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John Hrabe

$2.1 Million Redistricting Campaign Flips California the “Bird”

While everyone’s attention has been focused on candidate finance reports, an important campaign finance number has been ignored: the total cost of the Republican redistricting referendum.

According to its fourth quarter campaign finance report, the Republican group Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting spent a whopping $2.1 million on its effort to put the new state Senate maps to a vote in November. The committee collected $1.7 million, or 80 percent, of its funding from the California Republican Party. That’s money that a cash-depleted party could have invested into voter registration programs for the three competitive state Senate districts.

Over at, I’m flogging the redistricting horse one final time. Why?


Because there were real problems with the commission that Republicans tried to expose. Moreover, the Capitol press corps is so busy attacking Republicans that they’re missing major flaws with the commission. This was the first try at an independent citizens’ panel so mistakes were inevitable.

First, some praise for State Sen. Mimi Walters and Julie Vandermost. They championed the redistricting issue for all the right reasons and raised a hefty sum of money in a bad fundraising climate. The California Republican Party would be in better shape if it had more hard-working team players like Walters and Vandermost.

Second, the campaign managed a tight operation. Most of the money was spent on paid-signature gathering and a small amount on legal fees. This campaign wasn’t mismanaged. It was lean and efficient.

Third, the committee’s legal team did an outstanding job. Once again, Charles Bell showed why Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP are the state’s “go-to” Republican law firm.

Now, the criticism. The redistricting reform campaign screwed up its message by communicating exclusively to Republicans. Everyone cares about political corruption. Republicans and Democrats. Liberals and conservatives. Instead of focusing on the commission’s serious flaws, the discussion became about how the State Senate maps undercut Republicans’ ability to block tax increases.

Tax Increases!

Tax increases!

Those words are dog-whistle cues to the Capitol’s old liberal hounds. LA Times columnist George Skleton makes no secret that he’d love to raise taxes and end Prop 13. If the GOP’s objections are about taxes, he’s naturally on the opposite side.

“There should be a strong message here for the GOP about how out of sync it has been. It’s not like the court can legitimately be accused of a political bias. Six of its seven members were appointed by Republican governors,” Skelton wrote in his column about the Supreme Court decision. “Republicans fear that Democrats, running in the new districts, will wind up with a two-thirds majority in the Senate, enough votes to pass tax increases.”

You really can’t blame Skelton. He’s just repeating the GOP’s redistricting talking points. But, if Republicans want to win in California, they need to get beyond taxes. I don’t want higher taxes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only issue I care about. The tax issue has become the California Republican Party’s Frankenstein monster. It’s the only subject where legislative Republicans are relevant and consistently win. Therefore, it’s the only subject where Republicans can form a coherent sentence.

Well, there’s one other Republican issue.

“Sadly, the Chief Justice applied a flawed, politically-based precedent established by former Chief Justice Rose Bird, who was removed from office by the voters for repeatedly ignoring the Constitution and the will of the voters,” FAIR’s chief political consultant Dave Gilliard told reporters after the Supreme Court’s decision.

With all due respect to Mr. Gilliard, a very successful GOP political consultant.

"Hello? This is 1986, back when Rose Bird was relevant."

ROSE BIRD! Are you kidding me? ROSE BIRD! You’re flipping us the Rose Bird!

The Rose Bird controversy was relevant back in 1986. A time before email and Facebook, when Apple still made computers, and cell phones were solid bricks. Anyone under the age of 50 doesn’t know or care about Rose Bird. Bird’s name is an out-dated code word to old-time Republicans. It’s great if you’re trying to win a Republican primary in Orange County, but not if you want to communicate to anyone with a Twitter account.

Mike Ward, Gabino Aguirre, CAUSE, not even ProPublica, garnered a mention in the LA Times or Sacramento Bee redistricting stories. The moment taxes and Rose Bird became the message there was no more discussion of the tainted commission.

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