A day of massive spinning yesterday over how that purloined tape of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger offering his none too clever private musings on ethnology was obtained produced several different explanations from Democratic operatives before ending in the revelation that the tape was accessed by the campaign of Schwarzenegger’s trailing Democratic challenger, Treasurer Phil Angelides. But the campaign’s technical explanation for the feat had just before been contradicted by high-ranking Democratic spinners.
Meanwhile, the spin cycle continued hot and heavy as well on the question of the one and only gubernatorial debate.
After reports yesterday that the California Highway Patrol, responsible for security in the state Capitol, was investigating the acquisition of the Schwarzenegger tape from the seemingly secure gubernatorial computer system, the new Democrats’ insider web site, the California Majority Report, posted an explanation. (The CMR is run by high-ranking Democrats close to the Angelides campaign, top veterans of the Gray Davis administration.) The audio file was available on the governor’s public archive of speeches. Its appearance in the Los Angeles Times was the result of “intrepid investigative reporting” by the Times.
One problem. The public archive only includes some of his recorded remarks. Access to the rest requires a password, which I’ve requested and been denied. Representing the state of Democratic spin, the California Majority Report updated to say: “Bill Bradley suggests that a speech hub doesn’t exist on the Governor’s site. (I wrote no such thing.) He’s mistaken. Our sources tell us that the audio was inadvertently posted on the Governor’s speech database found here.”
Which did nothing to further the explanation.
Lots of Internet back and forthing went on between myself, other posters on New West Notes, and the California Majority Report. Meanwhile, in the non-virtual world, I was talking with Democratic spinners. Through none of these interactions was the mechanism by which the tape became available actually described.
Finally a top source close to the California Majority Report and the Angelides campaign offered this explanation. The tape was somehow part of a recording of a Schwarzenegger speech. Or it was in some way “linked to” a gubernatorial speech. The source would not explain further, citing the technical nature of it all and a desire not to “get anyone into trouble.”
Another Democratic source called this explanation farfetched.
Then the California Majority Report offered a new explanation, contradicting that one. “While the Governor’s page no longer allows this, users could previously search a backend directory listing that showed every file on the public server, even files not linked to the main page.”
In this scenario, the governor’s password-protected computer files are accessible to anyone who knew about a secret backdoor.
But another explanation was coming out, this from the Angelides campaign. Angelides campaign manager Cathy Calfo spoke on the record about this with the Sacramento Bee.
It turned out that the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the computer which accessed the files was attached to a computer at the Angelides for Governor campaign. The campaign then acknowledged that one of its people accessed the files and downloaded the tape of Schwarzenegger’s private conversation. This is the tape that several days later showed up on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.
How was this feat achieved? The storyline was back to a somewhat different version of the earlier version offered to me by a top Democrat, speaking on background so as not to get anyone in trouble.
The file in question was somehow linked to a public archives file. Not of Schwarzenegger speeches, but of a press release. In this scenario, the press release contained a link to Schwarzenegger remarks on Hurricane Katrina. The audio file on Hurricane Katrina contained links to other audio files, including the private Schwarzenegger conversation. Which was taped not in August, but in March.
Which means that the Angelides campaign somehow found a way to gain access to a private conversation and then got that conversation to the Los Angeles Times, which placed it on its front page.
Is your head spinning yet?
Get ready for some more.
As the fizzling flap over that Schwarzenegger tape devolves into a police investigation and insistence on the part of Schwarzenegger Administration legal counsel Andrea Hoch that the tape was gotten from a password-protected government site and equal insistence on the part of Democratic operatives that it came from the public side of the governor’s web site through this still unclear means, we move back to the still more fascinating question of gubernatorial debates. Or, in this case, debate, since Team Arnold has made it clear that in the end, “there can be only one.” (Apologies to Duncan McLeod.) One debate seems a bare minimum, but that is all Schwarzenegger will agree to.
The California Broadcasters Association told the Angelides campaign in writing yesterday that it “does not negotiate the debate format with candidates.” And that as a result Team Phil has until 5 PM Wednesday to agree to move forward with a debate in Sacramento on the evening of Saturday, October 7th. The Angelides campaign previously accepted this debate in writing. But on the proviso that the two candidates appear side by side standing at podiums. (By which she may have meant lecterns.) Schwarzenegger wants to do what the broadcasters association says it wants, sit at a table. Not unlike the 2003 recall debate, also in Sacramento, which it also hosted.
Something of a complication is the fact that the designated debate negotiator of the Angelides campaign, former state Senate chief John Burton, has twice been cited by the San Francisco Chronicle as agreeing to debate anytime, anywhere, accepting any debate. Which can be construed as agreeing to any reasonable terms, or as a general statement.
Angelides is trailing in the race, and needs the debate to try to gain traction. Is it likely he would not show up over the lecterns vs. table question?