increase -- the $4 billion tripling of the car tax. State bookkeepers count that as a cut because the car tax is a local revenue source, and when it was reduced several years ago, the state started reimbursing the cities and counties for their loss of revenue. Now that the tax is going back up, the locals will get their money directly from motorists, so the state reimbursement is no longer needed. The state books that as a budget cut, but the government will still be spending exactly the same amount of money. Other items booked as cuts include a $1 billion accounting shift in Medi-Cal that will have no effect on actual spending, and a $2 billion infusion of federal money that will relieve the state of some of its obligations in health and welfare programs. When you add all these and other measures together, it’s possible that actual government outlays in California will rise, not fall, in the year ahead.

But even if all the assumptions in the Times story were true, I still don’t think state spending cuts would hurt the economy. One could argue that they would actually help it. After all, the states, unlike the federal government, cannot print money. Everything they do is pretty much a zero-sum game. If they spend more, they must tax more. If they spend less, they tax less. This means that the only thing at issue is who spends the money: the government or private individuals and businesses. If the state cuts spending on health care by $1 billion, that’s $1 billion that remains in the private economy.

The net effects of this transfer are open to debate. Some would argue that state spending will produce more bang for the buck because it tends to go to low-income people who then put it all back into the economy, while private holders of wealth might keep it stowed in the bank or in investments. Others would say that leaving the money in private hands is better for the economy because those investments create jobs and boost productivity. I would stake out some middle ground by pointing out that even state spending often winds up in private corporate hands, or in the pockets of wealthy individuals, as when the state pays hospitals or doctors for medical care for the poor. That money can be socked away – or invested – as easily as money that’s simply left in private hands. Which is why the Republican complaint that state tax increases hurt the economy, while logical, is difficult to prove, because all the money the state takes in taxes comes back to the economy anyway, just in different places.

But the Times ignores that debate and all of these subtleties in favor of a simple explanation implying that every dollar the state “cuts” from spending is a dollar somehow removed from the economy. It’s just not so. Every dollar cut from state spending is a dollar left in the economy. There is a huge difference.

Find the Times story here. Signon/password required but use mine: californiainsider/insider

UPDATE: A reader notes that the Times' analysis is more credible if one considers the effects of state deficit spending on the economy. When states borrow, it allows them to spend money that they haven't yet taken from their citizens in taxes, thus stimulating the economy. This is true. But California isn't giving up on deficit spending. The budget deal pending today includes plans for a $10.7 billion bond to pay for services rendered last year. That's the biggest borrowing of its kind in the history of the state.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:11 PM



Is Riordan ready?

If Arnold is dropping out, people have been asking, why doesn’t he just get it over with and announce that he won’t run for governor? Why are his advisers issuing statements saying he has not made up his mind? Here’s my theory: He needs a stand-in. It’s clear that Arnold has been under a lot of pressure from Maria not to run. His own campaign advisers have said as much. I expect Arnold himself to acknowledge this at some point, either directly or through the “concern for my family” statement that’s become so familiar in politics. And I think it's sincere. He's got young kids. He probably doesn't want them exposed to the kind of trash that would be thrown his way if he entered the fray. But he doesn’t want Maria to be cited as his sole reason for ducking the race. Manly men respect their wives but don’t let their spouses dictate what they do. And Arnold has an easy out. He has said all along that he will run only if he doesn’t see anybody else out there capable of doing the job. Enter Dick Riordan. I think the reason Arnold hasn’t announced his decision is that Riordan either isn’t committed or doesn’t have the campaign infrastructure in place yet to take the ball and run with it. But if and when Riordan is ready, don’t be surprised to hear Arnold say, “I don’t need to run because we have Dick Riordan and he would do a great job.” Just a theory.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:52 PM



Suit seeks to keep Connerly measure off ballot

Rick Hasen has an interesting item on a new lawsuit being filed to keep the Connerly initiative and Keith Richman's infrastructure measure off the recall ballot.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:18 PM



Gorton says Arnold not out yet

The Schwarzenegger campaign-in-waiting says my source is all wet. Arnold, they say, still hasn't made up his mind. Here's the statement, in full:

Statement by Arnold Schwarzenegger political consultant George Gorton:

“There are reports in the media that Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided not to run in the California recall election. These reports are incorrect.

“Arnold spent the weekend continuing his due diligence regarding a possible run. He has made no decision at this time. He will continue to weigh the pros and cons with his family and will continue to seek the council of supporters and colleagues.

“When Arnold has made his decision, we will announce it to the media.”

I'm still hearing otherwise.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:53 PM



Back to the trenches

Things are changing by the minute, and will continue to do so. But as of this morning, Gray Davis has the momentum in his fight to beat the recall. One house of the Legislature has passed a budget, and the other will probably do so soon. The public will see this as progress, even if the toughest part of the job was left for the future. The recall is being portrayed in the media as a circus or a zoo, take your pick. It looks as if Arnold is out, and with him the recall's best chance of energizing independents and occasional voters. Riordan still isn’t in and might never be. That leaves the most likely Republican candidates as Issa, who has been and will be easy to demonize; Simon, who will be portrayed as either the sore loser or the “I told you so” candidate; and McClintock, the sincere but under-funded state senator who will want to talk about fiscal reform but will be marginalized by his conservative take on social issues. Assemblyman Keith Richman will run as the Republican moderate if both Arnold and Riordan bow out, but he is little known statewide and will have a hard time breaking out of a crowded field. Gray will ignore Richman and wrap the other three neatly with a bow and say the whole thing is a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” The entire political establishment is against it and, even if they don’t help Gray, they won’t be of much help to his opponents. The New York Times has started a full-court press against the recall on the editorial and op-ed pages, following the lead of the home-state LA Times. Even former Gov. Pete Wilson was quoted in the Bee this morning saying he hates the recall. Bottom line: It’s starting to look as if the recall drive is back to where it started: a guerrilla war. It might be well financed by Issa and a handful of others, but remember, Issa is himself an outsider. If this thing wins, it is going to be on the strength of a populist revolt, not celebrity star power.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:50 AM



Arnold will not run

Arnold Schwarzenegger will not run for governor, a very knowledgeable source close to actor has told me. I am told to expect the official announcement as soon as today. Look for Dick Riordan to start revving up his campaign in turn.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:30 AM



July 27, 2003

Senate passes budget

The state Senate, as expected, passed a budget tonight, with the minimum 27 votes required for a two-thirds majority. The measure includes no new taxes beyond the tripling of the car tax already accomplished by administrative order of the governor. It does include several hundred million dollars in new fees on college students and business. And it relies on an $11 billion deficit bond to be financed over five years. Both sides of the aisle agree that it is balanced for one year only, and current revenue and expenditure projections show a new, $8 billion gap opening up next year. Some will point to the size of the remaining gap as an accomplishment, the year having begun with estimates of a $30-some billion shortfall. But remember this: the Legislature has been at war since May over what was essentially a $1.7 billion difference between the two parties. A real gap four times that large will be no easy task to close. And the chasm will grow much larger if the car tax, the deficit bond or a legally questionable pension bond are thrown out by the courts. Or if the economy fails to live up to expectations. As Sen. Tom McClintock said tonight, the next budget crisis starts the day this one is signed.

On the bright side, this budget deal does, for the first time in memory, actually get rid of some government, starting with the Trade, Technology and Commerce agency. It also establishes a commission to study other possible reductions. And it gives the governor limited authority to cut spending if the budget starts to get out of balance. The action now moves to the Assembly, which, after some grumbling, is expected to pass the budget later this week.

PS. In my April 27 column, I laid out a roadmap for a budget plan remarkably similar to the one adopted tonight. To see it, go here.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:18 PM



Take a deep breath, folks

Maureen Dowd has weighed in on the recall, dismissing it, of course, as the work of California kooks. That’s almost comforting, as I would have been worried had she endorsed it. The one useful item in the piece is a quote from a Davis aide describing the recall as unlocking "all the cages in the zoo." This is the perfect metaphor with which to capture the governor's attitude toward voters. Former congressman and onetime Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta chimes in with his own more sophisticated but essentially parallel take: the recall is democracy run amok.

Calm down, people. You would think folks were killing each other in the streets here, or burning down the Capitol. We are talking about holding an election, OK? The petitions represent a massive vote of no confidence in the governor's ability to lead. Now, in a few weeks, all of the people will have their say on that question. Britain has been doing something similar for hundreds of years now and seems to have managed to survive.

A year ago the state’s editorial boards were all but unanimous in their condemnation of the choice offered Californians. Some recommended Davis, some Simon, but almost all conceded that their choice was the lesser of evils. Now we get another bite at the apple. Is that so bad?

You can also expect a flood of criticism and mockery from the pundit booth about the growing list of candidates. As if this, too, were some sort of terrible development. Are all the candidates serious? No. But many of them will be, and the numbers are in part a reflection of the intense interest in this election. We don’t know what the turnout will be. But we do know that right now, people on the street are paying attention to California politics. They’re expressing opinions and getting involved. They are taking ownership, because they, and not the governing class, called this election. This is not bad news. Unless, of course, you are among those who have a stake in the people tuning out instead of turning out, in not caring, in not following the pea under the shell.

Here is the Dowd column, and here is Panetta. Both require registration, but use mine: californiainsider/insider

Posted by dweintraub at 4:00 PM



Bureaucrats beware

I just heard that the budget deal will include the creation of a commission to examine the state bureuacracy and eliminate unnecessary agencies and offices. This is an idea that Sen. (and candidate for gov) Tom McClintock has been pushing for some time. Things are now so bad fiscally that the libs are picking up on his idea because they see it as a way to preserve services they value -- by killing off stuff that's obsolete or unnecessary. McClintock touts this as similar to the military base reduction process that the feds went through a few years back. He wants a list of agencies that should be eliminated and an up or down vote in the Legislature, to avoid nickel and diming the thing to death with amendments. Probably a good idea. How much will this process save the taxpayers? Not much, unfortunately, in the great scheme of things. Maybe a few hundred million dollars. But that is a start, and more importantly, it's a step toward adopting the psychology that we don't have to keep doing everything we are doing now forever. We can re-examine priorities and stop doing some things.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:15 AM



July 26, 2003

No longer a spectator sport

Back from the recall rally. Perhaps not the 2,000 people the organizers were hoping for, but quite a crowd that I would estimate around 1,000 or so. Very spirited. There is definitely something about this campaign that is different from any I’ve been around recently. It is more chaotic, more spontaneous, less predictable. Whatever you say about Issa’s money making it happen, this thing is being driven by a grass-roots energy. And I think that energy is going to carry through to Election Day. There is something about the people demanding the election, rather than the government calling the election, that gives the campaign a revolutionary fervor. These people feel as if they are taking their government back. Look at all the folks lining up to run. Everybody has been talking about how cheap and easy it is to get on the ballot. But those are the same rules that have applied to party primaries for years. And we don’t see 100 people running in those. Is the difference that this is a one-shot deal, that there is no run-off or general election? Or is that the Democrats have promised not to field a major candidate? I am sure those factors are contributing. But I think underneath it all is the feeling that this is a populist revolt, and people feel empowered. They feel as if they are part of something. They are making politics a participatory sport instead of a spectator sport.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:18 PM



Peasants with pitchforks march on the Capitol

I'll be heading out to what's been advertised as a huge recall rally (and anti-recall counter rally) at the Capitol later this morning. I'll report back here this afternoon. The list of speakers includes not only Darrell Issa, Bill Simon and Tom McClintock but some others who might spice up the affair. They've got the Libertarian Party, the Reform Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the American Independent Party, and they have folks like Republican Danny Ball, who ran for gov last year, and someone named John Estrada, who is identified as a Democratic candidate for president. Should be fun. Recall supporters say the thing will be broadcast live on CSPAN.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:53 AM



Will he or won't he?

Arnold has a history of making people wait. In Hollywood, he is known as a big tease. A revealing story here by the LA Times' entertainment staff, with contributions from the political beat. Registration required, but use my sign-on and password: californiainsider/insider

Posted by dweintraub at 6:59 AM



July 25, 2003

My Fox News debut

I will be discussing the recall with "The Beltway Boys" on Fox News at 3 pm PST Saturday....

UPDATE: I'm now also scheduled to appear on KNBC in LA at 9 am Sunday.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:33 PM



Riordan still bullish on Arnold

I talked to Dick Riordan today as he was careening through traffic in LA, and he said he still thinks Arnold is very much interested in running. And if Arnold does run, Riordan said, he will work "full time" to help him win. The way he described it I imagined Riordan going up and down the state, or at least the greater Los Angeles area, campaigning as a surrogate almost as if he himself were running. If Arnold doesn't run, Riordan said, he would "seriously consider" jumping in himself. Of course we knew that already. I am wondering if the potential circus-like ballot would help or hurt an Arnold candidacy. A ballot with 100 names, including 10 or 12 fairly well known and several semi-celebrities, such as Arianna Huffington, might make Arnold seem like one player in a freak show. Then again it could give him the chance to rise above it and stand out in the crowd. I have the same ambivalence about how a crowded field affects the recall question. If it gets too crazy, the voters might just throw up their hands and say this is insane, and vote no. Or, if several Dems jump in, the voters could decide that Davis is done, tune him out and turn to the task of figuring out who should replace him. This is the magic of the recall. We have never been down this road so no one knows what to expect. And again, that's why the elites of both parties hate it.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:02 PM



First Democrat announces intent to run

Audie Bock, who was the only Green Party member ever elected to the Legislature, plans to run for governor as a Democrat. That makes her the party's first semi-mainstream, politically experienced member to break ranks and join the recall fray. And she's not just doing it out of fear that Davis will lose. She wants Davis to lose. Here's the story from Bay City News in the Chronicle. Hat tip to Pathetic Earthlings. I don't think Bock's entry will spark the stampede some have been waiting for. But keep your eye on Kathleen Connell. She is still my bet to be the highest-ranking, or most recent high ranking, Democrat to jump in.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:55 PM



Meow

Davis says he will fight like a "Bengal tiger" to keep his job. Here is the take of my colleague, cartoonist Rex Babin, on that comment.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:14 PM



Possible trade: reduce car tax, hike income taxes

I just heard and then confirmed a rumor that Democrats in the Assembly are devising a plan that would involve returning after the budget deal is done and passing a new tax plan that would reduce the vehicle license fee back to its earlier levels while raising the income tax and various sin taxes to bring in the same amount of revenue. This could be done by majority vote, rather than two-thirds, because it would not be a net tax increase but just a revenue-neutral swap. It would be far more progressive than the car tax because only the upper income folks would get hit with the personal income tax hike. And it would help reduce the furor over the increase in the highly unpopular car tax. I don't think this is going to happen. But it is percolating among at least a few influential Democrats over there.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:40 PM



Forget Arianna, we're getting the real Huffington

Former Congressman Michael Huffington just took out papers to run for governor. Huffington, of course, represented Santa Barbara as a Republican in Congress in the early 1990s before challenging Dianne Feinstein for the US Senate. He lost narrowly and then went through a personal transformation, coming out as a homosexual and divorcing his wife, Arianna, who at the time was a popular conservative commentator. Arianna has since become a populist/leftist commentator and is now being urged by many on the left to run for governor herself.


Posted by dweintraub at 4:18 PM



The bond buyers win too

Senator John Burton, on the Wall Street bond underwriters who will arrange financing for California's debt:

"If we said to them 'we have an idea where we can go rob a bank and get the money to pay off these bonds,' they’d say, 'don’t tell -- we’ll buy them.' The money will be there to pay off the bonds – I mean, it’s that simple. They have said traditionally since Day One they couldn’t care if you cut all the programs in the world and could give them a lump sum, or if you passed $2 trillion worth of taxes, as long as they knew the money was there to pay off the bondholders, they were happy. And I might say this: Wall Street and the bond counsel and all those people – they are doing better most everyone else is doing through this budget."

For more on this and other nuggets of wisdom from Sens. Burton and Brulte, see the transcript here of their press briefing on their budget deal. With no details yet released on their plan, this is the only place to go for hints about what they are up to.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:51 PM



California's Brown nominated to DC Circuit Court

Jonathan Adler is reporting at The Corner that President Bush has nominated California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the US Court of Appeals in the DC Circuit. The post is widely seen as a stop on the path to a potential US Supreme Court appointment for Brown.

UPDATE: Here is the White House press release.

UPDATE 2: Rick Hasen blogs on potential impact on recall litigation if Brown leaves.

UPDATE 3: An alert reader says Rick and I have both missed the best angle on the Brown story, and I agree. It's that the pending vacancy on the Cal Supreme Court will give Gray an issue with which to motivate his base. The governor will replace Brown if she is confirmed to the new post, but that appointment almost certainly won't come until after the Oct. 7 recall election. Davis will ask: Do you want a pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-worker nominee to the court, or do you want a Republican nominee who might not be sympathetic to those constituencies? The message, of course, will be more subtle: "Do you want a justice who follows the constitution on a woman's right to choose, or one who tries to legislate his or her views from the bench?" But the point is the same.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:51 PM



Davis admits what voters want him to admit

Grown-ups know that almost nothing you see in politics is spontaneous. But the degree to which Gray Davis’ actions and statements are dialed in by polling is extraordinary, and here’s a great example.

Wednesday night at 7 p.m., minutes after the recall was certified, Republican pollster Frank Luntz predicted to me that Davis would make some acknowledgement of mistakes he’s made as governor. This would be difficult for a governor who’s maintained all along that there was nothing he’d do different. But Luntz insisted his polling showed that such a gesture of contrition was the only chance Davis had to survive. Eighteen hours later, here is what Davis said in Los Angeles:

“While they (voters) have problems with me, while I've made mistakes, while we have a tough economy all across the country, at the end of the day, I believe they will acknowledge we have been making progress in a tough economy."

The governor would not specify what mistakes he believed he had made, but he sounded humbled by the political developments that have culminated in the announcement of the state's first gubernatorial recall election.

"Not everything that I've done has worked out as well as I thought it could," Davis said. "I'm human, like everyone else."

The story on Davis’ comments is in the Los Angeles Times. The headline: “Davis admits mistakes but says he remains confident” Read it here.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:37 AM



Do the math

Estimated, one-time cost of recall election: $30 million.
Estimated 30-year cost of Thursday's state credit rating downgrade: $1 billion.
Annualized cost of credit downgrade: $33 million.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:18 AM



Budget miracle or more smoke and mirrors?

The Senate hasn’t yet released all the details of the budget deal reached Thursday, but I can tell you this: something does not compute. Somehow they closed the gap while also agreeing to pay raises for state employees and cost of living increases to the welfare program for the disabled and aged. Cuts planned earlier for Med-Cal benefits were also set aside. And school officials, while claiming they are taking the biggest cuts in history (at least on paper) seem thrilled with the outcome. Teachers are pleased that the deal restores a teacher tax credit that was suspended last year. With all that rejoicing, John Burton and Jim Brulte have either performed a fiscal miracle or more budget sleight-of-hand. You decide.

You will be hearing a lot from legislative leaders and, especially, the governor, that they have whittled the deficit down from $38 billion to $8 billion, which sounds like substantial progress. But here’s another way of looking at it:

First, the shortfall was never $38 billion. At least $5 billion of that was future spending projected by the governor and no one else and then taken away, to produce phantom cuts. So let’s say it was $33 billion.

The biggest piece of that -- $11 billion – was erased with borrowing, an $11 billion deficit bond that will be repaid over at least five years, with the first payment not even beginning until the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2004. That gets you down to $22 billion.

Another $4.2 billion comes from tripling the car tax, a move Davis engineered by administrative fiat and which is now the subject of a lawsuit. At least $500 million comes from new fees. So let’s round up and count these items as $5 billion, which reduces your number to $17 billion.

I haven’t seen the final list, but I think they’ve got at least $5 billion in other gimmicks in there, the biggest of which is the $2 billion bond to pay this year’s pension obligations.

That brings the subtotal down to about $12 billion. I’m still looking for the detail on how they closed the rest of that gap. But based on the lack of howling from interest groups, very little of it is coming in real cuts. Besides, the leaders acknowledge that an $8 billion gap remains to be addressed next year. So they really haven’t erased the problem.

In fact, the $8 billion (I think it will be more like $10 billion) gap is really the same gap they have had all along. The big number bandied about this year was largely the result of failing to deal with that $10 billion hole three years running. So this year they borrowed to finance the accumulated deficit and raised the car tax to make a dent in the structural problem. Not a whole lot more.

The irony is that Democrats accused Republicans of holding out to help the recall, but Brulte here has cut a deal that seems designed to save Davis from the recall by papering over the problem and allowing the governor to take credit for reducing the deficit.

UPDATE: Sen. Brulte protests. His budget deal was not designed to save Davis, he says. OK. I should not have tried to read his mind. I should have said instead that Davis will use the Brulte-Burton budget deal to try save himself. And I predict the governor will get at least a small bump in the polls in the days ahead.


Posted by dweintraub at 7:14 AM



July 24, 2003

World exclu: Kemp not running for gov

Matt Drudge has a "world exclusive" reporting that former Rep. Jack Kemp is thinking of running for governor. Here's my take, admittedly based on at least as much fact as Drudge's report: It's not going to happen. Kemp is a huge Bill Simon fan and was a major player in Team Simon last year. All indications are that Simon is running again. And you can expect to see Kemp by his side again.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:28 PM



Filing deadline: Aug. 9

Kevin Shelley has posted the candidate qualification rules on his website. The filing deadline is Aug. 9. The signature requirements are also there, but they are too complicated to go into here. See them for yourself here.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:22 PM



Is deficit bond legal?

As John Burton and Jim Brulte formally roll out their budget deal this afternoon, this might be a good time to remark on the one part of the budget that Capitol journos have been writing for weeks now was a certainty: the $11 billion bond to finance the state’s accumulated deficit. If you recall, the only debate was about how to repay the debt. Democrats wanted to raise the sales tax to do it. Republicans wanted to do it out of current revenues. The Republicans, at least in the Senate, have prevailed. But…

Is the scheme legal? The state constitution prohibits borrowing more than $300,000 without a vote of the people. While court decisions have permitted short-term “revenue anticipation” bonds for cash flow or to tide the state over in tough times, the breadth and scope of this bond would be unprecedented. Now the Pacific Legal Foundation has threatened to sue if the bonds go forward without a public vote.

Such a suit would place into doubt the two biggest pieces of the budget deal: the $4.2 billion tripling of the car tax engineered by Davis earlier this month, and the $10.7 billion deficit bond. Court decisions nullifying either one of them would be a devastating blow to the state’s fiscal condition, perhaps even enough to send California into insolvency. As painful as it would be, it just might be prudent for the governor and state lawmakers to put the bond bill to a vote of the people. Properly packaged, it might well pass. But if they fail to do so, the consequences could cripple state finances.

For your reading pleasure, here is an excerpt, per the Pacific Legal Foundation, of an 1857 state Supreme Court decision (Nogues v. Douglass) on this issue:


"...the framers of that instrument [the California Constitution, with its debt limit] knew that it was not the practice of governments, well conducted, to borrow money for the ordinary expenses of government. These expenses are regular and certain, and can easily be provided for by taxation. In reference to such expenses, there is no cause for surprise upon the Legislature. It is easy to anticipate their amount with a reasonable degree of certainty, and the framers of the Constitution knew that if they permitted the Legislature to borrow money to defray the ordinary expenses of the government, it would not be long before the State must be brought practically to rely upon the yearly revenue; for the reason, that a yearly deficit of the revenue would soon destroy the credit of the State, so that she could not borrow for any such purpose. A family, or State, that borrows to pay ordinary expenses, must soon have no power to borrow; and as the State, from the very nature of the case, must sooner or later come to the point of "paying as you go," it was wise in the framers of our Constitution, to bring her to it at an early period. There was time gained and money saved...Besides this, the Convention doubtless thought it unjust to throw the burden of paying the present expenses of the government upon posterity, who would be compelled, in addition, to pay their own expenses, or resort to the same method of postponement."

Posted by dweintraub at 5:01 PM



The Cruz-in-ator

I started out writing a column for today that was highly critical of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante for his suggestion that the recall election need not include a vote on candidates to replace Davis. In fact, I had that column written and ready to run. But by the end of the day, Bustamante had backed away from that position and was insisting to me that he would only set the date for the vote, while Secretary of State Shelley would decide the questions to appear on that ballot. Bustamante maintained that this was his position all along, but he refused to say that stories in the Bee and elsewhere Tuesday reporting otherwise were inaccurate. I got the feeling that he was trying to somehow engineer the "Cruz for governor" strategy without leaving his fingerprints, but if that was his goal, he was doing a lousy job at it. In the end I decided to simply let events play out and see what Bustamante does today. We should know within a few hours.

So instead of ripping Cruz, I wrote a new column late last night laying out all the questions that still remain as the recall moves forward. You can read it here.

For more on the possibility that the "Commission on the Governship" will intervene, see the Bee's story here.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:36 AM



Recall pollster: race still a toss-up

Republican pollster Frank Luntz, on retainer to the Rescue California recall committee, will brief reporters today on a survey he completed recently for the forces seeking to remove Gray Davis from office. Luntz is clearly a hired gun, but he is not painting a one-sided picture. The election, he says, is still very much up for grabs.

"It is simply too soon to call the outcome of the recall," Luntz says in a summary. "A low turnout (less than a third of the electorate) will almost surely lead to the governor's removal, but a high turnout (more than half the electorate) and several important strategic decisions by the governor could still keep him in office."

Luntz says half of those who voted for Davis a year ago disapprove of his performance and 23 percent say they will definitely or probably vote to remove him. The recall does better among those under 30 (60-36 in favor) and support declines with age, with seniors evenly split at 47-46. People without college degrees are overwhelminly supportive (60-35) while college grads are split (48-47). Overall Luntz found a 53-41 edge for the recall but noted that ballot measures starting out with a bare majority rarely pass, because opponents are able to raise questions that give voters pause.

Luntz tried to measure voter passion and says he found, not surprisingly, that recall supporters are much more dedicated to their cause than those who back Davis. He said 87 percent of those who favor the recall say they will "definitely, positively, absolutely vote," while just 53 percent of those who oppose the recall are equally emphatic about their participation.

Luntz predicts that Davis will issue some sort of mea culpa along the way and ask the voters to forgive his mistakes. This would be out of character for the gov, who has said in many interviews that if he could live the past four years over again he wouldn't do anything different. But Luntz says his polling and focus groups detected that such an apology might work in the governor's favor. Alas, he says the time for Davis to do it might have been before the recall qualified, as now it would appear to be a desperate move. Too little, too late, Luntz said.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:17 AM



New budget emerging, same old deficit

As the recall story played out at the Secretary of State's office Wednesday, Senate leaders were finishing up talks on another "get-out-of-town" budget, the details of which should begin to emerge today. The outline: no new taxes beyond the governor's tripling of the car tax. Lots of debt. A few cuts. And a big problem left over for next year. The budget deal will openly finance about $11 billion of the deficit while using tricks, gimmicks and shifts to delay the most serious pain. It appears as if the state will be facing a new, $10 billion shortfall by January.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:00 AM



July 23, 2003

Shelley certifies recall

The recall is certified. Shelley says 1.3 million valid signatures have been verified by the counties. He also says the election must include a question about the successor should Davis be recalled. Bustamante now seems willing to go along with that, though some mystery remains. We might yet hear from the Commission on the Governorship. Bustamante plans a press conference Thursday to announce the election date. Most likely: Oct. 7.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:26 PM



Cruz backing off

I am blogging live from the secretary of state's office, where Kevin Shelley is expected to announce the official Davis recall signature count sometime after the close of business today. It's a media zoo outside with the mob awaiting his word.Latest news--Cruz Buztamante might be backing off his position that voters will get a recall election only with no chance to choose a successor. He just told me via telephone that his job is only to pick a date, and it's up to others to decide what form the election will take. More on that later tonight.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:32 PM



Burton asked to intervene

Opponents of holding an election to replace Davis should he be recalled have sent Sen. Burton a letter asking him to submit the question to the state Supreme Court. I find the letter's argument against the election unpersuasive, but it does contain some interesting historical details. You can see the text here. Hat tip to Election Law Blogger Rick Hasen.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:55 PM



Then there's Marx, Stalin and FDR...

You have to wonder when UC Berkeley tries to delve into the origins of conservative thought. But you wouldn’t expect even Berkeley to link Hitler, Mussolini and Ronald Reagan in one sentence. And then throw in Rush Limbaugh for good measure. But that’s exactly what four researchers – two from Berkeley, one from Stanford and one from the University of Maryland -- have concluded after reviewing 50 years of research on the “psychology of conservatism.”

According to a Berkeley press release trumpeting the findings:

“Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the authors said. Hitler, Mussolini and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form. Talk host Rush Limbaugh can be described in the same way.”

The common psychological denominators?

Fear and aggression; dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity; uncertainty avoidance; need for cognitive closure; and terror management.

Read the entire press release here.

UPDATE: Angry Clam had this yesterday. Go here to see more, including the full study.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:41 AM



Et tu, Cruz?

California now has a potential constitutional crisis on its hands:

An unofficial survey of counties by the Bee suggests that Secretary of State Kevin Shelley will get the word by today that more than enough signatures have been collected and verified to qualify the recall for the ballot. Shelley and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who will set the election date, have said they will act quickly. Bustamante also said he will likely set the election at the far end of the 60-to-80-day window, making Oct. 7 the most likely date. But…

In a stunning development, Bustamante also told the Bee here that he will not call an election for a successor to Davis. The election, he said, will be on the recall only. And he will leave up to a commission dominated by Democrats the decision about whether to ask the California Supreme court if a replacement election must also be held. If there is no replacement election and Davis is recalled, Bustamante would succeed him as governor.

This is a scenario first floated last Friday by my colleague Dan Walters. While at first I thought it had credence, further research suggests to me that it does not. The theory rests on the words “if appropriate” in the following language from the constitution:

SEC. 15. (a) An election to determine whether to recall an officer and, if appropriate, to elect a successor shall be called by the Governor and held not less than 60 days nor more than 80 days from the date of certification of sufficient signatures.

Bustamante is suggesting that those words mean there should not be an election for a successor because the constitution already lays out a method for filling a vacancy in the governor’s office, namely promoting the lieutenant governor, Bustamante.

Those words were added to the constitution in 1974, with no suggestion at the time that they meant to stop an election of a governor’s successor in the event of a recall. It makes more sense to conclude that they apply to the case of appellate court justices, who can be recalled but are never elected. If one of them were recalled, the governor would have to appoint a successor.

The original language in the 1911 amendment with which the voters created the recall included extensive provisions for a successor election and no suggestion that it was optional.

Bustamante is making mischief here, at some peril to the state and, I would suggest, at great peril to his own political career.

UPDATE: Election Law blogger Rick Hasen says here that it would be best for California if the state Supreme Court stepped in to settle all the questions about the election promptly and cleanly. While I agree this might be necessary, I note that Bustamante isn't calling on the court for a ruling; he is invoking the Democrat-dominated Commission on the Governorship. That's where the mischief lies.


Posted by dweintraub at 6:05 AM



July 22, 2003

State official: elections "failure" possible

State elections officials, speaking with reporters on background this afternoon, raised questions about the ability of the state and the county registrars to hold an orderly recall election if they get just 60 days notice, the minimum required by state Constitution. But the officials, from the office of Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, said the maximum time allowed —80 days-– wouldn’t be much better. One official warned that a Florida-style “disaster” might be in the offing, saying he feared that California might see a “failure” of its electoral system.

The comments sounded a bit on the panicky side to me, but the task ahead of elections officials is undeniably large.

Among the challenges:
--The counties must print 15 million ballots and 15 million sample ballots and deliver them to voters, and then process absentee ballot requests for millions of those voters.
--The state must print 12 million ballot pamphlets.
--The counties must arrange for 25,000 polling places and 100,000 poll volunteers, and make sure they are all trained.
--Several counties have junked their old punchcard voting systems and have just taken delivery of new voting systems, which they hadn’t planned to activate until March, 2004. They will need to get those up and running, test them, and train staff, volunteers and voters on how to use them.

Various problems in any of these areas could leave voters not knowing where to vote, not knowing what they are voting on, or not knowing how to use the voting equipment.

For the last statewide special election, in 1993, the counties had about 130 days to prepare.


Posted by dweintraub at 4:56 PM



Recall + Bill signings = more intrigue

An alert reader with a devilish mind prompts me to examine the legislative calendar for the rest of 2003 and consider how the recall might interact with the deadlines to produce some bizzare scenarios. Namely, the session ends Sept. 12, and the governor, whoever he may be, has until Oct. 12 to sign or veto hundreds of bills that come to his desk at the end of the session. Suppose the election, as appears quite likely, is Sept. 30 or Oct. 7, or, as is possible, even Sept. 23. That means that Davis will be in the middle of the bill-signing period when Election Day arrives. Forget the fact that this is a task that has been known to absorb 14 to 18 hours a day of the governor's time at its peak. Consider the potential effect on the campaign if he signs or vetoes a controversial bill in the days before the election (drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, anyone?) And if he loses, and is forced out of office, will he remain in power long enough to act on bills after he has been ousted? Or would the new governor step into the job with 500 bills on his desk and 10 days to act on them? Oh what tangled webs....

UPDATE: Another reader points out that Kevin Shelley would have 28 days to certify the election results, and Davis would remain in office during that time. Which means, under that scenario, he would be free to decide the life or death of hundreds of bills after the voters have said they wanted him out. But he could do so at his leisure.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:21 PM



Gum on your shoes

Garry South on the recall prize:

"Let's say you run and you win: what have you won? You get no transition period. You take over a staff appointed by Gray Davis. There are seven constitutional officers who are Democratic -- all of whom can investigate you, audit you and have press conferences on the steps of the Capitol against you. The budget deficit doesn't go away. Not one more job is created. It doesn't bring the economy back. It doesn't pay back the millions you've lost in homeland security. Except now the gum isn't on Gray Davis' shoes -- it's on yours. The highlight of your career will be the day you are elected. It will be all downhill from there."

From the San Francisco Chronicle. Here.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:19 AM



Urgent: politicians acting political

The story of the Democrats' taped strategy session is all over the papers this morning, and you can expect Republicans to try to pound home the story in a news conference scheduled for later today. While I think the conversation is revealing, I wouldn't make too much of it. The tape simply confirms that Democrats are politicians too. (They sometimes try to create another impression). Look, politics at its best is a tool for making public policy. As long as they're not breaking any laws, I'm not bothered by politicians trying to shape events to help further their beliefs. But let's be straight about this. We do know that if Republicans were caught on tape talking about delaying the budget to help the recall, there would be hell to pay.

The Bee's story on the flap is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:13 AM



July 21, 2003

Can you hear me now?

One of the hidden benefits of term limits is that all the new legislators don’t always realize that the Capitol intercom system that normally broadcasts committee hearings is left on at odd times, and meetings they think are private end up being quite public. That’s apparently what happened this afternoon to a bunch of Assembly Democrats plotting budget strategy in a closed hearing room. Some alert Republican staffers, hearing the meeting on the Capitol squawk box system, taped a portion of it and have distributed a transcript. I haven’t heard the tape myself, so I can’t vouch for the precision of the transcription, so I am not going to quote it directly. But you will likely be hearing a lot about this tomorrow, and the gist is this: the Dems were speculating that a delay in adopting the budget would both hurt the Davis recall and help their effort to pass a ballot measure next year lowering the vote requirement for a budget from two-thirds to 55 percent. They mentioned polling and advice from the California Teachers Assn. along these lines. There were hints that it might be in the Dems best interest to drag out approval of the budget this summer, even as they speculated that the Senate would soon reach a deal and send a budget to the Assembly. Scandal? No. But more than a bit ironic, given that the Democrats have been accusing the Republicans of delaying the budget for partisan motives. Look for more on this in the morning papers.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:34 PM



Garry South (and I) on the air re Arnold

Davis adviser Garry South and I appear on the Warren Olney radio show on KCRW in LA tonight at 7 p.m., discussing Arnold's viability as a candidate. Our discussion follows Olney's brief interview with California First Lady Sharon Davis. You can hear the program here now.

Sharon Davis did her usual fine job defending her husband, but she also let slip this line, which I can't believe was in her talking points:

"The governor's office is a buck-stops-here job. You are responsible. And so we expect our governor to make tough decisions."

It seems to me that she has zeroed in on exactly the weakness most likely to cost her husband his job.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:11 PM



Newsweek does California

Maybe California's crisis is about over: The national news magazines have discovered it. Newsweek does California on this week's cover, along with a q and a with the defiant gov.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:13 PM



Shelley: counties working 24-7

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley says county officials are working "around the clock" to try to meet the Wednesday, 5 p.m. deadline for verifying all the Davis recall signatures they received by July 16.

"I have directed my staff to work closely with them to ensure they are proceeding in a timely and accurate fashion,” Shelley said in a statement just released to the media. “Each county will be assigned an individual elections expert who will assist them throughout the remainder of this process.”

It's not clear to me whether Shelley is sincere here or is merely trying to create the impression of urgency so that he can escape the wrath of the recall supporters if the job isn't done by Wednesday. We'll just have to see whether all his leaf-beating produces results, or not.

Shelley's office is posting updated totals of raw and verified signatures on the Secretary of State's website. See them here.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:39 PM



More pitfalls in recall laws

Election law expert Fred Woocher explains here why the $3,500 filing fee and 65 signatures that the Secretary of State has said will qualify anyone for the recall election might not apply. If Woocher is correct, the upcoming filing period might be a legal donnybrook. Hat tip to Election Law blogger Rick Hasen.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:43 AM



July 20, 2003

The $36,000-wheelchair

The LA Times has a solid, and sensitive, story on a touchy topic: the rising cost of wheelchairs that the state buys through the Medi-Cal program for the poor. Turns out there’s evidence that California, unlike other big buyers, doesn’t use its clout to negotiate lower prices on high-tech chairs that can cost tens of thousands of dollars each. We’re basically paying retail. Last year’s tab: $66 million. It’s stories like this that leave you wondering. Maybe there is a way to cut costs without eliminating services. But as long as the debate centers on programs and not efficiencies, we’ll never get there. The story is here. Registration required, but use mine: californiainsider/insider

Posted by dweintraub at 6:37 AM



Davis campaign begins

The gov kicked off his anti-recall campaign in San Francisco with familiar themes Saturday, telling 225 supporters that the drive to remove him from office is a contest between the future and the past. "This election is not about changing governors,” Davis said. “This is about changing direction. We want to go forward. They want to go backward." You will be hearing that line a lot in the coming days, along with the complaint that the special recall election will cost $30 million or more. Recall supporters will counter that the chronic budget shortfall is costing the state that much -- and more -- every day. And then there’s this: the law allows a governor who survives a recall to be reimbursed by the taxpayers for the expense of defending himself. So it could actually be cheaper to remove Davis than to keep him. The Bee’s story on the SF rally is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:28 AM



July 19, 2003

Young Voters for Arnold

Two recent UCLA grads have started an "Arnold for Governor" site that appears to be more than just a fanzine. Looks as if it could be the start of a trend that I've predicted will sweep Arnold in if he runs: young voters and voters who have generally tuned out of the political process will get behind him. They won't be the only ones, but they will give him a ton of energy and volunteers. If he runs, it will be as a Republican. But the campaign would look a lot like a third-party insurgency.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:22 PM



Shelley orders counties to check all sigs by Wednesday

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley just announced that he has ordered the 58 counties to verify all Davis Recall signatures submitted by July 16 and report the valid total to him by Wednesday, July 23. If the counties comply, this will almost certainly result in sufficient signatures being reported by Wednesday to qualify the recall for the ballot. Once Shelley determines that the counties have verified a sufficient number of signatures, he will certify the count and the election clock will start ticking. The election will be 60 to 80 days after Shelley issues that certification. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante will officially set the date, but his discretion will be limited. Unless further court action interrupts the process, the election will likely be on either Sept. 30 or Oct. 7. If Shelley and Bustamante were to act immediately on Wednesday or Thursday, the election could be as early as Sept. 23, but that's unlikely. Shelley said he was issuing the order in reaction to the appellate court action Friday in Sacramento.

Read Shelley's directive here. A one-page PDF file.

REMINDER: The filing deadline for candidates who decide to run in the race to replace Davis is 59 days before the election. So y'all get ready to sign up, ya hear?

Posted by dweintraub at 4:11 PM



Democratic 'suicide pact'

Green Party leader Peter Camejo, in this Sacramento Bee story, defends his decision to run in the recall, saying top Democrats have entered a "suicide pact" by agreeing not to have a candidate in the race. Combined with the Arianna boomlet, which doesn't look too serious at this point but is at least an outlet for frustration, I think it is becoming clear that the left will not sit idly through this election. Somebody is going to run and shatter the Davis message that the recall is a right-wing coup.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:03 AM



More mo for the 'Brentwood Populist'

Arianna v. Arnold? The Hybrid v. the Hummer? Dion Nissenbaum waxes speculative in this morning's San Jose Mercury News.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:51 AM



July 18, 2003

Shelley: 575,926 and counting. Huh?

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has released Davis recall numbers he says reflect what the county clerks and registrars have reported to him as of 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Raw signature count: 575,926
Verified signatures: 33,504

Both the raw and verified count are quite a bit lower than you might expect if you have been following the story. The recall proponents say they have submitted 1.7 million signatures. Based on spot checks I did of their numbers earlier in the process, there is no reason to doubt them now. The best explanation for the lower figures Shelley is reporting is that these are unofficial numbers, and the checks are not foolproof. Also, don’t interpret the gap to suggest that the vast majority of the signatures are invalid. It simply reflects the fact that the counties haven’t gotten very far in verifying the signatures they have received.

Shelley plans to update the numbers regularly until the measure qualifies for the ballot or is otherwise disposed of. Check his website here.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:03 PM



Appellate court: Shelley was wrong

Mickey Kaus might have nominated me for governor, but perhaps I'll begin my government career as a justice instead. The 3rd District Appellate Court has issued a ruling suggesting that Secretary of State Kevin Shelley was wrong when he told the counties that they need not verify the recall signatures as they come in but could wait a month to do so. Shelley and his bipartisan team of lawyers pounded me a couple of weeks back when I wrote that I believed he had misread the law. Now the court says it's inclined to rule against Shelley and is prepared to consider the matter in full on July 31. The issue might be moot by then, however, since almost all of the counties are verifying the signatures on schedule. But this ruling increases the likelihood that the election will be early, rather than late, perhaps as soon as the end of September.

Read the entire opinion here.

NOTE: This post was updated to reflect that the court action was a tentative opinion pending further hearing.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:22 PM



Ever heard of the "Commission on the Governorship"

If the question over succession to the governor’s office in the event of a recall has legs, the debate will soon turn to sections of the state Constitution and Government Code that describe that process. And we find some interesting nuggets there.

Article V, Section 10 of the Constitution says the lieutenant governor becomes governor in the event of a vacancy. It also provides that the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction “to determine all questions” regarding succession. And intriguingly, it calls for “a body” to be created by the Legislature to consider such questions, and gives that body exclusive standing to raise questions about vacancies.

The make-up of that Commission on the Governorship is described in section 12070 of the government code: President pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, the President of the University of California, the Chancellor of the California State Colleges, and the
Director of Finance. That is, at the moment, three Democrats and two educational bureaucrats appointed by boards now controlled by Democrats.

The law gives the commission “exclusive authority” to petition the Supreme Court regarding vacancies in and succession to the office of Governor.

That seems to suggest that the question over the meaning of “if appropriate” in the recall section of the Constitution, if pressed, would be decided by the Supreme Court, and the only body with standing to press it is a commission dominated by Democrats.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:05 PM



It's appropriate

I thought Dan Walters might be on to something with his theory that Bustamante could call a recall election that would include no successor election, allowing him to move up if Davis were ousted. But now I don't think so. It turns out the "if appropriate" phrase cited by Walters was added in a 1974 clean-up of the constitution that was written by a Constitutional Revision commission and approved by the voters. It was described as non-substantive, but in fact did change some important points. For instance, it eliminated the six-month grace period at the start of an officer's term, a factor that would have come into play in the Davis Recall.

There is no explanation in the ballot pamphlet for why those words were added. But looking back on the original provision, it's clear that the framers intended successor elections. It would be difficult to argue that such a fundamental change would have been contemplated in 1974 with no discussion or debate.

The original Constitutional provision, adopted in 1911, was quite lengthy and wordy, but it definitely called for a successor election along with the recall. In fact, the emphasis of the language was on the election of a successor, rather than on the recall itself. Part of the original language says this:

“The procedure hereunder to effect the removal of an incumbent of an elective public office shall be as follows: A petition signed by electors entitled to vote for a successor of the incumbent sought to be removed, equal in number to at least 12 percent of the entire vote cast at the last preceding election of all candidates for the office which the incumbent sought to be removed occupies…demanding an election of a successor to the officer named in said petition, shall be addressed to the secretary of state…”

The original amendment goes on to specify in some detail exactly how the ballot should look, including the listing of two questions, one on whether to recall the officer, the other on who should succeed him. All of this detail was removed from the Constitution in 1974 and moved to the elections code.

If you want to see it, Hastings College of Law has a database here. Warning, the pdf file is very large and extremely hard to read. The amendment is on page 10 of 37.

Alternatively, you can read the 1974 amendment, which has the original language stricken out but legible. That one is here.


Posted by dweintraub at 12:42 PM



Recall roundup

Lots of juicy recall news this morning:

The Contra Costa Times has surveyed the counties and says they are well on their way to verifying enough signatures for an early election, perhaps as soon as the end of September.

My colleague Dan Walters spills out an intriguing scenario under which Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante could call the recall election but limit it to and up or down vote on Davis with no decision on a successor. Who would become governor if Davis were ousted? Bustamante. Read it here.

UPDATE. Read Election Law blogger Rick Hasen's take here, in which he casts doubts on the Walters' scenario.


The Bee also reports on a recall campaign strategy memo that lays out how the governor’s opponents should kill Davis softly.

Copley News Service has the latest on the FEC case involving an Arizona congressman that might foreshadow a ruling finding that Darrell Issa ran afoul of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in his early financing of the recall campaign. If that happens, look for the Davis forces to label the entire effort illegitimate and sue (again) to halt the election.

Finally, did anyone notice DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe’s nod to democracy when he came to LA to defend Davis yesterday?

"I want the folks here in California to know that we are not going to have another Democrat on the ballot. I think that is the single biggest message I can give today," McAuliffe said. “If you are a California voter and you want to vote to recall Gray Davis, you are not going to have an option but a bunch of right-wing conservatives on the ballot."

Posted by dweintraub at 7:53 AM



July 17, 2003

They could have unionized the Fedayeen

Some of the San Francisco peace activists who protested to save Saddam before the war have now gone to Baghdad to keep a close eye on the U.S. military occupation forces and the private companies working on the reconstruction, reports the SF Chronicle. “This is a test of our rights – of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly – and we will press those to the full extent,” San Francisco activist Medea Benjamin tells the Chronicle. Among other things, the activists hope to establish Iraqi labor unions and an organization to work for human rights. Strange. I wonder why they waited until after the fall of Saddam to set up their human rights shop in downtown Baghdad.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:16 PM



It's catching: Suspend the Constitution

California Schools chief Jack O'Connell elaborated this afternoon on his threat to file a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to force a Nevada-style break in the state budget deadlock. O’Connell said he expects his department’s attorneys to file a petition early next week “seeking a ruling that would suspend the two-thirds requirement for passing a budget or increasing revenues, and instead, allow a simple majority.”
No word yet on why O'Connell doesn't simply ask the Legislature to pass the education budget by a simple majority, which the state Constitution allows. I think the answer is pretty clear. This suit has no chance of prevailing, and O'Connell is grandstanding to put pressure on Republican lawmakers and win brownie points for himself with the education lobby.

UPDATE. State Treasurer Phil Angelides has just announced that he will join O'Connell in this lawsuit. This is a shame. I have had a lot of respect for Angelides in the past, even when I haven't agreed with him. But stooping to this level, asking the courts to intervene in the business of the Legislature, asking judges to set aside the state Constitution, is beneath him, or at least beneath the man I thought he was. He is either pandering or he has lost respect for the rule of law that underpins our liberal democracy. Either way it's got to be the low point in his career.

NOTE: For a more detailed explanation of how California law differs from Nevada, see my earlier post below.


Posted by dweintraub at 2:36 PM



The lawyer, the publicist and me

I got an e-mail yesterday from a law firm publicist that I think says a lot about what’s wrong with the legal profession today. I’m not going to identify the lawyer or the publicist, but I want to share most of what was in the note. The publicist identified her client, the lawyer, as offering an “expert legal opinion” that might be of use to journalists covering the recall litigation. The lawyer, she said, worked on the recent challenge to punch-card voting in California and had “numerous issues” with the recall. Among them:

1) The procedural problems in having this election in an off-year -- there tends to be low participation in off-years, thus a small number of voters could decide the recall. The off-year electorate also skews more conservative and opponents of the Governor will be drawn to this race.
(2) Coupling the recall with a candidate election for the new governor burdens the electorate with a potentially moot (but nevertheless expensive and time consuming) campaign and election. It also permits a small number of voters to decide who will be governor; restricts available choices because viable Democrats might not run because they do not want to undermine the Governor, but then the party could be left without its best candidates if the recall succeeds.
(3) Unlimited spending on this campaign -- There are no limits on campaign expenditures because they are independent expenditures on an issue (the recall), not a candidate election. The result is potentially unbridled spending.
(4) Constitutional issues with the refusal to acquiesce in the election of the winning candidate. Is there a real ground for recall here? What are the proper grounds for recall?
(5) Will this become a trend nationwide if it succeeds?

As you can see, very little of this has anything to do with the law. The concerns raised are political. They may be valid arguments against the recall, but they are not legal arguments. Yet this is an experienced election law lawyer who holds himself out as an expert on this issue. Today he’s just trying to get quoted in a major newspaper. Tomorrow, presumably, he could be filing suit or serving as an expert on an anti-recall case. That’s sad.

UPDATE: Rick Hasen (not the lawyer involved) replies here, suggesting that I've come down too hard on the attorney. Hasen says lawyers, when offering expertise, need not confine themselves to courtroom matters and might in fact make good commentators on related issues outside the scope of the law. I agree. But I took this solicitation, coming as it did the day after the first legal challenge was filed, as implying that the issues raised were potential legal obstacles to the recall, when most if not all of them seemed to be concerns clearly in the realm of the legislative branch or left to the people to decide.



Posted by dweintraub at 9:15 AM



Riot in the streets of LA?

The LAPD officer who writes under the name Jack Dunphy for the National Review Online suggests in this column that the city might see riots once again if a jury acquits two Inglewood officers of charges filed after one of them roughed up a teenager during an arrest last summer. And Dunphy says the trial has not been going well for the prosecution.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:57 AM



How big is teeny?

The Chron has more details about Issa's gun possession arrest as a 19-year-old college student. The cop who cuffed him disputes the congressman's story.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:01 AM



Bush losing ground in California

Today's Field Poll release says California's view of the president has dropped to its lowest level since the Sept. 11 attacks, with his approval rating here standing at 49-41. Also: the state has turned against Bush on the economy, is not thrilled with the Iraq war aftermath and generally thinks the nation is moving in the wrong direction. Read the whole PDF file here.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:55 AM



July 16, 2003

Monkey see, monkey do

State schools Supt. Jack O'Connell just announced that he intends to ask the California Supreme Court on Thursday to intervene in the budget battle "on behalf of the state's six million schoolchildren." O'Connell said he will ask the court to "break the Legislative impasse in order to get a budget and allow California schools to get on with the job of educating our children."

This appears to be a move aping the recent confrontation between the governor of Nevada and the Legislature in which the Supreme Court there ordered lawmakers to raise taxes by majority vote, in violation of the Nevada constitution's required two-thirds majority. But California is not Nevada. The California constitution does have a two-thirds requirement for the budget and tax increases. But the constitution specifically exempts school spending, allowing that item to be approved by majority vote. Democrats can pass a school budget whenever they like, without Republican votes (though Republicans would probably join them.) Why don't the Dems do this? Because they don't want to lose the leverage and political base they get from keeping the popular schools, which serve the middle class, hitched to health and welfare spending for the poor, about which the public is less enthusiastic. I suppose someone could argue that an adequate schools budget can't pass without a tax increase, and that would require a two-thirds vote. But there's a problem there, too: Gov. Gray Davis and Democratic lawmakers are trying like heck to pass a half-cent sales tax increase with a legal maneuver that would keep the new money away from the schools. So O'Connell's trip to the Supreme Court appears to have very little significance other than as a political stunt. Shocked?

Note. Below is the relevant language from Article IV, Section 12 of the Constitution. Thanks to Fred Silva for anticipating this debate and reminding me of the provision last week.

Appropriations from the General Fund of the State, except appropriations for the public schools, are void unless passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two thirds of the membership concurring.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:56 PM



Davis: recall not affecting budget talks

At a heavily promoted Capitol news conference this afternoon that was otherwise devoid of news, Gov. Gray Davis, in response to a question, said he doesn't think the recall is affecting his budget deliberations with legislative leaders. To his credit, Davis offered a mature, intelligent analysis of the situation that boiled down to this: it's a clash of values. Here's what he said, in full:

“I believe the legislative leaders want to get a budget done. As you know, one of them is opposed to the recall and the other one doesn’t have much use for it. The people I’m negotiating with I believe want to find a solution. They just have a very different world view than I do as a Democrat. We are narrowing those differences. There are other people in the Legislature that have participated financially in the recall. I certainly hope that’s not affecting their budget decisions. I do not think the people would stand for that. Those questions are best put to them. I can vouch for the earnestness of the four legislative leaders I deal with, and I think their actions are not influenced by the recall.”

Posted by dweintraub at 3:02 PM



"He's just too mean"

I'm a sucker for anyone who does a decent job mocking the attack ad genre that dominates top-of-the-ticket races in California. Here's one that PatheticEarthlings.com imagined Davis would use against Sen. Tom McClintock if McClintock runs in the recall. It's dead-on:

VOICEOVER: As a Freshman Assemblyman, Tom McClintock showed his true colors by voting agianst a resolution encouraging parents to hug their children. Two years later, he voted against a program that would have let children earn money for college by getting their parents to read them bedtime stories... money those children will need for college to be competitive in a world economy. Now Tom McClintock wants to be our Governor?
Vote Against the Recall. Vote For Hugs. And Bedtime Stories.

TOM MCCLINTOCK: WRONG FOR BEDTIME, WRONG FOR CALIFORNIA."

Posted by dweintraub at 1:11 PM



Tax Receivers Against the Recall

The Bee has an editorial today on the agenda of the people who are calling themselves "Taxpayers Against the Recall."

Posted by dweintraub at 8:18 AM



Convicts cited in suit worked for Davis forces

Bob Salladay at the San Francisco Chronicle reports here that the two convicted criminals named in the Davis allies' suit against the recall left the recall campaign to work for Davis forces and were paid to gather signatures on the governor's legally meaningless petitions. Not only that, but the recall campaign leaders say they never turned in petitions circulated by the Arizona pair because organizers suspected a dirty trick.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:24 AM



Sullivan to keep gabbing

Talk show host Tom Sullivan isn't running for California's 3rd District congressional seat after all. Last week I reported that he'd said on the air that he had made a decision but couldn't announce it. He said he'd wanted to wait longer to decide but had to move quickly because of equal time considerations. He also said he had to decide now rather than later because there's so much involved in putting together a campaign. Of course, since his decision was not to run, he could have announced it right then and there rather than leaving his listeners in suspense. Too bad he's not running. With cute talk like that, he would have been a natural.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:16 AM



Who will vote?

A couple of notes on the Field Poll out today, which shows the recall leading by an 8-point margin among likely voters:

First, the margin in favor of the recall dropped from 15 points (54-39) to eight (51-43) when the sample was reduced from all voters to only likely voters. That’s strange, given that the partisan make-up of the sample becomes more Republican and less Democratic when you winnow it to only likely voters. You would think the recall's lead would widen, not shrink. Poll director Mark DiCamillo says one reason that isn't happening is that likely voters tend to be older, and half of the voters in the likely sample were over 50, with almost one-fourth over 65. And older voters tend to be more careful, cautious, worried about upsetting the political system. In other words, those are the voters most susceptible to the anti-recall argument that the election will create chaos in California. But DiCamillo also acknowledged that his sample was not adjusted at all for those likely to vote in a special election, where the electorate could be more conservative and more motivated to oust Davis.

The other finding of note is that Richard Riordan’s potential candidacy seems to be helping the recall side in Los Angeles County. Based solely on partisan breakdowns, DiCamillo said, you would expect the recall to be trailing by 10 points in LA. But it’s dead even. The explanation: voters there have heard that Riordan might run, and that prompts more of them to conclude that the recall would not be a leap into the great unknown. That’s why the answer to the first question on the ballot – should Davis stay or go? – ultimately will depend on the answer to the second: who should replace him?

Finally, given my bullish take on Arnold’s prospects if he runs, I should say that the Field Poll doesn’t entirely agree, at least as of this snapshot. It shows him trailing Riordan, 21-15, with Simon in third at 12 points. Without Riordan, who has told friends he will not run if Arnold does, Schwarzenegger leads at 20 percent with Simon at 15 and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo at 9. In both scenarios, which include no Democratic candidates, fully one-third of those surveyed said they were undecided or would prefer someone else. Many of those who begged off are Democrats who oppose the recall but are still entitled to vote on the replacement. If all the top Democratic pols stick by their pledge to boycott the election, where their voters end up on the replacement question will decide the winner. Finally, many of those who say they support the recall but aren’t likely to vote appear to be younger, Southern California voters, and many of them are Democrats. I think if Arnold runs, they vote.

Download the PDF file of the full 13-page poll here


Posted by dweintraub at 5:50 AM



July 15, 2003

Strange bedfellows

The lawsuit filed today by opponents of the Davis Recall names Secretary of State Kevin Shelley as a defendant and accuses him of giving county registrars bum advice, leading them to verify signatures they should be throwing out. This is ironic, given that Shelley has also been sued by recall supporters, who accuse him of trying to undermine their effort by slowing the verification of the signatures. The allegation in the anti-recall suit stems from an exchange of letters between Shasta County Clerk Ann Reed, who is president of the clerks and registrar’s association, and Shelley. Reed asked Shelley for guidance and told him that the clerks intended to verify signatures even if the circulator was not a registered voter. Shelley did not respond directly, but he referred Reed to a set of guidelines published by the Secretary of State’s office that instructed the clerks to count the signatures even if the circulator was not registered to vote. This appears to be in violation of state law requiring that circulators of recall petitions be registered voters. A parallel law involving ballot measure petitions was amended in 1999 after a US Supreme Court decision ruled such a provision in Colorado unconstitutional. But the court did not rule on the recall question, and the Legislature never changed California’s law in that area. The plaintiffs in the new California case are asking the court to throw out Shelley’s guidelines and require him to adopt regulations that would require counties to disqualify signatures gathered by circulators not registered to vote.

PS. Will consipiracy theorists now suggest that Democrat Shelley, by giving the counties maximum leeway, was setting them up for a fall, knowing that his advice would leave the process vulnerable to challenge?

Posted by dweintraub at 4:12 PM



Study: corporate tax sheltering costs state treasuries $12 bil

An analysis just released by the Multistate Tax Commission concludes that tax shelters are costing the states an average of 35 percent of all corporate tax revenue. While California's estimated loss was below average at 19 percent, the loss in raw dollars was by far the highest among the states: $1.34 billion. I'm not expert enough on tax law to feel qualified to offer an opinion on the validity of the study, but for those of you who are, it's here. Please feel free to let me know what you think.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:56 AM



Why Arnold will win if he runs

Here’s my column today expanding on my theory that political experts are underestimating Arnold’s potential as a candidate. He is the perfect combination of libertarian and pragmatist for California, with a take that essentially says to government: “Keep your nose out of my life but do what’s necessary to give everyone in society a chance to succeed.” Not only that, but he's used a considerable amount of his own time and money to pursue the same ideal -- helping children -- by private means. It’s notable that this is a man who re-examined and dramatically altered his world view after his own life experience seemed to prove it correct. When was the last time you saw that in a politician?

Posted by dweintraub at 6:34 AM



Anti-recall suit detailed; Field Poll on budget released

Alleging voter fraud, opponents of the recall say they will file suit today in Los Angeles seeking to block the election until they have time to investigate the backgrounds of thousands of petition circulators. Among the allegations by Davis allies are that the recall campaign used people who were not registered to vote, who were not state residents and who might have been convicted criminals. The argument is notable because it apparently does not contend that the signatures themselves are invalid, only that some of them were collected through improper means. Based on what I have heard from legal experts and the state’s elections officials, this is not an argument that will fly. The history in things like this is to give the benefit of the doubt to the voter: If someone signed a petition, and they are who they say they are, the signature counts. If the petition circulator did something wrong along the way, their conduct is handled separately, perhaps by prosecution for violating election laws. And it should be noted that the recall campaign still insists that all of their circulators were legal. The Bee’s Margaret Talev has the story.

A new Field Poll is out with terrible news for Davis and his fellow Democrats. Voters are increasingly disgusted with not only the governor but the members of the Legislature, and while they still resist cuts to favorite programs, voters are less likely now than earlier to say that a tax increase will be needed to balance the budget. A majority support a temporary increase in income taxes on higher wage earners, but the car tax increase already implemented is very unpopular, and most voters oppose a plan to raise the sales tax by a half-cent on the dollar to retire the deficit. As my colleague Dan Walters points out, it appears that Davis is so unpopular that the more he advocates for his plan, the less support it has with the public. Read the entire poll here, in a PDF file.


Posted by dweintraub at 6:25 AM



July 14, 2003

Hasen analyzes legal filing in recall -- before it's filed

Election law blogger Rick Hasen, anticipating the filing of lawsuits agaisnt the recall movement Tuesday, beats them to the punch Monday night with a detailed post demonstrating why he thinks their arguments are on legally shaky ground, at best.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:55 PM



No light at the end of this tunnel

The managers of California's electricity grid issued orders for Monday and Tuesday restricting unscheduled maintenance of power plants because the electricity supply was running dangerously thin. This is a long ways from the kind of emergency that forces the curtailment of power or rolling blackouts, but it's a sign that all is still not well with the state's electricity industry, even after the alleged gougers have been brought to bay. Not the kind of news Gray Davis needs at the moment.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:40 PM



Or the "Deficit that ate California"

Arnold seems to be keeping his options open. According to this report from Hollywood, he has begun talks about starring in a new movie, and it's not "Total Recall 2."

Posted by dweintraub at 3:39 PM



1.6 million -- and counting

I just got back from the Recall Davis press conference that began at 10 am at the Capitol. Very low key. Ted Costa, the sponsor, David Gilliard, the primary consultant, and Sen., Tom McClintock, a potential candidate, standing behind a podium in the shade on the north steps of the Capitol. Behind them, some young volunteers held a banner saying the campaign had collected 1.6 million signatures. Costa quickly corrected that. He said they will turn in 1.68 million by the end of today, and potentially 50,000 more. Late last week the signatures came in so quickly that Costa gave power of attorney to four Republican county chairmen to turn in petitions in Southern California. That’s where the extra 50,000 might come from. But the flow continues, and Costa says that the law requires him to turn in any he receives. So he will hold the petitions that arrive from this point forward and submit them just before the Sept. 2 deadline. In all likelihood they will be legally meaningless, but they will prove to be a political boost, especially if they top 2 million, as Costa thinks they might.

Thus begins Phase 2 of the recall campaign, and all eyes are on the counties and Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. Despite some of their public pronouncements, I don’t think the recall supporters really expect everything to be wrapped up by July 23, the next monthly checkpoint. They hope to close in on the number of signatures required to trigger the election, then keep the pressure on the counties to verify the rest and report their numbers sooner rather than later. Costa thinks the election is 100 days away. We will see. Recall proponents also fear the inevitable lawsuits against their effort, amid reports that the first will be filed in Los Angeles today and focus on the allegation that unregistered voters helped collect the signatures in violation of state law.

Democratic Party strategist and attack dog Bob Mulholland arrived after the press conference and suggested that some of the petition circulators were convicted felons from other states. He offered no documentation for that charge. I’m not sure if that would matter. The courts will decide if they have to be registered voters or not.

Gilliard said the campaign ultimately relied on 150,000 registered voters to circulate petitions, although almost all of those were voters who got the petition in the mail and signed it themselves before returning it. He said the campaign used 3,000 paid circulators, and all of them, he believes, were registered voters.

The strategy of the Davis forces is clear at this point: raise enough questions to trigger a full verification of every signature, knowing it won’t stop the recall but hoping that it will delay the election until March. Costa says he doesn’t care whether the election is tomorrow, Nov. 4 or March 2. He thinks Davis is toast.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:13 AM



July 13, 2003

Bee seeds draft-Feinstein movement

The Sacramento Bee’s Sunday editorial rebukes top Democrats for shunning the recall and suggests that Sen. Dianne Feinstein enter the race to replace Davis. The Bee manages to pull off this feat without endorsing the recall itself.

Key quote:

"But more than politically risky to their party, the Democratic strategy is deeply cynical. No one in California thinks less of Gray Davis as governor than the top Democrats who know him best. They know he can't lead. They know he stands for little more than his own survival. They know the description of Davis as "the coin-operated governor" is right on the mark.

Republicans look ready to use the recall to offer California not only an alternative to Davis, but also a choice of philosophies, from conservative to moderate. No one knows how the GOP field will eventually sort out, but it looks like it may include at least Issa and Simon on the party's right as well as at least one moderate from a list that includes Riordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assemblyman Keith Richman.

Yet despite all they know about the governor's liabilities, the Democrats aren't offering an alternative. If Davis survives, he will likely come out with deep political wounds, unable to lead or inspire. So California would have three more years of a scarred chief executive more beholden than ever to his special interest donors. Are Democrats going to tell voters that Davis is all they have to offer?"

Posted by dweintraub at 7:34 AM



Democrat McEnery: Davis must go

Democrat and former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery unloads a blistering condemnation of Gray Davis on the Merc’s op-ed page Sunday. Davis, McEnery says, is worthy of the same description Churchill once famously applied to an opponent: “A modest man with much to be modest about.” But the humor ends quickly:

Some say Davis is not guilty of sufficient misdeeds. Well, I stand instead with those who believe that endangering the economic health of each and every one of us is indeed a capital offense. Once thought so clever for his foray into the Republican primary -- burying the popular Los Angeles mayor, Richard Riordan, in an avalanche of lies and money -- Davis now sees the meaning of ``blow back.''

I also might suggest that selling the highest office in the state to create one of the largest and most mischievous political funds this side of Richard Nixon is a punishable act, in and of itself. Lying on the budget deficit is something that the press takes with a wink and a nod -- a convenient, dangerous case of selective morality.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:33 AM



The inevitability of Arnold

Arnold pal and biographer George Butler tells the SF Chronicle that a political career is "inevitable" -- and has been since Arnold arrived on these shores 35 years ago:

"I've talked with George Bush's top Republican strategists, and they just say he doesn't stand a chance," Butler said in an interview. "All I would say to them is they don't know Arnold. You can never underestimate him."

Butler, who first captured Schwarzenegger in the documentary "Pumping Iron" and wrote a biography of him, said the actor comes into the political world with establishment credentials already -- those of his journalist wife, Kennedy clan-member Maria Shriver, and his business and Hollywood successes.

"He's been electing himself to public office ever since he got into the movies," Butler said. "There is a remarkable similarity to running a movie campaign and a political campaign. You are getting people to do something, to go out and spend money for you. Votes are like movie tickets."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:07 AM



July 12, 2003

Connell...Connell....Connell

Dynamist Virginia Postrel nominates former Controller Kathleen Connell for governor, noting that she has all the qualities Mark Kleiman has demanded in a Democratic savior:

"She's run successfully for statewide office, has independent money, has a particular appeal to women without alienating men, and won plaudits for her strong campaign for L.A. mayor, despite a very late start that made winning impossible." Postrel also jumps in courageously on the Connell angle about which every Sacramento reporter is aware but few have been willing to touch. I can't quote her directly on this family newspaper web page, but you might want to read it for yourself.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:46 PM



Times they are a changin

When I started bookmarking blogs on my browser, I put them in the folder labeled "media," which at the time held all my links to the newspapers I tried to check daily. But now the blogs in that folder far outnumber the print links. So I have just renamed the folder "blogs," and I will move the old media to a new folder of their own.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:04 PM



Prop 13 redux?

Fred Barnes, in the Weekly Standard, says the Davis Recall is a political earthquake in waiting, potentially another Proposition 13. That measure, which cut property taxes in 1978 and triggered a nationwide tax revolt, also came at a time when Democrats controlled almost all state offices and had built huge majorities in the Legislature. Nobody knows this better than Gray Davis, who was Gov. Jerry Brown's chief of staff at the time.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:45 AM



July 11, 2003

Pete was tough, but not as tough as he remembers

This is ancient history, but since I was there to witness it, I feel compelled to set the record straight. In a letter published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, former Gov. Pete Wilson tries to rebut the paper’s charge that he was a “taxer and spender.” Wilson writes that in his first budget, while facing a then unprecedented $7 billion shortfall, he proposed no tax increases while offering cuts in every state program except education. Only later, Wilson says, after the gap widened and fellow Republicans in the Legislature refused to cut school spending, did he reluctantly agree to tax increases. Wilson’s memory, unfortunately, is faulty on both sides of the ledger. A Jan. 11, 1991 story from the Los Angeles Times reports that Wilson’s first budget proposed $1.8 billion in tax increases, including an increase in the car tax, an alcohol tax hike and new levies on newspapers, magazines, candy, and snacks. And even with those taxes, that budget still proposed $2 billion in cuts to K-12 schools and community colleges, a move that would have required the suspension of Proposition 98, the voter-approved constitutional provision that guarantees a minimum level of funding for the schools. “We felt we had to increase certain revenues to avoid Draconian cuts,” Wilson told reporters at the time. “I did not want to cut health programs. I think a tax on candy and newspapers and a tax on beer, wine and hard liquor is a great deal more equitable.” Wilson later regretted his tax package, which eventually grew to more than $7 billion. But history should record that he started the bidding because of his own assessment of the state’s fiscal condition and not because he was left no alternative by his Republican allies or his Democratic opponents.


Posted by dweintraub at 7:48 PM



Save the date

For what it's worth, two well placed legislative staffers, one a Republican and one a Democrat, one from each house, have suggested to me in the past couple of hours that California will have a budget deal by next Thursday, July 17.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:40 PM



1.4 million and counting

The Davis Recall committee says it has mailed petitions containing a total of 1.4 million signatures to counties across the state. Davis Recall and Rescue California plan a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday to announce the final number submitted and put pressure on the counties and Secretary of State Shelley to verify the signatures and certify the recall by July 23.

UPDATE: The final number late Friday was 1.6 million, nearly twice the minimum number required.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:35 PM



Bill Jones might resurface

Don't be surprised if former Secretary of State Bill Jones shows up as part of the Davis Recall campaign, not as a candidate to replace him but as a leader of the recall effort itself. That would allow Jones to get back in the political mix, in a position likely to unite most Republicans. It could also let him try to broaden his base for a potential run for the US Senate in 2004.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:59 PM



Business v. workers, or business and workers?

Below I've pasted a copy of a letter the employees of a Northern California firm received with their paychecks today. It explains, from the owner's point of view, the impact of recent increases in workers compensation premiums and unemployment insurance taxes, and the effects those increases have on the wages and benefits of the workers. Obviously, it's not good news. I'm not going to identify the company, but I have interviewed the owner, and I'm convinced this is real. He doesn't want his name or firm name used because he doesn't want his competitors to know this kind of detail about his finances. The owner of the company is a registered Democrat who says he voted for Davis in 1998. But not in 2002. And he enthusiastically supports the recall.

July 10, 2003


To: The Crew

From: People Who Sign the Paychecks

Subject: Employment Costs & Salary increases


From October 1, 2001 to October 1, 2002, the Company paid approximately
$28,000 in Workman's Compensation premiums. On October 1, 2002 our premiums rose to $100,000 per year. On January 1, 2003 Workman's Compensation rose to $105,000 per year. Ten days ago, our Workman's Compensation was increased an additional 19.8% to $125,790 per year. In addition, last month we were informed that our premiums would increase at least 25%, effective October 1, 2003. This means that in one year's time our premiums will have gone from $28,000 to at least $157,000 per year, a 561% increase in one year! Through June 30th of this year, we have already paid $70,000 more in Workman's Comp premiums than at June 30th of 2002.

Last month (June) the cost of Workman's Compensation was equal to $3.69
per hour for every hour worked by every person here. The 20% increase that
occurred on July 1st will take that number to $4.43 per hour. In addition,
Unemployment Insurance (both Workman's Comp Insurance and Unemployment Insurance are paid solely by the Employer) is scheduled to dramatically increase again on January 1st. There was already a substantial increase this last January. Also, in its quest for more money, the State has announced that Vehicle License Fees will triple effective October 1st. I think most of you can see the impact a huge increase like this will have on an operation consisting of 15 trucks and two pickups.

The increases in taxes, both types of Employment insurance, fees and
increased costs from our suppliers due to these factors are coming higher and
faster than we can raise our prices to offset them. It is due to these factors
that you saw only a 1% pay raise this year and your portion of Health Insurance costs to rise dramatically, rather than the 3+% annual pay increases you are used to receiving. The Company's Profit-Sharing will be adversely impacted as well. We know you deserve more, the 1% increase was to demonstrate our appreciation of your hard work and dedication.

The only thing the Governor and Legislature understand is money and
votes. If you feel the above information has had an immediate impact on your life, I suggest you write a letter to the following people. Tell them how their
actions, or lack of action, are harming you, they think they are only hurting
businesses, not working people.

Governor Gray Davis John Garamendi, Insurance Commissioner
State Capitol, Governor's Office 300 Capitol Mall Suite 1700
Sacramento, Ca 95814 Sacramento, Ca 95814

Senator Sam Aanestad Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa
State Capitol, Room 3056 State Capitol, Room 4177
Sacramento, Ca 95814 Sacramento, Ca 95814

Posted by dweintraub at 12:29 PM



California kids can't write

Here’s an important item that got very little ink in the print pages this morning: California’s scores on the latest writing tests given to 4th and 8th graders across the nation last year. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” just 23 percent of California’s 8th graders and the same percentage of the 4th graders are proficient or better in writing. Almost as many California youngsters in each grade were rated “below basic,” which essentially means they are functionally illiterate, or lacking even partial mastery of the skills and knowledge necessary to move toward proficiency at that grade level. And some of the subgroups within those totals are even more alarming:

--Just 10 percent of black 8th graders and 12 percent of Hispanics are proficient, compared to 32 percent of white students.
--13 percent of disadvantaged kids, measured by free-lunch eligibility, are proficient, while nearly one-third, or 31 percent, are rated at “below basic.”

And here is a story to watch, and explore:

A huge gender gap is opening up, with 28 percent of 8th grade girls rated proficient, compared to just 17 percent of boys. In 4th grade, 30 percent of girls were proficient compared to just 13 percent of boys.

California officials report that the scores for 8th graders inched up from the last time the test was given, in 1998. But we clearly have a long way to go.

Go here for the complete NAEP report.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:55 AM



The budget "roadmap"

For budget junkies, I'm providing a spreadsheet compiled by the Senate Republican Caucus showing $2.7 billion in budget cuts they have proposed to balance the budget without further tax increases. Download it here. The Senate Democrats will shoot down most if not all of these ideas if they come to a vote in isolation. But some of them might find their way into a compromise budget in the next week or two. Assuming the Dems still have some creative accounting up their sleeves, it's possible they could put out a budget with as little as $1 billion in additional cuts.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:56 AM



Courtroom here we come

The Recall Gray Davis committee has finally followed through on the threat to sue Secretary of State Shelley and some of the counties. Why still isn't entirely clear. This is the committee headed by former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian and run by Sal Russo, Bill Simon's consultant from a year ago. It is the least prominent of the three, having neither the sponsorship role of Ted Costa's group nor the financial clout of Darrell Issa's committee. It does seem to put out a lot of fundraising appeals, and has aired some radio ads in favor of the recall. There seems to be very little to gain from the suit at this point, and David Gilliard, the Rescue California consultant, isn't happy at all about it being filed. He even thinks it could delay rather than quicken the signature count. It might also give Davis forces the moral high ground when recall opponents start papering the courts with briefs: "They started it." Read the Bee's story here.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:27 AM



July 10, 2003

Arnold won't let deadline pass him by

PrestoPundit Greg Ransom says here that Arnold doesn’t plan to make up his mind until Aug. 15, possibly missing the filing deadline if the recall qualifies quickly and state officials set an early election date. Ransom’s post is based on a slightly ambiguous report at YahooNews.com in which George Gorton, Arnold’s chief political adviser, is quoted saying the actor won’t make a decision until after T3 has opened in all foreign markets.

I just talked to Gorton and he assures me that nothing has changed. Arnold, he says, might ultimately decide not to run, but he will certainly make a deliberate decision before the filing deadline, whenever it is. “He is going to make a decision in a timely fashion,” Gorton says. He expressed frustration at being asked to answer this question 15 times a day and noted that he might have been guilty of a slight change of wording this time that fed the latest speculation. "I'll have to remember to keep answering exactly the same way every time," he said.

Gorton didn’t say this, but one thing to keep in mind is that Arnold won’t want to announce until the election date is set. If he were to make the decision and then see the election postponed by lawsuits, he’d be out there exposed as a candidate but without a race to really run in. And the infamous Davis hit machine would train its sights on him.


Posted by dweintraub at 7:11 PM



Viva la revolucion

Randy Barnett writing at NRO delivers a brilliant essay on why Justice Kennedy's opinion in Lawrence v. Texas could be the first shot fired in a libertarian revolution. The gist is that Kennedy did not create a right to gay sex; he further defined the universial right to liberty, one that can be more broadly applied in a rational, sensible way. I had no idea that my hometown justice (who attended grammar school down the street) had this in him. Bravo.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the link.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:57 PM



Nevada Supremes: ignore two-thirds rule

Stunning news out of Nevada: the State Supreme Court has just ordered the Legislature to pass a budget and to raise taxes with a simple majority vote, declaring the state’s two-thirds requirement for tax increases a “procedural” issue that is overcome by the constitutional budget deadline and the Legislature's obligation to fund the schools. Read the opinion here. Will any California lawmakers jump on this idea?

PS. The decision came in response to a suit filed by Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn against the Legislature.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:05 PM



Election Updates

Former US Treasurer Rosario Marin just formed an exploratory committee to seek the Republican nomination to run against Barbara Boxer for the U.S. Senate. This follows the exit of potential candidates Doug Ose and George Radanovich, both Central Valley congressmen.

Sacramento talk radio host Tom Sullivan just said on the air that he has made a decision about whether to run for the 3rd District seat from which Ose is retiring. He’s not announcing the decision until Tuesday, he says, because to do so would potentially run afoul of equal time laws. So I guess he’s running. Other potential Republican candidates are state Sen. Rico Oller and former congressman and Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren.


Posted by dweintraub at 1:36 PM



Tick...tick...tick

Here's the latest, from Dana Wilkie at the SD Union-Tribune, on what might be a public relations time bomb for the recall campaign. Issa is accused of raising money in violation of the feds' new campaign finance law. A ruling against him wouldn't likely halt the election but would be a major PR blow allowing Davis forces to label the whole thing illegitimate. I should note that I think the new law is unconstitutional. But that won't be settled for months, while the FEC might rule on the complaint against Issa by this fall.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:39 AM



First, do no harm

The Bee reports today that a bill speeding toward the governor’s desk would limit what hospitals can charge to the low-income uninsured. Like most legislation, it stems from good intentions: nobody likes to hear stories about people bankrupted by medical bills. But this measure also has serious potential for producing unintended consequences. One is that it could drive up the cost of insurance as people with coverage are forced to pick up more of the costs for people without it. The other is that it will reduce the incentive for young, healthy people to buy insurance (and there are plenty who go without by choice). The smaller the potential financial penalty for going bare, the less likely it is that people will buy it. Both of these effects, ironically, would increase the number of uninsured in California, exacerbating the very problem the bill is intended to solve. I can’t think of a better solution off the top of my head. But the one proposed in AB 232 sure seems fraught with problems.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:23 AM



Registration required--or not?

Election law specialist Dana Reed tells me that after the 1999 Supreme Court decision in the Colorado case, the California Legislature amended the law on petition circulating to allow anyone who is "qualified to register to vote" in this state to gather signatures, even if they were not actually registered to vote. This change was made in the law covering ballot measures. Oddly enough, the same change was not made in the portion of the law covering recall petitions. We don't know if this was an oversight (my guess) or a deliberate attempt to hamstring would-be revolutionaries. Either way it's just one more example of how sloppy our election codes appear to be. You're dreaming if you think we are immune from a Florida-style meltdown.

Here are the sections from the election code:

(from the initiative process law)
9021. A person who is a voter or who is qualified to register to vote in this state may circulate an initiative or referendum petition anywhere within the state. Each section of the the petition shall bear the name of a county or city and county, and only qualified registered voters of that county or city and county may sign that section.

(from the recall law):
11045. Only registered voters of the electoral jurisdiction of the officer sought to be recalled are qualified to circulate or sign a recall petition for that officer.

Here is a link to the full election code for those who simply cannot resist.

UPDATE. Upon further research after consultation with Justene Adamec, I've concluded that the distinction was deliberate. This section of the new law makes it clear that ballot initiatives will be handled one way, recalls another. Which suggests that the Davis forces, if they find one non-registered circulator in the haystack, might prevail on a judge to order a full verification of every signature rather than the 3 percent sampling now ongoing.

The section:
102. A person who is a voter or who is qualified to register to vote in this state may circulate an initiative or referendum petition in accordance with this code. A person who is a voter may circulate a recall petition in accordance with this code.


Posted by dweintraub at 6:03 AM



July 9, 2003

The names keep rolling in

LA Weekly columnist Marc Cooper positively seethes at the thought of Bill Simon--then nominates "Brentwood populist" Arianna Huffington for governor.

Link via Kevin Roderick's LA Observed

Posted by dweintraub at 9:41 PM



An 'ugly thing,' but...

John Fund of the Wall Street Journal demonstrates that not all East Coast conservative columnists are against the recall. Of course, Fund is a former Californian.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:33 PM



1.3 mil and counting

They've stopped circulating petitions, but the signatures are still piling up. Ted Costa's recall committee says they've now sent 1.3 million signatures to the counties. And they are not done yet.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:12 PM



Exit stage left

As expected, the California Board of Education just postponed the consequences of the state’s high school exit exam for two years, from the class of 2004 until the class of 2006. I understand why they did it: mainly because the test would have been vulnerable to legal challenge had the results been used to deprive seniors of diplomas next year. That class simply did not have a legitimate opportunity to master the K-12 standards adopted in the late 1990s, after those students were already half way through school. But the exit exam must not be allowed to lapse further, or be watered down. The same study that led to its postponement also found that the test is prompting high schools to teach the standards and provide remedial help and extra tutoring to students who fall short. That’s exactly what it was designed to do. Finally, the people and groups that believe this is a win for minorities and the disadvantaged need to wake up. The exam, and the effect it was having on education in California, was the victory. Continuing to give meaningless diplomas to students, especially underprivileged students, represents a serious setback, for those students and for the state. I should note here that the exit exam was the centerpiece of Gray Davis' education reform package his first year in office. Its postponement is not his fault. He aimed high and the schools didn't, probably couldn't, match his ambitions. If only he'd tackled every other major issue facing California with the same vigor.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:13 PM



Paging Dr. Richman

The Insider will now take a brief break from all-Arnold, all-the-time to throw a new name into the recall mix: Keith Richman. Keith Who? For everyone outside California and most of you inside the state, that’s the natural response. But Richman just told me he is “seriously considering” entering the race to replace Davis. And there’s even a scenario where a Richman victory would be a perfectly plausible outcome. So who is he? He’s an assemblyman from the San Fernando Valley, a doctor, the head of his own medical group. Had San Fernando Valley seceded from Los Angeles last year, Richman would have become mayor of the nation’s sixth largest city. Most importantly, he is that rare breed in the Legislature: a moderate Republican. He’s also one of the most thoughtful members of the Legislature (no jokes here, please) and a guy who loves tackling difficult problems, from health care to workers compensation, energy and the budget. Chances are, if you’re outside his district or the Capitol and you have heard his name, it’s because Richman was one of two hardy souls, along with Democrat Joe Canciamilla, who ventured forth with a bipartisan budget plan that cut spending, raised taxes and offered structural reform to move the state toward fiscal stability. Their plan has only two votes – the authors – but as one legislator noted, it’s also the only plan introduced this year to attract at least one vote from each party. It's said that when every member of the Legislature wakes up in the morning and looks in the mirror, he or she sees a governor looking back at them. But how could Richman actually become governor? First, the top Democrats stick to their pledge to stay out of the recall. Second, heavy hitters Riordan and Schwarzenegger both opt out. That leaves Rep. Issa and possibly Bill Simon and state Sen. Tom McClintock as the best-known candidates. None of them are likely to attract more than a handful of Democratic votes. Enter Richman, the pro-choice, pro-business moderate, who also happens to be the author of a measure to rebuild California by creating a special fund to pay for new public works projects out of future revenue growth. That measure, a constitutional amendment, will appear on the same ballot as the recall election. Under that scenario, Richman becomes the favorite of just about everybody who votes against the recall and a few who vote for it. Likely? Nope. Possible? Anything is possible in this crazy year.

PS. Ok, my Arnold break is over. Richman actually has a Schwarzenegger connection. The two have met, dined together and discussed health care policy. Arnold also appeared at a Richman fundraiser.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:14 PM



Registering dissent

Election Law blogger Rick Hasen has the citation and a bit of detail on the US Supreme Court case striking down Colorado's law requiring petition circulators to be registered voters. But I think he's right when he suggests that the real intent of a lawsuit focused on that point would be not to win in court but to delay the recall election.

UPDATE: Dion Nissenbaum's SJ Mercury article here also notes that 90-year-old California case law gives the benefit of the doubt to the voter and a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State says valid signatures will be counted even if the circulator was from out of state.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:17 AM



Depends on what your definition of 'true' is

On CNBC yesterday with Alan Murray, Rep. Issa said the anti-recall ad dredging up his arrests for car theft wasn’t true. When Murray pressed him, Issa let loose a Clintonian phrase that will surely come back to haunt him:

“The truth.” Issa said, “is a relative term.”

Issa tried to explain that while yes, he was arrested, the charges were dropped, etc. But still, I expect we are going to be hearing that quote again a few times this fall.

UPDATE: Lest I be accused of committing a Dowd, here is the full transcript. I don't think it gets any better for Issa:

MURRAY: I mean, is it true?

Rep. ISSA: No, it isn't true.

MURRAY: You were not arrested for car theft?

Rep. ISSA: The truth is a relative term. Was I arrested? Yes. Was I cleared? Yes. Was it 30 years ago? Yes.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:54 AM



Is Arnold misunderestimated?

I could be horribly wrong about this, but I have a nagging feeling that California’s political class is underestimating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s potential as a candidate. Inside the Capitol and in conversations with consultants from both parties, I keep hearing about all of Arnold’s flaws: lack of experience, hint of Hollywood scandal, the widespread perception that he’s no more than an ambitious celebrity. His films glorifying violence are a turnoff to soccer moms; his support for gay rights will alienate conservatives. And so on. But my sense is that if Arnold runs, his presence on the campaign battlefield would completely change the state’s existing political dynamic in ways that make today's rules obsolete. And that change would help, not hurt Arnold. His name on the ballot would bring national and international attention to the campaign, and would by itself motivate thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Californians to pay attention to politics and vote, many for the first time. The focus on Arnold would completely overwhelm the attempts of the other candidates to get their messages out. And while he would start with a huge advantage from his celebrity alone, I think his stock would rise, not fall, over the course of a campaign. The reason: the element of pleasant surprise. Today, when most people hear his name, they think movie star. That’s enough to create the initial excitement. But in a campaign, that buzz would be only the beginning. Voters would first be reminded of his sponsorship of last year’s successful Proposition 49, which boosted funding for after-school programs for kids. Then they’d hear about his private work for after-school programs that preceded the initiative. From there it would be a natural segue to his broader commitment to inner city youth through his charitable work. And finally would come information about his growing business empire. He might even, God forbid, enunciate a vision for the future of the state. All of this would have the effect of getting people to stop and say, oh, he’s more than a movie star. He’s a man of some depth and substance and guts. And on that score he would begin to compare quite favorably with some of the other people running, or already holding office. Consultants can dream all they want about allegations of womanizing or film of him smoking a marijuana joint 30 years ago. But those things are not going to knock Arnold off track, unless he completely crumbles under the pressure. And I'm thinking that this is a guy who knows how to perform under the hot lights. Bottom line: If he runs, he wins.


Posted by dweintraub at 6:30 AM



July 8, 2003

See me, hear me...

I will be appearing on an Internet radio show at 5 pm to discuss California politics. The host is Tony Aiello and the station is AdviceRadio.com. (I liked it better when they were known as Adrenaline Radio.)

Posted by dweintraub at 4:33 PM



Gray suits biz leaders just fine

California's business establishment continues to rally around Gray Davis. The LA Chamber of Commerce just came out against the Davis Recall. The piece by Chamber President Rusty Hammer cites differences with the gov on workers compensation, regulation, labor laws, energy, fundraising and a “lack of leadership,” then says it would still be better for the state if he remained in office.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:03 PM



Latino leader ponders recall

Nativo Lopez knows a thing or two about recall politics. The director of Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana was recalled earlier this year from his position on the Santa Ana Unified school board. And now the fiery leader on the Latino Left says “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with openly” asking whether Davis has performed for the Latino community and wondering if another candidate – from any party – might do better.

Writes Lopez:
“There is no reason why we should not enter into discussions with Republican and Green political personalities, such as Richard Riordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Simon, Jr., Darrell Issa, and Peter Camejo – from those considered politically moderate to the conservative, and even the left...No one should take the Latino voters for granted and think that they are stuck in the pockets of one or another political party. Electoral competition for our vote suits us much better."

Posted by dweintraub at 12:33 PM



Blind date

Conventional wisdom right now is that Davis allies in the Democratic Party will do everything they can do delay the recall election. But what if we are wrong, and they do the opposite? That could be a brilliant strategy to try to preempt a Schwarzenegger candidacy and perhaps catch both him and Riordan napping. Here’s how:

By Wednesday, July 23, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley might well have all the verified counts he needs from the counties to certify the recall as qualified for the ballot. The moment he does so, the clock begins ticking on the election, which must be held between 60 and 80 days from that date. Suppose Shelley certifies it on July 24, and Lt. Gov. Bustamante then immediately sets the election for 61 days later, on Tuesday, Sept. 23. The filing period for candidates, set by law, closes 59 days before the election. That means candidates would have just two days to decide whether to put their names on the ballot and process the paperwork to do so. Arnold is flying around the world these days promoting T3. Riordan is a notorious procrastinator when it comes to running for governor. Chances are that neither man will be ready to make a decision that quickly. Same for any big-money Democrats who might be mulling the idea but are thinking the timeline for their decision will stretch well into August. Just a thought. The Democrats could fool everyone by accelerating the calendar.

And this strategy, by the way, wouldn’t stop Davis forces from filing suit questioning the signatures. Such a lawsuit might freeze everything in place with the names then qualified for the ballot. They could conceivably delay the election until March and still not give an opening for more candidates to enter the fray.

PS. As I reported June 10, the law actually appears to allow Bustamante to call the election after the filing period has ended. I doubt he would do it and I don’t think a court would allow it, but the possibility exists. And that possibility certainly suggests that an extremely short filing period, no matter when it occurs, is quite likely.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:08 PM



Splitting the vote

Mickey Kaus half-jokingly (quarter-jokingly?) suggests that Republicans sponsor a Democrat or several Democrats to split the Dem vote in the coming recall election. Turns out there is recent precedent for exactly that strategy, and it was a near-disaster for the perpetrators. It happened in the last prominent recall vote in California, in 1995, when Orange County voters ousted a local legislator (Doris Allen) who had connived with the hated Willie Brown to keep Republicans from taking power in the Assembly. The Republican plot to place political unknown and nominal Democrat Laurie Campbell on the ballot unraveled after she failed to gather sufficient signatures and GOP operatives were sent door-to-door at the last minute to get them for her. Problem was, Campbell signed the petition affidavit claiming she had collected the names. The ultimate outcome: several Republican aides convicted of misdemeanors, Campbell disgraced and bankrupted, and the eventual winner, Republican Scott Baugh, facing related felony charges of his own. The charges against Baugh were later dropped, and he went on to become Republican leader of the Assembly.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:54 AM



Heavy political lifting

Boomshock analyzes Arnold's books on bodybuilding and finds potential parallels to his political strategy. Excerpt:

"A good bodybuilder plans his competition strategy the way a successful general conducts a military campaign. You need to choose the right time and place to do battle, to be certain that your army (your physique) is well trained and ready. You need to be confident of your battle tactics, know when to attack, when to withdraw, and how to conserve ammunition (energy) so that it lasts until the end of the conflict."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:40 AM



July 7, 2003

Recall signatures: done

The Davis Recall campaign reports that signature gathering is complete. “We are pulling everyone out of the field this afternoon,” David Gilliard, the consultant to the Rescue California committee, tells me. “The phone calls are going out, about 1,200 of them. They are being told to stop and turn in what they’ve got.” The committee will spend the rest of the week checking and sorting the signatures as they come in. The plan is to send the final batches to county clerks by Friday, and they should be received by Monday at the latest. Gilliard says Rescue California, the committee funded by Rep. Darrell Issa, will submit a total of 1.2 million signatures. The volunteer-based committees expect to have about 200,000 more, for a total of nearly 1.4 million. If that’s the case, they will need a verification rate of about 71 percent in the random sampling done by the counties in order to have a sufficient number to avoid a time-consuming check of every signature submitted. Although all the signatures will be in by the next monthly deadline of July 16, it remains to be seen if the verification will be complete by July 23, when Secretary of State Kevin Shelley is scheduled to announce the monthly total. But Gilliard says most of the counties are verifying the signatures as they come in, and it's possible the recall will qualify by July 23 even if some signatures remain to be checked.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:31 PM



Hitting bottom

While everyone outside the Capitol is focused on the Davis Recall, inside the debate over how to close America’s biggest state budget gap grinds on. The good news is that Sunday night’s clash, ugly as it was, probably represents the nadir. The parties simply can’t get any further apart than that. From this point on I think we will begin to see progress toward a bipartisan solution. The bad news is that the solution that results will mostly kick the problem into the future.

The Assembly Republicans broke with precedent Sunday night and presented a detailed plan that was their best shot at balancing the budget without a tax increase. This wasn’t Washington Monument stuff, where the Democrats say they’d have to close prisons or lay off every state employee to balance the budget. This was the Republicans making their best case, supposedly trying to minimize the pain to make this alternative palatable. So how did it look?

Start with the proposal to bar 110,000 four-year-olds from kindergarten this fall. Whatever its long-term merits might be, this idea is a loser in the short term, both as policy and politics. Banning abortions for poor women? No matter what your position on that dicey issue, the fact is California’s Supreme Court has already ruled that the state must provide this service. How about cutting grants to the elderly and disabled by 6 percent? Withholding payments to poor blind people to feed their seeing-eye dogs? Ending burial subsidies to the families of foster children who die? Hundreds of millions more in cuts for the University of California and the state universities? All of this and much, much more, and still the budget deficit doesn’t go away. According to the Republicans’ own numbers, it would take another $7 billion in cuts next year and $3.6 billion the year after that to keep their budget balanced.

I consider myself a fiscal conservative, and I am very angry at the mess the governor and the Democrats who control the Legislature have gotten us into. But I couldn’t stomach the kind of cuts the Republicans are talking about here. And frankly, most California voters are to my left on these issues. It’s just not a reasonable proposal.

Anyway, it’s dead now. So what happens next? Look for the Senate to edge its way back into the picture very soon, with a plan to balance the budget with no tax increases beyond the car tax hike Davis already has implemented. It will leave a structural gap, but one no bigger than Davis proposed in May. And it might include one piece of governmental reform, namely a revenue-neutral tax swap that would give local government a bigger chunk of the property tax and less of the sales tax. A plan along these lines would not be fiscally responsible. But under the circumstances, it might be the only one that is politically doable.

The key date to watch now is July 18. That’s when the Legislature is scheduled to break for a month. It will likely soon become the target date for the folks who know it doesn’t matter how long they stay here, they’re not going to bridge their ideological differences.


Posted by dweintraub at 4:13 PM



July 6, 2003

Will that be copper or plastic, ma'am?

Plastic pipe manufacturers and the plumbers unions have been fighting about plastic versus copper, and the state building codes, for a generation. With the plumbers now closely allied with the state’s Democratic majority, they have been making their move to ban plastic. The plumbers say it’s for health reasons. Others say the real reason is that plastic is easier and cheaper to install, and would cost plumbers some dough by shortening the time they spend on the job. Whatever the motive, the issue is now the subject of one of those infamous “gut-and-amends” in the Legislature. For the uninitiated, that’s when a lawmaker strips out the most meaningful provisions of his bill and inserts something entirely new. Often the new bill is then considered and passed with very little, if any, debate. The bill is AB 1633. The goal is to give the state building standards commission the right to overrule local jurisdictions on issues such as this. The bill was amended July 1 and is scheduled to be heard in committee on Monday.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:57 PM



California Dream'n -- blogwise

Nine right-of-center California-based bloggers have started the Bear Flag League, a loosely aligned coalition of writers focusing on the Golden State, among many other topics. It's not clear what the bloggers hope to gain from the alliance. In fact, they don't seem to know that themselves, as Calbog-ger Justene Ademec concedes in this post:

"We have no rules. We have no plans. We have just banded together to see where the synergy takes us. Come along for the ride."

Anyway, individually or as a group, I've found many of their posts worth reading.


Posted by dweintraub at 4:38 PM



July 5, 2003

Punishing Californians

Jonah Goldberg joins George Will and William Safire as conservative columnists who believe Californians should be forced to sleep in the political bed we made with Gray Davis in last year’s election. Goldberg takes this argument even further than Will and Safire by suggesting that we Golden Staters should be “punished” for our lousy decision in order that we, and voters elsewhere, might learn our lesson. While I appreciate Goldberg’s Puritan impulses, another way of looking at it is that elections are like job interviews. They are the people’s way of hiring our public servants. If an employer screws up and hires the wrong person, he doesn’t simply allow that person to continue to do damage to his company or organization. He removes him. In this case Davis was given a four-year contract as chief executive, subject to the pleasure of his employers—the people of California. Now we realize that the state’s problems are worse than we knew and Davis isn’t looking like he is up to the job. We’re scouting the possibilities to see if someone better might be available. This does not seem to be such a terrible thing.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:51 AM



July 4, 2003

Exposing the lie

PrestoPundit Greg Ransom pushes his argument that the press should have ignored the desperate move by Davis forces to portray Issa as a Nazi sympathizer. Arguing with Ransom feels like arguing with myself, because I agree with almost everything he says. In fact I spent years as a news reporter making that same case myself, and it’s one reason I so love being a columnist: the ability to ignore contrived news events. Here’s how Ransom puts it:

“Newspapers have choices to make -- if someone puts up a podium in a hotel conference room, what gets said at the podium does not automatically make it into the next days paper. It has to have news value.”

But that’s just the point. When forces working on behalf of the governor of California try to link his opponent to the Nazi party, it has news value. Not because it’s true or might be true, but because it demonstrates the character and the judgment of the man who would allow his campaign team to make such allegations. If the governor said he thought little green men had landed from Mars and launched the recall, it would be ludicrous, but it ought to be reported, because the voters would want to know that the chief executive of their state had taken leave of his senses. The same is true here in a political context. Last year, when Bill Simon accused Davis of breaking the law by taking political donations in a state building, reporters were pretty sure the allegation was false before the papers went to press that night. The photo Simon supplied to back up his allegation was clearly not taken in the office he said it depicted. But we ran the story anyway, because it demonstrated that Simon was prone to making reckless allegations, and it told us (and voters) something about the way he manages a team of people. It is most definitely news when public officials lie or attempt to grossly mislead the voters, especially in a malicious way. Sometimes you have to report the lie in order to expose the lie.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:04 AM



Majority support recall in Times Poll

The LA Times Poll finds that voters now support the recall by a 51-42 margin, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who says she won’t run, leading the pack of potential challengers. If no Democrats run, support for the recall falls and former LA Mayor Richard Riordan is the favorite to succeed Davis. Voters also turn against the recall once they learn that a special election would cost $25 million or more.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:48 AM



July 3, 2003

Should voters know the depth of his desperation?

Should newspapers spread lowly allegations leveled by state politicians? Prestopundit takes the Bee to task for reporting the allegation of Davis allies that Rep. Issa was somehow linked to Nazi sympathizers because he had a table outside a gun show at which Nazi memorabilia was shown at one booth among thousands of exhibitors. Aside from the fact that Prestopundit is guilty of the same crime of which he is accusing the press, I'd suggest that we are all correct in reporting the tactic. That's because I think the story here isn't the accusation but the accuser. This is the governor, not some two-bit nobody. And when the governor is willing to do this kind of stuff, you're actually protecting him by ignoring it. Voters need to see the depth of his desperation so they can use that to weigh other claims they hear from him. And by the way, Issa's Rescue California site posted the story, so I assume they agree.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:02 PM



To sue or not to sue

The on-again, off-again litigation pondered by the Recall Davis committee is off again, as of about 4:20 p.m. "We're running out of defendants," consultant Sal Russo told me. "One by one the counties are falling into line." That means the counties are ageeing to verify and report the recall signatures as they come in rather than waiting an extra 30 days, which could push the election back until March. The lack of a lawsuit, if that's what happens, is probably better for everybody, including the voters.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:44 PM



Shelley releases task force report on touch screen voting

Kevin Shelley is a hot topic lately. Today he released the report of his task force on touch screen voting technology. The task force suggested that better security and auditing is necessary to ensure that vote counts are accurate and not tampered with. On the controversy over paper trails, the task force recommended that every touch screen machine print individual paper copies of all ballots cast before the machine leaves the polling site. The task force could not reach a consensus on whether voters should be able to see a paper ballot reflecting their votes on a touch screen machine. But the panel did recommend that voter-verified paper trail technology be available to the counties if they wish to use it. To see the full report, go here.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:00 PM



Teachers union dashes kids' HOPE

If you care about public education in California, and the nation, you might want to check out my column in today's Bee. It's on how the local and statewide teachers' unions are doing everything possible to block former NBA star Kevin Johnson from starting a charter school on the site of his alma mater, Sacramento High, to serve some of the most disadvantaged kids in his hometown. For the unions, it's all about membership rolls. Damn the kids.

UPDATE: A reader suggests a recent story from San Diego that shows the flip-side of this issue. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports here that a charter school formed four years ago by the National Education Assn. and the local union has just shut its doors after producing some of the lowest test scores in the state. This undercuts my theory that a school sponsored by a teachers union wouldn't be allowed to fail because it would reflect so poorly on the union.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:13 AM



Davis Recall passes minimum milestone

It might seem as if they have been saying this for weeks, but the Davis Recall folks now say officially that they’ve submitted the required number of signatures to force an election. Of course, not even they believe that 924,000 names are enough to give them the cushion they’ll need after invalid signatures are thrown out. So this weekend they will be collecting more and processing the tens of thousands of petitions already in the pipeline. They expect to wrap up Monday or Tuesday and have every last signature to the county registrars by July 16. If, after a sample of signatures are verified, their count of valid signatures exceeds 110 percent of the required amount, the election will be called. If their verified total dips below the 110 percent threshold, then every signature will be individually checked by the counties. The minimum number to qualify is 897,158. And 110 percent of that is 986,874. The campaign expects to turn in more than 1.3 million.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:25 AM



July 2, 2003

One recall committee set to file suit

I didn't think they'd sue. But one of the three recall commitees -- the Recall Gray Davis committee -- intends to file suit Thursday seeking to compel county registrars to count and verify all the signatures as they come in. Despite some evidence that many if not most of the counties intend to do verify the signatures continuously anyway, committee consultant Sal Russo says he wants a court to rule that they must. Russo is prepared to go to court against the wishes of the Rescue California committee funded by Rep. Darrell Issa, which has gathered most of the signatures. Issa's committee, according to consultant David Gilliard, thinks the process is moving well now and fears that a legal tangle could slow it down. One possibility is that Secretary of State Kevin Shelley would tell the counties to hold everything until the court case was resolved. Russo dismisses that concern.

"Do I think that Kevin Shelley is going to tell the counties to stop counting because they might be forced to speed it up?" Russo asked. "No."

Russo seems intent on moving forward. But the other players will continue to pressure him to pull back up until the moment a lawsuit is filed.

The timing of the verification is important because it could affect whether the election is held in the fall or delayed until next March.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:18 PM



Problems in the petitions

If you want a glimpse of how Gray Davis might litigate to stop or slow the recall, a hint might be in a letter sent Monday to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley by the president of California’s county clerks association. The letter from Shasta County Clerk Ann Reed looks as if it could be a roadmap for anyone who wants to challenge the validity of the signatures gathered so far by the recall campaign.

Reed’s letter lists a half dozen issues that have come up in multiple counties and then outlines the steps elections officials will take to deal with them. The problems, which are common to every ballot measure campaign, include:
--the county in which the petition was circulated is not listed or was changed;
--the circulator’s name is either absent, indicated only by initials, changed, typed or is the name of a person who is not a registered voter;
--the circulator’s address is not listed, is only a PO box, or has been crossed out and replaced by a different address;
--the information for the date circulated and the community in which the petitions were circulated is blank, incomplete or changed;
--the box for when and where the petition was “executed” is blank, incomplete or was changed;
--the box for signatures is blank, or the names were typed or only initials were used.

In most cases, Reed wrote, the clerks intend to count those signatures that can be verified as coming from voters in their counties, even if some part of the form is incorrect or incomplete. This would include cases where the circulator or some other person wrote in the address of the voter after the voter signed the petition.

“We want to give the benefit of the doubt always to the voter, or the signor,” Reed told me in an interview.

Reed said the clerks will not count petitions on which the date of circulation is not written or has been changed, because the law allows only a set period – 160 days in this case – to gather the signatures. The clerks also do not intend to verify and count names where the signature was typed or only initials are present.

Reed said the letter was sent to Shelley one day before the secretary of state sent the clerks and registrars a memo outlining his view of the verification calendar. Shelley’s memo did not respond to the clerks’ questions but referred the elections officials to previously prepared verification guidelines.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:09 PM



Gunning for Issa, Davis stoops to new low

Gray Davis forces showed Tuesday just how desperate they are, using video footage to try to link recall funder Darrell Issa to Nazi memorabilia once displayed at a Los Angeles County gun show. The German party symbols were in one building at a gun show attended by thousands of people at the Los Angeles County fairgrounds. A sponsor said there were 8,000 exhibitors at the event. Outside, an Issa for Senate table displayed literature for his 1998 campaign. "These are the things that are on display at gun shows like this," said Carroll Wills, a spokesman for the group calling itself Taxpayers Against the Governor's Recall, according to the Sacramento Bee. "It's not to suggest necessarily that Congressman Issa is himself a Nazi sympathizer. However, I think that there are an awful lot of politicians who would eschew the idea of participating in any event where that type of flag is shown." Good God.

The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, continues its exhuming of Issa’s past with this story on two arrests in his youth for illegal weapons possession.

FEEDBACK. It's not just the political insiders who have come to conclude that anything goes in politics these days. A reader writes:

"I think you are way off base criticizing the Davis people for going after Issa on the gun show issue. That is no more below-the-belt than funding a drive to recall the governor! Seems to me that once you start something like that, which could be considered the nuclear weapon of state politics in California, you better be ready for anything people throw at you."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:17 AM



July 1, 2003

Insider gets some (online) ink

Mark Glaser at the Online Journalism Review just posted a column on yours truly, and how my blog raises questions about what happens at the intersection of print and online journalism.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:15 PM



Recall supporters expect counties to comply

It looks as if the Davis Recall supporters won’t be challenging Kevin Shelley in court over the signature verification process. Rescue California consultant David Gilliard tells me that the campaign has been surveying the big counties and believes that most if not all will go ahead and verify the signatures as they come in, as opposed to waiting 30 days as Shelley has told them they may. If that pans out, I believe the recall will qualify for the ballot sometime around the first week in August. The soonest would be July 23, but I expect some counties to still be counting petitions by then. My guesstimate gives them a week or two to verify the stragglers. If things do move that quickly, we would be talking about an election in October, rather than Nov. 4, the date many believed would be a natural. One reason that distinction could make a difference: the city and county of San Francisco votes Nov. 4 for a new mayor and could supply a load of votes against the recall.


Posted by dweintraub at 6:14 PM



Issa airs radio ad for governor's campaign

I just heard a radio ad for Darrell Issa for governor, his first, as far as I know. I don't think the campaign has released a tape or text of the ad, but I will try to get a copy of it. No doubt the congressman has decided that he can't take the drubbing from Davis forces any longer and remain a viable candidate this fall...

Posted by dweintraub at 5:48 PM



Why is Dave Cox picking on four-year-olds?

The Senate Republicans’ complete list of proposed budget cuts has been slow in emerging, which might actually be a good sign. If they are discussing them privately with the governor and or Senate Democrats, that gives the ideas more chance of becoming real than a dog-and-pony show on the Senate floor.

The Assembly Republicans, meanwhile, are out with a new plan of their own, which will get a full review here soon. But one item on it is such an egregious political blunder that I want to focus on it right away, in hopes that they will kill it and never mention it again. Incredibly, the Republicans are proposing to postpone kindergarten this fall for children who have not yet turned five. This idea has some merit as a policy matter, if phased in over a few years to give parents time to prepare. But it’s crazy to tell tens of thousands of parents who believe they are sending little Johnny to kindergarten in August or September that they now will be barred from doing so. These are folks who have dropped hard-to-get child care or pre-school slots, changed work schedules and made other plans based on their assumption that the kid was starting school.

Some of you may remember that former Gov. Pete Wilson tried the same thing in 1992 and was led to political slaughter by the California Teachers Assn. The CTA ran television ads showing small children turned away at the kindergarten door, with Pete Wilson cast as culprit. The ads, and the issue, did huge damage to his image and popularity that year. Now, apparently not learning the lesson of history, Assembly Republicans want to take their turn at being portrayed as the enemy of four-year-olds and their parents everywhere.


Posted by dweintraub at 5:43 PM



If I may...

Nothing ticks me off like being criticized for something I did not write. I mean, I write enough that’s worthy of criticism. Do people have to imagine things they think I might someday write and then take shots at that, too? A recent example came in a bunch of calls and e-mails disagreeing with my take on the aggressive tactics Sacramento police used last week in response to anti-globalization demonstrators. Again, I’m fine with people saying I’m crazy for thinking the Constitutional right of Americans “peaceably to assemble” means the police should not preemptively corral, herd and move folks who are neither violent nor disruptive. But a bunch of my feedback also contained versions of the same line: “If the police hadn’t shown up in force and in riot gear, and something had gone wrong, you’d have been all over their case for not being prepared.” Well that didn’t happen, and I didn’t write that, and I don’t think I would have written that if it had happened. I make a point, whenver possible, of getting my positions on record in a timely fashion, to avoid being in the position of second-guessing. I think the reason this kind of rap grates on me so much is that I hate it when people assume they know what’s in my head, and because such commentators usually imply that they know this because they see me as part of some group with which they are familiar: i.e., the “liberal media.” And since I abhor with every bone in my body judging individuals as members of groups, it kills me when people do it to me. And come to think of it, that's the same reason I am offended by the increasingly common tactic of police pre-emption of protests. They are treating all protestors as if the are intent on repeating Seattle 1999, even if they are not and have not done anything to suggest that they are. That’s all. End of rant.


Posted by dweintraub at 5:29 PM



 
 

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