Today's Commentary Author

Doug LaMalfa

LaMalfa, a rice farmer from Butte County, is a former member of the State Assembly.


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The Silver Lining

by Doug LaMalfa - North California (bio) (email)

11-4-2010 7:59 am

As California Republicans sift through the ashes post-election day, we can look to the good that did result and some of the indicators of why the public may have voted how they did.  Yep, we as Republicans sure lost all nine statewide elections though there is some hope for Attorney General, being only 9000 votes behind right now.  

In D.C. picking up the gavel with 61 or so in the House is the single most important accomplishment for the next 2 years for the country.  Republicans moving from 41 to 47 in the US Senate certainly will give strength to stopping bad Obama/Dem policies. Though the lost opportunities in Colorado and Washington among others are very disappointing, we did gain in places like Illinois's Obama seat and the Wisconsin/Feingold seat.  

Back here in the Golden state, we can see pickups in 2 Congressional seats if the votes to be counted in 2 valley seats swing our way.  We did well in the State Senate with Anthony Cannella holding the 12th seat [of Jeff Denham's], a seat with a 19% or so Democrat advantage.  Cannella is a great guy who will be one of my favorites in the Capitol as was Jeff.  

The Assembly disappointed with a net loss of one Republican, though a couple 'pickup' seats were in play much of the time.  David Valadao's win in the 30th is a bright spot for Assembly Republicans, in a Dem majority seat.  

[Oh, and of course, I'm very happy and honored with my own win up here in the 4th Senate District, thanks every one that helped and rooted me on!]  

The net result of Tuesday is the same 25-15 Dem advantage in the Senate and now a 52-28 in the Assembly, which means only 2 Reps needed for a 2/3 vote in each house.

Later, I'll offer my thoughts on the propositions.   There are silver linings there too, though we do have our work cut out for us.   

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Steinberg's Latest "Sales/Income Tax Swap" Idea Is Just Another Massive Tax Increase

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

8-2-2010 3:32 am

With the state facing what is now a $19.1 billion budget shortfall, as we sit here now over a month into the fiscal year without a state spending plan, you can expect to see a lot of “creative” ideas coming out of liberal politicians who are desperately trying to close the budget gap while minimizing more cuts to state government spending.  That having been said, virtually all of the one-time gimmicks and accounting tricks have already been used before reaching this point. 

No one should be surprised that the latest “creative idea” to come out of the Capitol, purportedly floated by State Senate President Darrell Steinberg, is – you guessed it, another tax increase.  His proposal is to raise most income tax rates for Californians, while lowering sales tax rates.  The basic idea is that income taxes are deductable on itemized federal tax returns, and the swap in taxes would shift a few billion bucks from the coffers of the federal government into state government.  John Myers of KQED Public Radio has an excellent summary and analysis of this proposal on his Capitol Notes Blog.  I am excerpting some of it below, but you can read the whole thing here.

Consider this the first real leak from the seemingly stalled budget negotiations: a proposal being bandied about to raise most income tax rates in California while lowering sales tax rates, erasing between $2 billion and $3 billion of the deficit.

Several legislative and lobbyist sources who spoke only on background (as with most budget rumblings) confirm that such proposal is being talked about, and that it's purported selling point is that it might not cost many Californians any money.

That's because state income taxes are deductible when it comes time to pay Uncle Sam. So, the theory goes, any hike in state rates won't actually hurt the pocketbooks of millions of Californians once they file their federal taxes. And the proposal would be sweetened by then lowering the state portion of the sales tax — thus perhaps saving money for many folks (given that sales taxes are not deductible).

It's hard to get a precise estimate about how much gross income tax revenue would come in from this proposal, which apparently calls for bumping up all state income tax brackets except the current top bracket of 9.3% (remember that millionaires in the state pay an additional 1%). But remember that the income tax windfall would be offset by the subsequent loss in sales tax revenue — hence the figure of $2 billion-$3 billion as a net infusion into state coffers.

While the proposal might sound interesting at first (especially when you consider that California desperately needs to flatten its tax base, moving away from an extreme reliance on the state’s wealthiest residents), it takes about a second of real thought to figure out how flawed this proposal is, and why it is just a flat-out tax increase.

First and foremost, in order to deduct state income taxes, one would have to itemize their deductions.  According to our friends at Americans for Tax Reform (who would consider this proposal a violation of their No New Taxes Pledge) over 60% of Californian’s do not itemize their deductions.  So they would all pay higher state income taxes, without any relief on their federal taxes.

Second, if you are a Californian who pays the federal Alternative Minimum Tax, you do not even qualify to have your state taxes deducted from your federal taxes at all.

Third, let’s remember that itemized deductions “phase out” for taxpayers as they make more money, including the deductibility of state income taxes.

Finally, it is significant (and sobering) that, according to the Internal Revenue Service, 33% of income tax returns have either zero or an actual negative income tax liability.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that slightly less than half of families have no federal income tax liability at all!  It stands to reason that this represents a huge percentage of California returns – and if you have no federal tax liability, then you can’t benefit from being able to deduct more state income tax.

It’s worth noting, as an aside, that this proposal also presumes that the federal policy makers will not, at some point, reduce or eliminate the deductibility of state income taxes.

Given the resolve of the Governor and legislative Republicans to solve this year’s budget crisis without further punishing California taxpayers (remember, last year the legislature hoisted the largest single tax increase in the history of any state on us), I think it is fair to characterize this latest “creative” tax increase dead on arrival.

(A big shout out to Ryan Ellis, the Tax Policy Director at Americans for Tax Reform, for helping walk me through some of these details.)

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More Hypocrisy from Florez and Steinberg, this Time Over Farmworkers

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

7-29-2010 7:08 am

Senators Dean Florez and Darrell Steinberg are high on their soapboxes this week, slamming Governor Schwarzenegger for not signing SB 1121, a bill that would have extended the state's overtime labor laws to California farmworkers, who currently do not fall squarely under the standard system due to the seasonal nature of their work.

As Schwarzenegger spelled out in his veto message, Florez's bill would have been bad for both businesses and farmworkers.  Since other states do not have these wage requirements, the businesses here in California would just have made more crews work shorter shifts, which would have resulted in lower pay for everyone.  And let's also recognize that California, unlike other states, currently does provide for overtime benefits for farmworkers once they hit 10 hour days or 60 hour weeks.

According to Florez and Steinberg (or more likely the flacks who write their press releases), the Governor's decision was an act of "sid[ing] with the shameful" or maintaining "discrimination."   Yet before these two finish crucifying Arnold, they should save a few nails for themselves. 

That's right, as this 1999 L.A. Times article shows, the Legislature passed the state's current overtime regulations into law while specifically exempting "agricultural workers."

Voting "Aye"?  You guessed it, Florez and Steinberg. (See vote here.)

Just like every Republican legislator was correct in refusing to vote for this bad legislation, Governor Schwarzenegger did the right thing by terminating it with his veto pen.

A LOT of bad bills like this will rain down on Governor Schwarzenegger as the last legislative session during his tenure comes to a close.  Hopefully this veto is a sign of a lot more to come!

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Chief Justice Nominee’s Officiating A Gay Marriage Speaks Volumes

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

7-27-2010 4:02 am

I found it to be very ironic that the news that Governor's Schwarzenegger's pick to replace retiring California Supreme Court Justice Ron George had officiated over a same sex marriage was tucked in a Los Angeles Times story (by Maura Dolan) with the innocuous headline, Chief Justice Nominee Avoids Hot-Button Issues.  Appellate Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (pictured, right) actually, and probably unwittingly, has plowed robes-first into what a great many would consider to be California's most high-profile "hot button issue" - gay marriage.

Californians are very polarized on this issue, which has been the subject of a couple of high-profile statewide votes.  In a split decision, the very court to which Cantil-Sakauye has been nominated issued a 4-3 split decision, throwing out voter-approved Proposition 22 which placed a definition into statute of a marriage being between a man and a woman.   Ron George, whom Cantil-Sakauye would be replacing, was a vote on the high court to overturn Proposition 22.  

The voters came back and approved a ballot initiative, Proposition 8, to basically over-rule the Supreme Court an maintain the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.  Once it passed, advocates for same sex marriage took that measure to court, where a judge is expected any day to rule as to whether Prop. 8 violates the federal constitution.  It is presumed that no matter how the lower court rules, this matter will ultimately end up before the United States Supreme Court (where it is likely Justice Anthony Kennedy will decide the matter).

Hot button issue?  What do think?  Of course it is.

Here is the relevant excerpt from Dolan's story in the Los Angeles Times:

She resolutely refused to state her position on same-sex marriage, saying only that she married a gay couple — "acquaintances" — during the six months in 2008 when such marriages were legal, and that she would follow precedent.

"I perform hundreds of weddings, and they included one same-sex marriage," she said. She said she did not hesitate to marry the couple, whom she declined to describe, "because it was the law."

I know that it is the practice of those nominated to judicial positions to suddenly get all "vague" on public policy issues - hiding behind their candidacy for judicial office (or in the case of Cantil-Sakauye, she is also a sitting judge).   But it seems to me that by officiating over a same sex marriage, we probably have an extremely good indicator about how she would rule on the issue were it to come before her as a Supreme Court Justice.

My logic is pretty simple - no one can compel a judge to conduct a wedding ceremony.  That part of the portfolio for a judge is elective.  It's clear by Cantil-Sakauye's performing the ceremony that she certainly does not have a moral objection to gay marriage, or she simply would have declined to do so.  I am also betting that if she was fired-up steaming mad at the split-court decision to overturn Prop. 22, she similarly would not have been excited to perform such a ceremony.

I have a friend who is a surgeon, and he happens to be very much an advocate of the Right to Life.  As such, he has made it clear to me that while performing surgery to abort a fetus is allowable (under board circumstances here in California), he would never do so.  To quote him, "I could never live with myself."

I bring up my friend the surgeon to emphasize an important point - which is that even though something may be legal, that doesn't mean that it is something that you would choose to do.

Is it not particularly noteworthy or newsworthy that Governor Schwarzenegger would tap someone to replace Ron George that likely mirrors his view on the issue of the legality of same-sex marriage - after all, Schwarzenegger was pretty clear in his support for the Supreme Court decision, and his opposition to Proposition 8 which followed.

That said, because the Constitution affords the people of California an up-or-down vote on the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, that means that you and I can certainly take Cantil-Sakauye's willingness to officiate a gay marriage as a factor when we decide how to mark our ballots.

If, like me, you voted for Proposition 22 and Proposition 8, you have every reason to be very concerned about this pick for the Supreme Court's top spot.

P.S.  Advocates of gay marriage have figured out they have a winner.  A website where a reference to Cantil-Sakauye's officiating the gay marriage were hastily scrubbed within hours of her nomination...

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Let's Hope The Supreme Court Agrees That AB 1179 Is Unconstitutional -- It's Is "Nanny Statism" At Its Worst

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

7-14-2010 9:00 am

Back in 2005 the legislature passed and the Governor signed AB 1179, legislation by ultra-liberal Democrat Leland Yee.  This terrible piece of "nanny-statist" legislation presumed to once again assert state government in the role of parenting our children, in this case regulating the sale of violent video games to people under 18.  Completely ignoring the fact that there is an existing rating system for video games that works well, the legislature and, ironically, Governor Schwarzenegger, supported this bad bill. 

Fortunately, this particular advance of big government was thwarted by numerous California courts, included a unanimous rejection by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  It is significant to note that this brings to an even dozen the number of similar laws around the country that have been declared unconstitutional.  In the case of AB 1179, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to review the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Never before have U.S.courts used expressions of violence as the basis for a restriction on our Constitutional rights to free speech. You may not like certain video games, but do you really want the government to tell your kids they can't watch a movie that displays the heroism at the Iwo Jima or on Omaha Beach because too many people got killed or that the depictions of the savagery were too real?

Supporters of the law don't want you to think about that, but we need to because if these restrictions can be imposed on video games, you can be sure that they will be imposed on other forms of entertainment. 

Just this week, lawyers for the state filed their legal arguments with the high court.  According to a story filed by Josh Richman of the Bay Area News Group, "...the state's brief argues the law promotes parental authority to restrict unsupervised minors' access to a narrow category of material in order to protect their physical and psychological well-being — a vital state interest..."

You should take a moment to pause, and digest what it means to our freedom from government intervention into our personal lives if this line of logic is taken as valid by the court.  It would be an invitation for a virtual flood of additional "nanny state" bills in Sacramento and can the other State Capitols where liberals dominate the process.  It should be parents and guardians that hold primary responsibility for the well being of our children, not the government.

The law is an unwarranted government intrusion into our personal lives that everyone, but especially conservatives, should reject. Parents should be the ones to make decisions about what games their kids should play, not the government. Which leads to the next logical reason for conservatives to oppose this law...

Fact is this law is unnecessary. As is often the case, the marketplace already developed a perfectly workable solution to help empower parents: a voluntary private-sector system to accomplish just what the law intends. The video game industry has what is broadly considered the best ratings system in the entertainment industry.  You should take a moment and check out the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) website (while you are there, if you are a parent with young children, you can download an application for your PDA and get ratings instantly).  It is significant, by the way, to note that the ESRB rating system is universally used in the software business, and is funded privately by the companies that produce the games.  This is a great example of the private sector stepping up with a market solution to allow parents to be responsible in what games they allow their children to play.  Of course, video game hardware comes equipped with parental controls to completely block games parents don't want their kids to see. There is simply no reason for the government to get involved.

By the way, hypocrisy is too mild a word for the fact that a law regulating violent video games was signed by a Governor whose entire acting career was built on, and propelled to stratospheric heights by, movie violence.  I wonder if while the Governor is signing this kind of "nanny state" legislation and fighting for its implementation in the courts, if Schwarzenegger is still cashing royalty checks for his image appearing in violent video games?

Our state is drowning in red ink and Sacramento decided to pursue legislation that is unconstitutional, unnecessary, a drain on our state's precarious financial resources and a diversion from the real work that needs to be done in the State Capital (like maybe passing a budget that doesn't raise taxes?).

As a conservative, I am not overly fond of Hollywood and I rarely agree with the liberal elite or the editorial page of the Los Angeles Times. But there's always time for an exception and here it is.

Last May the Times said the regulation contained in the California law "would create a gaping hole in the 1st Amendment." Consequently, the Times went on, the Supremes should continue to declare the California law unconstitutional and allow parent to play "their proper role by taking control of the joystick."

Turns out you don't have to be a conservative to be right on some issues. Let's hope the Supreme Court agrees.

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Marty Wilson: "Pick Up The phone... California Is Calling"

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

7-9-2010 6:34 am


TO:    Interested Parties
FR:    Martin Wilson, Campaign Manager, Carly for California
RE:    Pick up the phone...California is calling

I guess it's not a secret anymore; we've got ourselves a little old competitive Senate race here in California. The Field Poll shows Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina in a statistical tie, 47 percent to 44 percent. This represents a 30-point improvement for Carly since Field first matched up the two in March 2009. Most importantly, Carly has closed a 15-point gap since January 2010. Trends are stubborn things, and Barbara Boxer has found out that this trend is not her friend. Looks like Barbara Boxer has earned herself a spot on the endangered politicians list. 

The political environmental assessment for Barbara Boxer is bleak. Her job performance ratings are 42 percent/48 percent approve/disapprove in this most recent poll. In previous years when she was running for re-election, Boxer has had a much stronger job performance rating. In August 2004, her job performance was 49 percent/36 percent. In February 2008, her job performance rating was 40 percent/25 percent. Even worse news for Boxer is that 52 percent of voters hold an unfavorable view of her in general. After 34 years in Washington, the people of California have seen enough of Barbara Boxer's act and are preparing to give her the hook.

Enter Carly Fiorina, Boxer's most formidable challenger to date. Carly has proven herself to be a tenacious and energetic campaigner who possesses a competitor's spirit. That's why it's no surprise that, even four months before Election Day, she is already well positioned to win in the fall. Carly's favorable ratings are plus five (34 percent to 29 percent), and she has the support of her own party by an eight-to-one margin. She leads in the traditional Republican strongholds of Southern California, the Central Valley and the rural north. There's plenty of work for our campaign to do in the next four months to continue introducing her to voters and talking with them about her plan to create jobs and grow our economy, but Carly has come out of a competitive Republican primary with a unified party and an electorate willing to call on someone new to represent them in Washington. 

It's summertime in California, and the glare of the sunshine has finally put the light on Barbara Boxer's dismal record. Meanwhile, Carly has taken to the road talking to voters about the issues most important to them, and she's starting to shine. I guess you could say the climate is just right to finally send Barbara Boxer packing.

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Chiang Continues To Do The Bidding Of His Biggest Campaign Donors - The Union Bosses

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

7-2-2010 6:14 am

[A version of this commentary appeared on FR early last year.  This column has been revised and updated - Flash]

It seems to me that Californians are getting what they asked for in State Controller John Chiang.  The contrast between selecting Chiang or his opponent, taxpayer advocate Tony Strickland, on the November 2006 ballot could not have been more stark.  While Strickland was openly supported by a cadre of pro-taxpayer organizations and leaders, the bulk of Chiang's support came from the left-wing of the Democrat Party, and most significantly, from public employee unions eager to have yet another "tool" in an important state constitutional office, ready to be put into play should the need arise.  (Below, left, is a photo of Chiang standing with all of his union supporters after being elected Controller.)

While the nation's economy is reeling, as the United States, and California, plow into a recession, public employee union bosses continue to be advocates for the notion that somehow public employees are "more privileged" that their counterparts in the private sector and should be immune from the laws of economics - you know, that when less money comes in, less money can go out?  Unfortunately, that "Golden Rule" applies in government just like it does in the private sector. 

At a time when state government is facing a huge financial shortfall, directly attributed, by the way, by an overspending orgy that was completely advocated by the state's public employee unions (I do not recall any unions calling for less spending on new government jobs, and instead calling for increasing state reserves to deal with potential shortfalls such as the one we are facing today), the unions are pouring proverbial fuel onto the fire by opposing any cuts in pay or benefits for their employees, hiding behind negotiated contracts.  This week we were treated to the scene of thousands of purple-shirted public employees demonstrating in front of the State Capitol...

Unfortunately, unlike the private sector, where market flexibility allows companies to adapt to economic conditions more freely - increasing activities during times of plenty, or downsizing during tougher times - the public sector has been so highly regulated by the tools of the public employee unions that have been propelled into the state legislature (over decades by the aggregate spending of countless tens of millions of dollars of public employee union dollars).  Now when state government so clearly needs to be able to cut its spending pretty dramatically to stay afloat, pro-union laws severely tie the hands of policy makers to do much about it.  In the private sector, a bankruptcy judge would open up labor agreements and cause them to be reworked to be reflective of the fiscal realities facing the affected company, with the idea that workers are not served if the company in question has to close its doors.  No such parallel exists for a government solution.

Yesterday Governor Schwarzenegger issued an executive order calling for the pay of state most state employees to be reduced to the federal minimum wage $7.25/hour until a budget is adopted.  Given, the challenges facing the state, this action was necessary to put pressure on the unions to let legislative Democrats come to the table to discuss how to spend less.  I would certainly note that while Chiang is refusing to make even slight adjustments in public employee pay during this fiscal challenge, he had no trouble whatsoever in making a decision to stop state payments to taxpayers owed refunds from the state.

State Controller John Chiang has already, once again, stepped up and said that he is not going to comply with the Governor's Executive Order (funny, when you read the state constitution, it doesn't seem to give that kind of authority to the Controller to enforce only those legal directives that he likes, and to dismiss those he does not).

When one considers the drone-like pro-union movements of Chiang, one needs to look no further than his endorsements when he ran for office in 2006:

Association of California School Administrators
California Association of Highway Patrol Officers
California Association of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
California Association of Professional Scientists
California Correctional Peace Officer Association (CCPOA)
California Faculty Association
California Federation of Teachers
California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
California Professional Firefighters
California School Employees Association
California Teachers Association
CAUSE - Statewide Law Enforcement Association
CDF Firefighters
CWA Local 9400
Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC)
Huntington Beach Police Officers' Association
Laborers' International Union of North America, Pacific Southwest Region (LIUNA-PSW)
Los Angeles County Probation Officers Union
Los Angeles Police Protective League
Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs
National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO)
Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC)
Professional Engineers in California Government
Retired Public Employees Association of California
SEIU, Local 1000
State Coalition of Probation Organizations
Teamsters Joint Council 42
United Teachers Los Angeles 

But wait, let's look at contributions received by Chiang towards his 2010 re-election from unions.  In 2009 and 2010, Chiang has taken over $150,000 in contributions from these unions (information taken straight from Chiang's campaign filings) -- and it's still "early" in the election season -- as Chiang faces Tony Strickland again this November, look for these unions and others to pony up even more for their tool...
While it is nice to say that Californians are getting what they should expect when they propel these union-drones into public office, that doesn't really do anything to solve our state's problems (created by the overspending of the same union-drones).  At some point, Californians will realize that there are consequences to pushing liberal Democrats into these important state offices.  But for now, we can only hope that the Governor prevails in court (which is apparently where he will have to go to get the Controller to do his job).

As a reader stated in an email to me this morning, it seems that if you give Chiang enough (campaign) money, he will break the law to pay you back.  How wrong is that?

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Competitors Like Safeway Foods Retain "Hired Guns" To Try And Use Government To Stop Walmart Supercenters

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

6-29-2010 5:37 am

No matter at what level you are engaged in politics here in the Golden State -- Governor or a legislator, County Supervisor or a city councilmember, a Superior Court Judge, a news reporter or blogger, or one of the thousands of parties either trying to get government at some level to do something (or in many cases, not do something) - it is an accepted fact that when big-box store giant Walmart wants to open a "super center" store anywhere, local opposition often appears and a big battle ensues.  There are certainly cases where a Walmart just skips into a town somewhere without a hue and cry, but examples of those don't come readily to mind...

Recent revelations have come to light that create a very plausible reason for the consistent, organized and funded opposition to most new Walmart supercenters.  Based on a story that appeared earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal, Rival Chains Secretly Fund Opposition to Walmart, there may be someone with a big, cushy office at Safeway Foods who waits for news of a potential Walmart popping up to compete with some of their local stores, and when they get a "live one" - they pick up the proverbial bat phone and call in, "The Saint!" 

Who is this superhero that is available at a moment's notice to come in and rescue large grocery chains like Safeway from the specter of low-priced competition that will force them to in-turn lower their prices?  The superhero is P. Michael Saint (pictured below, right).  Saint and his company have literally made a business out of "killing Walmarts" all around the country - they are rumored to have stopped hundreds of proposed Walmart developments, and substantially delayed the building of many others.  I am guilty of using a little "tongue and cheek" rhetoric in calling Saint a superhero, though if you are someone who has to compete in the free marketplace against Walmart, he may indeed be just that to you.  But for the average consumer, who looks to a healthy system of supply, demand and competition to make sure that he or she is getting the best quality products for the lowest possible price, Saint may actually be more of a super-villain. 

Before I got into more details about "The Saint" - let me first make it clear that the growth of Walmart throughout the United States is certainly a reason for others in the grocery business to give pause. Walmart currently has more than 2,700 supercenters (so called "big box" stores that sell groceries and general merchandise).  Last year, over half of Walmart's $258 billion in U.S. revenue came from grocery sales.  With that kind of operation, I can see where other grocery market chains would be concerned about Walmart's growth.  That having been said, as a consumer, I expect that if my local grocery store of choice wants to keep my business, they should be using normal techniques to do so - novel concepts like competitively priced products of good quality, and good customer service to ensure my loyalty.  Like most shoppers, I already have plenty of choices of grocery stores in my neighborhood - I go to the one I do because it is the best.   But I can tell you now, if I regularly shopped at Safeway, I might be inclined to give them the heave-ho and go elsewhere, possibly at personal expense and inconvenience.

There is nothing that is more of a turn off to me than interests trying to manipulate the wheels of government, at any level, to secure an unfair advantage against their competitors, which is exactly what they apparently do...

According to this remarkable and troubling article in the Wall Street Journal, Pleasanton-based Safeway, "retained Saint to thwart Walmart Supercenters in more than 30 towns in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii in recent years, according to a Saint project list and interviews with former employees."

But wait, it gets better - apparently it wasn't just Safeway's management who engaged in this sort of activity, the article says that, "Former Saint employees say much of the work consisted of training Safeway's unionized workers to fight land-use battles, including how to speak at public hearings" - and the article says that often times Saint is actually paid, in part, by unions themselves.

So when you next read an article about local community "outrage" about a Walmart coming to town - or perhaps you get to experience it in the first person if Walmart's trying to come to your town - you'll need to understand that there is a very likely possibility that Walmart's competitors have hired Saint Consulting to make a big stink.  How do they do this?  Saint's company has engaged in over 500 different campaigns to stop development of one sort or another through recruiting local opposition (want to make some money by being outraged?), bringing in professional out-of-town organizers and providing financial resources for Lord-knows-what (petition printing and gathering, buses, signs, websites, mailings, newspaper ads - the list is as endless as there are ways to use money).   Oh yes, they also bring in land-use professionals, attorneys, and other "hired guns" to do their work.   But don't look for the proverbial men in black suits, or a lot of Saint Company business cards, as Saint tells the Wall Street Journal that, "most of their work is clandestine," - seriously.

This excerpt from the Journal article is worth reprinting verbatim...

For the typical anti-Walmart assignment, a Saint manager will drop into town using an assumed name to create or take control of local opposition, according to former Saint employees. They flood local politicians with calls, using multiple phones to make it appear that the calls are coming from different people, the former employees say.

They hire lawyers and traffic experts to help derail the project or stall it as long as possible, in hopes that the developer will pull the plug or Walmart will find another location.

"Usually, clients in defense campaigns do not want their identities disclosed because it opens them up to adverse publicity and the potential for lawsuits," Mr. Saint wrote in a book published by his firm.

Mr. Saint says he "encouraged" his employees not to use their real names in campaigns in order to protect the client's identity and "to protect our employees, who have been followed, threatened and harassed by the opposition."

It is not hard to find images of protesters holding up anti-Walmart signs on the internet, such as the one to the right.  But after finding out about how major competitors of Walmart are hiring companies as sophisticated as Saint, you now have to wonder if the protesters are even local.  If they are, then one wonders how much they are being paid to hold up their professionally printed signs...

There are a few examples out there right now of contemporary battles taking place here in California over the construction of new Walmart stores.  To pick one, Walmart has been working with the city of Merced to locate a new distribution center in town, but due to strong "local opposition" Walmart appears to be pulling back from their plans to build.  The local opposition comes from a group that calls themselves the Merced Alliance for Quality Growth (MAQG), who is suing in court to try and stop the project. 

I note that the judge hearing the case (that has been dragging on for years) said, "Walmart may pack it up and go down to Madera.  They want Walmart down there."

Interestingly, after the publication of this article about Saint, the attorneys for Walmart are now asking for discovery to find out who is paying the fees for MAQG's attorney.

Want to bet that if Walmart decides to pursue a Madera site instead, that someone in some corporate office somewhere will pick up the bat phone and call Saint?  Within five minutes, in a rather "clandestine" manner, someone will reserve a website for the Madera Alliance for Quality Growth...

This is a serious problem, and the best antidote for it is public awareness.  If you are local official that makes land use decisions - a Supervisor, Councilmember, or a planning commissioner - or perhaps a local judge who hears cases about land-use disputes, just be aware that you may actually be an actor in a dramatic production, largely choreographed for your benefit, by competitors who simply don't want to compete.

The unfortunate fact is that the real losers are California consumers, who deserve the best quality products at the most affordable prices - and great customer service.  It would appear that some interests out there are more interested in using government to stop their competition, instead of just doing a better job.

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Does Democrat Nominee Michael Rubio Live In Senate District 16? You Make The Call...

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

6-24-2010 8:32 am

Thanks to California's infamously gerrymandered legislative districts the vast majority of seats are "pre-ordained" to be either Republican or Democrat.  Only in a few districts is the registration close enough that a seat is "in play" in the general election.  One of those is State Senate District 16 in the Central Valley.

This seat is currently occupied by term-limited Democrat Dean Florez, who has mentored Democrat Kern County Supervisor Michael Rubio (pictured, right) to succeed him.   The Democrat "machine" in the southern part of the valley is so lock-step behind Rubio that he had no primary opponent whatsoever.

On the Republican side of the ballot, rancher and realtor Tim Theisen (pictured, left) won a narrow primary victory on June 8th and promises to be a strong candidate in the fall.  Theisen, a popular conservative with long roots in the district, and his primary opponent together totaled up votes very close to what Rubio achieved (the delta was less than a couple thousand votes).

This seat is a top target for a Republican pickup.  Theisen's consultant, Wayne Johnson, is no lightweight - considered by politicos on both sides of the aisle to be one of the most capable political consultants in Sacramento.

With the table set now for a donnybrook this Fall, I have received credible information that may very well leave the Democrats with no candidate against Theisen at all!  It would appear that Supervisor Rubio does not live in, nor is he registered to vote in the 16th State Senate District.  Let me make it clear before I go on, this isn't one of those situations where the candidate has a home outside of the district, but is registered to vote at an apartment or at the home of family or a friend in the district.  I mean that the actual home owned by Rubio, at which he is registered to vote, is literally a couple of hundred feet inside of the neighboring 18th Senate District, where Republican Assemblywoman Jean Fuller is running unopposed to succeed Senator Roy Ashburn, who is retiring due to term limits.

First and foremost, there is no dispute about Rubio's home address, at which he is registered to vote: 320 Quincy Street in Bakersfield (graphics: Google Maps photo of home,  Kern County Voter Registrar file).

So the question is simple - in what State Senate district is 320 Quincy Street? 

Well, to start with, if you go to the California State Senate website, and type in 320 Quincy to "find my Senator" - Roy Ashburn's name comes up (see graphic to left).

If you go to the venerable Project Vote Smart website, and type in 320 Quincy - they have that address in the 18th District.

So let's get even more into the nitty gritty.  Kern County has a great GIS/Online mapping system that allows you to zoom in on any parcel of land in the county, and overlay political boundaries.  Guess what happens when you key in Rubio's Quincy Street address?  You pull up a map that clearly shows his parcel, and the boundary between the 16th and 18th Districts tantalizingly close, but Rubio's home is definitely on the 18th District side. (Graphic: snip of Kern GIS search).

Finally, one can go to what is considered to be the "bible" for determination of district information - the Statewide Database (maintained at U.C. Berkeley, where Census data is overlaid against the redistricting maps and every parcel can be located).  Guess what the Statewide Database says?  You guessed it - 320 Quincy is in the 18th District (if  you look at the graphic, the green linee separates the 16th and 18th Senate Districts, 18th on the left side).

Based on all of this data, it seems irrefutable that Michael Rubio is, in fact, running for a State Senate seat in which he does not reside.  That having been said, in Rubio's defense, the Kern County Registrar of voters says that 320 Quincy is in the 16th District.  That said, it would appear that the Kern County Registrar is in error.

There is no doubt that this matter is going to end up in front of a judge, in my opinion.  And the court will ultimately decide whether Rubio can run or not.  But wouldn't it be the colossal blunder of all time if Democrats, in a competitive seat, suddenly had their only candidate on the ballot ruled as having been ineligible to qualify to run for the office in the first place?

We'll see how this plays out in the coming days and weeks...

I will close by leaving you with this short video of Rubio that, given the context, is priceless.  In it he describes how confusing the boundaries of the 16th Senate District are -- but it's his closing line that is the great one.  He says, "It's very frustrating to have to tell folks that because you live across the street you just aren't in it [SD 16]."

Yes, Supervisor, apparently it is!

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Carpenter: Marco Rubio Shines At Annual OC GOP Flag Day Dinner

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

6-15-2010 7:50 am

Longtime FR friend Scott Carpenter, who was just elected to the Orange County Republican Party Central Committee last week, attended the OC GOP's annual Flag Day Fundraising Dinner.  This year's special guest was Marco Rubio, the GOP candidate for United States Senate in Florida.  We asked Carpenter if he would pen something on the event for FR readers.  Please take a few minutes and read this great account of what was a wonderful evening...

Marco Rubio Shines At Annual OC GOP Flag Day Dinner
by Scott Carpenter

Last night marked another successful Flag Day Dinner hosted by the Republican Party of Orange County.  The annual event has become one of the marquee political events in California, if not the entire nation, and last night's occasion lived up to its billing. 

This was the fifth Flag Day that I've had the pleasure to attend.  I can honestly say that tonight's event had a different vibe amongst the attendees that was an optimistic and renewed sense of excitement for the Republican Party.  About 800 elected officials, party leaders, activists, donors and political observers descended upon the Irvine Hyatt to see the keynote speaker, Florida Senatorial Candidate Marco Rubio.  Talking with fellow attendees prior to the dinner everyone seemed excited to return the Republican Party to its core principles and see Rubio as a major leader in that charge, and he did not disappoint.  After an hour of socializing the clock struck 7pm and everyone poured into the main ballroom for the event.

Former California Republican Party Chairman Mike Schroeder was the Dinner Finance Chairman and welcomed everyone to the event, he then introduced Orange County Congressman Dana Rohrabacher for the invocation.  Rohrabacher's invocation was a unique personalized song focusing on God's grace upon America, and it fit perfectly with energy of the evening.  After the Pledge of Allegiance by Board of Equalization Member Michelle Steel, OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh gave his Chairman's Welcome.  Baugh acknowledged the dozens of local elected officials and GOP Central Committee members in attendance and recognized the legislators that were also on hand.  Baugh then made special mention of newly elected Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, and commended him for his victorious campaign in the face of public employee union assaults that were leveled upon him personally and politically.  Once the Chairman's Welcome was finished Ralph Reed from the Faith and Freedom Coalition gave a great National Update.  Reed connected with the issues facing our nation, and the fight our party has on its hands to return our nation to its founding principles.  He spoke about the vulnerable politicians across the nation and how the party needs to embrace the nation's discontent to win the country back and get it back on track.

Following Reed's comments dinner was served.  Of course during dinner about half the room got up to network.  It is always fascinating after an election to watch a room with hundreds of politicos work a room during an event immediately following an election.  Tonight's dinner portion of the evening was no exception.

Following dinner Villa Park City Councilwoman and Tea Party activist Deborah Pauly introduced Marco Rubio.  Deborah fired up the crowd in Tea Party fashion, which was becoming a recurring theme in the evening.  She also received applause for her jab at Florida Governor Charlie Crist.  Of course Crist is Rubio's former GOP primary rival, and current Independent rival after he dropped the GOP in an attempt to prolong his political career.  However, Pauly's jab at Crist had a special place in the OC GOP faithful's heart as he was the Flag Day Speaker in 2008.  Crist's speech was considered by most everyone to be a flop, and having his superstar rival two years later is especially poetic.

Marco Rubio then took the stage and delivered a speech that was the antithesis of the one delivered by his fellow Floridian two years ago.  He had the same crowd, but the opposite reception.  Rubio's humble and authentic but confident delivery drew everyone in and kept the crowd hanging on every one of his words.  He spoke of the reasons he was running for the United States Senate and attributed his candidacy to the greatness of what is possible in America.  Rubio's speech was frequently interrupted by applause; he drew a huge applause when he explained the urgency that the GOP faces in re-embracing its soul and standing behind politicians who remain true to the party's philosophy.  He rightly ridiculed the defeated former members of congress who were responsible for the party's losses in 2006 and 2008.  Rubio explained his economic philosophy and paid tribute to the free market system.  He explained "American free enterprise has eradicated more poverty than any social program in the world ever has."  Rubio then moved on to criticize the Obama Administration's errors in foreign policy, and his policy of "abandon, appease and surrender."  He outlined the mistakes of abandoning our allies in Europe, Latin America and Israel, and defended foreign policy that had been implemented by previous administrations.  Once the policy discussion was finished Rubio drove his speech home about the excruciatingly tough decision to run and remain in the race against all odds.  In a way many people feel a calling towards a certain vocation or life decision, Rubio truly found his calling in his race for US Senate.  He gave the credit of how far he's come in this race to God, his parents and the greatness of the United States.  When Rubio started his race he said the only people who supported him lived in his house; but from his speech no one can deny the remarkable journey he has taken from being raised the son Cuban immigrants to the brink of election to the United States Senate.  Everyone in the room had an even better appreciation for the greatness of the United States following Rubio's speech.  He closed with this quote "Many of you may never get the opportunity to vote for me, but please give me the opportunity to vote for you."

With a room full of energized Republicans ready to take action Chairman Baugh gave attendees an opportunity to donate to Rubio's campaign.  By this time my note card was quite cluttered and I began an extremely informal count of how much money was being raised.  There were numerous maximum donations given along with dozens of other donations in smaller amounts.  By my count (which I'm sure I missed several) Rubio had raised well over $25,000.  Chairman Baugh then gave way to California Secretary of State Candidate Damon Dunn for some final inspiring words and closed out the evening quite nicely. 

The Republican Party of Orange County had a lot to feel good about last night.  There were newcomers and long time activists.  The genuine camaraderie in the room was very prevalent.  The mood of the event turned from anxious optimism to electric enthusiasm throughout the night.  Last night's Flag Day Dinner can be considered a win for the party and the country.

**Photo Credit: Allan Bartlett, "lifted" from his Facebook page.**

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Statewide Election Results ReCap

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

6-9-2010 8:01 am

As is always the case after a major election, there is much more to write about than there is time to write!  Look for more substantive analysis on specific races and such, but for this morning, I will take a stab at some overall analysis - all of which will be too brief in any one, but this is an overview, after all.  I am not going to be pouring election numbers into this, you can get plenty of that elsewhere.  Before I start my run down, I want to echo the praise extended by FR friend Aaron McLear to the Capitol Press Corps who all stepped up in their blogging and tweeting last night.  Outstanding.   Also a reminder - I am mostly looking at GOP races - someone else will take a closer look at the Dems...

OK, off to the races...


GOVERNOR: Congratulations to Meg Whitman, and to her (extensive) campaign team.  Whitman posted a convincing win over rival Poizner.  So much so that Whitman goes into the Summer with significant momentum.  I wonder if her first commercials will be  Jerry Brown and his public employee union cohorts will be very unhappy with these results.  Interestingly, in his concession speech, Poizner opted not to endorse Whitman.  We'll see how that plays out.

U.S. SENATE: Carly Fiorina thumped her two primary opponents with her wide margin of victory.  This sets the stage for what will be a very competitive general election between two very assertive women.  If Massachusetts can elect a Republican, I think California certainly can.  I was very proud of Chuck DeVore's campaign - as a movement conservative, he held up the torch very high.  His endorsement of Fiorina, and standing by her side last night, was a class act.  As for Tom Campbell, I've been patiently waiting for this primary to be over so that I could say this, most respectfully: Go back to your world of liberal academia now, you three time loser!  OK, I feel better.  Campbell's attempts to characterize himself as any kind of conservative were disingenuous, at best. 

LT. GOVERNOR: I'm sure it surprises no one to hear that I was disappointed in the results of this primary.  But I am not the only one as well over half of GOP primary voters cast their ballots for someone other than the sitting Lt. Governor of California.  Maldonado's presence on the GOP ticket brings a healthy ethnic diversity, which is good.  But it also brings diversity on the tax issue, which isn't so good.  A great way for Maldo to consolidate his base going into November would be issue a public apology for violating his no taxes pledge last year.  Sam Aanestad ran significantly behind Maldo, and should be saluted for his statesmanship during the primary.  Fortunately for Maldonado, his opponent, Gavin Newsom, is so liberal that he makes Maldo look reasonable - not easy to do.

ATTORNEY GENERAL:  As a Lincoln Fellow with the Claremont Institute, I have to admit that my heart was with the candidacy of John Eastman.  That said, Steve Cooley will be a formidable candidate to be the state's top cop, and the Democrats helped Cooley's candidacy quite a bit by nominating liberal San Francisco District Attorney Kamela Harris.  While primaries tend to accentuate the differences between candidates, the divide between Harman, Eastman and Cooley seems so slight now compared to the deep contrasts between Cooley and Harris.  On a side not, one has to imagine that Democrat Chris Kelly must be chagrined for all of his personal wealth that he dumped into the primary, to get his clock cleaned.

TREASURER, CONTROLLER, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Walters, Strickland and Dunn are queued up for November on the GOP side.  No surprises here.  All will challenge incumbent Democrats - Lockyer, Chiang and Bowen, respectively.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER:  This is the upset of the night for statewide candidate races.  In a classic case of taking the primary for granted, former Assembly GOP Leader Mike Villines lost to an obscure Department of Insurance attorney, Brian FitzGerald!  Villines spent some money to appear on every slate card imaginable (which might say something about slate cards).  So why did Villines lose?  Let's not discount a substantial loss of Republican votes because of Villines' decision to violate his no new taxes pledge in 2009...  Democrat Dave Jones is undoubtedly tickled pink.  The big question is what will Villines' do with the massive war chest that he had amassed?

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: Eyebrows are raised as Gloria Romero is aced out of the non-partisan runoff.  Tom Torlakson goes up against Lary Aceves.  Republicans have no standard bearer, though Acevas is clearly the more "reasonable" Democrat.

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION:  Hearty congrats to conservative and FR blogging State Senator George Runner.  In what turned out to be a pretty tight race between Runner and conservatives Nakanishi and Alby, Runner came out on top.  He'll be a strong taxpayer advocate in this "safe" GOP seat.  Michelle Steel won her race handily.


PROP 14: The passage of Proposition 14 really does put a pall on the entire evenings results.  I cannot put words to how bad this measure is, and how it will lead to few legislators to are passionate about their ideas, and more politicians who will be malleable to the special interests in Sacramento.  It will mean higher taxes in the long run.  Look for it to be transformative for the major parties - who will now have to endorse before the primaries in each office.  Also look for litigation against this measure to occur asap.

PROP 15: Great news - the public rejected this red herring that was really all about lifting the constitutional prohibition against public financing of campaigns.  I'm sure this issue will be back, and when it returns, may it be as efficiently dispatched.

PROP 16 & 17:  What to say?  I guess the public doesn't like utilities or insurance companies?  Both of these measures were substantially funded (especially Prop. 16 by PG&E) and both had relatively minor formal opposition.  In the end, these companies can blame it on the very low turnout.  Nevertheless, stunning losses given the economic considerations.

CONGRESS:   As they say, no one likes Congress, but everyone likes their Congressman.  My local Representative, Gary Miller, won his contested primary, but got dragged down well below 50% by two challengers.  In a Prop. 14 world, he would be forced into a November runoff.  But this year, he now coasts.  State Senator Jeff Denham posted up a big win in his bid for Congress - term limited Rep. George Radanovich was "all in" for Denham, and it paid off.   Most notable was how poorly former Congressman Richard Pombo performed in this race.  It is also notable that Denham's victory was district-wide, including Fresno County.  In the donnybrook to carry the GOP banner in CD 11, David Harmer came out on top.  I predict that he will be sworn in as a Congressman in January.  Democrat McNerney sealed his own fate with his vote for Obamacare in this moderate, swing district.  I also note that in Orange County, Loretta Sanchez must be less than thrilled that a good number more Republicans voted than Democrats in her district...

STATE SENATE:  There were a few matchups worth mentioning.  In the North State, rice farmer/former Assemblyman/FR blogger Doug La Malfa handily dispatched Rick Keene in this very GOP seat.  Tom Berryhill easily walked into the Senate seat of ex-GOP leader Dave Cogdill, Republican Bill Emmerson was elected in a special election to the Senate, he will be sworn in right away. In the 16tth Tim Theisen barely beat back Phil Wyman - for the chance to go after Rubio in the Fall.  Next door Jean Fuller coasted (uncontested) into the nomination for what is now the seat occupied by Roy Ashburn.  In the 34th down in Orange County, Lou Correa should be very concerned that Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring, his Republican general election opponent, drew 500 more votes than did he.  Conservative Assemblyman Joel Anderson easily bested moderate Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone for the nomination in the 36th, to succeed termed-out Dennis Hollingsworth.  Finally, it's worth mentioning that down in San Diego, in the 40th, there is a big Dem on Dem dust up - Mary Salas and Juan Vargas are the candidates.  With 300 or so votes separating the two, it's too close to call.  Vargas, who is viewed as more moderate, had a lot of business community support.

STATE ASSEMBLY:  A quicker run through how Assembly Reps faired...  Jim Nielsen beat back a surprisingly strong primary challenger.  Andy Pugno dominated the AD 5 GOP primary, and goes up against a Dem doctor in the fall.  Democrat Alyson Huber should be worried as GOP challenger Jack Sieglock had around 9,000 more raw votes than did Huber!  Abram Wilson had around 1,000 more raw votes than his general election foe Joan Buchanan.  In the race for the 25th District, conservative Kristen Olson bested a crowded field. In the race to succeed Mike Villines in the 29th, FR friend Linda Halderman, a staunch conservative (and a doctor) handily defeated her two primary opponents.   In Bakersfield Shannon Grove ran over former CRA President Ken Mettler, winning over 2/3 of the vote!  In the 33rd, where Sam Blakeslee is termed out, moderate Katcho Achadjian beat back two more conservative challengers.  It bodes well for November that nearly 40,000 people voted Republican between the candidates, where as the lone Democrat received only around 22,000 votes.  Former Pete Wilson staffer Jeff Gorrell easily clinched the nomination for the 37th , Audra Strickland's seat.  In what could be a major upset, Tea Party activist Tim Donnelly is neck and neck (actually a little ahead) of expected nominee Chris Lancaster in the 59th District.   In the 63rd longtime FR friend and staunch conservative Mike Morrell will replace Bill Emmerson.  Next door incumbent Brian Nestande thumped a primary opponent with ¾ of the vote.  In the 68th, where Van Tran is retiring (he's off to Congress, he hopes), conservative Allan Mansoor easily won the GOP nod.  In the 70th district currently represented by Chuck DeVore, conservative leader Don Wagner one a very close primary but will coast to election this November.  Don tragically lost his son a few days ago, thus a bitter-sweet victory for him.  Don's victory is a big one for the Family Action PAC which circled the wagons for him.  Finally, down in East San Diego County, conservative Brian Jones was the clear victor in this safe GOP seat (the incumbent is Joel Anderson).   

LOCAL RACES: There are way too many for me to cover them all.  A few highlights of interest to me...  I am from SoCal, and so are these races...  Audra Strickland got THUMPED in her campaign for Supervisor - most unfortunate.  In San Bernardino County, you can start reading last rites to Supervisor Paul Biane.  He barely got a third of the vote in his bid for reelection.  He will run-off against my longtime friend (whom  I've endorsed) Janice Rutherford in November (she was only about 900 votes behind Biane, and this is before she consolidates the anti-incumbent vote).  In Orange County, in the "Battle Royale" between the GOP and the county's largest public employee unions, the GOP won the first round with Shawn Nelson getting elected to the Board of Supervisors.  He will serve out Chris Norby's term and face a fall run-off with Harry Sidhu.  Sheriff Sandra Hutchens won election outright, and will not have to worry about a run-off.  In San Diego Republican Lori Zapf won election to the City Council in what was called an uphill battle, term limits passed for Supervisors (good call) and in Chula Vista voters banned Public Labor Agreements!!  In Riverside County, appoint Supervisor John Benoit easily won election over Gary Jeandron.  Finally, in what I would call the upset of the night at the local level, incumbent District Attorney Rod Pacheco (yes, the former Assembly Republican Leader) was tossed out by voters, replaced with Judge Paul Zellerbach!

LOOKING AHEAD: In less than two weeks is the special election in SD 15, Lt. Governor Maldonado's old seat.  Democrat John Laird and Republican Sam Blakeslee face off.  Can one of them close it out in the primary with 50%+1?

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Janice Rutherford for San Bernardino County Supervisor

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

6-4-2010 7:20 am

This Tuesday many voters in San Bernardino County will have the opportunity to do something that I will not get to do -- and that is cast a vote for my long time friend and fellow conservative leader Janice Rutherford (pictured) as she seeks election to a seat on the Board of Supervisors.  I have know Janice for over twenty five years, and let me assure you that she would be an outstanding Supervisor.  Of course Janice, never one to do things the easy way, has decided to run against an eight year incumbent.

Janice and I have a friendship that goes back to our high school days where we both "cut our teeth" in the Junior Statesmen of America, the nation's leading non-partisan, high-school level organization all about politics and government.  We both still give back today, she as a Director and me as a Trustee, of this great group.

In the decades that I have had the privilege to both be friends with Janice, and to work with her towards promoting conservative advances locally and around California, I have come to know her as someone who is not a talker, but a doer.  She is someone who not only thinks strategically, but is someone who takes those ideas and implements them, well.  Currently Janice serves as a member of the City Council in Fontana, and for many years now she has worked as an aide to first Bill Leonard (as a state legislator and as a member of the Board of Equalization) and now she serves in that capacity to Leonard's successor, acting BOE Member Barbara Alby.

Now more than ever, we are seeing a need for strong, ethical Republican leaders to rise up and take on even higher leadership roles in public office.  FlashReport readers who live very far from San Bernardino County have been treated to the hundreds of newspaper headlines adorning our site's main page highlighting the scandal and corruption that appears to be rampant in San Bernardino County government.  I can think of no better warrior for the cause to send to help right the ship of state in her county than Janice Rutherford.

I mentioned that Janice was seeking to replace an incumbent who is seeking re-election -- his name is Paul Biane.  While I am not personally close with Biane, I have certainly found him to be personable.  We got to spend some time chatting at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. 

If I had to make two comments about Biane -- the first would be that I recall how very disappointed I was when he was unwilling to stand tall against the terrible 2009 state budget deal which included the largest tax increase in state history.  To be more specific, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors agendized the sending of a letter to the San Bernardino county legislative delegation opposing tax increases as part of a budget deal.  It was passed (and sent) on a 3-2, with Biane along with the Board's lone Democrat voting to oppose sending it.  (I have attached the letter below -- you can read it for yourself, and try to figure out why Biane specifically voted "no" on sending it.)

The other comment is that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has been embroiled in issues of questionable ethical conduct, with several investigations taking place, and a political environment so clouded that a local GOP legislator is actually carrying legislation to allow the county to create an additional citizen grand jury -- because one isn't enough.  While it remains to be seen whether he committed any wrong-doing, Biane is certainly in the "thick of it" -- and it probably wouldn't be a bad thing for the "winds of change" to give Biane a little break from public service. 

That said, let me be clear, my endorsement of Janice Rutherford is less about her opponent, and more about the unique opportunity for San Bernardino County voters (well, a fifth of them) to elect to office someone who would really serve them well.

By way of politics, Biane is facing four opponents of whom Janice is the most serious, and most well-funded (she out-raised Biane in the last reporting period).  Biane is spending a lot of money to try and close out his election next week -- and for good reason.  If a sitting incumbent Supervisor is forced into a runoff, a very rare occurence, it means all of the momentum is with the challenger...

In closing, I am pleased to present this column from my friend Janice Rutherford.  It is my hope that you will read it, and if you are inspired to do so, go to her campaign website here and help her out with a donation or an offer (if you are local) to help her to get out the vote.

Good luck, Janice!

Jon Fleischman
Publisher, FlashReport.Org

Janice Rutherford
Fontana City Councilwoman & Candidate for Supervisor

Pundits offer a lot of excuses for GOP losses in the past two elections.  But the truth is we lost because Republicans stopped being Republicans; and because they tolerated corruption and bad behavior - allowing the Democrats to hang the "culture of corruption" label on our Party. 

To move forward and win elections, we need to focus on solutions and clean up our own house.

I believe most elected officials are genuinely honest representatives.  Even those we disagree with on issues are generally trying to do what they believe is best.  But not all of them - and we've seen examples locally and nationally of those who have used their office to enrich themselves or their allies.
Republicans are right on the issues and about what is needed to solve the problems locally and nationally.  We don't have to give up our principles to win; in fact, giving up our principles would assure liberals a permanent victory.  Instead we must better articulate our solutions to the problems facing our nation, our state and our county.  And we cannot tolerate corruption - ever.

Loyalty is something I value highly.  But standing by and allowing corruption has nothing to do with loyalty - in fact, it's a betrayal of our values and the voters who trust us to do what is right.

I'm not talking about becoming "character cops," and we have already seen that desperate politicians and liberal groups will attempt to smear competitors with baseless accusation.  But when it becomes clear that a candidate or elected official has betrayed the trust of his or her office, we cannot afford to just look the other way.

For years I worked for a man who exemplifies the honorable, honest and hard-working representative - Bill Leonard.  We would all do well to emulate Bill's dignified example.

Eliminating corruption can't be the only issue for Republicans, but if we demonstrate that we won't tolerate it from members of our own party, we'll gain credibility with voters and begin the hard work of correcting the direction of our communities and our nation.

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     Letter From Supes Opposing 2009 Budget Deal

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GOP Candidate "Katcho" in AD 33 Refuses To Sign "No New Taxes Pledge" -- Putting Him Well Out Of The Republican Main Stream

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

6-2-2010 2:23 pm

UPDATE:  GOP candidate Matt Kokkonen has now signed the ATR pledge and faxed it in.  His campaign consultant assures me that when Kokkonen ran for Asembly a few years back he signed the pledge at that time as well.

We are hopeful that "Katcho" Achadjian will also sign and fax in the pledge as well.  This will allow Republicans to unifty againt the Democrats this fall on the tax issue.

A few weeks ago, FlashReport contributor Matt Rexroad brought to our attention an editorial in the San Luis Obispo Tribune in which that paper's editorial board endorses Supervisor K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian for State Assembly in the open 33rd District along California's Central Coast, where Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee is retiring due to term limits (actually, Blakeslee is now running for the State Senate seat vacated by Abel Maldonado).  Rexroad pointed out the naiveté of the writers of that editorial for pointing out that one of the reasons that they are supporting Katcho (pictured, right) is because he has refused to sign the Americans for Tax Reform Tax Limitation Pledge.  In their editorial, the Tribune says:

But he parts ways with many of his Republican colleagues on another hot-button issue — the no-new-tax pledge. While he does not support tax increases, Achadjian said he will not sign such a pledge.

"I'd rather not make promises when I don't know what the future will be, 100 percent," he said.

We agree completely; perhaps California would not be in the awful shape it's in today if more politicians had that realistic point of view.

The point of Rexroad's post was that it is not helpful to the candidate that they like to point out that their candidate of choice won't sign a 'no new taxes' pledge.

What Rexroad did not point out in his brief post is that Katcho's refusal to sign the pledge  puts him way out of the mainstream of his fellow Republicans.  Of the 43 Republicans currently serving in the legislature, 42 have signed the pledge.  Both Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have signed the pledge.  Almost every serious candidate for legislative office this year is campaigning having signed the pledge which, of course, is not just a piece of paper - it is a symbolic statement that there is a fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats in Sacramento.  To put it simply, Republicans think that California's taxes are too high, and Democrats think that they aren't high enough. 

If you would like to read more about the pledge or its importance, read this column penned exclusively for the FlashReport by Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.  In that piece, Norquist says:
If there is any state where raising taxes should be a non-starter - it's California. With the highest corporate tax rate in the West, 4th highest state income tax rate, and the highest sales tax in the nation, California taxpayers and employers already contend with one of the most onerous tax burden's in the country. It is clear that high taxes have not served California well and that higher taxes will not solve the state's budgetary and economic woes.

The necessary reforms and spending restraint will never come to fruition unless tax hikes are taken off the table as an option. Candidates who have signed the Pledge recognize this.

I wrote an extensive column on this primary back in October.  At that time, I observed that as a County Supervisor Katcho had supported a hike in the state's car tax as well as support for lowering the 2/3 vote threshold to pass a budget down to 55%. 

When you take these items, and combine them with the fact that Katcho deliberately refuses to sign a pledge that is a non-controversial "no brainer" for just about everyone else, and it causes one to conclude that he is not a fiscal conservative, unlike his main primary opponent, Etta Waterfield (pictured, right).  Waterfield has signed the pledge, and touts the endorsements of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the National Tax Limitation Committee.  In the case of the latter, Uhler penned a column expressing his concerns about Katcho on taxes some time ago on the FlashReport

Probably worthy of healthy examination is the public support for Katcho from former State Senator Abel Maldonado, who rather infamously was one a handful of Republican legislators who broke their ATR pledge to cast the deciding votes last year to enact the largest tax increase in the history of California ($16 billion in higher sales, income and car taxes).  Also significant is that we are seeing some big money coming out of Sacramento for Katcho --  from the very same special interests who circled the wagons around that tax increase, and in fact pushed even more taxes in the form of Proposition 1A last year, that was soundly defeated by voters.

As a Republican Party officer, I do not (and cannot) endorse in contested primaries - that is a decision for our Republican voters in a district to decide.  That having been said, I will say that in this race for the 33rd Assembly District, Waterfield represents a mainstream GOP position on taxes and the signing of a promise not to raise them - and Katcho comes from a leftward extreme on the issue of taxation.  It will be interesting to see whether Republican voters will make this a bell weather issue when they cast their ballots.

By the way, I did attempt to contact Katch through his consultant, Jim Nygren, multiple times, to discuss this matter with him.  Those requests went unanswered.  But Patrick Gleason at Americans for Tax Reform verifies that as of today Katcho has not signed it

In closing, there is a third Republican candidate in this primary - Matt Kokkonen.  He is not the center point of this column because the it's not really clear to me that he is viable as a candidate.  But it should be noted that he, too, has not signed the ATR pledge, and thusly I additionally scratch my head over why Kokkonen is unwilling to draw a line in the sand against bigger state government.

Katcho and Kokkonen can easily print out the ATR Pledge, sign it and fax it back in.  I encourage them to do so.  Right now, given the power of the public employee unions in Sacramento, Republicans need solidarity, and as Grover Norquist said, we need to take all talk of tax increases off the table.

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Will Talk Of Downtown LA Football Stadium Scuttle Villaraigosa's Comic-Con Quest?

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

5-28-2010 7:30 am

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, fresh on the heels of landing LA as the site of the big Microsoft World Partners Conference, has set his sights on bringing  Comic-Con -- the world's largest convention for comic book enthusiasts -- to the City of the Angels and to the downtown LA Convention Center.  Bringing this massive gathering to Los Angeles would be a big feather in the cap of the beleaguered Mayor and welcome news as he and his City Council cope with a massive shortfall in the city's budget that is dominating the news. 

Unfortunately for Antonio, he has two well known Angelinos working at cross-purposes with him on this one - AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke (pictured, right) and Wasserman Media Group founder Casey Wasserman.  These two gentlemen have big plans to rip out a big chunk of the convention center, and replace it with a football stadium, and bring professional football back to the LA basin - or so they say.

Leiweke's AEG (owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz) built and own the Staples Center and they just finished dropping a cool $2.5 billion (with a "b") on the neighboring LA Live sports and entertainment district (it is worth noting, by the way, that the taxpayers are on the hook with public subsidies on these).  AEG now  wants to team up with Wasserman Media (run by Casey Wasserman, the thirty-something grandson of the late Lew Wasserman of MCA entertainment fame) to build an 80,000-seat stadium, complete with a retractable roof.  They want to locate this new sporting venue right on the site of the existing West Hall of the Convention Center.  The West Hall has almost 40% of the total exhibition space and its demolition would make it nearly impossible for the convention center to host...conventions... for at least a couple of years starting in 2011 or 2012...

Therein lies the rub, as it would take a long time (years) for this stadium proposal to get all of its needed approvals for construction, as well deal with the fact that because of the existing labor issues within the NFL, it may take them a long time to be able to get an NFL team to Los Angeles - an essential component in order for the project to pencil out. 

The Leiweke/Wasserman stadium proposal, by the way, should not be confused with the competing project of billionaire Ed Roski to build a football stadium about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, near the intersection of the 10, 210 and 57 freeways.  I recall that Roski got a sweetheart deal from Sacramento - lots of CEQA exemptions.  We can figure AEG/Wasserman will be expecting the same...

While this commentary is really less about Comic-Con itself than it is exploring the very real impacts when some of LA's "big wheels" start throwing their weight around, I really do feel compelled to paint a picture of this mega-event for you, as I have attended a few of these conventions in San Diego over the years.  Comic-Con is a gathering of literally over 125,000 comic book enthusiasts from around the planet.  While it is true that a great many attendees dress up in costume (see photo), I can share that I have never been quite that enthusiastic.  That said, this is a vast event that brings in upwards of $60 million annually into the San Diego community (all of those people need to eat somewhere and sleep somewhere).  The challenge is that the convention has literally "outgrown" San Diego - which is why organizers are looking for a new home for this event starting in 2013 when their contractual obligation to the San Diego Convention Center expire.

Unfortunately for Mayor Villaraigosa, not only not only does he have Leiweke and Wasserman working hard to make the downtown Los Angeles venue an unattractive one to Comic-Con (and every other convention) with their high profile stadium idea, but at the same time Anaheim and Orange County have been aggressively courting the organizers of this massive event.  With 850,000 square feet of convention exhibition space, and a vast array of hotels with tens of thousands of rooms, the "OC" may be an attractive spot that has the advantage of being as close as you can get to Comic-Con's original home town, but with the needed capacity.  I'm sure if Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle and his team land this big event, it will be because of their cool Facebook fan page set up just for this purpose!  I spoke with the President of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, Todd Ament, who assured me that the "full court press" was on to try and bring this massive event to his city.  One big advantage - unlike in LA, no one is talking about the potential of tearing down half of the Anaheim Convention Center to accommodate a sporting arena. 

And despite space concerns on the part of Comic-Con organizers, they are still asking for the greater San Diego Community to give them their best proposal.

Will professional football come back to Los Angeles in the coming years?  That remains to be seen.  But if I am the decision makers for Comic-Con, and can take the five minutes it takes to do a Google search on AEG and Wasserman, and see that these guys are very real players, then I have to think seriously how this might impact a proposal from LA to host Comic-Con.  With a decision expected in just the news few days on a new home for this convention, Mayor Villaraigosa's got to be just a little nervous.  For good reason.

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Memo To Democrats

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

5-26-2010 12:01 am

DATE: 5/25/10

As the saying goes, "adversity creates opportunity."

Your opportunity as Democrats who are supposed to be in charge, given the fiscal crisis facing California state government, would be to put aside your left-wing, socialistic passions, roll up your sleeves, and deal with the fact that we are going to have to make do with less - a lot less - as has been the case in the private sector, with a contracting economy.

Our opportunity, a Republicans, is to take political advantage of the fact that even with money as tight as it is right now, our nation, and this state are in a vice-hold by liberals who literally have no grasp on reality, and no ability to produce any outcome for our fiscal challenges that don't include raising taxes - and not by a little, but by billions and billions of dollars.  I would never "wish" a fiscal crisis on our state and local governments - but my party stands ready to take your predictable "let's tax our way out of the situation" approach to press for political gains this November!

As a conservative, I am a bit wary of holding out the welfare hand to Washington, D.C. - money for states from the federal government typically comes with onerous "strings" allowing the national government more say into the matters of state government than ever intended by the crafters of the Constitution.  But all of you Democrats, who are "unshackled" with my limited-government philosophy, should be bending over backwards to use federal money (which you control) to help out state government (the legislature of which you control). 

Interesting Democrats Obama, Boxer and Feinstein have all turned a deaf ear on requests from their California brethren (as well as the Governor and Republican leaders, for that matter) to give California its "fair share" of federal dollars.  A great example would be the federal government's refusal to pay California the costs of incarcerating criminal aliens.  Good grief.  Again, a sad policy failure tees up a great political opportunity for "my team" as Barbara Boxer has to campaign for re-election this year on her ability to deliver...nothing!

Working in tandem with Democrats in Washington, D.C., towards a great Republican year are California's Democrat legislative leaders - Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez.  In recent days, both have held press conferences, backed by their liberal cohorts, where they have detailed literally five billion dollars in new or higher taxes - ranging from taxes on income, cars, internet purchases and more.  They certainly show disregard for the negative economic impacts of these tax increases on the already difficult economy of the once-Golden state.  The good news, politically, is that pushing for these massive tax increases in a recession will put these left-wingers on the wrong side of moderate and decline-to-state voters as we head towards the November elections.

So let's close this memo by drawing the contrast that will be so artfully presented to voters later this year (thank you, aforementioned Democrats)... 

On one side you have Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who this year, at last, has drawn a line in the sand as he counts the months down to his return to a full-time acting career.  Standing with the Governor are Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth and Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick, both of whom are backed by GOP legislative caucuses all of the members of which, save one, have signed the Americans for Tax Reform "No New Taxes" pledge.  They are all singing off of the same song sheet, which is that government has to live within your means, and that you cannot tax your way out of a recession.

On the other side you have Democrats pledging $5 billion in tax increases while simultaneously fighting pension and budget reform at every turn.

This may come as a surprise to Democrats, but the Republican strategy here is not exactly rocket science.  The resolve of Republicans is firm, and if necessary, to stand strong as advocates for California taxpayers all of the way until the November elections.   The Governor, of course, has additional tools at his disposal which come into play after July 1 - which include furlough days (three, four, five days a month?) and let's remember that the courts have given the Governor the green light, if necessary, to reduce the salaries of state works to minimum wage!  This means very real financial leverage on California's public employee union members, which will be very impactful.

In case anyone is wondering what is in the "secret memo" that is circulating around the country (it was read in Massachusetts and Hawaii, where Republicans one long-shot races in Democrat "home turf") - let me read it to you...  "If the election is about opposing higher taxes, and getting spending under control, Republicans win." 

That's it, plain a simple.  Democrats, keep up the good work!

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The Massive $11 Billlion Water Bond Is Headed For A November Massacre

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

5-19-2010 12:01 am

Hopefully it did fall through the cracks for California political observers that last week liberal Democrat Congresswoman Grace Napolitano of Los Angeles County was very blunt in comments to the San Gabriel News Tribune that she thinks that the $11 billion water bond currently slated to appear on this November's ballot is going to be defeated by voters."

According to the News Tribune, Napolitano said, "They should support it, but I don't think they will... People are very upset with legislators.  And since it's (legislators') idea, I don't think (voters) are ready to put out any more money."

Napolitano's comments are very significant because she is a supporter of the bond, and she also has some gravitas on the water issue, serving as the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power.

I suspect that you will see more and more "realistic assessments" of the lack of political viability of this massive, bloated, so-called water bond as we get past the June election.

In talking to many experts on water, it is clear that this measure contains literally billions of dollars in borrowing that is "not essential" for addressing our state's water crisis.  Instead of placing a measure before voters that was significantly more modest, and contained only spending that could be strongly justified in addressing our water storage and conveyance challenges, instead the Democrat-controlled legislature did what it does best - it overspent.

The $11 billion dollar water bond package is loaded up with billions in pork spending ("Projects of Regional Koncern, as we say) and other "pay offs" to garner the necessary two-thirds vote to place it on the ballot.  I am sure everyone can remember that in the final hours, in order to get votes in the Assembly, an additional billion dollars plus in borrowing was added to the measure - this after the Senate had already voted out the measure.  Some of the stories of legislators giving this vote in return for driving more of the spending into their districts is nauseating.

There is serious doubt if California voters would vote for any massive bond package this fall, given the poor state of the economy.  But the greed of state legislators has pretty much doomed its chances for passage.  Opponents will have so many obvious examples of massive wasteful spending that are in the package that even the massive infusion of campaign dollars from those who will financially benefit from the bond spending will not be able to overcome the negatives.

So what should happen now?  The legislature should step up and make significant changes to the water bond package, eliminating the billions of dollars in excessive, non-essential, wasteful spending.  Assuming that the greed of legislators will not allow for that, Capitol politicians should seriously consider then kicking the whole thing to a future election year, when perhaps the economy has improved.

This current water bond package will end up being rejected by voters.  But don't rely on my opinion - after all, I oppose the bond.  Look no further than to high profile supporters like Representative Napolitano, who aren't afraid to tell it like it is.

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The Importance of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

5-17-2010 6:50 am

I am very pleased that once again the FlashReport has partnered up with our friends at Americans for Tax Reform to talk about the importance of the ATR Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and to unveil the list of those candidates who have signed the pledge (thus far) in the 2010 primaries here in California for statewide office, as well as candidates for the state legislature.  ATR's President, Grover Norquist, pens an exclusive column for us today talking about the Pledge and California, and below his column is the list of Pledge signers.  You can check out his column here.

In talking about the importance of the pledge, I am actually going to enlist the aid of my good friend Assemblyman and U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore, who takes about two minutes to talk about the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and why it is important in this video...

Currently in the State Legislature, we have 43 Republican legislators - 42 of whom have signed the pledge.  Of those 42, over 90% of them have kept their pledge to their constituents (the Pledge is not to ATR, but rather it is a commitment to the people whom that office holder represents in the legislature).  Of course there are significantly more Democrats than Republicans in the legislature - care to guess how many of them have signed the Pledge?  If you guess zero, you would be right on the mark.

There are three reasons why the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is so important --branding, credibility, and public policy...

It is absolutely critical whether in Washington, D.C., (where almost every Republican has signed the Pledge) or in Sacramento that it be very clear that Republicans are the party of lower taxes - as differentiated from the Democrats who stand for increasing the burden on taxpayers.  Because Republicans stand together in solidarity on this key issue, it means that when voters go to the polls, they really don't have to wonder if the Republican candidate in front of them on the ballot is going to vote for higher taxes.

Unlike perhaps no other time in the history of our nation and state, voter cynicism is at an all time high.  Because of this, it is very important and useful that candidates are actually willing to sign a written pledge to oppose new or higher taxes.  This reassures the electorate that a candidate is willing to give their word, in black and white, and is willing to be held accountable for their actions.  It is not an insignificant fact that not one of the six Republicans who voted for higher taxes (five of them Pledge signers) will be in the state legislature by years' end.

As Chuck DeVore discusses above, conservatives sign this Pledge not to pander for votes, or to appease a constituency, rather the Pledge is signed so overwhelmingly by Republican candidates because we actually believe that government is too big, and spends too much.  The Pledge isn't just rhetoric, it is grounded in the good policy of promoting individual liberty and responsibility, and decreasing the size of the modern welfare state.

As I mentioned above, you can find a list of the current Pledge signers beneath Grover's column.  I would like to invite any candidates who have not yet signed the pledge, Republican or Democrat, to go to right now - print it, sign it, and fax it back.  We will update FR readers on updates to the list of Pledge signers.

Finally, starting in a couple of days, we will be starting to highlight those GOP candidates running for Senate or Assembly who have not signed the Pledge (I'm pleased to report that it is much easier to focus on the few who have not signed it rather than the great many who already have).

In conclusion, I would like to thank those office holders and candidates who take the Pledge.  A promise like this, to the people, is not entered into lightly.  You are to be commended for your commitment to a limited role for government, as envisioned by the founders of this great nation.

(In the interest of fairness, I should add that one of DeVore's primary opponents, Carly Fiorina, has also signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.  His other opponent, Tom Campbell, refuses to sign it.)

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Sarah Palin Endorsement Bolster Conservative "Street Credentials" For Carly Fiorina

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

5-7-2010 7:52 am

Yesterday former Alaska Governor and GOP Vice Presidential nominee turned national grassroots conservative phenomenon Sarah Palin endorsed the candidacy of Carly Fiorina for United States Senate. 

This endorsement is a big boost to Fiorina's candidacy amongst conservatives -- and is a significant blow to the campaign of Chuck DeVore. Fiorina has been striving hard to make the case to voters that she is a conservative candidate -- but there is no doubt that she is not as conservative as one of her opponents, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.  Of course, Tom Campbell completely occupies the moderate end of the GOP spectrum, based on his record on fiscal and social issues.

One of the key necessities of a DeVore primary victory is to paint Fiorina as more of a moderate, and there is no doubt that a Palin endorsement of Fiorina makes that task significantly more challenging.

The DeVore campaign did respond to Palin's endorsement which you can check out here.

There is no doubt to this close observer of California politics that Chuck DeVore is the most conservative candidate in this Senate primary.  But Palin's endorsement of Fiorina makes it a harder sell for DeVore that he is the only conservative in the field.

In closing, Palin endorsed Fiorina using her favorite communications tool -- Facebook (she has over 1.5 million fans on FB!) -- and while you can check out her endorsement on her FB page, I am going to reprint it below...

Let's shake it up in California! (Updated)

I'd like to tell you about a Commonsense Conservative running for office in California this year. She grew up in a modest home with a school teacher dad, worked her way through several colleges, and then entered an arena where few women had tread. Through a combination of hard work, perseverance, and common sense, she proved the naysayers wrong to reach the top of her field, where she led with distinction - facing hard truths, making tough decisions, and showing real leadership through a rocky transition period. Where others had failed, her company had weathered the storm and settled on a stronger new foundation.

Her name is Carly Fiorina, and I'm proud to endorse her for U.S. Senate.

Carly is the Commonsense Conservative that California needs and our country could sure use in these trying times. Most importantly, she's running for the right reasons. She has an understanding that is sorely lacking in D.C. She's not a career politician. She's a businesswoman who has run a major corporation. She knows how to really incentivize job creation. Her fiscal conservatism is rooted in real life experience. She knows that when government grows, the private sector shrinks under the burden of debt and deficits. We can trust Carly to do the right thing for America's economy and to make the principled decisions she has throughout her professional career.

Please consider that Carly is the conservative who has the potential to beat California's liberal senator, Barbara Boxer, in November. I'm a huge proponent of contested primaries, so I'm glad to see the contest in California's GOP, but I support Carly as she fights through a tough primary against a liberal member of the GOP who seems to bear almost no difference to Boxer, one of the most leftwing members of the Senate. Carly needs our support in this crucial election year when we have a real chance of putting an end to the Pelosi/Reid "Big Government" agenda.

I hope you'll join me in supporting Carly. Visit her website here, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Read up on her positions and plans to help get us on the right track.

California is still Reagan Country, and Carly promises her "Reagan Conservative" values will be put to good use for her state and for our great nation. Shaking it up in California is long overdue. Let's help Carly do it!

- Sarah Palin

Update: I'd like to add a few things about my Carly endorsement because some reaction right out of the chute calls for more information:

Carly has been endorsed by the National Right to Life, the California Pro-Life Council, and the Susan B. Anthony List. She is pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-military, and pro-strict border security and against amnesty. She is against Obamacare and will vote to repeal it and prevent the government takeover of private companies and industries. Carly is also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. Like me, she is a member of the NRA, has a 100% NRA rating, and she and her husband are gun owners. She is pro-energy development and believes as I do in an all-of-the-above approach to energy independence. She is against cap and tax. And most importantly, Carly is the only conservative in the race who can beat Barbara Boxer. That's no RINO. That's a winner.

- Sarah Palin

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California's Massachusetts

by Jason Roe - Statewide (bio) (email)

5-6-2010 5:00 am

Yes, I know, it's become cliché but that doesn't mean it doesn't apply.

The 43rd Assembly District, which includes Glendale and Burbank, has not been held by a Republican since my former boss, Jim Rogan, left the seat for Congress in 1996. Rogan was elected in a special election succeeding former Assembly GOP Leader Pat Nolan. In those years, this seat was a bedrock Republican district but an influx of new Americans, primarily Armenian and Latino, have changed the demographics and ideological bent of the district. Additionally, this has become a bedroom community for entertainment industry workers who also sit on the left of the political spectrum.

Today, the district is 2-1 Democrat with another quarter of voters decline-to-state. On the surface, Republicans should not be in the game here but due to a special election triggered by incumbent Paul Krekorian's election to the L.A. City Council, we have a very unique opportunity.

On April 13th, Republican Sunder Ramani, an Indian immigrant, successful small businessman, and community leader, narrowly missed first place by a few hundred votes to Liberal Mike Gatto, former district director to San Fernando Valley Congressman Brad Sherman. The third place candidate, also a Democrat, was Nayiri Nahabedian, one of two Armenian candidates in the race. Ramani spent $4.37 per vote while Gatto spent $37 - a 9-1 spending advantage.

The two top vote getters, Ramani and Gatto, will now face each other in a run-off on June 8th concurrent with the primary election for the November general.

The Republican. Sunder Ramani is an exceptional candidate. Moving to Glendale with his family, immigrants from India, when he was seven, he attended Herbert Hoover High School, Glendale College and Cal State Northridge. He built a successful business career in the area and invested himself in the community. Sunder has a magnetic personality and a ready-smile which belies his seriousness of purpose - a trait those that have worked with him well-know. But what is most exceptional is his involvement in the community. His list of accomplishments and associations in philanthropy, education, and other community organizations would make some of the most accomplished Californians blush. He is an extraordinary public servant whose tireless efforts have won him friends and admirers across the political spectrum. As a result, prominent Democrats throughout the district have publicly endorsed him.

The Democrat. Mike Gatto, an Indian gaming attorney, ran a nasty campaign against Nahabedian and further damaged his already strained relationship with the large Armenian community. Armenians will make up as much as 30% of the vote on June 8th and this left leaning block distrusts Gatto, who failed to show up for the April 24th genocide commemoration (a stunning slight to the community).

Meanwhile, Ramani enjoys strong support in the Armenian community and has made deep inroads among some of the staunchest Democrat groups.

While L.A. County Republicans have not had much to smile about in recent years, GOP Chairman Jane Barnett has breathed new life into the organization and mobilized an impressive army of support from around the county into the 43rd. She is fully committed to the race and a true believer in Sunder's opportunity on June 8th.

Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick has also stepped up his involvement. Garrick has given Ramani the Assembly Republican Caucus endorsement, personally engaged district leaders, and scheduled a fundraiser for Ramani in Glendale.

However, Ramani can expect to be outspent again as Democrats know the real threat that he is to their 14-year lock on the district. After raising $200,000 in the April 13 special, Ramani needs an additional influx of money to keep up with Gatto and his union sponsors.

I'd encourage all Flash readers to make a contribution today - any amount - and help us light a fire in L.A. County that will demonstrate to Republicans throughout the state the opportunities we have anywhere in the state in 2010.

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Governors Schwarzenegger and Crist - The Conversation

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

5-4-2010 12:35 am

Since we're a website on California politics, I am not going to assume that all of our readers know that life-long Republican Charlie Crist, the Governor of Florida and a candidate for United States Senate, in recent days announced his departure from the GOP, choosing to re-register as an independent to guarantee his presence as a candidate for the Senate this November.  Crist, you see, had been the prohibitive front-runner for the GOP nomination - but his strong embrace of President Obama and some of his most liberal policies (most famously the TARP plan) on top of years of embracing his own form of populism that demonstrated a severe lack of defining ideology - made him very unpopular with Florida's Republican voters.  His former primary opponent, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a strong conservative, had been an underdog against Crist, but then as Rubio's message spread, and Crist's embrace of Obama (literally) became well know, Rubio shot way ahead to the point where Crist was sure to lose the GOP nomination - hence his decision to bail on the Republican Party all together.

The nexus to California politics comes into play because it was revealed in an article in the St. Petersberg Times, and brought to the attention of left-coast politics thanks to Anthony York blogging for Capitol Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, that one of the people whom Governor Crist consulted when deciding whether to bail on the Grand Old Party was none other than our own esteeming "post-partisan" Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  According to the St. Petersburg Times article, Crist says that Schwarzenegger encouraged him to leave the party.

So one has to wonder what that conversation might have been like.  I'm sure Governor Schwarzenegger would be returning a call to Governor Crist...

Schwarzenegger (GAS) : "So Charlie, I understand you are almost post-partisan!  Good for you!"

Crist: "Hello Ahh-nold!  No I'm not depressed, and I'm not pregnant.  Although from all of the attention I've been getting, you'd think I was having a baby!  Ha!  Actually, all of this attention from reporters is addictive - I can see why you love it so much, Ahh-nold!"

GAS: "No, no, Charlie, not postpartum, post partisan.  You know, of neither political party!"

[Schwarzenegger cups hand over phone and turns to Susan Kennedy in a whispered tone, "This guy is stupid, why are you making me talk to him?"]

GAS: "Charlie, have you thought through his decision carefully.  You know there are pros and cons of this sort of thing, and you should really think it all through.

Crist: "Post-partisan - I like that phrase.  May I borrow it?"

GAS: "Sure" [Rolling his eyes.]

Crist: "Ahh-nold, so you think it is a good idea for me to bail on the Republican Party?  You know, I have been a Republican all of my life, which has served me well because, well, I'm considered by many to be a pretty handsome guy and, well, climbing up the ladder of an existing political structure seemed easiest.  They love me in the GOP!  Or - well, they did - until Maaaarco came along.  [Lower tone] I don't see what they see in that self-absorbed weenie kid anyways.

GAS:  "Well, Charlie, I can tell you that your situation is a lot different than mine.  Like you, I campaigned as an economic hard-liner in both of my campaigns for Governor.  Of course as an internationally famous celebrity, I had a lot of - you know - star power to bring to bear so I really could ignore the media a lot, and do my own thing as a candidate.  I don't think you can get away with that, you know?   While we did not have a Democrat in the White House when I ran for office, I don't think that if we did, I would have embraced him during my campaigns.  Now, of course, I am happy to do so - in fact while I had some initial concerns about Obamacare, I just embraced and endorsed it last week!  But then again, I'm not running for anything.  And, I should probably add, my popularity with the voters these days is in the toilet.  I'm like less popular than Mel Gibson right after his Jew bashing!

[Schwarzenegger to Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy: "Crist isn't a Jew, right?  I mean, you can't be named Crist and be a Jew?  I hope I didn't offend him just now...]

Crist: "Ahh-nold, it's been terrible.  My popularity has plummeted, too.  About the only people that love me now are the folks at the Florida Education Association - the state teachers public employee union - and that's because I vetoed legislation that would have held teachers accountable that the self-important Republicans in the legislature put on my desk.  Can I tell you that many of them have endorsed me, but I know they talk about me behind my back.  Jerks.  My big problem is that the Republican big donors have bailed on me, Arnie!"

GAS:  "Actually, Charlie, there are a few reasons why I myself have never re-registered as an independent - and the first of those is the huge (I meanly really big) checks that I am able to raise from Republican donors.  I mean I can do virtually anything, and they will fill up my campaign coffers.  Heck, last year I campaigned for the largest tax increase in California history, and while we got blown out of the water by the voters, it wasn't because I couldn't get big bucks from my GOP donor friends.  So leaving the party would be expensive - and you know I have a lot of people around me that I need to take care of...  But I also don't leave the GOP because the novelty of my hanging out with the likes of Al Gore wouldn't be nearly as newsworthy.  Then there is also my need to deprive my wife of the satisfaction of my leaving the GOP, but that's more of a side issue...

Crist: "Al Gore is a great guy..."

GAS:  "If I were running for U.S. Senate, I might very well have had to leave the GOP - I think I mentioned I am not too popular these days.  But fortunately I can return to my acting career, and travel the world in my private jet promoting my films, and raising awareness of the dangers of man-made carbon emissions to the climate of the world.  In your position, it's a no brainer.  Like me, you don't really believe most of the dogma of the Republicans anyways and your only real shot is to run as an independent.  So that, I think, is what is your best course of action. 

GAS: "You should re-register, and then you should veto that budget that the Republican legislators put on your desk.  Then you'll get a lot of press coverage from the special session there in Miami.  By vetoing the bill, you will show that you are now officially not a GOPer.  It will be marvelous.  When you have a budget show-down, the media are on you every day.  It's better than the red carpet at the Academy Awards!

[Kennedy to Schwarzenegger: "The Capitol of Florida is Tallahassee."]

Crist: "Miami?  Errr, never mind.  So you think I should be an independent?  I was going to base my final decision on the polling we are doing - I typically base all of my key decisions around public opinion research, don't you?   Anyways, Aah-nold, I appreciate your taking the time to chat with me.  Before we get off of the phone, I do have one more question for you.

GAS: "Yes?"

Crist: "If this Senate gig doesn't work out for me, do you think I have what it takes to, well, be a movie actor, like you?  I've been told I look a lot like John O'Hurley.  Listen to this... ELAINE, ELAINE, ELAINE!   Pretty good, eh?"

GAS: "Charlie - stick to politics.  I can only tell you that if you leave the Republican Party, I'll be with you in spirit.  I'd love to join you.  But right now I am - get this - raising money from Republican donors to fund a ballot measure to destroy the Republican Party out here.  This movie star with the 'R' next to his name isn't called the Collectinator for nothing!  Good luck, Charlie!"

Crist:  "Thanks, Aah-nold!"

[Schwarzenegger to Kennedy: "He's almost as painful to talk to as Maldonado"]

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Why I'm Supporting Jim Patterson for Congress

by Michael Der Manouel, Jr. - Central Valley (bio) (email)

4-27-2010 2:00 am

Many of you have been following the race here in the Central Valley to succeed retiring member of Congress George Radanovich, in California's 19th Congressional District  There are four candidates in this primary, and until now, I have been undecided about who to support.  I like and respect each of the men running, and at different times have supported each of  them for public office.

In sizing up the race, I would say we have the "anointed" candidate, the "farmer" candidate, the "unlikely" candidate, and the "grassroots" candidate.  Let me explain as follows:

State Senator Jeff Denham was asked by George Radanovich to run to succeed him.  The Central Valley's Westside farmers and Congressman Devin Nunes jumped early on former Congressman Richard Pombo's bandwagon, City Council Member Larry Westerlund shocked everyone by getting into this race as an unknown outsider, and former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson (pictured) is a product of the grassroots movement sweeping the country right now, the Tea Party.

Each candidate draws from a pretty distinct base of support.  In the final analysis, after weeks of deliberation, I have concluded that former Mayor Jim Patterson is the best man for the job.

As I said earlier, I have the utmost respect for all of the candidates.  I have talked to them all personally and extensively, and informed them of my endorsement.  I think the candidacy of Mr. Patterson is one of the people, the small contributor, the budding Tea Party actiivist.  The reason for this is simple:  of all the candidates in this race, Mr. Patterson's conservatism, I believe, is the most authentic, deeply rooted in a solid belief system that will not be co-opted by the pressures of Washington.  Jim understands what happened to the GOP in 2006 and 2008.  We've had many, many discussions about it.  He won't be a part of making those mistakes again if Republicans take back the House this year.  This is critical to me and to millions of other voters.  As a matter of fact, this is the most important issue to me.

The other candidates have the unfortunate position of presently serving in government or having recently served.  I think this works against them greatly in this primary contest.  While Mr. Pombo served as a capable warrior on water and energy issues during his time in the House from 1992-2006, he was also there while the Republican leadership squandered core conservative principals and plundered this great nation with excessive spending and earmarks, and new entitlement programs.  I just cannot ignore this fact.  I don't blame Richard for being there, I just don't think voters wan''t to return someone back to the House who was there before.  I might be wrong, but this is what I believe.

Mr. Denham has served capably in the State Senate, withstood the ire of a recall attempt, and generally held the line on budget votes - except for two votes in the middle of Arnold's second term which sent the State spending baselines into the stratosphere - creating the structural issues we have now in State government.  One or two votes of many?  Can't we forgive and forget?  I cannot at this time when I have another choice that didn't contribute to the Sacramento mess.  Those votes had enormous consequences that reverberate today.

Mr. Westerlund's has, most of the time, been a conservatve vote on the Fresno City Council, but his vote to enable the City to guarantee a $15 million dollar loan to fund a museum renovation has helped to cripple the General Fund and imperiled important City services.  His unlikely candidacy will serve mostly to pull a few Fresno area votes away from Mr. Patterson.  He doesn't have much of a chance, and his campaign is not a serious one.  Most of his campaign contributors are local developers with  bone to pick with Mr. Patterson over lingering issues from when he ran the City.

That leaves Jim Patterson.  His two terms as Mayor of Fresno returned Fresno to All American City status.  He's been a consistent, clear voice for conservative ideas since I have known him - for 17 years.  Yes, he made some people angry in Fresno - but on those issues, his conservatism was what made people angry, and he's since been vindicated on almost every issue that was controversial during his term.  I know that the difference between his rhetoric and his actions will be at the most, infinitesimal.  I trust him to do the right thing 100% of the time.  I think he is the candidate the people are looking for in these times.  Conservative before Republican, and true to his values without exception.  This is the election year when most candidates on our side all sound the same.  The key issue we need to decide for ourselves is:  who do we believe the most to be committed t returning the GOP to the Party of Reagan?

I plan on spending the next several weeks as his advocate and will help him be competitive.  No matter what the outcome, I want to make sure people understand that he's authentic, experienced, and ready to serve.

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Vote No On Proposition 15: Welfare for Politicians

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

4-21-2010 7:37 am

Ask 1000 random Californians of all political stripes to list what they believe should be the state's spending priorities, and you'll probably see education, public safety and transportation at the top of almost every list.   After that, priorities will vary depending on the individual's point of view.

What you won't see on anyone's list is taxpayer financing of political campaigns, yet that's just what Prop 15 on the June ballot would do.   With a mammoth budget deficit, taxes going up, a crumbling infrastructure, and a host of assorted problems facing California, it's not surprising that voters can think of plenty of things to spend their money on besides junk mail and negative TV ads.

Four years ago, 74 percent of voters said NO to Prop 89, a plan to tax businesses to finance political campaigns.  In 2000, when the state was flush with tax revenue from the dot-com boom, two-thirds of voters rejected another public campaign financing scheme, Proposition 25.

Here we go again with Proposition 15.  The California Nurses Association and other members of the spending lobby will ask voters for the third time in ten years to repeal the same ban on public campaign financing voters themselves enacted over 20 years ago.  

Of course, they won't phrase it quite that way in their ballot arguments and campaign materials.  In fact, the Legislature, which put Prop 15 on the ballot and wrote the ballot label into the law, completely neglected to mention that the ban on public financing would be repealed.   A Superior Court judge had to intervene to insert that critical fact into the ballot label.

The liberal nurses' association union that is the chief sponsor of Prop 15 would rather have you believe that it is a benign pilot program that would charge lobbyists a fee and use the revenue to finance the campaigns of qualified candidates for Secretary of State.

The real purpose of Prop 15 is much more insidious.  The repeal of the ban on taxpayer-funded campaigns means that legislators, with a simple majority vote, can expand public campaign financing to any campaigns they want, including their own.  And if the lobbyist tax is declared unconstitutional, as courts in Arizona and Vermont have already ruled, the Legislature can use the "General Fund or other sources as determined by the Legislature" to pay for campaigns. Given the current composition of the Legislature, it's certainly not a stretch to imagine a system in a few years where every campaign up to and including governor is paid for by our tax dollars. Indeed, if Jerry Brown becomes governor, you can count on it. 

And if taxpayer funded campaigns is a good idea for state elections, why not local elections?  Prop 15 would allow that as well.

I urge you to vote no on Proposition 15.  You can be sure that's how I will be voting.

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FR Exclusive: An Interview With GOP Strategist/Pollster Arnie Steinberg

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

4-20-2010 6:45 am

Today we publish an interview we conducted yesterday with political strategist Arnold Steinberg.   He has served as a campaign strategist and adviser for countless  campaigns.   He has created hundreds of campaign advertising materials for print, television and radio media and conducted more than 1800 polling and focus group projects.     The author of two graduate textbooks on campaign management and media, Steinberg is a court-recognized expert witness who has testified repeatedly on public opinion and attitudinal formation, demographics and voting patterns, media and advertising, and elections and ballot issues, and other aspects of political campaigns.     He has been on several foundation boards as well as Federal boards in the Reagan  and Bush Administrations.  He also served on the California Coastal Commission.  He also represented the United States on  diplomatic and military delegations to countries in the Mideast, Asia, Europe and South America.

The Interview...

FLEISCHMAN (JF):  Arnie, thanks for agreeing to participate in yet another interview with the FlashReport.  We received such positive feedback from your last interviews, so I am really excited to dig right in... 

I recently saw Gov. Mike Huckabee on his show reference Clinton's stewardship of a good economy, during an interview with actor Jon Voight, who was sharply critical of Obama but didn't really challenge Huckabee's characterization of Clinton.   What's going on with that?

STEINBERG (AS):   Jon Voight is a great guy, and like many, he is focused on Obama and his policies.  What you've raised  reflects the need for Governor  Huckabee and others to do their homework.    The main reasons for economic prosperity in the Clinton years pertain to the cyclical nature of the American economy - we were in a recovery mode, having zero to do with Clinton, and also because of the economic growth related to technology, more a product of the Reagan years.  This implied praise of Clinton is sort of like  giving Clinton credit for foreign policy success.   In fact, he entered office after the fall of the Soviet Union and other communist regimes, and after the defeat of Saddam, and the disintegration of Yassir Arafat and the PLO.   These good things are not solely, but primarily, the result of Ronald Reagan and his policies.   At that time, in 1993, when we could have reached some understanding in the Mideast, with Arafat discredited, what happened? Clinton inexplicably resurrected Arafat and brought him to the White House.   This shows his exceedingly poor judgment.  Who knows how Clinton would have fared if the Soviets were still around, and he had to cope with them?

JF:  What does this big picture thinking have to do with elections?

AS:   A lot.  The political environment affects elections.    An undercurrent of why many opposed President Clinton's impeachment was the feeling that the perjury charge - seen by many as merely an impetuous sexual indiscretion -- was a stretch, as measured against the overriding, simplistic perception that Clinton was the president of peace and prosperity, when he had, in fact, inherited the trajectory to both.    If the 501c3 nonprofit organizations on our side had - without endorsing any candidate -- merely disabused people of those misperceptions, he may or may not have been convicted of the impeachment, but at least much of the mythology that affected later elections would have been gone.

JF:  But Clinton wasn't that bad on deficits.

AS:   That's because Republicans in Congress do best in fighting the excesses of a Democratic President.    Look how Republicans legislators in California initially caved to Gov. Schwarzenegger.  That's one of the reasons why a Chuck DeVore is so refreshing.   If we had more DeVores during Schwarzenegger's first 90 days, they might have saved Schwarzenegger from himself...or from his wife.

JF:  What do you think about the Poizner ads that are negative on Schwarzenegger.

AS:  Well, he's trying to capitalize on a widespread disillusionment with the governor.  It's a tough sell, because he's running against Whitman, and she's running an independent message.  Although she really didn't need extensive polling at all to push the obvious of creating jobs, cutting spending, and fixing schools.

JF:  Do you feel that she is spending so much money that it could be characterized that she is virtually buying the election?

AS:    She understands the primacy of a simple message, and the need for repetition.    She is a marketing person.  But she doesn't want increased market share, she wants victory.   She understands that the candidate is the product.  But if voters believe they are being sold a candidate, they will rebel.    There is a subtlety here.    She needs to be seen as frugal.    You can expect Jerry Brown, especially if she is the nominee, to reprise his old image of sleep-on-the-mattress, not-in-the-governors-mansion, and drive-the-Plymouth.   He'll try - rhetorically, especially in a debate - to suggest that he is the more fiscally responsible, because she overspent on her campaign.   The reality is that Jerry is a smart, glib guy, but he is not as lightning fast in a debate as he used to be.

JF:  Why would she overspend if she is such a good CEO?

AS:  She follows a Bayesian formulation of using probability against a favorable outcome (winning) as against an unfavorable outcome (losing).   She probably could have been the first chairwoman of the joint chiefs of staff.    She is totally focused on her objective, she is win-oriented.  Thus, for her to increase the probability of winning, even marginally, seems rational, even if the marginal cost is enormous .    It is her money, and she has every right to spend it.    But in government, we Republicans would say, why spend another hundred billion dollars to increase water quality by a statistically insignificant amount.   At the same time, what she is doing, in terms of overkill, makes sense because it pumps up her general election polling numbers.

JF:   If she's a tough CEO, what governs her budgeting?

AS:   Well, perhaps she does not see the connection between showing she is a tough budget-conscious CEO and is therefore able to take charge of the state budget.    The challenge is what I just said.  For example - and I'm just making up the numbers for illustration - suppose for the primary, a Whitman budget of $40 million would yield an 87-percent probability of winning, a $50-million budget would yield a 90% probability of winning, $60 million would be 92% probability, $70 million 93%, and $80 million 93.5%.  She could end up at $80 million.  The point is that successive marginal inputs of dollars are less efficient in terms of increasing the probability of victory, but her need for certainty, given her resources, may trump that calculus.   But, as I just said, then you have to note that the general election probability is not an independent variable, so that massive spending in the primary positively affects her chances in the general election.

JF:  What about Steve Poizner?

AS:  Like Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner is impressive.   Oddly, both of them and Jerry Brown  are elitists in different ways.    Jerry is really an introvert who is a policy wonk, as is Steve Poizner, who is like the brilliant engineer who makes things work but is not as skillful at communicating his achievements.    I mean, Steve Poizner has never told his story, and if he became the nominee, he would be seen as the underdog who prevailed - a wonderful result for him, since it would inoculate him from the charge of buying the election.    Meg Whitman is a proven and talented quintessential manager, but she is frustrated that reporters who don't earn all that much and are barely holding on to their jobs in an economy of declining journalism businesses, have the potential to take her down.   Even some of the liberal reporters unhappy with Poizner's move to the right, seem to lean toward him.    But with the ever declining coverage of politics, she has the resources to define political reality.   Of course, she had a baptism under fire with the non-voting narrative, or, rather, absence of a plausible narrative early-on.  That entire problem could have been largely preempted with an op-ed long ago on how she realized the error of her nonvoting ways and decided to become a political activist.  That, of course, would have required her campaign team to have done the requisite op-research on her early-on, so that she was fully vetted internally, then inoculated, and certainly up for quick response, here's-my-story-and-I'm-sticking-to-it self-defense.    Instead, she let it become a credibility problem.    In any event, the voting trends favor Republicans this year, and Jerry Brown is far from the ideal candidate for an electorate whose nostalgia does not necessarily  include him.  So, if it's Whitman, she can expect Brown to try to impeach her credibility.

JF:  What about the independent expenditures?

AS:  The independent campaign against her could backfire if it's seen as a conspiracy by unions.  But, then again, look at the stupid Chamber of Commerce so-called educational campaign that was clearly a campaign against Jerry Brown.   It was gratuitous.  And, you know, I would never underestimate him.    I was an advertising consultant to his Republican opponent Evelle Younger in 1978, and I urged Ev not to go to vacation in Hawaii right after winning the primary ,  but party elders and other senior Republicans, as they are called, blessed his departure from reality.   Jerry came off the primary, where he had championed the campaign against Proposition 13, and, while Ev was in Hawaii, Jerry was kissing up to Howard Jarvis and became the champion of implementing Proposition 13.   By the time the November campaign was over, Republican  Younger, who early-on had backed Proposition 13 over, say, his Republican primary opponent, Pete Wilson, who had opposed it, was not seen - by November --  as nearly as supportive of 13 as Democrat Jerry Brown, who actually had opposed it.     Brown is totally capable of running to the right on some issues and still keeping his base.

JF:  Won't this be a Republican year, nationally?

AS:    The turnout scenario looks very good.   Also, intensity favors Republicans, who have the momentum, and Republicans have effectively capitalized, in last year's off-year elections,  on the buyers' remorse on Obama.

JF:   Well, with all the victories on Michael Steele's watch, isn't this so-called RNC scandal a bit overblown. 

AS:    Sure.  This uproar about the West Hollywood club is odd.  The amount of money wasted there is trivial compared to what the RNC wastes in forever reinventing the wheel.   No one has seriously suggested the RNC is run any more efficiently than the Federal government.   The RNC is being run no more incompetently than in the past.    Business as usual.  This is really a battle among vendors.   Steele simply exchanged one group of beltway vendors with another group.    The disaffected vendors now want to cannibalize RNC fundraising with competing groups.    But perhaps the groups will still be helpful, who knows.  But this is not, as Mao said, "Let  a thousand flowers bloom."  It is, let a thousand bank accounts bloom. 

JF:  How important is the RNC?

AS:  In some ways, less important than the Senate and House committees.    But none of them functions in a void.  The Republicans have erred in bad-mouthing the economy and lowered expectations.   The fact is we probably are in a cyclical recovery, inadequate as it is.  And, yes, a terrible terrorist attack, or an attack on Iran and related blockade on oil, or a dramatic rise in interest rates - these are all economic downsides.    But  Republicans - politically --  are better off, raising expectations to a level unlikely to be met, because perception is largely related to expectations.    Republicans should be saying we went into debt for stupid boondoggle giveaway cronyism bailouts had little effect, and the economy is recovering, slowly, anyway, not because of, but despite, Obama's massive debt-ridden policies.     Republicans need to be in a place where, if economic numbers are looking better in October, that Republicans still win.

JF:  Don't Democrats make mistakes, too?

AS:   Sure.  Look at the awful campaign against Proposition 8, where a bunch of white, liberal homosexuals failed to reach out, in an appropriate way, to the significant number of heterosexual, socially moderate African American voters in the 2008 election.   Indeed, the No on Prop 8 team was so out of touch, it actually offended black voters with comparisons of 'gay rights' to 'civil rights.'

JF:  And the yes campaign?

AS:  Did almost everything right.   They seemed moderate, so that the No on 8 folks  seemed off the mark.    As you know, I strongly believed the Prop 8 people should have gone for a June election with a nearly certain victory, with an older, reliably supportive of traditional marriage electorate.   Instead, they gambled on November and won, but only partly because they ran a thoughtful, disciplined  campaign focusing on the excesses of the opposition and on the indoctrination of kids on gay lifestyles.    The yes side was, in a word, believable and not overstated.   And - this is more important  that the fact the "yes" side ran a comparative more effective campaign:  the "yes" side had the perfect storm.   After all, when they first set-up to gather signatures, the conventional wisdom was Hillary would be the nominee, against McCain.    Instead, it's Obama, which led to the substantial African-American November turnout, which often responds to African-American endorsers from central casting who push bloc voting on propositions, such as No on 8.    But Obama's November team  was risk-averse and, though California was a certain victory for him, he wanted to avoid Prop 8 here, for fear it might hurt him nationally, so there was effective outreach from the "No" side to African-Americans.   McCain ended up as the nominee, but some of the  energized, but post-nomination disenchanted, former Romney supporters looked to a new cause - Prop 8, which, also, perhaps  for additional  reasons, ended up raising way more money than  anticipated.    But, make no mistake, the Prop 8 team deserves credit for running a campaign that stayed on message.

JF:  Are Republicans on message?

AS:   The message is anti-Obama, which is necessary, and resonating nicely, but not enough.  We're still talking jargon, like "cap-n-trade."   And, while we energize the base by calling Obama a socialist, it sounds like name calling to others.    What is encouraging is finally some of the Republicans in the House are getting off entitlements.    What we really need to do is get away from knee-jerk support of big business, and instead we should support small business and entrepreneurs.     We may not feel the government has any business in what a CEO gets paid, and I strongly oppose the czars and the way the Feds are intruding in business, but there is no reason to defend some of these incompetent CEOs, or the bumbling heads of these banks, who used  government-supplied or government stimulated low-cost money to lend out to bad credit risks.  And, sorry to my big business Republican friends, but many of these CEOs are way overpaid, and their pay is not really being determined by the free market.

JF:  Is this getting back full circle to what you said earlier about the macro-message, the big picture political environment.

AS:  Exactly.  Republicans did not consistently make the case that the main culprit for the economic collapse was government excess, not the free market.  Wall Street cronyism was  a product of the way banking worked, precisely because government encouraged risky loans on a massive basis.   Now, that doesn't excuse some of these bankers who did not exercise due diligence, and too many Republicans want to pretend these banking executives were just innocent bystanders, as they encouraged loan officers to fudge loan documents and make loans to people who could not possibly pay them back.   But -this is important - we failed  to make the big case against  bailouts, and that's why there is still confusion among the electorate that could come back to hurt Republicans in what should be a good year.

JF:  How so?

AS:   We should be positioning Democrat incumbents as having supported bailouts to the politically connected, whose excesses were initially caused and encouraged by Federal government policies, and, when these politically-connected business-and-banking hacks acted imprudently, if not dishonestly, they were bailed out.    Instead, some of our people look like their mission in life is to defend multiple, excessive  overdraft charges or defend golden parachutes for bumbling CEOs.     Republicans should be for Main Street over Wall Street.   Wall Street has probably become a symbol for unethical and illegal manipulations, and no longer is seen as fulfilling the desirable, historic role of investment banking and risk allocation.   And Obama and his people should be tied to Goldman, Sachs and various firms which were bailed out, with their executives and stockholders not sharing adequately in the pain.   I think one reason for the vigorous prosecution of Goldman -which may indeed be guilty - is demagogic distraction from Obama's policies.  Republicans should be arguing that many of the bailed-out firms should have gone bankrupt and restructured, just as, for example, the City of Los Angeles, should go bankrupt and restructure its pensions.  Republicans should be out front on all this stuff, and consistent.

JF:   Do you still do surveys?  Do you still feel that Republican surveys are less accurate than the opposition surveys?

AS:   I still do projects, of course, though not as many.    But we do see - more on the Republican side - that the person responsible for providing quantitative and qualitative research - -that is, polling and focus groups - does not seem to feel a fiduciary responsibility to provide independent strategic counsel to the candidate.    Rather, he or she is beholden to campaign consultants, rather than to the candidate or the ballot measure.    And we're continuing to see too many surveys and focus groups coming to obvious conclusions as they reinvent the wheel.     Better to do one survey right for $25,000, than do two inferior surveys for $20,000 each.    Get it right the first time.  You can't spend your life testing and using stale themes and verbiage, like attacking  "tax-and-spend" Democrats.   It's tired rhetoric.

JF:   What's wrong with opposing high taxes?

AS:   Look, I'm a free market guy.    I read Milton Friedman in high school. I never dreamed a few years later I'd  get to know him.  I'm into cutting taxes.    But, when you go outside the true believers, cutting taxes is simply not a priority to most of the electorate, including Republicans.  They don't want taxes raised - that's for sure, and they would be happy if we could prevent more tax hikes.    When Steve Poizner campaigns for a 10-percent tax cut, it may not sound plausible to some Republicans.   People - especially Republicans - are deeply concerned about massive Federal and state government borrowing, the deficits, the debt.  Although I concede that to a segment of conservative Republican voters, the tax cut telegraphs that he probably is okay on other issues.

JF:   What do you think about Steve Poizner's chances to pull off an upset?

AS:   It's easy to criticize someone who has been way down in the polls.  His last spot is compelling.   I would imagine they are tracking the effects of his ad campaign, so you would infer the spots are working, and really well, otherwise why spend so much to keep them on the air?   But if they are working that well, then they should spend more, lots more.   Otherwise,  I don't know why he is continuing.  There is no middle-ground here.   This ad campaign may not win it for him, but if it might, then he should be showing significant movement by now in the polls, or even after his first week on say, the immigration ads he should have moved.  If the race has been closing significantly, he's viable.   If it has not, then, I don't get it.   Steve Poizner is an intelligent man.  I can't see him going more than a week with an ad unless polling is showing significant movement.    Going back, he basically let Whitman usurp the high-tech mantra early-on.    Steve needed to make  it fashionable being a nerd.   He has quite an impressive  story to tell.   I think that he and Meg Whitman both are enormously bright and maybe even visionary.   She needs to be seen as a creative, high-tech entrepreneur, not a traditional big business Republican.  And Steve, who really is technology-oriented, has come across as dull.    If it's just charge-and-countercharge, and Republican voters say "they're both throwing the mud" and are confused,  then Whitman wins.  But, in the end, he wins the primary only if Republicans find him more somewhat more believable than Whitman, whose substantial support is, nonetheless, probably soft.  One would have expected her to use more third-party credibility from her endorsers, and would have expected him to leverage her voting record.

JF:  What do you mean?

AS:   It's sort of like impeaching a witness in a cross-examination in a case.   Take your best shot, so that the jury will disbelieve the witness, even when the witness is telling the truth.    She had less of a challenge, since she formulated a substantial and growing lead.  But she went more into quantity of attacks, rather than believability.  So, of voters don't know who supported Gore or Boxer or who the conservative is, or whatever the charge is, they defer to the high ID candidate.

JF:  Are they hurting each other for the general?

AS:   Not yet.  But if the races closes, the attacks could degenerate, with implications for the general.  But, right now, they are just seen as politics-as-usual.  Indeed, Poizner's attacks are moderating Whitman for the general.

JF:  And the U.S. Senate race?

AS:   I find all three candidates impressive, in different ways.   When you look at Chuck DeVore, you see the real thing.   Here is an honest, thoughtful, serious guy who knows policy and really knows where his head is at, and it's in a good place.    Fiorina, very capable and articulate, has not really defined herself, and she is indirectly eclipsed by Whitman, even in a different race.    But she is a gutsy lady.   And Tom Campbell is a brainy guy who has a real handle on economics.  I worked with him on what became Proposition 209, and he was very helpful.    I don't know what the  polling is showing - it's a battle more involving name ID and ballot designation, because many voters don't really know the differences between the candidates, and we have not yet seen much money spent, although I think Campbell is just starting with a small buy.

JF:  What do you make of the Tea Party Movement?

AS:  While it is primarily conservative Republican, it clearly is populist and it has both very knowledgeable, thoughtful people and others that are merely reactionary.   Certainly, you'll find people more conservative on the social issues, but others all over the map.  It reminds me of the Ross Perot movement, where some of his supporters were shocked when he said he would not appoint a homosexual to his cabinet.  But he had an office in West Hollywood, where diehard Perot supporters were disbelieving.  They just assumed he was in sync with them.

JF:  Are you saying that you think the Tea Party movement is a mixed bag?

AS:  Well, it wouldn't be necessary if the Republican party were more independent.   What most upsets so many Americans is that the bailout was a code word for helping cronies who had political influence, and plenty of these cronies are Republicans, and Republican donors.   That's what is essential - and it's not easy to do - to depict Obama as both a radical outside the mainstream and yet someone who pursues politics as usual.   This can be done, but it requires the strategy of a trapeze artist, but most so-called Republican strategists are too busy having three-martini lunches in their companion career as lobbyists.

JF:  How about the race for Attorney General?

AS:  Right now, this is largely about name identification and ballot designation.  Slate cards may help a bit.  It looks like very little media coverage of the race.   A very low turnout could help Eastman.

JF:  Are Republicans making any progress among Jewish voters?

AS:  Very limited.   Republicans do very well among more religious observant Jews, especially Orthodox.   But among the far larger number of Jews who are not religious or even secular, they continue to have a tough time, because, for these Jews, if there is a religion, it is, for involved and sometimes complex sociological reasons, as Dennis Prager has said, liberalism.    There are many Christian churches where you would find more support for Israel than in a reform Jewish congregation.   And that's why you have so many secular, but born-Jewish. senior advisers who work for Obama who are not that keen on Israel, because why would they look at Israel as an expression of Western values, when these same liberal Jewish advisers don't really understand or endorse American Exceptionalism?.

JF:  What happens in November, here in California?

AS:   For Brown to be viable, he has to do a Nixon-goes-to-China with the government unions.  That he tells them, we can't have people retiring at 80 and 90 percent of their last year's pay, sometimes inflated with overtime, and indexed by inflation, and they live for another 30 or 40 years or, pretty soon, nearly a half century after some in public safety, who retire at age 50.   And for the Republican to win for governor, that candidate has to somehow almost pretend Schwarzenegger does not exist.   Brown will probably suggest that Schwarzenegger's inexperience was the problem.

JF:  And Senate?

AS:  The Republican nominee needs a solid turnout of the base, and to do well among independents.  Boxer will probably lose enough Democrats - on the natural - who like her colleague, Dianne Feinstein, but feel Boxer, especially by comparison, is temperamentally off the mark.   But, in that race, as in the governor's race, we're fighting a well-organized, well-funded registration and turnout machine geared to particular constituencies, such as Latino and African-American.   We can only reach so many of those voters.   We need to hope turnout scenarios trump the demographic composition of the state.   And there's one other thing...

JF:  What's that?

AS:  The collapse of traditional print journalism.   For years, what the L.A. Times and other newspaper did, would determine how television and radio covered campaign politics.  Now, the papers barely make it to press, don't have lots of political news, do little in depth, and the stations do less.   So, advertising can play a greater role.    But, in advertising, like certain kinds of vitamins, more is not always better.   The most difficult ads to create in politics are those built almost entirely about the candidate who emotionally connects - on camera -- with the viewer, not sophisticated computer graphics.   So far this year, we haven't seen any original writing in the advertising, just clichés.

JF:  What do you think about the Democratic convention just held?

AS:   Jerry does not have the warmth of his father, and in that sense, he's vulnerable.  But so far, we haven't seen anything in the Whitman or Poizner campaign to move toward a more personal, emotional connection for either candidate with voters.   We need candidates to stay on message, but we cannot have them come across as robotic, especially to draw a contrast with Jerry.   Thinking clinically, again, anything that helps Jerry Brown look moderate is good for him.   And his debate gambit generated some press, though it points up that free, earned media just isn't as important, with the decline in political coverage.  And, getting back to the Senate race, I'm not sure Obama's appearance for Boxer today is helpful politically, though it might help her financially.

JF:  Thanks for sitting down for this chat.  It's always insightful to hear your perspective!

AS:  My pleasure, Jon.

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Lefty Progressives on Sac Bee Editorial Board HEART Tom Campbell

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

4-18-2010 7:35 am

Well, the progressive liberals that dominate main stream media newspaper editorial boards are at it again.  This time we see it is the sage and wise lefties on the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board who are telling us that Tom Campbell is the best GOP pick for the U.S. Senate.  You know what I say to these fine folks on the SacBee Ed Board who in 2008 levied their endorsement of Barack Obama for President of the United States?  Butt out!

This "quaint tradition" of these lefty progressives on editorial boards for newspapers weighing into Republican primaries with their pronouncements of who Republicans should pick is a joke -- and a dubious practice.  Why should readers trust the motives of an editorial board's pick in a GOP primary when their ultimate goal is to see the GOP put up a candidate that will lose to the Democrat in November?

I have known Tom Campbell for a long, long time.  Sure, I may not agree with him on all of the issues -- and he certainly doesn't agree with me.  But he is in a dialogue with Republicans about why he should be our nominee -- and liberals weighing into our primary with their ten cents is an unwelcome distraction.

Shame on Tom Campbell if, like he did with his "endorsement" from the lefties at the San Jose Mercury News, he trumpets his "support" from the liberals at the Sacramento Bee.  Republicans promoting these charade endorsements are only hurting our own cause, as we give credibility to these clowns in advance of their wave of endorsements for Democrats this fall.  I wrote a lot more about this last week.  I think the polite and considered Mr. Campbell should actually publicly "reject" these meddling endorsements from the left.  They certainly don't help his credibility with Republican primary voters.

Oh yes -- if the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board wants to post up voter registration forms of its voting board members, and they are all Republicans, then I will eat these words.  But I think we'll be waiting for a long, long time.

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Today's Commentary: San Diego GOP Fends off Legal Challenge to be Lone Advertiser in June Sample Ballot: Decision has Statewide Ramifications

by Barry Jantz - San Diego County (bio) (email)

4-14-2010 12:10 am

When Republican voters in San Diego County open their June sample ballots in the next few weeks, most will see something new -- a color GOP fundraising appeal in the middle of the other usual black and white pages, touting the party's locally supported candidates and positions on ballot measures.

When San Diego Democrats glance at their versions of the sample ballot, they obviously won't see the Republican advertisement.  Yet, they also won't see one of their own.

A little known and perhaps long forgotten 1970s-adopted section of the California Elections code requires every county Registrar of Voters to provide to each party committee the space for a letter or insert of solicitation in the June voter pamphlet.  This year local Republicans submitted an advertisement, then yesterday successfully fended off a legal challenge over its contents in Superior Court.

As only the Republicans will have such a sample ballot letter during the primary election, this is -- to slightly paraphrase the words Vice President Joe Biden utilizes to describe something of significance -- a "big freaking deal."

In essence, the law allows for such a ballot pamphlet inclusion as long as the letter or insert asks for money, explains how the funds will be spent, and not speak ill of another political party.  The cost of the solicitation must also be borne by the local party.

Sporadic use of such sample ballot solicitations by county parties has occurred, most recently in Los Angeles (both Democrats and Republicans) and Yolo County (GOP), but mostly the provision has gone unnoticed -- and thus unused.
This year the Republican Party of San Diego County opted to avail itself of this right, making sure the requirements were followed to the point, while designing a letter with the ultimate creativity and impact, according to local GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric.  The Republican insert went on the Registrar's website for "public review," along with many other materials slated to be included in the June sample ballot such as candidate statements, ballot measure arguments and the like.

View the GOP letter here, as posted on the San Diego Registrar's website during the recent public review period.
The last day of the period, April 5, the GOP received notice of a lawsuit filed by Tom Kunde, a union organizer with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569, claiming the insert as unlawful. The basis of the suit was that although the state law does allow for a party fundraising appeal, that doesn't include a party advocating for candidates or taking positions on ballot propositions.  

Kunde is a registered Democrat, so would not be receiving the voter pamphlet in question, but no doubt the stakes are large with the Republican Party using the sample ballot to weigh in on high-profile measures like County Supervisor term limits and volatile labor-related issues in Chula Vista, San Diego and Oceanside.  As well, the insert also touts -- among others -- the GOP endorsement of city council candidates such as Larry Breitfelder in Chula Vista and Lorie Zapf in San Diego, both running in key labor battlegrounds, the two largest municipalities in the region.

More specifically, the local unions' opposition to the Chula Vista "Fair and Open Competition" ballot measure -- which would ban the use of controversial Project Labor Agreements in municipal construction contracts -- could be reason enough for a challenge against the GOP having its position in favor of the measure in front of thousands of voters.

Krvaric says the Republicans wouldn't be intimidated by the challenge, engaging both local party General Counsel Bill Baber and the State Party's General Counsel Chuck Bell.
Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton rejected the lawsuit, in essence affirming the right of local parties to use the voter pamphlet to solicit for funds while describing their endorsed candidates and ballot measure positions, thus not limiting the sample ballot insert to simply requesting donations.

While the law allows for a monetary request, the GOP's form of solicitation was to describe its supported candidates and positions.  To remove that description, the court would have been telling the Party how to solicit.  It's not a judge's role to tell any party how to make the financial request, Republicans argued, as long as the law is followed.  Judge Barton agreed.

In so doing, the Republican voter pamphlet will have the lone such letter.

GOP Chairman Krvaric is emboldened by the victory.  "This was a dirty trick by local union operatives," he declared, "to intimidate the Republican Party of San Diego County from fundraising and advocating for its endorsed candidates and initiatives.  

"We appreciate that the judge struck down their attempt to prevent the party from including its insert in the sample ballot for the upcoming June election, as provided for by law.
"Let there be no doubt that the Republican Party of San Diego County will always vigorously support its endorsed candidates and initiatives, and stand up for its First Amendment rights."

The local Democrats didn't put up a legal battle, perhaps not wanting to limit their future rights, although local Democratic Party chairman Jess Durfee was in the courtroom yesterday afternoon watching the proceedings, not seemingly pleased after Judge Barton issued the ruling in favor of the GOP.  As the Democrats did not declare their intent to submit a letter to the Registrar within the required timeframe, Durfee will now have to wait until 2012.

In the ever increasing complexity of campaign contribution limits, independent expenditure committees, party member communications, and ethics commissions, the Republican Party may have gotten one over on the competition this time.  Yet, the decision clears the way for other county central committees, regardless of political party, to utilize the provisions in the state law to not only raise necessary funds but also promote their party's values and endorsed candidates and ballot initiatives.


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Liberal Newspaper Editorial Boards Start To Meddle In GOP Primaries

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

4-13-2010 12:15 am

I am not trying to pick on former Congressman and ersatz United States Senator Tom Campbell, but he is the first candidate for a Republican nomination for statewide office to send out an e-mail touting the endorsement of a newspaper editorial board for his candidacy.  In this case, the San Jose Mercury news published an editorial, Campbell is the best GOP candidate for U.S. Senate.  

To all Republican voters, I would say, without any hesitation:  you should be very cautious if not downright skeptical of candidates who are endorsed by main stream media newspaper editorial boards.  The reason for this is that with rare exceptions (a shout-out to the O.C. Register and the San Diego U.T.), these editorial boards are packed with liberals who probably feel that the People's Park in Berkeley should be the state's political epicenter.

Every election cycle, these Editorial Board members who I'm sure overwhelmingly vote for whatever liberal is on their general election ballot (be it a Democrat, or maybe their local Green Party nominee) put their newspapers on record supporting  Democrats in general elections almost every time (usually delightfully bashing the GOP opponent in each race in the process).

But what these Editorial Board members do in the primary season is laughable and insidious - they magnanimously endorse in the primaries of both major political parties - so they pick their favorite liberal in the Democrat primary, and then they seem to look in a Republican primary for a GOPer who is out of the Republican mainstream on social issues (and any other areas where a Republican candidate happens to be "Democrat-Lite" on particular issues).  So, in essence, these liberal editorial boards weigh into GOP primaries in a way that is quite corrosive. 

Predictably in 2008 most of these newspapers editorials in the Presidential primaries endorsed Obama or Clinton on the Democrat side, and almost exclusively John McCain in the GOP primary.  The McCain campaign elevated the importance of these liberal endorsements by emailing and otherwise touting being supported by these newspapers.  But then in the general election, these editorial board members tripped over themselves to endorse Barack Obama.

The best thing that we can do to minimize the negative impact of these newspaper endorsements of Democrats this fall is to not promote their game-playing  of endorsing Republicans in a contested primary.

Getting back to the Mercury News - look for them to produce an editorial soon on Boxer, praising her as a United States Senator.  And this fall, whether the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate is Tom Campbell, Carly Fiorina or Chuck DeVore the Mercury News Editorial Board will back Boxer for re-election.  Campbell -- and every other Republican candidate should do us a favor -- and NOT promote MSM newspaper editorial endorsements in GOP primaries.

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U.C. President Mark Yudof, Are Standards Slipping On Your Watch?

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

4-9-2010 7:50 am

There's no shortage these days of informed opinion about how California is on the brink of economic disaster, no longer represents a place of creative innovation and may even become America's first failed state
And those are the more optimistic ones.
Kidding aside, these are dark days for the Golden State and they stand to be tough for a long while longer.  But while midway through a critical election year and the middle of a severe recession seems like no time to review and evaluate the future direction of major public policy, that's precisely what California needs to do. 
In every way, a shortfall of vision created many of our problems in the first place.  Our budget deficits, pension crisis, record unemployment and unprecedented housing foreclosures are effects - not causes - of bad policy choices California has made over the past several years.
I've been thinking quite a bit about the public institutions that traditionally represent the best of California and the role they will play in what we hope are better times ahead.  One that has made quite a bit of news lately (for all the wrong reasons) is the University of California and this is troubling, to say the least.
Ask any prominent official in the state and every one of them will say that the UC is one of America's best systems of higher education.  But that exalted reputation for excellence can also bring about an arrogant approach to detail and a sluggish resistance to change.
The first paragraph from last weekend's L.A. Times report says it all:

While California universities have faced round after round of crippling budget cuts and protests against increased fees have flared on campuses, administrators have tapped funds meant for classrooms and students to cover some extraordinary costs: losses on ill-timed real estate deals, loans to high-ranking officials and an ambitious construction project.

Controversies like this will only increase the pressure on UC to address its adoption of a big-government mentality, growing because it can and fueled by what it must have thought was an inexhaustible supply of taxpayer dollars.  Only now are many discovering what conservatives have been saying for years - that public dollars come from hardworking people and must be treated with care and respect.
In 2008, FlashReport friend Bill Whalen wrote an excellent piece about how many within the UC system are pushing for a move away from the use of standardized tests like the SAT and towards a more "holistic" admissions process.  Like most people, I remember the SAT caused great anxiety and I do not now (or then) consider taking the test an enjoyable experience.  But that's the point; schools need more rigorous testing, not less, and they need to maintain the kinds of objective standards enforced by Prop. 209 not create another preferences system that will divide us by race and color.
What was the UC response?  The Board of Regents last year voted to eliminate the SAT Subject Test as an admissions criterion.  Not content with removing this component of high academic standards, the university's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) recommended in December 2009 that the UC "signal to students" to not take the SAT. The folks who sit on the BOARS panel are fully aware of the outrage they would ignite if they just did away with standards altogether as a means of circumventing Proposition 209 so they've taken to chipping away at them, eliminating a little bit here and a little bit there.
The man who needs to step forward is Mark Yudof - current President of the entire UC system.  His last job was chancellor of the University of Texas system, so he obviously has the right kind of experience, but does he have the right sense of seriousness about UC's situation and California's as well? While the UC president may not have the power to unilaterally derail plans to wreck the school's heritage of high standards, he sure has the power to influence the decision makers in whose hands rests the power to preserve or destroy those standards.
For a final word, here's is how the UC system describes itself on its own website:
The University of California is part of your life, every day.  From health care to our children's schools to our communities to the environment.
They mean this as a good thing.  Maybe that's part of the problem. Saving UC standards would be a good start.

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VIDEO: U.S. Rep. John Campbell Blasts Tom Campbell For Support Of Egregious Pork Spending

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

4-1-2010 7:35 am

My apologies in advance, but this is a "Tale of Two Campbells" - so look for me to use first and last names when referencing the two principles in this story.
  It's like opening a can of Campbell's soup -- one with a lot of pork inside...

When I was reading the exclusive column featured on this website, penned by former Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell, in which he pledges to carry no earmarks were he elected to the Senate, and in which he challenged one of his primary opponents, Carly Fiorina, to join him in making this pledge - something came to my mind: a conversation that I had with Congressman John Campbell (who is also a regular contributor to the FlashReport Blog) a few years ago. 

Most readers probably know that John Campbell has been amongst the few patriots (along with Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Jeff Flake) who were opposing egregious earmarks when it wasn't "in style" (now the entire House Republican Conference has signed on with an earmark prohibition policy).  In my recollection of my chat back then with John Campbell, he was very unhappy with former Congressman Tom Campbell because of his successful efforts to kill an amendment he had proposed which would have cut seven egregious earmarks.

So I reached out to John Campbell to get a reminder of the story, and he asked me to meet him at a local Starbucks (conveniently my office is located in the heart of his Congressional District).

The Congressman agreed to an on-camera interview, so below is about a three minute Q&A between he and I where he describes what occurred.  While I ask this question right away in the interview, it is worth emphasizing that John Campbell has not endorsed any candidate in the contested Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. 

I should preface your watching of the video by saying that this is all about a 2007 amendment proposed by John Campbell to the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 to strip funding for seven egregious items of pork:

  • Study the social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre's leaf monkeys
  • Study of the sexual politics of waste in Dakar, Senegal
  • Study of the cognitive model of superstitious belief
  • Research the archives of Andean knotted-string records
  • Study the accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of other's emotions
  • Research of bison hunting on the late prehistoric great plains
  • Study of team vs. individual play
Here is the interview...

I found this interview to be both startling and alarming.  Especially since I have known and worked closely with John Campbell for many years now, and know him to be a man of integrity.  He would not bring this up unless he was very personally concerned.

Above I referenced Tom Campbell's column in last Saturday's FlashReport entitled, End The Pork Barrel Merry-Go-Round, above - and in light of John Campbell's stunning revelation, I have to admit that I look at these excerpts with a bit of skepticism.  Here is one excerpt...

"Some in Congress have recently discussed reforms to make earmarks more transparent, or even a moratorium on the practice. Those steps are commendable, but true reform will only come when each member of Congress refuses to play the earmarking game for themselves."

Later in the piece, Campbell goes on to say:

"With our country drowning in red ink, and more spending on the way under the guise of health care reform, it is incumbent on all those in public office to redouble their efforts to kick the spending habit -- starting with themselves. Sadly, there are all too few in Congress who are willing to lead by example by steering clear of earmark requests."

So with my frustration level at Def Con 1, since there is nothing I detest more in politics than hypocrisy, I reached out to Tom Campbell to see if he would share his thoughts on John Campbell's interview...

First and foremost, Tom Campbell confirmed that he did, in fact, speak with John Campbell about the proposed amendment.  He confirmed that he did ask Campbell to withdraw the amendment.  He said that his concern was only to one of the spending items, funding to U.C. Berkeley for the study of the accuracy of cross-cultural understanding of other's emotions.  Tom Campbell confirmed that he did, in fact, contact "friends of his" who were on the Appropriations Committee to lobby against John Campbell's proposal to strike these seven earmarks.

Not to gin up the hypocrisy DefCon rating for you as a reader, but Tom Campbell told me that  when he spoke with John Campbell, he told Campbell that on the merits, he should not single out the "emotions study" (my wording) earmark for de-funding.  In short, Tom Campbell justified his support for funding that study because he says it was supported by the United States Army, and by the National Science Foundation (which along with the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts is on the top of my list of federal entities to strip of all taxpayer dollars).  He said that as a project approved by the Foundation it would have gone through "peer review" (What does that mean?  That other researches on the public suck think that this project is a great way to help get other colleagues on the dole?)  Campbell said that the study would ultimately assist military personnel deployed in areas of cultural difference from our own to be able to better understand non verbal gestures - he specifically used as an example that shaking ones head left to right here may mean something different somewhere else.  Seriously.

It seems to me that specific "incident" flies face of the very proposal of Tom Campbell's, where he pledges to carry no earmarks at all.  Does this mean that he truly supports across-the-board end of earmarks?  Or does it mean that he supports broad moratoriums on earmarks unless he can justify them?  Or maybe it's like John Campbell says in that interview, could it be that his recent anti-earmarking proposal smacks of political expediency?

Certainly one thing that was not present in Campbell's column, or in any of his rhetoric on the earmarking issue is that as a Member of Congress, and apparently afterward, he has supported egregious earmark spending.  If he is going to have any credibility on calling for an end to this sort of wasteful spending going forward, he really ought to apologies for what he has supported in the past.

Oh, I should add, by the way, undoubtedly our military personnel are better prepared today because Tom Campbell was, in fact, successful in lobbying to kill John Campbell's amendment, which lost on a vote of 195-222.  It is significant to note, however, that Tom Campbell was well out of the Republican main stream on this issue, as fewer than 10% of Republicans nationally opposed Campbell's amendment, and the entire California Republican delegation save one member, voted to support it! (Roll Call 289, 2007)

If you saw me shaking my head right now, you would be able to tell, without a government-funded study, that I am very disappointed.

I will end with an excerpt that FR Blogger Congressman John Campbell posted right here on the FlashReport on May 9, 2007...

Now, I will give the academics the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps all of these studies have some value to academicians and maybe the results are interesting to those who study these areas. That is not the question. The question is whether or not they rise to the level of public need that commands the use of taxpayer funds. We have a deficit. We are annually raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. The Democrats have proposed the largest tax increase in American history. Should we increase the deficit in order to better understand the sex practices of Phayre's leaf monkeys? Is it okay to take your Social Security money in order to have archives of Andean knotted-string records? Are you willing to increase your taxes for a report on the sexual politics of waste in Senegal? I'm not.

So, I proposed an amendment to strip these 7 projects and only these 7 projects out of the bill. It would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money. It failed by a vote of 195-222 on the floor of the House. If we cannot get a majority in this Congress to stop funding things like this, what will they vote to reduce? That's why I'm so adamant about not increasing taxes on anyone. We have to starve the beast of government because it will not go on a diet by itself.

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The Claremont Institute Honors Vice President Dick Cheney At Its 30th Anniversary Gala

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

3-29-2010 6:08 am

Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of joining the better part of a thousand guests at the storied Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the venerable Claremont Institute.

Each year the Claremont Institute hosts a wonderful evening dinner event at which they bestow their coveted Statesmanship Award to a deserving individual who has, in word and deed, furthered the mission of the Institute, which is, to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. These principles are expressed most eloquently in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." To recover the founding principles in our political life means recovering a limited and accountable government that respects private property, promotes stable family life, and maintains a strong national defense.

Who better than Vice President Dick Cheney, who, along with his wife, Lynne, was on hand to receive the Claremont Institute's highest honor?

(In the photo to the right, former Vice President Cheney and Claremont Institute President Brian Kennedy pose with the Statesmanship Award, appropriately a bust of Sir Winston Churchill.)

In his remarks, former Vice President Cheney looked back at his time as Vice President from that chilling morning of September 11, 2001, and all that came afterward, with America under the clear and present danger of a terrorist attack.  Cheney talked about how it had not been his intention to have as "high a profile" in his post Vice-Presidency life, but that he felt compelled to come to the public spotlight when President Obama released memos detailing Bush-era interrogation techniques and would not completely rule out prosecuting or disciplining former Bush administration officials.  Cheney remarked that he and his wife would cherish the Statesmanship Award, and that it would be prominently displayed in their home.

As just one attendee in the audience, I will tell you that I was immediately struck by how disappointing it is that Cheney is no longer in his role as Vice President, and wonder with dismay how we could have ended up "downgrading" the talent in that office to its current occupant. 

Following Vice President Cheney's remarks, and our wonderful dinner, the guests were treated to a series of three special toasts, which in essence were to celebrate the Institute's 30th Anniversary.  Dr. Charles Kesler raised his glass to toast both Abraham Lincoln, and to Dr. Harry Jaffa (who is one of the world's foremost experts on the life, philosophies and ideas of former President Lincoln - who was in attendance at the gala).  Here is Dr. Kesler's toast (this and the other video's below were taken by me, sans tripod, so pardon a bit of camera movement)...  Kesler, a leading experts on the ideas espoused by the founders, is the editor of the Claremont Review of Books.  The wry wit of Dr. Kesler is wonderful as always, and makes for a superb blend of heart-felt sincerity, and biting sarcasm...

Dr. Larry Arnn, who today is President of Hillsdale College in Michigan, is a former long time President of the Claremont Institute.  He gave the second post-dinner toast.  Arnn's toast is to the Claremont Institute, and to famed British statesman and leader Winston Churchill.  You can learn much about Churchill from Arnn's words.  (This toast ran slightly over the ten-minute video limit on You Tube, so it is broken into two parts.)

Finally, the last toast was offered by none other than Dr. Bill Bennett, who served as Secretary of Education under President Reagan, among many other notable Presidential appointments.  Bennett currently hosts a nationally syndicated talk show, and is the Washington Fellow for the Claremont Institute.  Bennett's toast is to Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, and to the Claremont Institute's current President Brian Kennedy...

Of course I could spend a number of paragraphs at this point just listing out the droves of movement conservatives and political leaders that were on hand for the event - that would be a bit onerous, and invariably I would leave some important people out.  But I will note that former Governor Pete Wilson was on hand, as was my old friend Bruce Herschensohn (and so many others).  A number of state legislators were present and local elected officials, including my first employer in politics, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.  Not present in the room physically, but there in spirit was my old friend Tom Silver, who for a time served as President of the Institute.  He would have been very proud of the success of the sold-out gala.

The event went superbly, and much of the credit goes to Brian Kennedy and his outstanding team at the Institute - and to longtime friend and Claremont Institute Senior Fellow Tom Fuentes who did a superb job as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.   But I choose to give the most important credit to all of those amazing donors to the Claremont Institute, large and small, who participated in the gala.  The funds raised at this event help to support many of the Institute's important programs throughout the year.  Find out more about the Institute by visiting their website here.

While I have had the privilege of attending other grand events sponsored by the Institute in the past, this year's gala was particularly meaningful as last summer I was accepted into the Institute's prestigious Lincoln Fellowship program, in which I participated in a week of intense and challenging seminars and discussions on the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln, and of the founders of our great nation.  This seems an appropriate spot to thank my good friend and fellow California Republican Party Board Member Keith Carlson for encouraging me to apply for the 2009 Lincoln Fellowship - he himself being a graduate of the program.  The Fellowship was an experience akin to taking the "red pill" offered by Morpheous in The Matrix

(Credit for the great photos above goes to Yana Bridle.  Credit for the videos of dubious quality -- that would be all mine.)

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Healthcare Vote -- In California, All Eyes Are On Jim Costa, Dennis Cardoza, Jerry McNerney and Loretta Sanchez

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

3-21-2010 9:38 am

Most Americans oppose the Obama/Reid/Polosi rush to massively increase the role of the United States government in health care delivery.  For good reason, there is no reason to believe, for even a moment, that shifting a significant percentage of our country's economy from the private sector to the public sector is anything other than a recipe for disaster.

As of this morning, Speaker Pelosi's operatives are saying they have the necessary 218 votes in the House to pass the bill.  That is unfortunate - but not surprising.  Democrats have a substantial majority in the House, and never underestimate the power of a determined President...

The only silver lining in this very, very heavy, black and rainy cloud is that in order to pass this legislation (and substantially advance the cause of progressivism in American), a lot of Democrats will be signing their own death warrents -- since so many are in districts with voters who very much oppose this extreme plan.

Here in California, there are four Democrats who are likely to end up in a tough situation if they vote for this -- all of them have tried to feed a false facade of being somehow more moderate than Pelosi (their voting records already disprove this).  This vote will clearly brand them as ultra-liberal members of Congress.  Three of these Democrats are from the Central Valley -- Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa and Jerry McNerney (pictured right).  The other is from Orange County -- Loretta Sanchez (pictured left).

The passage of this health care plan is a steep price to pay to have political leverage against any or all of these four Democrats -- but they should all be aware that they are imperiling their jobs with this vote.  Perhaps they won't care -- and are passionate ideologues dedicated to increasing the size and scope of centralized government in America.  If so, I guess I can admire in some grotesque way.  But these four have track records of rhetoric to the contrary, which will come back to haunt them big time...

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