The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

April 22, 2010
Gloria Negrete McLeod's effort to protect patients fails

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod's legislation to rid the nurses' ranks of drug users, predators and other miscreants failed today. It received one yes-vote, Negrete McLeod's.

The bill is the focus of today's editorial and aggressive reporting by the nonprofit investigative journalism project, ProPublica.

Influential unions representing nurses and powerful lobby groups representing dentists and other health care providers opposed the measure, prompting Democratic and Republican lawmakers to wilt.

The measure, SB 1111, sought to require that employers report nurses who are guilty of malfeasance to the state board responsible for licensing them.

As it is, the board commonly takes three years to discipline bad nurses. SB 1111 also would have extended similar patient protections to dentists and others in the health care industry.

Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) was the only member of the Business and Professions Committee who actually cast a no vote. Wyland said after the hearing that despite his opposition to SB 1111, he intended to work on the issue.

While Wyland cast a no-vote, others senators on the committee ducked when their names were called, a time-honored if craven method of killing bills without leaving fingerprints.

Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was in Room 113 of the Capitol, as were Ron Calderon of Montebello, Dean Florez of Shafter and Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach. They remained silent when the clerk asked them to vote.

Two other members apparently had more important places to be: Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) and Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Tustin). Each is running for higher office, Walters for state Treasurer, and Aanestad, an oral surgeon, for lieutenant governor.

The Republican opposition was a slap at Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger who said he was making the issue a major priority after the ProPublica articles began appearing last year.

Also missing from the room was Bill Leonard, who is Schwarzenegger's secretary of consumer affairs and is responsible for the health care boards.

Negrete McLeod said she was abandoning the bill but would continue working on the issue.

"We need to do something to protect the consumers," Negrete McCleod said.

April 14, 2010
Meg Whitman opens the political season with a goose egg

Meg Whitman stumbled in an initial attempt to build allies in the legislature.

Whitman tried playing in the Republican fight in Tuesday's Riverside County special election that was a focus of today's column, and did not come close to winning.

On April 5, the same day Whitman dumped another $20 million into her gubernatorial campaign account, the billionaire former boss of eBay sent the maximum $3,900 to former Assemblyman Russ Bogh in his failed comeback attempt against Assemblyman Bill Emmerson.

One of her top aides, Jeff Randle, sent Bogh $2,500, and another aide, Mitch Zak, sent Bogh $1,500.

Emmerson trounced Bogh, capturing 41% of the GOP vote to Bogh's 22%.

The donations were especially ill-timed, arriving at the beginning of the month when virtually everyone who knows much about the district had concluded that Emmerson would bury Bogh.

Of course, $3,900 is mere checkbook dust for a candidate who has dumped $59 million into her own campaign. If she becomes the next governor, Emmerson no doubt will forget that she sided with his opponent. Won't he?

April 11, 2010
PG&E is paying good money for its endorsements

PG&E has sent the first mailers for its Proposition 16 initiative on the June 8 ballot this week, and many more are sure to follow, as California Forum makes clear today.

PG&E has bought space on roughly 20 slate cards targeting the left and the right, environmentalists and business interests and anti-tax voters, according to its latest campaign filing.

Slate cards occupy a sketchy niche in the business of politics. Read them with skepticism.

Slates have names suggesting they are actual organizations. In fact, virtually all of them are run by political operatives who have built mailing lists over the years and appear able to deliver votes.

One is called the Democratic Voters Choice card, which is aimed at Democratic voters. Another is called Citizens for Good Government. It is tailored for Republicans.

Each shares the same consultant, Thomas Kaptain of Burbank. PG&E is paying a combined $200,000 to appear on the two cards.

Another is COPS Voter Guide. Its name suggests it represents of police and sheriffs. Some cops are involved, but not many. PG&E paid COPS $100,000.

Several are put together by Orange County attorney James Lacy, and his firm, Landslide Communications. All of Lacy's cards are aimed at conservatives, particularly those who focus on taxation. Lacy said he intends to mail more than six million pieces in the June election.

PG&E is paying $19,600 to appear on the Small Business Action Committee Newsletter, according to its campaign finance state.

Small Business Action Committee was established to "battle for small business on important political issues." It's run by Joel Fox, former head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and editor of the on-line Fox & Hounds Daily political blog.

PG&E is paying $42,000 to appear on the National Tax Limitation Committee's card, also put out by Lacy's Landslide Communications. National Tax Limitation is run by Lewis K. Uhler, a long-time Republican activist and veteran of Gov. Ronald Reagan's administration.

Like many slate card operators, Uhler said he only takes money from causes he believes in. While he said he has "no love for PG&E," he believes in the initiative to block the expansion of public power.

"Government should not be in business," Uhler declared.

That's open for debate, although so far, there isn't much argument from the No-on-16 side. As we note on the front of Forum today, PG&E has spent $28.52 million to boost Proposition 16. Foes have raised virtually nothing. In the business of politics, the side with the most money usually wins, or at least, delivers the most mail.

April 7, 2010
John Eastman uses The Bee for his latest fund-raising pitch

John C. Eastman, Republican candidate for California attorney general, is using this column in his new fund-raising pitch, complaining that The Bee "joined the attacks" on his candidacy.Benjamin Franklin[3].JPG1.JPG

This is a minor point, but The Bee itself did not "attack" him, merely one of its humble columnists, me. This is another minor point, but since when is quoting someone accurately an "attack?"

I confess that I did pick through this web site, saw a few items that were of interest to me, and figured The Bee's readers also might find them of interest, too.

Eastman has never run for office, so he might not know that newspapers tend to write about candidates. Then again, he professes to be a scholar of the Founders, and might recall that they thought a newspaper's most fundamental job was to write about politics and politicians, not always favorably, and bring issues to the attention of the electorate.

Back to the question of fund-raising, Eastman clearly could use a little help. He had $148,272 in the bank as of the latest filing on March 17, and has reported raising $18,652 since them. That might be enough to buy a few radio ads in Bakersfield.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, another Republican candidate for attorney general, has raised more in the past three weeks, $184,000, than Eastman's total. Cooley had $338,000 in the bank back on March 17.

April 5, 2010
UPDATED: Mickey Kaus runs against 'state-of-the-art' Democrat Boxer

Mickey Kaus is living proof of how far a Democrat can get by criticizing teachers unions, questioning amnesty for illegal immigrants and opposing labor's goal of winning card check legislation that would make it easier to organize workers.

Kaus is the journalist who has been blogging since the dawn of blogging and decided to run in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer, explaining why in this posting. He's not delusional. He doesn't think he has a chance of winning. Nor does he have a beef with Boxer.

He calls her a "state of the art Democrat." But he does have problems with the state of the Democratic art.

Prolific writer on public policy issues that he is, Kaus figured he'd have a shot at gaining a way-off prime time speaking slot at the California Democratic Party's coming convention.

Shawnda Westly, the party's executive director, put the kabosh on that idea:

"We're sorry but we just can't accommodate your request to speak during the general session. We will return your check to you via mail tomorrow."

Westly explained that party leaders including Chairman John Burton concluded that Kaus' candidacy is not viable.

When The Swarm talked with Kaus, the blogger-candidate readily acknowledged that he is not likely to follow in the footsteps of Al Franken, the upstart politician who won the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota. Kaus was still working on getting his web site up, a basic step in this age of Internet politics, especially for a blogger like Kaus.

UPDATE: Kaus' web site is up and, as you might guess, provocative.

Viable or not, Kaus is not without a following. How many long shots get real estate in both the New York Times Magazine and CalBuzz?

Kaus certainly has a perspective on governance and the Democratic Party.

He agrees with the Democratic overhaul of health care but worries about the next big thing, immigration and amnesty for illegal immigrants. Party elite believe their stand on illegal immigration is "the way to win the Latino vote."

Kaus also takes issue with the Democratic Party's embrace of all things labor, and of what he sees at the teachers' union hold on and mishandling of public schools. "Unions run the show in Sacramento," Kaus said.

Not viable, you say? In a Democratic primary?

April 2, 2010
Republicans party but aren't raising much money

 Rex's take on Mike Duvall.jpg

The Republican Party hit a few bumps this week, what with l'affaire d Erik Brown.

Brown, in case you missed it, is (or was) the Republican consultant who billed the Republican National Committee $1,946 for "meals" at a Hollywood nightclub that is said to have a bondage theme.

Embarrassing though that was, the GOP in California has far bigger problems. In its latest campaign finance filing, the California Republican Party disclosed that it has $1.4 million in the bank, and $324,000 in unpaid bills.

The California Democratic Party, by contrast, reported this week that it has $9.132 million in the bank, and a mere $3,073 in debt.

The GOP would have been in far worse shape, but for $250,000 from Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, and $510,000 from A. Jerrold Perenchio, the wealthy former chairman of Univision.

As several others have reported, Brown and his firm, Dynamic Marketing, Inc., had numerous California clients. But little noticed was that his clients included Mike Duvall, the former assemblyman who resigned after he was caught talking on a hot microphone in a Capitol hearing room about a lobbyist he claimed wore "eye patch" underwear.

Duvall paid Brown $40,522 between 2006 and 2008. Duvall reported that some of the money was for campaign literature. But for $33,104, Duvall offered no description.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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