July 2005 Archives

Unions strike back

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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!

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Initiative yo-yo

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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.

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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.

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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."


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One down, five to go!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.



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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.

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So we find out today, thanks to the Sac Bee and the LA Times that our Governor is in a contract that will pay him anywhere between $5 and $8 million over the next five years as a consultant to a bodybuilding magazine publisher, which relies heavily on advertising revenue from the dietary supplements industry. It probably doesn't come as a surprise that just last year, the Governor vetoed a bill by Sen. Jackie Speier that would have regulated the supplements' use in high school sports.

Margita Thompson, the Governor's spokesperson, apparently is following White House spokesman Scott McClellan's lead in terms of laughable statements to the press, as she tried to make the argument that because Schwarzenegger wasn't actually selling the advertising, there was no conflict. Never mind the part about his salary being directly related to the amount of adverstising sold!

If you needed more insight into how the Governor's financial ties to American Media Inc. is a conflict of interest, the AP checks out a piece in the latest issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine:

The article details the bodybuilding industry's efforts to block state and federal regulations on nutritional supplements. It also proclaims the support of a powerful spokesman, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The story describes how Schwarzenegger attended a private meeting with bodybuilding executives at the Arnold Classic in March to vow a united front in the battle to keep supplements widely available. Last year, the governor vetoed legislation seeking to regulate the use of supplements in high school sports.

"Gov. Schwarzenegger gave his support in ways both emblematic and tangible," wrote author Shawn Perine, for the issue that hit newsstands this month. "He urged all of us in the industry to stand together and speak loudly and clearly as a cohesive voice to deliver the message that supplements are not only safe but beneficial when taken as directed."

Speier is back again this year with SB 37, a similar meaure. If Schwarzenegger were a legislator, he would have to recuse himself from voting on it. The Governor cannot recuse himself, and therefore he needs to be extra sure he's not taking money on the side from industries who have business with the state. But what Schwarzenegger really needs to do is something he's not fond of: admit he was wrong and apologize. Obviously, he should also return the money he has collected thus far and completely sever ties with the magazine publisher.

But of course, that means he would no longer have a business relationship with the tabloids that America Media, Inc. also owns (like National Enquirer and Star), which conveniently haven't printed anything negative about him since a reported meeting in 2003 before he entered the recall race.

It really is unbecoming of our state's top elected official, and it needs to be addressed by the Governor himself.

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I saw this on the street the other day while walking to lunch. It might be implying secession, but I am interpreting it as an illustration of our current struggle to renew the progressive dream in California!

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A bill that would give same-sex couples equal rights to marry has been revived in a new form, and was passed by a committee in the California Senate Tuesday. What was Mark Leno's AB 19 is now AB 849, and it is headed for another vote before the full Senate where it is sure to pass.

It's the Assembly where the bill still needs help. AB 19 failed the first time around by six votes (eight moderate Democrats either opposed it or abstained), and in today's Chronicle account of the issue, Leno says he has gotten that down to three.

Leno is so right to push this. Not only is it absolutely the right thing to do, it's an opportunity to bring the fight straight to Schwarzenegger, a self-proclaimed moderate Republican. Indications are that the Governor would veto the measure, which would likely shore up his Republican base. But that's not where we are having the problem, as we already know Republicans in the state overwhemlingly support him. It's the Democrats who voted for Schwarzenegger in the recall who we need to shore up against him, and a vote against equal rights could very well help do that.

Our friends at Equality California have been doing great work in this important battle, and we urge you to visit their site and sign up for action alerts so you can make a difference when the crucial votes come.

So far the Democratic opposition has been from people in tough districts, mostly Central Valley or Inland Empire. But while re-election is important, what is that worth if there are thousands of citizens in this state who are the victims of blatant bigotry? We are better than that in California, and it's time to make it right.

I mean, if California Democrats can't even stand up for love, we're really in trouble.

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I'm crushing your head!

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I'm crushing your head!
Originally uploaded by George.

This is what we will do to the Governor's bad ideas in the November special election!

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Read my lips

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The big story today is the state budget, which was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger yesterday amid much fanfare. Apparently even wife Maria was on hand to bask in the glow of...the budget. I know, I know, it's a big deal. It's just hard to get too excited about a budget that is being heralded not because it is a moral document that truly reflects how we take care of one another in this state, but primarily because it was only three weeks late instead of three months late!

So getting right to it, here's what you really need to know about this lovely spending plan:

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Strap in, kids!

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In today's Capitol Journal, George Skelton points out that, according to the Governor's legal secretary, the special election now scheduled for Nov. 8 could be called off if Schwarzenegger signed an "urgency bill" passed by two-thirds of the Legislature.

It is hard to imagine, even given the steady stream of dismal poll numbers showing Schwarzenegger is in for an uphill fight this fall, that he would accept such a pathetic defeat even before he begins spending the millions in special-interest money he has raised.

Schwarzenegger's advisors have confirmed that by consistently repeating the Governor is not considering that option. One has to wonder whether -- given their lack of cooperation lately -- enough of the Republicans in the Legislature would actually agree to it even if he did!

Meanwhile, the Legislature has less than a week to negotiate any compromise ballot measures before they are scheduled to adjourn for summer recess. Mind you, this is a luxury they haven't enjoyed for the last five years, as they have been locked in protracted budget battles that often continued well into August and September. It's not likely that the Democratic majority will give that up to stay in Sacramento and hammer out some kind of deal on the special election.

So, for now anyway, it looks like we are in for a ballot-box fight this fall.

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We are a statewide progressive advocacy organization, built on a foundation of values that we know most Californians share. Our goal is to keep people informed of what's happening in state politics from a progressive perspective, and to organize them into actions that both connect them to the current political system and enable them to begin changing it for the better.

Here at Speak Out California, we know that progressives are hard at work doing amazing things every day - in their jobs, in their homes and in their communities. We hope this blog will become a place for us all to connect. Not only will we share news stories and other valuable information we dig up on a regular basis, we hope you will engage with us in lively discussions about the political happenings of our state, as they happen.

Right now, Speak Out California is working on educating voters about the November 8, 2005, Special Election, and what it means for the future of California. Check out our Preliminary Voter Guide - which includes summaries of the eight initiatives on the ballot from a progressive perspective, as well as links to the full text of the measures - and let us know what you think!

Thank you for visiting, and for being a part of this struggle for real progressive change in California.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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