Unions strike back

A coalition of labor groups has begun collecting signatures for an initiative that would bar corporations from spending on political campaigns without first consulting shareholders. The initiative, which would not come before voters until next June, is in direct response to the “Paycheck Deception” measure on this year’s special election ballot. If passed, it will restrict public employee unions from donating to election campaigns without prior approval from individual union members.
It seems unfortunate that our side didn’t have this all ready to go for the special election, in which case it would have provided a lot more bargaining power. And it seems as though a real clean money law, for instance this one by Assemblymember Loni Hancock that died this year, is the true solution to the problem of big corporations buying elected leaders and influence.
Still, this analysis from the California Chamber of Commerce is enough to make anyone’s blood boil:

Allan Zaremberg, president and chief executive of the California Chamber of Commerce, said it would stifle corporations trying to fight ballot measures that could “put them out of business.”
“It would be inappropriate to deny them the ability to participate in the political process,” he said.

Right. But groups representing working families shouldn’t be able to participate in the political process in order to ensure they can PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE. Two words: unmitigated gall.
Meanwhile, in other election news, Randy Riddle over at California Election Law points to this story about Secretary of State Bruce McPherson rejecting Diebold’s flagship touch-screen voting machine.
The news leaves many counties scrambling for alternatives to meet at January 2006 requirement, but also allows fair election advocates to breathe a sigh of relief – in California, anyway. The good folks in Ohio, home of Diebold corporate headquarters, say their machines are going to be just fine.
After all, they helped deliver another term for George W. Bush!

Initiative yo-yo

In the last week and a half, two of the initiatives on the special election, Prop 77 and Prop 80, have been both removed and placed back on the ballot. Here at Speak Out California, we have to agree with the L.A. Times’ Michael Hiltzik that all of this madness points to a larger underlying problem: California’s initiative process is a mess. He sums it up well:

Certainly, reform is urgently needed. At least 65 initiatives are currently circulating for signatures. Many propose crude or self-interested nostrums for complicated problems, raising the specter of a California governed by laws and constitutional amendments written by bozos and billionaires.
As initiatives have proliferated, they also have become more complex. It used to be rare for an initiative to run to more than 1,000 words. Last year’s stem cell initiative, Proposition 71, comprised nearly 11,000, which explains why the public continues to be unpleasantly surprised by what it voted for.

Call it off or not – it’s time to fight

So it’s well known now that the Governor’s advisors have been talking amongst themselves about canceling the special election. They seem to have floated the idea just to see what the reaction would be, not because they just decided to start telling the truth. From Democrats, the reaction was not very encouraging for the Governor:

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said in a conference call with reporters on Friday that he opposes the idea – unless Schwarzenegger makes two major concessions.
Nunez said he’d want the Republican governor to promise that his so-called “Live Within Our Means” budget initiative, Proposition 76, would be “dispensed with.” It’s already qualified for the ballot, so Schwarzenegger would have to reach a compromise with Democrats who say it cuts school funding too deeply and would give the governor too much power to make spending cuts without legislative approval.
The initiative would give governors broad new powers to make spending cuts without legislative approval in times of fiscal crisis.
Nunez said he’d also want Schwarzenegger’s commitment that he would disavow the union dues initiative, Proposition 75.
“Unless we have a guarantee that this stuff’s not going to come back to haunt us in June of next year, I say we may as well get the thing over with now and send a message,” Nunez said.
“What you’re talking about here is making a clear indication that you can’t govern by initiatives, and I think it ought to be a lesson for all of us.”

Oh, and in related news, Republicans don’t want to go there either:

Sen. Dick Ackerman, R-Irvine, said Schwarzenegger wouldn’t even get Republican votes if he asked the Legislature to call off the election.
“We would not support it,” he said. “There are still significant issues on the ballot, and we think the people should be allowed to vote on them.”

It is clear that without the Legislature’s cooperation, Schwarzenegger does not have the power to simply call off the special election he called.
These three things together equal no way is Schwarzenegger is going to risk trying to cancel this election:
“I will continue moving forward exactly as I have been,” Schwarzenegger said at an event in the Capitol that encouraged children to eat healthy foods. “We need reform.”
For progressives, it’s time to stop wondering whether there will be a special election and just start fighting these bad ideas. This is the agenda being pushed by our political opponents, and they will continue pushing it, special election or no special election.
The bottom line is that none of the initiatives that have been placed on the ballot by Schwarzenegger will do anything to move our state in a positive direction. As progressives, we have to start asking ourselves what kind of California we want, and what we are willing to do to get there.

What did they know and when did they know it?

These have become the questions of the hour, on the political playing fields of both the state and the nation. While the White House continues trying to squirm out of holding Karl Rove responsible for his reprehensible actions, Democrats in California are aiming some heat at the Republican-controlled Secretary of State and Governor’s offices for their role in the Prop. 77 flap. Here’s a quick primer:

The legal and political wrangling over Proposition 77 stems from discovery that the text submitted to the attorney general to launch the initiative campaign was different from the version used to solicit voter signatures.
Adding to the controversy, proponents of the measure and the Republican governor’s legal affairs secretary, Peter Siggins, have conceded that they knew of the glitch at least a week before they reported it to the secretary of state’s office.
The matter was brought to the attention of the secretary of state’s office June 13 – three days after Proposition 77 was certified for the Nov. 8 ballot.
Opponents say they suspect that Siggins and Daniel Kolkey, an attorney for the proponents, intentionally delayed notification because it would be harder to keep the initiative off the ballot once it was certified.

Of course, Rove’s actions which endangered our national security and God knows how many individual lives, can hardly be compared with any fishy behavior that might have gone on between the Governor’s office, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and Prop 77 proponents. Still, it doesn’t mean that what is being alleged isn’t serious. This entire special election is enough of a waste of taxpayer dollars that any deception resulting in more unecessary expenditures is offensive and wrong. It is also a dangerous precedent to allow the measures that are ciruclated to the public to differ from those that are put on the ballot. Proponents argue the differences were “technical,” but that is too slippery of a slope even for technicalities to be forgiven.
And just because Prop 77 has been kicked off the ballot doesn’t mean that the Democrats should back off from the planned Elections Committee oversight hearings. After all, proponents say they are going full speed ahead with an appeal.
Meanwhile, any sort of compromise on the special election seems increasinly unlikely. On that topic, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’s spokesperson Steve Maviglio has the quote of the day:

“There are two flat tires on the reform Hummer,” said Maviglio, referring to the governor’s fondness for the large sport utility vehicles. “We are not going to be there to pump them back up.”


One down, five to go!

The Sac Bee reports that a Sacramento judge has tossed out Prop 77, the initiative backed by Gov. Schwarzenegger that would have hijacked the way political districts are drawn in California. It would have resulted in a new redistricting plan before the next Census, which is why critics, Speak Out California included, called it a power grab.
The judge ruled that the two versions of the initiative — the one circulated to voters and the one submitted to the Attorney General’s Office — were different enough that the proponents of Prop 77 will have to go back to the drawing board. From the AP story:

“The differences are not simply typographical errors,” Judge Gail Ohanesian said. “They’re not merely about the format of the measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the substantive terms of the measure.”

This is great news. It’s one less bad idea we have to fight in November. It’s a huge defeat for Schwarzenegger, who counted Prop 77 among the three big non-reform “reforms” he’s pushing in this special election. And it’s validation of the standards we have in California for following the rules when it comes to the critically important process of making law — the same argument would apply to any measure pushed by our side.
Prop 77 is one of the six measures on the Nov. 8 special election ballot that Speak Out California has recommended voting against. Check out our Preliminary Voter Guide for more information.

Quote of the day on PumpGate

From California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres, via DailyKos.

“Legislators have gone to prison over $1,200 honorariums that they had accepted illegally,” Torres said. “This might be an alleged gift rather than a consulting agreement which far exceeds what might be the value of writing a column.”

It’s true! Despite the Governor’s PR people’s best efforts, he’s not wriggling out of this one as easily as he might have hoped.

We’re calling it “PumpGate”

Via The Roundup

If you thought Democrats were going to let Gov. Schwarzenegger’s recent ethical troubles over his connection with a pair of fitness magazines fade away with the legislative recess, then we’ve got a bridge in the Bay Area to sell you.

Seriously, though, the L.A. Times reports that California Democratic Party officials are filing a formal complaint against the Governor today with the Fair Political Practices Commission, a statewide watchdog group. The complaint will:

…contend that the governor’s multimillion-dollar agreement with the publisher was barred under state laws designed to keep public officials from getting excessive gifts or using their position for personal gain.
“We think that the governor’s actions here are pretty outrageous,” said Lance Olson, general counsel for the state Democratic Party. “He’s lined his pockets and he’s vetoed legislation that directly affects those people giving him money. And we think that violates several pretty clear provisions in the Political Reform Act.”
At the same time, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) said that he is discussing with state lawyers the possibility of holding legislative hearings into Schwarzenegger’s contract with Florida-based American Media Inc.

The article goes on to forshadow that these legislative hearings might possibly be delayed while Nunez “consults with his advisors,” which means they could be embarassinlgy close to the special election and Schwarzenegger’s power-grab initiative campaigns.
Clearly Speaker Nunez decided maybe now wasn’t the best time for that vacation!


A barrage of analysis on the Governor’s secret $8 million deal with two bodybuilding magazines and their dietary supplement-industry advertisers sheds new light on why this particular business-political relationship is so problematic.
Dan Smith points out in the Sacramento Bee that the 20-month-old revelation sort of flies in the face of Schwarzenegger’s pledge of openness that he made when he was elected out of the recall in 2003.
The New York Times looks at the connection noted here last week between Schwarzenegger and the tabloid newspapers that American Media Inc. also owns. Can you say, hush money?
But the read of the day is definitely Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State column in the Los Angeles Times. He doesn’t pull any punches as he lets the Governor have it for his financial ties to an industry that has a pretty well-documented history of misrepresenting its products’ safety to the public.

Last week’s reports in this newspaper about the arrangement observed that supplement manufacturers are heavy advertisers in the magazines, “Flex” and “Muscle & Fitness.” This is inaccurate. Judging from the August issues, supplement manufacturers are pretty much the only advertisers in these magazines, which are little more than supplement sales catalogs wrapped around photo spreads of freakishly distended musculatures. Schwarzenegger, who has been close to the dietary supplement industry since his bodybuilding days, saw nothing wrong in his relationship with the magazines and their major advertisers. (He still doesn’t — he’ll continue to contribute columns to both, and he’s keeping the money he already pocketed.)
But there’s nothing innocent about the supplement industry. It has been hawking its products for years using the same techniques perfected by cigarette manufacturers — pushing them at kids by sponsoring athletic contests, lining up celebrity endorsements, downplaying evidence of adverse health effects.

2005 Special Election Voter Guide

Speak Out California’s special election voter guide includes our recommendations on the eight ballot measures, as well as those of other statewide progressive groups. In our summary arguments below, we also provide links to the various campaigns.

We hope you will use this guide when you vote on Nov. 8, 2005, and as you talk to others about the special election. If you need more motivation as to why you should care, read this.

You can help us by making a donation, or by joining Speak Out California and forwarding this voter guide to your friends! You can also join us in fighting for a positive vision for California by signing our Progressive Values Pledge.



Cutting contract doesn’t cut it

Under mounting public criticism and pressure to end his conflict of interest involving two bodybuilding magazines, Gov. Schwarzenegger Friday afternoon announced he would cancel his contract with American Media, Inc.
Dan Weintraub’s blog has the Governor’s statement and notes that Schwarzenegger intends to keep the money he has collected so far from the company, which is estimated to be about $1.5 million.
So it is clear that this story is far from over, particularly since the Legislature is out of session and it is unlikely that the press will be focused on anything else for the next week or so. At the very least, Schwarzenegger still needs to explain his veto of Sen. Speier’s bill last year in this new and interesting context. And if he isn’t giving the money back, doesn’t he still have a conflict of interest problem?
The good folks over at Arnold Watch have laid out a course of action that involves revisiting the Speier law immediately, and calls for the Legislature to get involved if necessary.
Schwarzenegger may be getting some of the backlask that has whipped through the journalism community as a result of the Rove scandal currently embroiling the White House. The political press is simply in no mood to be lied to right now.