This per Dan Weintraub’s blog. In a meeting just this morning with the Sacramento Bee editorial board, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata blasted Rob Reiner’s use of state funds to promote the theme of his upcoming preschool initiative and trashed the initiative itself, which he had previously endorsed. Perata also all but endorsed efforts first reported here to redirect the money spent on advertising and public relations to actual programs helping early childhood development, although not necessarily the Republican alternative.
It looks like that is one Democratic legislative leader who remains unspun by the movie director/initiative promoter in those private meetings I reported on earlier. Since he is the leader of the Democratic Party in the upper house of the California Legislature, this is very significant.
Does Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez also consider the Reiner affair major, or merely a flap? I have a call in for his comment.
** UPDATE: There has been a development on the Nunez front. A top aide to Speaker Nunez, Steve Maviglio, says that the speaker still supports the Reiner initiative and is supportive of his decision to step away from the First 5 commission on a leave of absence. He has not yet read the bill by Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling for a shift of funding from advertising and public relations to pre-kindergarten instruction. However, he does support the concept of redirecting the First 5 tax money currently going to advertising and public relations into actual programs for the children.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has had many guards. From Gavin de Becker & Associates to the California Highway Patrol to conservative state Senator Tom McClintock, his new best buddy and running mate. It looks like he is also being guarded, in a rather different way, by California’s powerful prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. For no one is guarding Arnold’s outgoing prison system chief, Rod Hickman, a former guard himself who was brought in with such fanfare.
When the former action superstar came into office, he vowed to clean up the mess that California’s prison system had become and to renegotiate the highly lucrative contract granted the guards union by former Governor Gray Davis. These two things promised to put him on a collision course with the powerful prison guards union, which emerged as a major kingmaker and political intimdator during the 1990s. (Incidentally, they don’t like being called the prison guards union. They prefer “correctional peace officers.” Oh, well, we are what we are.)
Which was interesting, because Schwarzenegger had been something of a darling of the prison guards union. In 2002, when he pushed his prequel to a gubernatorial campaign, the Proposition 49 after school programs initiative, the guards union was an endorser and union officials appeared with Arnold at his campaign events. It was all part of a grand coalition Arnold and his then political team had assembled. Schwarzenegger even attended the guards union convention, where he spent some two-and-a-half hours signing autographs and posing for pictures with happy delegates and union officials.
He might well need security if he attended one of those conventions now. The guards union was part of the ABC (Alliance for a Better California) coalition that shot down Schwarzenegger and his “Year of Reform” special election agenda last year. Yet, while they weighed in heavily by any normal standard, some $3 million spent opposing Arnold, they can do far more.
Which brings us back to Rod Hickman, the outgoing secretary of California’s Youth & Adult Correctional Agency. He has been the highest-ranking black official in the Schwarzenegger Administration, cited in last year’s State of the State address for his effectiveness in beginning reforms of the system. He resigned a few days ago, saying he felt a lack of support for his efforts in the administration. Now, according to his office, which refers calls to the Governor’s Office, he is not talking.
I’m no expert on the prison system. Some insiders say Hickman wasn’t nearly as effective as advertised. That may be. What is known is that the guards union was opposed to him, that the guards union was opposed to Schwarzenegger’s reform efforts, that the guards union was infuriated by Schwarzenegger’s attempt to renegotiate their lucrative Davis-granted state contract, that the guards union was an active member of the anti-Schwarzenegger coalition last year.
And, much more to the point, that the guards union has far more money that it can spend in this year’s effort to gun down the Terminator once and for all. About $15 million, according to inside sources.
We can all do the math.
California Republicans have gotten a reputation as the party of no. In an expanding state, with an expansive culture, that’s not always a good thing, as reflected by their poor statewide prospects prior to the advent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. So their initial response to the Rob Reiner controversy — calling for the firing of the controversial First Five Commission chairman (now departed on “leave”), demanding investigations — was nothing new. If in this case, not exactly unpopular.
Now Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican, has come up with something new. Take the money used on media advertising and pricey public relations (paid to political allies and Hollywood friends of Reiner) to promote the idea of early childhood development and instead use it to actually help early childhood development. McCarthy is slated to introduce a bill Tuesday to do just that, reallocate $42 million a year to something called a “Ready To Start” program, five weeks of half-day classes for kids without prior preschool experience — roughly two-thirds of California children of that age are already in preschool — before they enter kindergarten. The program, which would also draw some from First 5 bureaucracy, would use existing personnel, i.e., credentialed teachers, and existing facilities, regular classrooms, and would cover 120,000 of the approximately 180,000 children who presently are not involved in preschool.
It’s based on what McCarthy touts as the success of a similar such program in two Kern County school districts. There many of the kids are ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The results on various test scores sound impressive.
So here are the Republicans coming up with what sounds like a Democratic idea, investing public dollars in a form of preschool. Yet it is also a Republican idea, leveraging already existing resources, personnel, and facilities. Actually, it sounds like the kind of socially progressive and common sense conservative ideas Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about in his early and wildly popular days as a politician.
How about it, Governor?
It certainly sounds more useful than spending a fortune on TV advertising featuring an actor playing a dad doing “creatively” goofy things with laundry to amuse a one year-old girl. I’d love to see the research on the efficacy of those ads.
Reiner, incidentally, while not discussing his status with me or anyone else in the media, has been meeting privately with Democratic legislative leaders to try to shore up his support and assuage their concerns about what one source calls a “flap.”
The Democratic ad wars are on! Angelides for Governor campaign manager Cathy Calfo unveiled the state treasurer and current frontrunner’s first TV ad of the season today after I reported yesterday that his rival, Controller Steve Westly, would begin major market advertising today that is slated to continue through the June 6th primary.
Under questioning, Calfo said that the Angelides TV ad will begin airing in “the middle of the week.” A few days after Westly. And that it is a roughly one million dollar media buy which will last for a week, giving it a specific ending date. Asked if Angelides will attempt to match Westly’s ad spending dollar for dollar, Calfo demurred. Asked if the Angelides ad campaign would be continuous through the June 6th primary to match Westly’s plans, she said that Angelides will advertise “throughout” the primary. Which is not the same as advertising continuously during the primary campaign. With such an early start and already trailing in his campaign war chest with higher ongoing campaign costs than Westly, Angelides almost certainly will not be able to match Westly’s advertising.
Just like the Westly buy, the Angelides buy is in three major markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. It is also an introductory spot. But unlike Westly’s ad, which is more of a classic introductory biographical spot, the Angelides ad is entirely political in nature. In fact, it doesn’t mention anything about his life aside from politics and doesn’t mention anything about his political life until a few years ago.
The dominant figure in the candidate’s introductory spot may not be Angelides himself, who does not speak, but U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who appears on camera to sing the praises of the former state Democratic chairman who played a pivotal role in her narrow 1992 election victory over Republican commentator Bruce Herschensohn. It also has a much more partisan tone, using the tagline: “”He stood up to Arnold. He’ll stand up for you,” again emphasizing Angelides’ role as the anti-Arnold from day one even when most Democrats were working with Schwarzenegger in his popular early bipartisan mode.
A top Angelides source says the strategy of using Boxer so prominently to introduce a candidate for the state’s top executive post is supported by research showing that she, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, also an Angelides campaign co-chair, is viewed by Democratic voters as a champion against Bush Republicanism nationwide. Making this an interesting attempt to nationalize a statewide race from the beginning of the advertising strategy.
A top Westly source doubts the effectiveness of that strategy, saying that being the anti-Arnold is important to activists but not the broad sweep of Democratic voters. Westly press secretary Nick Velasquez was on hand for the announcement.
Speaking with him later, he talked about his campaign’s view that Westly is better positioned to win the general election and that Angelides is from the beginning going too far left for many Californians. Citing as one aspect Angelides’ support for tax increases. Asked what is Westly’s alternative for eliminating the state’s chronic structural deficit — which is exacerbated by Schwarzenegger’s plan to spend more in this election year — he spoke of the success of Westly’s program to get unpaid taxes paid. Asked if that meant the solution to the chronic budget crisis was to hire more auditors, he said that was not necessarily so, and that “Steve doesn’t rule out a tax hike,” it’s simply not his first reflexive option.
To understand the present controversy around California’s so-called First Five Commission and its now mostly-departed chairman, it’s important to understand how he became chairman in the first place. Former Governor Gray Davis appointed movie director/initiative promoter Rob Reiner to his controversial chairmanship of the California Children and Families Commission. But he could not have done it without the help of former Republican Governor Pete Wilson.
By several accounts, Reiner badly wanted to be the chairman of the new state agency created by the narrow passage of his Prop 10 tobacco tax initiative for early childhood development in 1998. The initiative, after all, had been his baby, the bringing to fruition of his dream of helping children. And the role of chairman was an important validation for him in public affairs, both in terms of the impressive-sounding title and in terms of the clout this small agency with a big budget could wield. Even then Reiner — who finally demurred a few months ago with regard to the 2006 race — was thinking of running for governor of California down the line.
But there was a problem. The initiative passed in June 1998. The general election for governor, in which Democrat Davis had a healthy lead over Republican Dan Lungren — Davis would go on to bury Lungren, 58 percent to 38 percent — was not until November. And the law went into effect before the next governor would take office. Which meant that outgoing Republican Governor Wilson could make the appointment.
Wilson signaled to Davis that he intended to do just that. This caused, according to inside sources, dismay for Gray. Because he badly wanted to appoint Reiner as First Five chairman. In part, because he felt he deserved it. In part, because he wanted to strengthen his ties with Hollywood’s fundraising and cultural power base. Reiner was second generation Hollywood aristocracy, son of the legendary Carl Reiner, a commercially and critically successful director who worked with many A-list stars. Davis would also appoint Paramount Pictures studio chief Sherry Lansing to the University of California Board of Regents.
The Board of Regents, as it happens, figures very prominently in this story. One of the most prestigious appointments a governor has to offer, it is frequently a goal of major fundraisers and donors. Outgoing Governor Wilson attempted to make appointments to the Board of Regents, but they were blocked by the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Then Senate President Pro Tem John Burton reasoned that his party had not had access to Regent appointments through 16 long years of Republican governorship, and he was damned if he was going to let Wilson make lame duck appointments.
But the shrewd Wilson knew the bind Davis was in. Negotiations commenced between the two men over the Reiner situation. In the end, Davis agreed to one Wilson choice going onto the Board of Regents in exchange for Wilson not appointing someone instead of Reiner to the First Five chairmanship.
Since Davis had, of course, been approached by many Democratic money folk about being appointed to the Board of Regents, this reportedly caused some significant internal consternation. Yet Wilson’s Republican choice accepted by Davis was no flaming right winger.
Joanne Kozberg had been a member of Wilson’s cabinet, as secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency. She is the partner of super-lobbyist, excuse me, leading public affairs consultant, Bob White in the California Strategies firm, which has many bipartisan ties. White was Wilson’s very able longtime chief of staff, a polished and affable maestro of politics once referred to by Arnold Schwarzenegger as “Mr. California.” Indeed, he was Arnold’s first political consultant and served as his de facto campaign manager in the 2003 recall campaign, where he managed the not insubstantial egos of Team Arnold, before managing his transition to the governorship. His partner Kozberg, who would also become president of the Music Center of Los Angeles, a key institution in the social world of L.A., was a similarly presentable Republican.
After his appointment, Reiner frequently appeared at Democratic Party functions, looking for all the world up on the stage very much like another Democratic politician. He blended in well, perhaps too well for a figure from Hollywood who would need to draw upon something of an outsized image in a bid for the governorship. But his plan had worked and he was in the driver’s seat as California’s highest profile advocate for children.
When I reported yesterday that state Controller Steve Westly would launch his TV advertising drive today in major media markets, the California gubernatorial campaign of rival Democratic Treasurer Phil Angelides would not say when it might begin its own advertising campaign. Now it has just announced that it is starting up, too, and will preview a TV spot at 11:30 AM this morning.
How did Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s weekend go? He is not out of the woods, but he did get through what seemed a few weeks ago to be a particularly dark passage in the forest relatively unscathed. Which is a good thing for him, since a Democrat who may be as rich as he is is just starting up his TV ad drive, as reported below.
Most political conventions are like ordering clam chowder in a cheap roadside diner. You search for the clams while encountering an awful lot of potatoes. They are useful for trawling for shards of information.
For Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, this state Republican convention in San Jose was most important for what did not happen. Unlike his sometimes moderate predecessor, former Governor Pete Wilson, the former action superstar was neither hung nor burned in effigy. There were only a few nasty flyers floating around, only one of them memorable, depicting the ex-Terminator in drag as a Symbionese Liberation Army era Patty Hearst. (None called the pro-choice Arnold a “babykiller,” as a widely distributed flyer hitting ex-L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan did four years ago.) There were no anti-Arnold signs or t-shirts or buttons. If there were anti-Arnold stickers, I don’t remember them. No RINO (Republican In Name Only) posters. No demonstrations.
The only flashes of excitement, in a controversial sense, came — as I blogged in real time — with dueling back to back press conferences Saturday afternoon. Following the defeat of four of five of their resolutions criticizing Schwarzenegger in the party’s resolutions committee, conservative activists said they had had the rug pulled out of from under them after promising to make nice during weeks of negotiation. The state party chairman countered, saying the rightists were mistaken in their interpretation of any deal. Aside from that brief firefight, there was no drama in what had looked at one time like a potentially dramatic weekend.
Schwarzenegger’s new political team clearly did a fine job in tamping down the anti-Arnold rebellion on the right and presenting, if not a unified front for the party, at least a mostly mollified front. News stories reflected the dissension, and the ongoing dissatisfaction with his leftward lurch that still percolates, but it could have been far worse for the governor.
Yet in quelling the rebellion, most of the energy was also leached out of the affair. Surveying the broad expanse of the lobby and bar area of the host Fairmont Hotel during the weekend, one seldom got the sense that a political convention was taking place. There were pro-Arnold signs, but not all that many, and they mostly showed up after the governor left Friday night. And those signs were for “Arnold and Tom,” Tom being not Schwarzenegger sidekick Tom Arnold but state Senator Tom McClintock, the conservative darling running for lieutenant governor.
I wonder if the cerebral McClintock ever imagined he would grow up to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodyguard.
The governor’s much anticipated speech to the party’s kickoff banquet Friday night was, as CNN commentator Bill Schneider told me, “very polished.” He hit his new/old themes of building for California’s future, ran through a litany of his administration’s successes and even mildly challenged his party towards the end, alluding to its lack of success in statewide races other than his own by saying they needed “to rebuild the party by rebuilding California.”
In an interesting move, Schwarzenegger did little rhetorically to cater to his party’s right wing, aside from prominently noting his current opposition to tax increases. He mentioned his support for the anti-child molester “Jessica’s Law,” the death penalty, and concern about illegal immigration. But he punched none of those hot buttons up in the speech. Nor did he really go after the Democrats. It was an intriguing set of choices, not necessarily all the ones I would have suggested, but they did reflect he and his new team’s understanding of the tightrope he must walk on his path toward re-election.
Schwarzenegger is a frequently compelling speaker, and he was mostly on his game in his convention speech. Yet his reception was more dutiful than enthusiastic. Catching up with the governor after his formal address, I found he caught more of the old magic at a private reception for volunteers. There, with a mostly younger crowd, he exhibited his old superstar appeal, with people mobbing him for cell phone photos, calling friends to have him say hello in his easily recognizable voice, and the like.
His Sunday appearance on Meet The Press with host Tim Russert, an old pal of First Lady Maria Shriver, was more problematic. Russert, the former Mario Cuomo advisor who is now frequently scored by liberal critics for softball treatment of Bush Administration luminaries, came at Schwarzenegger with a sustained series of critical questions. It might have been bad for Arnold had Russert bored in on one or two of his answers, rather than simply present everything his researchers had arrayed for him in a rat-a-tat-tat of carefully produced controversy, but the action governor did appear a tad nettled at times beneath his trademark affable aplomb.
He can’t have enjoyed watching a clip of old friend Warren Beatty ripping his “fake” politics last fall, or Democratic strategist Bob Mulholland quoted calling him a French poodle instead of a pitbull, and the various questions about his change in direction and expansive fiscal policies. Arnold mostly attempted to slip the punches, as in this response to the Beatty broadsides: “I never respond to Warren because I know Warren for too long and I think it would be wrong, you know, to respond to that.” Um, okay. Huh? Because, well, he’s not running for governor, it seems. Which is a definition of public debate of his policies and governorship that is noteworthy for how closed off it is. Not that Arnold is responding to the two main candidates who are running for governor.
Affability and survivability are the present order of the day in Schwarzworld. Which is not exactly dumb. Schwarzenegger more than survived a dangerous weekend and, in Washington for the National Governors Association conference, showed his continued star power by taking up over half of Meet The Press with a mostly effective, gaffe-free performance.
Well, there was this one thing. You knew there would be something.
MR. RUSSERT: And the estimates are you plan to spend $120 million dollars on your reelection effort. When you first ran, you…
GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER: That number didn’t come from me, may I remind you. It was some outsider that has nothing to do with us has said that, OK? I don’t ever talk about numbers of what it will cost us. I couldn’t even tell you what it costs us. But the bottom line is, elections are very expensive, you’re absolutely correct.
That is a very interesting disavowal. Actually, as reported here, the $120 million figure, laughable as it is, was most assuredly the fundraising target number floating around Schwarzworld for a few weeks before surfacing in news reports of a private talk to the California Business Roundtable on the governor’s behalf by former gubernatorial communications director Rob Stutzman. Stutzman is no longer in the Governor’s Office, nor is he on the re-election campaign, as most outlets reported he would be. But he does work for the state Republican Party and in fact helped run Schwarzenegger’s operation at the state convention. Which hardly makes him “some outsider that has nothing to do with us.”
In a major development in the wide-open race for Governor of California, state Controller Steve Westly, according to informed sources, will begin major market television advertising tomorrow.
This push is planned to continue throughout the campaign until the primary election day on June 6th. This amounts to 14 straight weeks of advertising around the state.
Westly’s advertising drive will commence in three major markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. These markets, covering California’s two major metropolitan areas and the state capital region, comprise some 80 percent of the statewide electorate. After establishing itself in those major markets, Westly’s advertising campaign will expand to all media markets in California.
I’m informed that this opening salvo is not a demonstration buy on the part of the former senior eBay executive and Stanford business lecturer. It is a substantial buy designed to introduce voters to Westly and move the ball down the field in the super-rich dot-com pioneer’s drive to secure the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Unless plans change, Westly’s TV advertising for the Democratic primary campaign will end when the primary is over.
State Treasurer and former state Democratic chairman Phil Angelides is the current Democratic frontrunner, with a narrow lead over Westly. It is not known when he will go on the air. In the most recent campaign finance report, through the end of 2005, Westly led Angelides in cash on hand, $24 million to $17 million.
As part of his test market tour of the Golden State, Westly has previously advertised in the Chico, Eureka, and Monterey markets, all in Northern California. He is currently on the air in the southern Central Valley market of Bakersfield, a conservative oil and agricultural region not unlike Tulsa or El Paso, where he arrives for two days of intensive personal campaigning at the end of the week.
Pro-Arnold forces in the California Republican Party took a few more big steps toward tamping down the rebellion on the right this afternoon at the party’s state convention in San Jose. First, state Senator Tom McClintock, the party’s conservative favorite, delivered a very well-received luncheon address in which he extolled the virtues of his “running mate,” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. McClintock, who ran a respectably distant third in the 2003 recall election, is running for lieutenant governor.
Then conservative leaders found most of their resolutions criticizing Arnold’s policy positions shot down in the party resolutions committee. The rightists say they had an agreement for resolutions opposing Arnold’s infrastructure bond, budget policies, and minimum wage hike to move to the convention floor tomorrow with only a majority vote required for passage. Instead, the committee sent the resolutions to the floor with a negative recommendation, now requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. Only the rightists’ resolution urging the former action superstar to appoint more Republicans to judgeships moved forward to the floor needing only a majority vote.
“This was a fork in the road,” says ex-state Republican chairman Mike Schroeder as he and other angry conservative leaders expressed their displeasure and lack of support for Schwarzenegger. “He could have allowed a real debate here. He didn’t.”
Looking on with amusement was Democratic strategist Garry South, who quipped, “It seems every even numbered year the Republican Party turns into the Donner Party.”
Chairman Duf Sundheim sees the agreement differently, saying what he agreed to was only an open discussion and that he can’t control what the committee does.The resolutions chairman, he says, told him Wednesday there were not the votes to move the resolutions forward with a positive or neutral recommendation. “I agreed to have debate, it’s in the best interest of the party. That is what I agreed to.”
Movie director/initiative promoter Rob Reiner stepped away from his controversial post as chairman of the First Five Commission yesterday in a private letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, taking a “leave of absence” through the June primary election. Don’t expect him back.
The governor, who gave a smoothly delivered, politely received speech over an hour later than scheduled to kick off the state Republican convention in San Jose last night, wasn’t taking any press questions. He still wasn’t taking press questions when I ran into him at a private event after his speech.
Some Reiner friends in Hollywood saw the bad situation he is in, as, reportedly, did Reiner himself. His refusal as a public official to return my repeated calls regarding his status and plans coupled with his aides declining to simply say something like “Rob has done nothing wrong and will remain as chairman” made his crisis obvious. As a fellow Hollywood star, Schwarzenegger was in an awkward situtation. This face-saving option to attempt to defuse the situation is the result.
Will it work? Like most half-measures, probably not.