In the winter and early spring of 2001, when Dick Cheney was telling Californians that their sky-high electricity bills were their own tree-hugging fault, you might have thought the Administration was just covering for Enron CEO Ken Lay and George W. Bush's other Texas energy friends and, as an added bonus, sticking it to the lotus-eaters on the Left Coast who'd given Al Gore his million-vote California majority.
But that was just the paranoia of the innocent. In the past year, as the nation's deficit-ridden states were pleading for federal help, Washington was telling them all to drop dead--reserving harshest treatment for the "blues," meaning the liberal states that voted for Democrats. While California was not alone, it was certainly the biggest target, as the only large state with a Democratic governor, Democratic legislature and a Congressional delegation dominated (32-to-20) by Democrats. "They view California," said a Washington lobbyist, "as a foreign land."
Some of that you can ascribe to the Administration's efforts to suck every possible dollar of the cost of Bush's tax cuts from the states. But behind the fiscal policies--the unfunded mandates (i.e., new federal requirements without funds to help states comply); the cost of NCLB, Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education law; the childcare expenses made necessary by the Administration's proposed new federal work rules for welfare recipients--there seemed to be an ideological thrust, bordering on vindictiveness, aimed at teaching the liberal states a lesson.
Late in April, as states like Oregon were preparing to close schools weeks before the end of the term, and others were dumping hundreds of thousands off the Medicaid rolls, laying off cops and raising college tuition to close a collective two-year deficit estimated by the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) at upwards of $100 billion, Grover Norquist said he'd like to see a state or two go bankrupt.
Norquist, who runs the conservative Americans for Tax Reform and heads what Bill Moyers has called a politburo of conservative strategy, is also joined at the hip with Karl Rove, the President's political brain and one of his chief policy advisers. "I hope a state has real trouble getting its act together," Norquist told the New York Times's David Firestone. "We need a state to be a bad example, so that the others will start to make the serious decisions they need to get out of this mess." When Norquist speaks on such issues, you're never sure whether he's the ventriloquist or Rove's talking dog.
Judge strikes down part of California's recall law
If governor wins, taxpayers may reimburse him
By Steve Geissinger - SACRAMENTO BUREAU
SACRAMENTO -- If Gov. Gray Davis survives the Oct. 7 recall election, the state constitution leaves open the possibility that taxpayers might have to reimburse him tens of millions of dollars for his campaign expenses, legal experts said Monday.
The Democratic governor has attacked the potential $30 million to $35 million cost of holding the special statewide election, qualified last week for the ballot by Republican-led forces, but has not addressed the reimbursement issue.
A provision buried in the California Constitution says that "a state officer who is not recalled shall be reimbursed by the state for the officer's recall election expenses legally and personally incurred."
If Davis beat the recall attempt and chose to seek reimbursement, he would have to file a claim with the state Board of Control, according to officials at the Secretary of State's Office.
The Board of Control has not been faced with a similar question of such magnitude, since no California governor has ever faced a recall election. There's also little case law to help officials interpret the provision, according to legal experts.
They said Davis would likely be able to recover any of his own money that he put into the campaign but nothing in the provision says specifically that campaign expenses have to be reimbursed -- or that the incumbent has to be reimbursed for campaign contributions from others.
"It certainly could be litigated," said Rick Hasen, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "Even the amounts could be subject to litigation -- the allowable kinds of expenses and how that works."
Recall proponents said that if Davis beats the recall attempt, he should not seek reimbursement and should say now that he won't take that action.
"He's going around saying the recall election is going to cost $30 million. If he's so concerned about saving taxpayer dollars, he ought to publicly say that he will not seek reimbursement," said Rescue California spokesman Chris Wysocki.
Davis representatives said they did not know whether Davis would seek the money.
"It's not something he's concerning himself (with)," said anti-recall spokesman Roger Salazar.
Salazar said strategists haven't "looked into it clearly enough to even figure out the vagaries of it," but said he believes that if Davis wins, he could be reimbursed for campaign costs.
If Davis was reimbursed for some or all of his campaign expenses, it raises questions about what the governor would do with the money, since he is barred from seeking a third term.
"It doesn't say whether or not you could reimburse contributors, for example, or anything of that nature," Salazar said.
Election experts say Davis alone may spend tens of millions on the campaign. Combined with expenditures by candidates who hope to replace him and the groups with an interest in the outcome of the election, the total could grow to perhaps $100 million.
And the rules for governing the raising and spending of money for the recall -- like the rules for reimbursement if Davis wins -- remain unclear.
-- Contact Sacramento Bureau Chief Steve Geissinger at [email protected] .
Posted on Wed, Jul. 30, 2003
Riordan, Feinstein at center of parties' recall buzz
STRATEGIES: EX-L.A. MAYOR SEEN AS TOP GOP HOPE; WORRIED DEMOCRATS CALL SENATOR A GOOD BACKUP
By Mary Anne Ostrom and Laura Kurtzman
Republicans spent Tuesday waiting for confirmation from former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan that he intends to enter the recall election, while two congressional Democrats from California called for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to put her name up as a possible replacement for Gov. Gray Davis.
Their plea for Feinstein's entry signaled a significant break in Democratic unity.
After actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, all but pulled himself out of the race, Republicans on Tuesday turned to Riordan as their best hope to replace the Democratic governor if he loses the Oct. 7 recall election.
Schwarzenegger advisers said he is strongly leaning against running for governor after considering the impact on his wife and four young children. A formal announcement could come as early as Thursday, one adviser said on condition of anonymity.
Riordan spent Tuesday talking with friends and political consultants and began assembling a campaign team. Sources say Schwarzenegger, who is friends with the moderate Los Angeles Republican, may be waiting to officially remove his name from speculation in order to give Riordan time to organize his campaign.
Two recent polls showed Riordan as the most popular potential GOP challenger.
Those close to Riordan say he does not relish the prospect of taking control of a state in dire financial straits, but he also sees the poetic justice in potentially vanquishing Davis, who spent $10 million during the GOP primary last year to help defeat him.
Even so, there remains some hesitation, said Mark Chapin Johnson, Riordan's chief fundraiser in the 2002 gubernatorial primary. ``I'm quite confident Dick will run, with one big `however.' It remains to be seen what happens on the other side of the aisle,'' he said.
Riordan has told Johnson and a newspaper columnist that if Feinstein, a popular Democrat, decides to get in the race, he will not run.
``I picture him sitting in his living room or study discussing all the different permutations of how this thing can unfold,'' Johnson said. A Riordan representative said Tuesday that he was not granting interviews.
On the Democratic front, Davis hailed the passage of the budget in the state Assembly on Tuesday, which his campaign called a ``big victory'' and characterized as evidence of his leadership. But the day also marked public dissension among Democrats who are beginning to question Davis' strategy of not placing a well-known Democrat on the replacement ballot in October. Davis can't be a candidate to succeed himself in a recall election.
Feinstein has said she has no intention of running, because it would legitimize a recall process she disdains.
Nevertheless, Rep. Calvin Dooley, a moderate Democrat from Fresno, and Orange County liberal Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez said Tuesday that Democrats must place an alternative to Davis on the ballot. In separate comments, they urged Feinstein to fill the role.
In an interview Tuesday, Dooley said he went public with his concerns because he is afraid Democratic leaders are so focused on not legitimizing the recall that they are failing to consider what is best for the party and the state.
``We don't have much time here. Each hour that passes makes it more difficult for us to consider a different strategy,'' Dooley said, noting the deadline for gubernatorial candidates to declare their candidacy is Aug. 9.
``I don't want to wait until next week, three days before the Saturday filing deadline, and suddenly have a public-opinion poll come out and demonstrate Davis is weaker than we anticipated and we don't have the opportunity to rally around a stronger candidate.''
Peter Ragone, a spokesman for Californians Against the Costly Recall, the committee Davis has set up to fight the recall, said Dooley was ``wrong'' about Davis not being able to survive the recall vote.
``We look forward to all Democrats continuing to be unified behind the governor and not supporting a conservative, right-wing recall effort,'' he said.
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown convened a meeting Tuesday of Democratic strategists to discuss how to defeat the recall, a move Davis supporters cited as a sign of unity.
But some prominent Democrats think there should be a backup plan, especially if Feinstein won't step in.
``Feinstein is our Terminator,'' said Darry Sragow, a veteran Democratic political consultant. ``There are people within the party leadership, loosely defined, who think it makes sense to have an insurance candidate just in case the recall is successful.''
Meanwhile, Republican businessman Bill Simon took another step toward becoming a candidate Tuesday, collecting nomination papers from the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office. Simon, who beat Riordan in the GOP gubernatorial primary last year and then lost to Davis, said he would announce his final decision ``very soon.''
State GOP officials met Tuesday at the Los Angeles office of Gerry Parsky, a key White House ally, with representatives of most of the major possible candidates to coordinate a strategy to get the recall passed.
``There was a frank discussion that, obviously, the individual campaigns would become irrelevant if the recall fails,'' said Rob Stutzman, a spokesman for the California Republican Party.
As the odds of a Schwarzenegger run fade, some of his advisers are offering their services to Riordan. Don Sipple, a Republican consultant, said Riordan needs ``someone at the helm who runs an autocratic campaign,'' particularly given the short time frame and Riordan's missteps in last year's primary race.
Mercury News Staff Writer Jim Puzzanghera contributed to this report.
Contact Mary Anne Ostrom at [email protected] or (408) 920-5574.
Legal twists on recall continue
One suit names Bustamante but also supports him as successor; a second may fight punch cards.
By Claire Cooper and Gary Delsohn -- Bee Staff Writers
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Thursday, July 31, 2003
The legal intrigue surrounding the recall of Gov. Gray Davis continued Wednesday with the filing of a second suit aimed at installing Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as governor if Davis is ousted on Oct. 7.The latest defendant: Bustamante.
Among those suing him in the new California Supreme Court case is former Assemblyman Barry Keene, the author of a 1974 state constitutional amendment that, according to the suit, designates the lieutenant governor as the only possible successor to a recalled governor. Bustamante was sued as the officer in charge of the recall election.
An aide said Bustamante, who last week suggested the issue might be decided by the state Supreme Court but later stopped short of pushing it himself, had nothing to do with its filing.
"Whatever the court requires is what we'll do," said Lynn Montgomery, Bustamante's chief of staff.
Another legal action also loomed. The NAACP and the California Federation of Labor scheduled a telephone press conference for today that NAACP President Alice Huffman said would address "voter disenfranchisement" in connection with the recall election.
The NAACP is considering a lawsuit over the likelihood that several counties will have to use Florida-style punch-card voting systems in the recall election because more modern equipment is not ready for use.
Lawyers for the group are exploring the connections between California's current situation and the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Florida recount question in the 2000 presidential race. The court in Bush vs. Gore acknowledged equal protection problems in the recount process related to inconsistencies in the ways counties validated punch-card ballots.
Davis, meanwhile, was in full campaign mode Wednesday, giving interviews and running to keep his job, while his two most worrisome potential Republican challengers were closeted away still trying to make up their minds whether to run. Aug. 9 is the deadline for gubernatorial hopefuls to declare their candidacies.
The suspense surrounding whether film star Arnold Schwarzenegger will run for the job, meanwhile, began to resemble a daytime soap opera.
He wasn't talking Wednesday, his 56th birthday, even after a spokesman for the state Republican Party went on talk radio and said he had it "confirmed" that Schwarzenegger had decided against running.
A short time later, Sean Walsh, an ex-aide to former Gov. Pete Wilson who would presumably work in a Schwarzenegger campaign, said once again that the man known around the world simply by his first name had not completely closed the door.
Advisers have said in recent weeks that, while Schwarzenegger very much wants to run, his wife, Maria Shriver, has serious reservations about the idea.
"We have stated that we expect him to announce by the end of the week," Walsh said in a prepared statement. "Nothing has changed. Mr. Schwarzenegger is still leaning against a candidacy at this time."
It was that kind of day.
Political strategists who've been close to former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan got so many calls from reporters that Lisa Wolf, a longtime spokeswoman, took time from her Maine vacation to return the calls and explain that Riordan is undecided.
Riordan, who has said he'll probably run if Schwarzenegger doesn't, has spent the week considering which campaign consulting team he might use.
"Everyone's waiting to see what Arnold does -- definitely, most certainly, Mayor Riordan," Wolf said. "Once Arnold decides, the mayor is going to have to make a very quick and serious decision."
Also avoiding direct comment was President Bush, who again refused to take sides Wednesday in the recall election.
"I view it as an interested political observer would view it. We don't have recalls in Texas, thankfully," Bush, a former Texas governor, said at a White House Rose Garden news conference. "The people of California, it's their opinion that matters."
Davis, meanwhile, was wasting no time. Giving his usual round of Wednesday radio interviews, he added NBC-TV's popular "Today" show to his schedule and repeated his vows not to resign.
"I have an obligation to the 8 million people that went to the polls a year ago and elected me for four years," the Democratic governor told "Today" anchor Matt Lauer.
"A far smaller amount signed these petitions. So yes, we have our problems, but I have to keep faith with the promise I made to the voters last November, and I'm in this to the end."
Davis also reacted strongly to earlier reports that two members of his own party, Reps. Cal Dooley, D-Hanford, and Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, were urging Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to put her name on the ballot. Democrats have tried to present a united front to the Republican-backed recall, and for the most part have managed to keep serious Democratic contenders off the ballot.
"I believe you'll see at least one of the two people who were mentioned express a contrary point of view in the next 24 hours. ... (and) understand that the best chance for a Democrat in the governor's office lies with me and beating the recall and that requires a solid Democratic front," Davis said during a visit to a battered women's shelter in San Francisco's Chinatown. "And I think you'll see that forthcoming by the end of the week."
Because Davis used the pronoun "she" at another point in referring to the Democratic detractor, it was assumed he was talking about Sanchez, who could not be reached for comment.
The court battles surrounding the first statewide recall in California history were just as much up in the air.
The state Supreme Court court set deadlines for preliminary written arguments that run through next week on Keene's case and three more:
* Another suit filed Wednesday concerning the qualifications for candidates who want to be listed on the ballot.
* An earlier suit similar to Keene's, naming Secretary of State Kevin Shelley as the defendant.
* An earlier suit attempting to remove two initiatives from the recall ballot.
Phil Paule, political director of Rescue California, called the Keene suit "an attempt to thwart the 1.6 million people who signed the recall petition." He said no decision had been made about whether to oppose the suit in court.
Jonathan Wilcox, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista, a Republican who aspires to succeed Davis, said the Issa committee didn't expect to have to appear in court to defend the recall because it expects the lawsuits to fall by the wayside.
Spokesman Gabriel Sanchez said the Gov. Gray Davis Committee wasn't involved with any of the suits.
About the Writer
The Bee's Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or [email protected].