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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« February 2006 | | April 2006 »
March 31, 2006

No good deed...

This is why modern American politics is so exasperating, and why it's so hard for anyone to get anything done. President Bush, who has spent his career courting Hispanics and the Hispanic vote, has broken from his party base to support immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country and allow more immigrants to enter under a guest worker program. Democrats in the Senate, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, have backed just such a bill. Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party, supports that same bill. So today, Dean comes to California and bashes Bush because he has not done enough to stop the wing of his party that opposes him and, in Dean's words, is "scapegoating" immigrants for political gain. Dean, in his speech, implied that Bush supported a harsher House bill that the president opposes. Why not just acknowledge that on this issue, unlike so many others, they agree?

Posted by dweintraub at 3:39 PM

Sun screen or 'snake oil'?

The Lerach law firm of San Diego, famous for its product liability practice, is going after the sun screen lotion industry because, the firm says, the products do not provide as much protection as they claim. An expert says that's like going after seat belt makers because the belts don't prevent all accident deaths. Hmmm. Now there's an idea.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:34 AM

March 30, 2006

Bizarro politics


CTA rep Joe Nunez celebrates the day after voters rejected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's policy agenda in November. Schwarzenegger reappointed Nunez to the state Board of Education Wednesday, and today, Nunez celebrated a labor coalition's victory in court over the governor and his political committees. See below. Photo from AP.

The governor and his allies got slammed pretty hard today in a Court of Appeal ruling on their failure to fully report in a timely fashion contributions last fall in the campaigns for Props. 74, 75, 76 and 77. It looks as if the matter will now go to the Fair Political Practices Commission to decide if the campaign should be fined, and, if so, how much.

The case was brought by groups that opposed Schwarzenegger's proposals on the ballot last year. The governor's lawyers claimed that the violations were technical and meaningless. The court forcefully disagreed. And now the Alliance for a Better California, a coalition of labor groups that has opposed Schwarzenegger, is pressing the FPPC to levy up to $25 million in fines for the violations.

I've always supported requirements for full and immediate disclosure of campaign contributions, so I applaud the Alliance for pursuing this case to the FPPC, though I'd guess that the eventual fines will be much smaller than those sought.

As an aside, it's worth noting that in the Alliance press release touting the decision on its Web site today, the first person quoted was the group's chairman, California Teachers Assn. rep Joe Nunez:

"We’ve known all along that the Governor’s team has been breaking the law, and the Court of Appeals agreed with us,” said Joe Nunez, chairperson of the Alliance for a Better California. “We will continue to take all steps necessary to ensure that the Governor’s campaign is held accountable for their egregious violations of the law.”

This is the same Joe Nunez who was reappointed Wednesday by Schwarzenegger to another term on the state Board of Education. When I commented on that appointment yesterday, I mentioned Nunez's role in the CTA, and the CTA's role in the Alliance. I didn't realize Nunez was chairman of the Alliance.

This is the equivalent of George Bush appointing Michael Moore as his ambassador to Iraq. Either Schwarzenegger has figured out a very creative way to shore up his relationship with the CTA or he has very strange judgment in appointments. And given the Nunez quote in today's press release, it doesn't look as if the governor's guy is building many bridges. Bizarre.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:41 PM

Angelides' teacher recruitment plan

Phil Angelides proposes a multi-part plan to help the schools recruit more teachers as retirements deplete the education work force. He wants to pay teachers more; increase financial aid for students training to be teachers who agree to serve low-performing schools; and spend more on teacher training and support. He also notes earlier proposals to roll back tuition in higher education and double the number of high school counselors. It's not clear whether Angelides intends his new spending priorities to be within Prop. 98 -- and thus taking from other priorities that local districts might have -- or on top of the constitutional minimum, meaning they would be funded by raising taxes or cutting other state programs.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:53 PM

Westly to audit prison spending

Steve Westly is launching an audit of the prison system's health care operation. The prison system, by the way, is the one part of state government spending that polls consistently show the voters would like to cut.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:32 AM

Demonstrations subside

The student walk-outs seem to have ended in Los Angeles.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:34 AM

PPIC polls

Prop. 82 has a 52-41 lead in the latest PPIC poll.

Here is my column on what the poll means for Schwarzenegger and his race for reelection.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:31 AM

Speaker: be careful on immigration

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, in Washington Wednesday, warns Schwarzenegger and his fellow Republicans not to try to use immigration as a wedge issue.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:47 AM

March 29, 2006

Gov reappoints CTA rep to state board

Gov. Schwarzenegger has reappointed California Teachers Assn. official Joe Nunez to the state Board of Education. Nunez, who is assistant executive director of the CTA for government affairs, was originally appointed by Gray Davis in 2001. Someone once said that in politics, it's smart to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But I can't think of another politician who would give this kind of prestigious and important appointment to a top official of an organization that is basically dedicated to his destruction. The CTA raised dues and mortgaged its headquarters last year to build a warchest to defeat the governor's policy agenda. This year it has already endorsed a Democrat to run against him. This move gives reaching out new meaning.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:32 PM

Three daughters


Phil Angelides now has his own new education ad. You can see it here. The ad features the candidate's three daughters saying their dad always told them to reach for their dreams, and now he's making college access a priority of his campaign. They then tout their dad's proposal to roll back tuition, increase financial aid and add more counselors to high school. Not sure how I feel about the candidate rolling out his kids like this. My first reaction is negative. It seems slimy to me. It certainly ends any claim Angelides will have to personal privacy, if he ever wanted to make one.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:14 PM

Close enough for government?

Editor and Publisher has an item on congressional candidate Howard Kaloogian alleging using a photo of Istanbul to demonstrate the peacefulness of Baghdad.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:04 PM

Westly education ad


Steve Westly is rolling out a new ad that focuses on education. You can see it here. Strange, but the guy whose slogan is "a different kind of governor" mentions four ways to improve the schools, and two of them -- teacher training and after-school programs -- are already top priorities of the incumbent. One, after-school programs, is the governor's signature program, and one Westly's fellow Democrats in the Legislature are trying to derail. The other priority Westly mentions is "reforming the lottery" so more money goes to schools, an idea that is surely in the ad because it always polls well, even though the schools are getting the money they were originally promised when the lottery was proposed. Westly also says he would "fully fund" the schools, but doesn't say how much more money that would mean or where it would come from.

The ad features Westly speaking and looking into the camera, something neither Angelides nor Schwarzenegger has done in their ads yet.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:33 PM

New First 5 chairman

Hector Ramirez, the new chairman of the First 5 commission, says he's "not a politician" and says his organization -- Para Los Ninos -- runs with the "highest level of integrity" and adds that he intends to bring those same practices to the commission.

Para Los Ninos receives about $1.9 million a year from the Los Angeles County First 5 commission, and Ramirez says he will recuse himself from decisions that would pose a conflict with his full-time job. The commission post pays $100 per meeting.

He said his organization had not decided yet whether to endorse Reiner's Prop 82 but might do so. Reiner actually launched the campaign for the measure at an event held at Para Los Ninos.

At a conference call briefing organized by the governor's office, Press Secretary Margita Thompson said Reiner called the governor over the weekend and offered his resignation, which the governor accepted. She said she did not know if anyone in the governor's office or on his behalf spoke to Reiner in advance of that call and urged him to resign.

UPDATE:Here is Reiner's resignation letter.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:29 AM

Reiner resigns

Rob Reiner has resigned as chairman of the First 5 commission, and the governor has appointed Hector Ramirez to succeed him. Ramirez is vice president and chief operating officer of Para Los Ninos, a nonprofit serving poor children in Southern California.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:34 AM

Lost in translation

Rick Hasen has an important item here about the fall-out from an appellate court decision last year that said initiative and recall petitions had to be translated into foreign languages in some jurisdictions.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:01 AM

March 28, 2006

Nearly 90% pass high school exit exam

About 90 percent of the members of the class of 2006 have passed the high school exit exam, according to Supt. Jack O'Connell.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:42 PM

March 27, 2006

Education budget

At Don Perata's request, a Senate subcommittee has approved a $500 million boost to the K-14 budget in the current year and made a commitment to increase funding above the Prop. 98 guarantee for the next nine years. The idea is to get schools back to the level they would have had under the deal Gov. Schwarzenegger made, and then broke, with the education lobby in 2004. Although the state doesn't have the money to do this (it's looking at a $5 billion or so structural deficit going forward), one wonders if an offer along these lines 16 months ago would have been sufficient to get Schwarzenegger off the hook for his education deal after he realized he couldn't keep it. If so, it sure would have avoided a lot of political pain for the governor. I still believe that his failure to keep that deal, while unavoidable, was the single most important event in his slide last year. He threw away his credibility, and after that, he couldn't sell anything to anybody.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:52 PM

Gov's first re-elect ad

Here is a link to Schwarzenegger's first re-election campaign ad. His team says it is running in Sacramento, San Francisco, Bakersfield, San Diego and Los Angeles.

The ad is visually interesting, showing a fast-motion cityscape as the screen flashes with examples of Schwarzenegger's accomplishments. An announcer notes them as they appear on the screen. The governor is never mentioned until the end, when he is shown speaking to a group of people in a room. But his voice is never heard in the ad.

The most intriguing thing to me about the ad is the understated beginning, when the announcer says that "Tomorrow is going to be a little bit better than today" for Californians. Maybe not an era of limits, but not exactly typical for Gov. Enthusiasm either. Looks like someone decided it was time to turn down the volume a touch.

Here is the text:


Tomorrow is going to be a little better than today for Californians ...

Because we've pulled our state back from the brink of bankruptcy.

We've dramatically reduced the state's deficit …

Cut the unfair car tax ...

Reformed the workers' comp system ...

And created 500,000 new jobs.


Governor Schwarzenegger's leadership is making California work again.

UPDATE: Bill Bradley says the ad is on a very light rotation. He also does not like the look and feel of the ad because, he says, it won't appeal to inlanders.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:21 PM

Gov's new ad team

Anthony York takes a quick look at all the Bushies on the governor's new advertising team.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:48 AM

Bed blockers

Interesting story here about the cost of treating premature babies under the UK's National Health Service. Some doctors are fretting that the preemies are taking resources that should be going to others.

PREMATURE babies who require months of expensive intensive care in neonatal units have been labelled “bed blockers” by one of Britain’s royal colleges of medicine.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says the huge efforts to save babies born under 25 weeks are hampering the treatment of other infants with a better chance of survival and a healthy life.

As the NHS faces an increasing financial crisis, with beds being closed and jobs axed, it says these very premature babies are “blocking” much-needed intensive care cots, sometimes forcing expectant mothers with potentially healthier babies to be transported by ambulance to other hospitals.

In a submission to a two-year inquiry into premature babies by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the college says: “Some weight should be given to the economic considerations as there is a real issue in neonatal units of ‘bed blocking’, whereby women have to be transferred in labour to other units, compromising both their and their babies’ care.”

The statement reflects a growing view among child specialists that babies born under 25 weeks should be denied intensive care and allowed to die. Next month the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health will debate a motion at its annual conference that it is “unethical” to provide intensive care routinely to babies born under 25 weeks. In practice, they would only be saved in exceptional circumstances.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:45 AM

March 24, 2006

Area woman wins award

Gale Kaufman, who managed the union-backed effort to defeat Gov. Schwarzenegger's measures in last year's special election, has been named the campaign manager of the year by the American Assn. of Political Consultants, according to her office.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:00 PM

February unemployment: 5 percent

California's unemployment rate edged upward to 5 percent in February from a revised 4.8 percent in January, even as the state's employers created a net of 31,000 new jobs. See the full report here.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:13 PM

Growing children

The Oakland school district is shutting down of its charter schools for poor academic performance. The school's principal says that's unfair:

Growing Children Principal Susan Harman said standardized tests are not the best way to gauge the performance of her school's 150 students in kindergarten through sixth grade because she does not emphasize test-taking.

Her school encourages students to learn by doing, and field trips and experiential learning are at the center of the school's curriculum.

Instead of having a teacher point out parts of a plant on a classroom slide, for example, students at Growing Children learn to identify a stamen after planting flowers themselves, Harman said.

You would think that students who master the parts of plants by experiencing them in the world would be able to answer simple multiple-choice questions about those plant parts on a test, perhaps even better than students who try to memorize the material from worksheets and chalkboard notes. The story does not say what kind of evaluation Harman says would be fair.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:51 AM

What's driving health care costs

Here is an interesting study by PriceWaterhouse on the factors behind a year's worth of health insurance premium increases. There's some good meat in here on the role that physician services, hospitals, outpatient care and drugs play in driving up premiums, and some more background on what's driving costs in each of those areas. One conclusion: more than a third of the increase in cost can be traced to the increased use of services.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:28 AM

March 23, 2006

In their face

Don Perata's "Rebuilding California" political action committee has donated $25,000 to Californians to Improve Traffic Now, the coalition that wants to "fix" Prop. 42 so that revenue from the sales tax on gas is forever walled off from the general fund. That's the same idea that the CTA last week asked members to oppose because, the union argued, it would give transportation a higher priority in the budget than the schools.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:45 PM

Big 5, Lil' 4

The infrastructure talks are on again, following a meeting of the Big 5 Wednesday night. The word is that the Little 4 -- the leaders minus the gov -- are going to try to come to an agreement among themselves on at least the outlines of a deal, then go back to the governor to nail down the details together.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:49 PM

Business owners fight city immigration policy

Business owners in Costa Mesa are organizing to fight the city's decision to have its police cooperate more closely with immigration authorities to deport criminal aliens. They say business in the city's heavily Hispanic neighborhoods has dropped off sharply since the policy was announced.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:48 PM

Stutzman joins Navigators

Former Schwarzenegger communications director Rob Stutzman is joining fellow Arnoldistas Mike Murphy and Todd Harris at Navigators, where Stutzman will specialize in crisis communications, according to an announcement.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:00 AM

March 22, 2006

Terminating Meathead, not

The gov says Rob Reiner is "innocent until proven guility." In a courtroom, perhaps. But is that the standard to use for a political opponent running a commission that is spending hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and spending much of that money on dubious advertising campaigns that use tax dollars to promote changes in public policy? I still think that there is more to the story of why Schwarzenegger won't fire Reiner. I suspect they or their staffs cut a deal: Reiner could stay on the commission as long as he didn't use the job as a platform to run against Arnold for governor. That would certainly explain why the gov has not moved to kick Reiner off the commission, despite Reiner's obviously flawed judgment and Republican calls for his ouster.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:52 AM

On truth in politics

Is telling the truth now a fatal flaw for a politician?

My Tuesday column noting that the Demo candidates for governor were ignoring the state's most pressing problem -- the government's fiscal mess -- prompted a friendly exchange with a former political writer who complained that I was naiive to think that candidates for the state's highest office might be honest with the voters about how bad things are. Telling the truth -- that fixing things will require either a slowdown in spending growth or an increase in taxes -- would surely cost them the election, my friend said. He implied that I was either crazy or stupid to expect them to venture into such risky territory.

I'm not convinced. San Diego's new mayor, Jerry Sanders, was elected last year after a campaign in which he made it very clear that the city was going to have to lay off workers and cut services in order to get its finances back in order. The new governor of Virginia is stumping for a gas tax hike at the moment that his recent campaign clearly foreshadowed. And given the popularity of the "Bush lied" theme with Democrats, and the troubles Gov. Schwarzenegger got into when he broke a funding promise to the schools, this would seem like the perfect time to be coming clean with the electorate.

And I would even settle for a less than complete plan if one of the candidates would simply be willing to accurately describe the dimensions of the problem and the scope of the choices ahead, and stop promising or proposing things that would only make the problem worse.

Would a Democratic candidate for governor really be shooting himself in the foot by looking into the camera and saying something like this?

"Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn't leveled with you. I will. California's finances are in deep trouble. Fixing them is not going to be easy, and it's going to mean a lot of pain for all of us. I can't tell you today exactly what the solution is going to be, because as governor, I would have to hammer out the details with the Legislature. But I do know it's going to be difficult. It will take rich and poor alike coming together in shared sacrifice to get our state government back on track. We can't keep adding new programs that we have no way of paying for. And we can't sustain recent tax cuts if we're not also willing to give up the services that were provided with that revenue. That's the truth. I just thought it was time you heard it."

Posted by dweintraub at 7:09 AM

March 20, 2006

The Doolittle cash machine

This San Diego Union-Tribune story from the weekend about the Doolittle campaign operation shows how the congressman's wife was paid a commission on his campaign fundraising, which is the same as saying that the congressman's wife (and thus the congressman) got a personal cut on money raised for his campaign. As much as some people abhor money in politics, the one effective defense has always been that money is a form of speech, or a way to exercise speech, and it's wrong (some say unconstitutional) to limit political speech by limiting financial support for campaigns.

But while that applies to contributions to campaigns, it most certainly does not apply to money going into the personal bank account of members of Congress or their spouses.

It should be illegal for members or their spouses or children to financially benefit from money given to their campaigns.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:30 PM

March 17, 2006

Church v. condos

Will this project become the poster child for eminent domain reform in California? Long Beach wants to condemn a Filipino Baptist Church, tear it down and build condos (for low-income residents).

Posted by dweintraub at 2:07 PM

Where does he go from here?

I agree with Jon Fleischman's diagnosis of the problem, but not with his solution. I don't think the governor can win a big ballot initiative battle this year after the debacle of 2005. I think his best shot is to get approval -- quickly -- for a scaled back public works plan that has bipartisan support.

UPDATE: After a few inquiries and some reflection, I've decided to clarify my take on Fleischman's piece. I agree with him that the Dems had all the leverage here and used it to take control of the negotiations. I don't really agree with him that their motivation was to destroy the gov's reelection chances. I've always believed that the legislative leaders, if not all of their members, would be better off personally with a weakened Schwarzenegger as governor than a strong Democrat. And they know that.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:13 AM

March 16, 2006

Time to panic?

A county employee whose panic disorder prevented him from meeting with people face-to-face applies for a promotion to a job that requires him to do so. He does not get the job. He sues. A court awards him $6.5 million.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:13 PM

What went wrong?

With the bond deal dead for June and in danger of not happening at all, Schwarzenegger now risks looking like a hapless governor who can’t get along with Democrats but also can’t depend on his own Republican allies for votes when he needs them. If that image sticks and intensifies over the summer, he will find it increasingly difficult to win reelection in the fall.

What went wrong with the governor’s public works package? Many things. But here’s a start:

He put a number on it too early. The $222 billion price tag and $68 billion in borrowing spooked Republicans from the start. He would have been better off beginning with a description of the goals he was trying to achieve and then building the number in a consensus with legislators.

He took Republicans for granted. Schwarzenegger negotiated mostly with the Democrats and always figured he would be able to get the Republican votes for anything he and the Dems agreed to. He was wrong. In one meeting with Assembly Republicans, the governor stayed five minutes, said he needed their votes and then left. His aides distributed a briefing detailing the deal he had made with Democrats, then they left. What followed was a Republican revolt.

He tried negotiating individually with the leaders instead of all of them at the same time. Each time he came close to a deal with one legislative leader, the others who were not part of the discussions began to dump on the deal.

He was too secretive. Keeping the details behind closed doors increased the suspicion, especially among Republicans, that the governor was giving away the store.

He sent mixed signals on the timing. Nobody knew whether he really wanted the plan on the June or November ballot, until about 10 days before the deadline for June, when he began to focus on that date.

He insisted on a huge, comprehensive package. He probably could have won approval for a slimmed down package that he could have accepted and promoted as the first phase of his larger plan. As a campaign device, that might even have been better, since it leaves people wanting more, or at least thinking that there is more to come. In this case, not finishing the job would have given him something to talk about doing in a second term, with evidence already on the books that he could get it done.thus

But the real problem is that Schwarzenegger got himself into an almost impossible negotiating position from the start. By making this his top policy priority, and a highly visible one at that, he handed his fate to the Democrats, who thus controlled how the public would view him as governor this year. He could not really walk away from the table because he needed the infrastructure package to show the voters that he could govern, but the Democrats knew they could pull the plug at any time with little or no political fallout. That dynamic allowed the Democrats to take control of the package and shape it largely to their liking, which made Schwarzenegger’s job of getting Republican votes that much harder. It became a downward spiral.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:02 AM

No deal for June ballot

Both houses adjourn until Monday after Assembly passes slimmed down bond package and Senate passes a pay-as-you-go measure for levee repairs.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:47 AM

March 15, 2006

AP: possible compromise

The latest: legislative sessions tonight, possibly to approve a slimmed down package of school construction and levee repair bonds.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:40 PM

DOF: revenues up a bit

Looks like another glimmer of good news for budget writers in the latest monthly revenue report from the Department of Finance.

Overall, revenues in February were up $312 million above the budget forecast of about $4 billion. Withholding was higher than expected, and refunds were lower than anticipated. Sales tax and bank and corporation tax receipts were also a bit higher than projected.

For the fiscal year so far, revenues are $141 million above the forecast in the January budget.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:31 AM

Beware the stock option

The Wall Street Journal ($$ required) details the stock option habits of a number of Silicon Valley execs, helping to explain part of the recent surge in state income tax revenues. But the story ends on a cautionary note:

Stock-option exercises are up even as stock options are being used less as compensation. Because of new accounting rules that require companies to tally stock-option grants as an expense on their balance sheets, many tech companies have shifted from options to issuing restricted shares. Microsoft Corp., for instance, stopped issuing stock options in 2003 and switched to giving out restricted stock.

Overall, the median burn rate at Silicon Valley's top 150 companies -- the percentage of a company's shares outstanding that are being given away in stock-option grants -- is down. In fiscal 2004, the rate fell to 3.4% from 4.5% two years earlier, Equilar says.

With the popularity of stock options fading, economists say California and other states must be wary of becoming overreliant on tax revenue from stock-option profits.

"When this revenue goes away, it goes away fast and completely," says Nicholas Jenny, a senior policy analyst at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a public research group in Albany, N.Y. "California experienced the downside of this in 2001, and needs to watch how much of this revenue is real and sustainable this time."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:06 AM

You can't make this stuff up

A Lodi municipal employee who backed a dump truck into his own car is suing the city for the damage caused by the accident.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:46 AM

March 14, 2006

Redistricting test

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is slated to join Wednesday morning with government reform advocates to promote SCA 3, a plan for independent redistricting, in advance of its first committee test. Led by Sens. Alan Lowenthal and Roy Ashburn, the group also includes Sens. Alquist, Kehoe and Soto, and Assembly members Canciamilla, Leno, Nation and Wolk. Sen. Perata has said that he will back a bill by Lowenthal but it's still not clear if he actually supports this version.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:05 PM

Reiner's bad analogy

Rob Reiner doesn’t get it.

At a speech and Q and A with the Sacramento Press Club today, he insisted there was nothing wrong with the First 5 commission he chaired using tax money to persuade the public to embrace his belief in universal, state-funded preschool.

Reiner compared the two-year ad campaign, which totaled tens of millions of dollars, to other state efforts to promote health insurance for kids, paid family leave or a program that allows new mothers to abandon their babies at a safe harbor, such as a fire station or emergency room, with no questions asked.

“We wanted people to know about the program,” he said.

But there is a fundamental difference between those ad campaigns, whatever you might think of them, and the campaign the First 5 commission ran, which was approved when Reiner was chairman and designed in part by his own political consultant.

The other campaigns were all meant to inform people about policies or programs that were in place and which the people who saw the ads might be eligible to take advantage of.

The preschool campaign was something else entirely. It was designed from the beginning to change public opinion in order to “create demand” for a new program and bring pressure on policymakers to approve such a program, or lay the groundwork for the very kind of initiative that Reiner is pushing now as Proposition 82 on the June ballot.

That was spelled out in this strategy memo, which discussed polling and focus groups and described how an advertising campaign could change minds. And it was mentioned in the contract for one round of the ads, according to this Bill Bradley item.

Reiner seems completely sincere about preschool and even about the ads, which he suggests were intended merely to inform people about the options available to them. He notes that $1 billion of the commission’s funds were used to expand preschool, and he says the ads were supposed to direct people to those programs.

But the strategy memorandum and the contract make clear that the ads were about much more than parent education. They were even targeted to non-parents because polling had shown that those people might be even more supportive of public preschool than parents of young children.

It’s difficult to believe that Reiner was not aware of the strategy behind ads developed under his direction by his close associates to promote his vision. If he was ignorant of the intent, then he was an incompetent chairman. And the fact that even now, as the issue has exploded around him, he still does not see a problem with the campaign suggests that he is blinded by his belief in the goodness of his own policy preferences.

In a nutshell, here’s the problem: If the people who control the purse strings can use that money for a televised propaganda campaign designed to persuade voters to give them more power and more money, then there is no limit on the use of public funds for political purposes.

A governor might allot $100 million in public money to pay for television commercials to advocate for policy changes he believes in but which the Legislature is reluctant to adopt.

Lawmakers might spend public money to soften the ground for a ballot initiative they are thinking of proposing but which a governor opposes.

And other state officials unhappy with either the Legislature or the governor might approve the use of public money to fight the decisions of those policymakers.

Imagine if the University of California, a semi-autonomous public agency, was unhappy that the Legislature would not approve a fee increase the system’s leaders believed was necessary to preserve their programs. Suppose the university concluded that the reason the Legislature wouldn’t budge is that the public did not understand that higher fees would be paid mainly by the wealthy, that low-income students would get financial aid, and that the policy change would allow the system to admit more students than it otherwise could.

Under the Reiner Rule, the university would be free to use public money – as much as it liked - for an ad campaign explaining the value of higher education and the wisdom of the higher fees needed to preserve and expand access to the university.

We all know the university would not and could not do such a thing. But there is little or no difference between such a campaign and the campaign waged by Reiner and his allies to win support for universal pre-school.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:35 PM

Perata memo

Here is a cut-and-paste version of Senate Leader Perata's memo outlining his objections to the infrastructure deal between the speaker and the governor (and possibly Assembly Republicans).

Posted by dweintraub at 8:09 AM

One more day?

Now the Democrats are fighting among themselves on the infrastructure deal.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:15 AM

March 13, 2006

So close...

We’re hearing conflicting reports about what is going on today in the bond negotiations. Senate sources seem to think that the Assembly is close to a bipartisan deal that would include some money for dam construction and additional funds for projects aimed at improving air quality. But Republicans in the Assembly have not signed off on that deal, and even if they do, there is no guarantee that the Senate would approve it.

It seems as if the serial negotiations that the governor has undertaken might be part of the problem here, as he strikes a deal with one party in one house, then has to sell it to everyone else, who inevitably find fault in it and want changes. Guess that’s why they invented the “Big 5” method of negotiating with all the leaders at once.

For whatever reason, the governor did not appear until recently to be interested in a deal for the June ballot. But now that so much energy has gone into reaching that goal, it would be easy to see it all falling apart if they don’t get a deal done.

It would be a shame for the state, and the governor, if the parties came this close to agreeing on a package and then let it crumble. You’re not talking about ideological blacks and whites here for most members. These are definitely differences that can be split.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:05 PM

24th CD mess

Rep. Elton Gallegly's late announcement that he does not want to seek another term in Congress has made a mess of 24th District politics in the west end of the San Fernando Valley. Election Law blogger Rick Hasen has an update.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:25 AM

March 11, 2006

Bond plan defeated

An infrastructure bond plan that Republicans portrayed as a Democrat-drafted "sham" was defeated on the Senate floor early this morning. Senate leader Don Perata said the action means that no public works plan will be on the ballot before November. The governor asked legislative leaders to keep negotiating through the weekend.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:37 AM

March 9, 2006

It's not soup yet

The sessions scheduled for tonight have been scrubbed. The Senate is now scheduled to come in on Friday. The Assembly leadership expects to be negotiating through the weekend.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:20 PM

Sessions skedded for 6 p.m.

The Assembly and Senate have both scheduled sessions for 6 p.m. to take up the infrastructure plan -- if there is one.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:50 PM

March 8, 2006

Bond deal?

The governor today dropped by the Assembly Republican Caucus to pitch the latest iteration of his emerging deal with Democrats on infrastructure. I hear he spoke for about five minutes and then left, after which the sentiment among the members was not exactly warm. The details of what he laid out:

A $48 billion package for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

$38.6 billion in 2006, with $10.3 billion for schools, $19.35 billion for transportation, housing and air quality, and $9 billion for flood control, water and natural resources. Another $9.1 billion for schools would go on the ballot in 2008.

The transportation piece by istelf is about $18 billion, with $6.5 billion going directly into roads and highways. Another $5 billion or so goes to rail and transit, $2 billion for goods movement, $1.8 billion for air quality and environmental mitigation, $1.8 billion for safety, including seismic retrofits, and about $950 million for transit oriented development and infill incentives.

Reportedly, the governor struck out in his call for reforms on environmental and contracting laws.

The plan is to bring the package up for a vote late Thursday. Let the arm-twisting begin.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:48 PM

Conflicting conflicts

Strange goings on at the legislative Audit Committee hearing today on the First 5 money. The committee did vote to proceed with the audit, which even Rob Reiner at this point says he supports. But the commission's director, Kris Perry, oddly said that the attorney general's office, which normally represents the agency, had bowed out due to a conflict of interest. Yet earlier this week, Atty. Gen. Lockyer declined a request to investigate First 5 and referred it to the local DA because, he said, he represents the agency and so investigating it would be a conflict. So now he has declined to investigate and declined to represent it, saying both times that doing so would be a conflict. The upshot was that Perry refused to answer questions from the committee because, she said, she will have to hire outside lawyers to represent her and, in the meantime, the attorney general had advised her (depsite its conflict) to say nothing.

Unfortunately, the audit is going to take four or five months from the time that it starts, and no one knows when it will begin. A vote to expedite the audit fell one vote short of passage in the committee.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:21 PM

Using public dollars to change minds on preschool

The controversial preschool-for-all ad campaign paid for with public funds and timed to coincide with the unveiling of Rob Reiner’s universal preschool initiative had its roots in a 2002 memorandum that laid out a detailed strategy for changing the public’s mind on the issue.

The memo, which you can see in pdf form here, was prepared by GMMB, the same ad firm whose principals have close ties to Reiner and created the $23 million campaign that began airing late last year just as Reiner and his allies began to seek signatures for the initiative that will appear on the June ballot as Proposition 82.

The memo is filled with references that are likely to inflame passions on this issue, including:

--The authors saw as a problem the fact that polling had revealed that most Californians didn’t want universal preschool.

“There is considerable support for and understanding of the importance of the early years, but little demand for the state to do more,” the memo says. “The needs of children ages zero to five are ranked as a lower priority than the needs of adolescents, seniors and children with disabilities. These findings are consistent across ethnic groups. Even parents of young children say the needs of seniors and adolescents are greater than the needs of children zero to five.”

--The opinion research zeroed in on why this was the case:

“People see the early years as primarily the responsibility of parents,” the memo says.

To change that opinion, the authors said, “We must break the constantly reinforced impression that ‘education’ starts at the age of five. In many respects, our biggest challenge is the fact that most people unquestionably believe that everything before the age of five is ‘preparation’ and therefore the responsibility of parents, and ‘education’ does not start until five.

--Those people who did support a government role in preschool thought that subsidies should be directed only at the poor.

“Right now, there are strong predispositions to believe that state programs should be means-based. And of course, in an era of scarce resources, it makes sense to prioritize low-income families. However, if the long-term goal is universal availability of early education programs, we must begin to lay the groundwork now.”

--Women, blacks and Latinos were most likely to be moved by the arguments of an advertising campaign. White men seemed “relatively disinterested” in the issue.

“While it is tempting to respond to this finding by treating them as a prime target, we believe it makes more sense to devote resources to moving the groups most likely to be moved. Our goal for white men should be acquiescence, not activism.”

--The memo suggested continuing an existing education program aimed at showing parents and caregivers how they could make a difference in the lives of children. The commission should do this, the memo said, “not just because it is important in and of itself, but also because it will also help to create more demand for improved programs from the state.”

That idea – using public dollars to “create demand” for a new state preschool entitlement – was at the heart of the strategy and is repeated throughout the memo.

The benchmarks for measuring success were whether the campaign increased “the perceived need for California to do more” and whether the advertising was able to “reduce the age at which people believe the state should offer” organized education.

“If we can move those numbers,” the memo said, “it will mean we are both creating demand and changing the perception that formal education begins at the age of five. Accomplishing these goals will pave the way for making the case on behalf of a greater state role for children in their first five years of life.”

Note: Bill Bradley had a blog post Tuesday on the advertising contract with the same firm that discusses some of these same themes.

See the Bee’s story here on the resignation of Prop. 82’s campaign manager, who was also being paid with public funds as a consultant to the Reiner coimmission.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:27 AM

March 7, 2006

Illegal immigrants

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the number of illegal immigrants in the country has reached 12 million.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:57 AM

Business as usual

The Dems say they have a unified infrastructure plan they are presenting to the governor, but representatives of both the speaker and the Senate leader say they won't or can't make it public at this time. They apparently fear that doing so would jeopardize the negotiations. The Senate leader's office won't even confirm reports that Perata met with the governor last night. That kind of secrecy is usually a sign that a deal is very close, or at least people think they are close to making a deal. It's unfortunate, though, that the leaders of the state's majority party don't feel as if they can make this stuff public before a final deal is reached. Sounds like we might be headed toward another one of those back-room, dark-of-night deals that the governor promised to end but has embraced as his modus operendi.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:48 AM

First 5

In this letter, to Sen. Chuck Poochigian, Attorney General Bill Lockyer says he agrees that "a prompt review" is warranted of allegations that the First 5 commission misused public funds with its $23 million ad campaign in support of preschool at the same time that Rob Reiner and allies were collecting signatures for Prop. 82. Lockyer says his office has a conflict because it has an attorney-client relationship with the commission, so he has referred the matter to the Sacramento district attorney. He said his referral in no way means he has concluded that the law was violated.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:33 AM

Giving a dictator the power to equalize us

David Schmidtz on inequality, and power:

Here is a truism about the wealth of nations: Zero-sum games do not increase it. Historically, the welfare of the poor always—always—depends on putting people in a position where their best shot at prosperity is to find a way of making other people better off. The key to long-run welfare never has been and never will be a matter of making sure the game’s best players lose. When we insist on creating enough power to beat the best players in zero-sum games, it is just a matter of time before the best players capture the very power we created in the hope of using it against them. We are never so unequal, or so oppressed, as when we give a dictator the power to equalize us.

From an essay on Cato Unbound.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:14 AM

Prison reform

The LA Times takes a look at what went wrong with Schwarzenegger's attempt to reform the state prison system. The story documents how the governor or at least his aides went hot and cold on various reform ideas depending on his political standing and his perceived ability to withstand opposition and criticism of those efforts. He should have fought harder. But I also think this is another example of how Schwarzenegger has hurt himself by refusing to publicly admit defeat or acknowledge how the "special interests" he says he's fighting are more powerful than he is. By either declaring victory for half-loaves or slinking away quietly rather than admitting defeat when he's beaten, he's lost opportunities to educate the public about how difficult it is to change anything in Sacramento, and why.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:38 AM

Field Poll

The latest Field Poll, released today, has some interesting nuggets.

Feinstein looks like a lock to win re-election. No surprise there.

Prop. 82 is ahead, but not by a monster margin, at 55-34. And it still has the support of 36 percent of Republicans. If that drops another 10 points or so, the measure might be in trouble. Also, the people who have heard of it have a slightly less favorable take than the people who were not aware of the measure before being called by the pollster. That suggests an active opposition campaign could cause it some trouble.

And finally, Phil Angelides had to gulp when he saw this number: Sen. Barbara Boxer's approval rating, at 41-34, is about as low as it's ever been, tying the average marks set in 1993 and 1997. Boxer was the star of the treasurer's introductory ad for governor rolled out last week.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:31 AM

March 6, 2006

Thomas to quit

Bakersfield Congressman Bill Thomas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced today he will not seek another term. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the Assembly, is expected to be among those running to succeed Thomas, which would then set off a contest to replace McCarthy as Republican leader.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:28 AM

The best way to fight illegal immigration

Business Week reports on the rise of a Mexican middle class.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:03 AM

March 3, 2006

Hollywood and Vine

This is the kind of redevelopment that won't happen anymore if eminent domain opponents succeed with a planned ballot measure. City officials are raving about all the big new projects that have gone up recently in Hollywood. It sounds as if development is doing just fine without the government forcing people to sell their buildings and shut down their businesses so their property can be sold to a competing developer.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:37 PM

New death cocktail proposed

The state, seeking to comply with a court order, says a different mixture of lethal injections will keep condemned killers from feeling "wanton, unnecessary pain."

Posted by dweintraub at 7:14 PM

Duke Cunningham sentenced

The former congressman gets 8 years, 4 months in prison.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:10 PM

Jobless rate down to 4.9 percent

California's unemployment rate is now at its lowest point since March 2001.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:20 PM

Paper ballots

I love gadgets and technology as much as anyone, but I have thought from the beginning that electronic voting machines were fatally flawed. Not because they couldn't be made secure. But because the public would never believe they were secure. And without that, you've got nothing. Now New Mexico has gone to a statewide system of paper ballots (counted by machine). Good for them. It's probably the wave of the future.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:53 AM

Public pensions

Dick Riordan and others are questioning the rate-of-return assumptions relied upon by various Los Angeles pension funds. If the critics are right, you can add billions more to the already acknowledged unfunded liabiltiies.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:32 AM

Outta town, laid up and groggy

Gov. Schwarzenegger is jetting off to Ohio for a bodybuilding event after attending another CHP funeral today. But so far the legislative leaders aren't complaining about his absence at a crucial point in negotiations over his proposed public works plan. It sounds as if they might welcome the rest. Senate Leader Don Perata had to cancel all of his appointments Friday because of a back injury. And Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is scheduled for knee surgery today that will keep him groggy for a while before he begins recuperating. Staff to all three are expected to continue hammering away at a potential compromise in hopes that the electeds will be able to close a deal next week.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:17 AM

March 2, 2006

Cali pop tops 37 mil

The state's population grew by about 500,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2005, to a total of more than 37 million, the Department of Finance reported. Meanwhile, more people left California for other states than moved here.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:37 PM

More optimism on early bond deal

A strange set of back to back press conferences at the Capitol today.

First off was Schwarzenegger, in a hastily called meeting with reporters that didn't seem to have much point. He simply recounted that he had met with Speaker Núñez and said he was optimistic that he and the Legislature would come to terms on a public works package some time this year. The press conference mostly seemed to be about giving him cover in case the talks failed to produce a package by the March 10 deadline for getting something on the June ballot. And the governor volunteered that he would be happy to return from a bodybuilding competition he sponsors in Ohio each year, and will be attending this weekend, if the speaker thought his presence here would help the negotiations proceed. That seemed like an effort to cover his behind in advance in case anyone wanted to make that an issue while he was gone.

Núñez followed with his own press conference that offered up a little more meat. The speaker said his meeting with the governor was by far the best they have had on the issue this year. He said he sensed a new urgency on the governor's part to get a deal done. He said the governor said he was open to including affordable housing and natural resources in the bond package, and said he would work with the Dems on public transportation funding if they would work with him on roads. And Núñez said the governor explained his decision this week to ask for more flood control money in a way that made some sense.

So while the odds still seem stacked against an early deal and a June ballot package, they certainly seem better today than they did a few days ago.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:36 PM

Rocky v. Wal-Mart

The Democratic candidates for attorney general are accusing each other of being too nice to Wal-Mart. Now Rocky Delgadillo says he "regrets" his involvement in enticing the company to open a store that helped revitalize a run-down Los Angeles neighborhood.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:36 PM


I suppose this was inevitable. The recipients of taxpayer subsidies are no longer trusting intermediaries to do their bidding. They are jumping into the game directly. Cal State University students have now formed their own political action committee to contribute to candidates for state office.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:30 PM

March 1, 2006

Better late than never

The Schwarzenegger Administration has just released the five-year infrastructure plan it is required by law to produce annually. This one was due in 2004. It's two years late. You can find it here. You can click without fear, but beware, if you go further, you'll soon be into 260 pages of material.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:33 PM

Parra favors First 5 audit

Bill Bradley reports that the effort to audit the First 5 commission for funding the preschool ad campaign is gaining steam.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:35 PM

Reiner not a 'lifetime' appointee

Various folks in and near the Capitol are in a froth over their belief that Rob Reiner can never be forced out of his position as chairman of the California Children and Families First Commission, though he has taken a voluntary leave. They're circulating emails claiming Reiner wrote the thing to make himself dictator for life and now he can't be removed. Let's nip that one in the bud right now. Here is the statute passed by voters in 1998:

130115. The Governor shall appoint three members of the state commission, one of whom shall be designated as chairperson. One of the Governor's appointees shall be either a county health officer or a county health executive. The Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee shall each appoint two members of the state commission. Of the members first appointed by the Governor, one shall serve for a term of four years, and two for a term of two years. Of the members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee, one appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee shall serve for a period of four years with the other appointees to serve for a period of three years. Thereafter, all appointments shall be for four-year terms. No appointee shall serve as a member of the state commission for more than two four-year terms.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:30 PM

Schwarzenegger files

In case there were still some doubters out there, the governor's campaign team reports that he filed papers today in Los Angeles to run for reelection.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:18 PM

Doolittle's been doing a lot

If the feds are taking Rep. John Doolittle up on his request that they investigate his ties to Jack Abramoff and others so that he might be cleared of any wrongdoing, they might start with this handy cheat sheet prepared by Public Citizen, which has installed the congresssman in its ethics Hall of Shame.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:41 AM

Field Poll: voters like bond ideas

The latest Field Poll finds that the governor's approval rating is inching up, his disapproval rating is dropping a bit faster, and the public likes most of his bond proposals -- except the one that the Legislature is most likely to kill.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:32 AM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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