Friday, September 27, 2002
UPDATE: Appeals Court rules against Davis.
Two months ago I predicted that the American Taxpayers Alliance would win on appeal, and now they have.
The ATA had run TV ads attacking Gray Davis for his mishandling of the California energy crisis, but refused to file reports divulging its financial backers. Davis sued and got a Superior Court judge to order the ATA to reveal the information. This was so contrary to previous First Amendment precedents that I couldn't imagine it would hold up. It didn't.
This is exactly why we have a First Amendment: So people can be free to criticize government officials without worrying about retribution. Does anyone doubt that our corrupt governor would retaliate against his enemies with all the power he had, if only he knew who to target? In fact Davis' lawsuit itself was a form of retaliation, intended to drain ATA's money into legal fees instead of more TV ads. That's why the First Circuit Court dismissed it under the anti-SLAPP ("Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation") law.
I love it when I'm right. It helps (just a little) to average out all my bad predictions.
Friday, September 06, 2002
All the attention is focused on California's Gubernatorial contest, but the most important race in California this fall may actually be for State Controller.
The contestants are Republican Tom McClintock and Democrat Steve Westly. What makes this race so important is that the winner will be the odds-on favorite to be elected Governor in 2006. (And without getting too far ahead of ourselves, any California Governor instantly becomes a serious contender in the Presidential derby...)
Steve Westly appears to be a dream candidate. He's young and good-looking. He was eBay's Vice-President of Marketing and Business Development, which provided him with a fortune estimated at $100 million when he cashed out, and he's willing to spend what it takes to further his political ambitions. He has an MBA, he has taught business management, and he has long been active in civic affairs and politics.
If Westly is elected State Controller, the governorship is the next logical step when Gray Davis is termed out in 2006. Sure he'll have to contend with several other big-name Democrats in state-wide offices (e.g., Bustamante, Lockyer, Angelides, O'Connell) who also have their eye on the top spot. But they are all old-time politicians with lots of baggage. Westly will be a fresh face and have a huge financial advantage. I think Democrats will fall all over themselves trying to latch on to a rising political star.
On the Republican side, Tom McClintock is the most principled and articulate Republican officeholder in California. [Full disclosure: I know Tom; he is my State Senator; and I am highly biased in his favor.] Tom isn't afraid to take strong stands on issues, and he loves to root out waste and corruption in government. For example, when Republican Insurance Comissioner Chuck Quackenbush was accused of various corrupt practices, Tom was on the committee which investigated the scandals. Tom helped dig out the truth rather than cover it up, and was largely responsible for forcing Quackenbush's resignation with the threat of almost-certain impeachment.
Tom McClintock has achieved a fair amount of statewide name recognition for his crusade to abolish the car tax (a.k.a. Vehicle License Fee) and to try to cut the bloated state budget. He is directly responsible for cutting the car tax by two-thirds and saving California taxpayers many billions of dollars. Tom writes numerous brilliant op-eds, and is an excellent speaker and debater. Having listened to a number of his talks, I can attest that they are both moving and intellectual; it's not unusual for a McClintock speech to get into a detailed explanation of the Federalist and anti-Federalist papers and how they relate to the proper role of government.
Tom's weakness is that he isn't personally wealthy like Westly, so he'll be at a significant financial disadvantage. He'll try to make up for it by clever publicity and advertising, like his "Cousin Angus McClintock" skinflint commercials.
At the moment Tom is the only statewide Republican candidate who has a better-than-even chance of winning. The just-released Field Poll shows him leading Westly by 12% points. The related story in the Sacramento Bee says that "One campaign likely to attract big bucks and heated debate is that of controller. Tom McClintock, a Republican senator from Simi Valley, leads former eBay executive Steve Westly by 42 percent to 30 percent—with 28 percent of voters undecided."
If Tom can hang onto that lead in the face of a wave of heavy Westly advertising, he might well end up after November as the only Republican to hold statewide office. And if he does get elected, he is going to use his position as State Controller to audit the heck out of every state agency. I suspect he'd also refuse to cut checks for insanities like Gray Davis' secret purchases of electricity at incredibly high prices last year. Tom will expose corrupt and wasteful bureaucratic suckers like sunlight on vampires. [I just saw Blade II the other night and had to throw that in there.]
After four years as State Controller, the governorship would be the next logical step. Tom would first have to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Republican primary. But after the experience with Bill Simon, Republicans may be leery of risking the nomination of another political neophyte, even one as famous as Schwarzenegger. And it is still conservatives who pick the candidates in the primary; Schwarzenegger is a moderate-to-liberal Republican.
It will be a useful trial-by-fire. If McClintock can defeat The Terminator in 2006, how tough can a Democrat be?
So forget the Governor's race (well, maybe that's asking a bit too much). Focus on State Controller -- that's where California's future is riding.
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Can it get any more pathetic than this?
Under heavy pressure from religious conservatives, Bill Simon has retracted the questionnaire he filled out for Log Cabin Republicans regarding gay issues. According to this Los Angeles Times article [requires free registration]:
"Someone answered it for me," Simon told reporters during a campaign stop at the Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento. "I did not review or approve that questionnaire." ... Simon spokesman Mark Miner said a campaign employee used an "auto-pen" to put Simon's signature on the response. Many of the Simon responses were written in the first person. ...
So what is the name of the campaign employee who Simon fired for forging his name to the Log Cabin survey? What's that? There is no name? And no one has specifically been fired for the forgery? Is it standard operating procedure in the Simon campaign to answer surveys with no input or approval from the candidate, and then disavow the answers if they generate too much political heat? Does Simon stand behind all the other questionnaires his campaign has responded to in his name, or are those answers also worthless if they turn out to be controversial?
Of course it took a week for Simon to come up with this hokey explanation, during which time the L.A. Times reports that Traditional Values chairman, the Rev. Louis Sheldon, said he had been so upset by the questionnaire response that he spoke to Simon about it at least 10 times over the last six days. In full damage-control mode, Bill Simon is spinning that he "clarified my position immediately." But the San Francisco Chronicle points out that no such clarification came up last week when Simon appeared in Sacramento and San Francisco. At that time, he said he stood by his positions on domestic partners, workplace discrimination and adoption by gay couples, although he said he might re-evaluate his support for a Gay Pride Day.
At least with Gray Davis, you know where he stands on the issues: With his campaign contributors.
Bill Simon's convictions depend on whoever last had access to his auto-pen, and Simon finds out what he believes in when he reads the next day's newspaper.