3rd Most Dangerous Californian Makes Bid for #1

Now-retired San Francisco financier Tom Steyer’s flashy entry into Progressive campaign financing earned him Crazifornia’s designation as the third most dangerous Californian. Here’s what we wrote then:

steyer2Steyer, a ridiculously wealthy San Francisco wealth manager, first entered our consciousness when he pumped $30 million of his own money to pass Prop 39. That’s the 2012 ballot initiative that increased taxes on out-of-state corporations and sprinkled the largess on alternative energy companies like those his company, Farallon Capital Management, owns pieces of. This year, he was the Big Spender that got Terry McCaullife, a politician so slimy he taught Bill and Hillary dirty tricks, elected governor of Virginia. If your money is in OneCalifornia Bank, move it, because Steyer owns it.

According to a New York Times report, Steyer’s gunning for #1 in this year’s ranking of most dangerous Californians.

A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers. …

In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

That’s some big money – and Steyer told the NY Times it might be a low-ball estimate compared to what he would spend to influence climate policy. By comparison, the long-established League of Conservation Voters spent about $15 million on campaigns in 2012.

Steyer’s San Francisco-based Next Gen Climate Action political machine is said to be targeting campaigns for Florida governor (GOP incumbent Rick Scott is … gasp! … a climate change skeptic) and Iowa’s Senate race because “a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.”

No word on what Steyer plans to spend in California. But since the state is already certifiably climate-crazed, he just might spend all his money elsewhere.

Special Election Bad News for Dems

FaulconerIn San Diego, Republican Kevin Faulconer trounced his Democrat competition in the special election to replace the corrupt, sex-crazed Democrat former mayor. He’s more than 20 points ahead of his nearest Dem competitor, with ballots left to count. But thus far, he’s secured the vote of just 43.58% of the electorate, so in the runoff, if all the Dems un-splinter themselves from this election’s back-stabbing and show up in equal numbers, they could knock  him off.

That’s some big if’s, so I think  Faulconer will survive to become San Diego’s new mayor. And it’s just great to see Nathan Fletcher, who switched from GOP to Independent to Democrat, apparently coming in third and out of the runoff. If David Alvarez holds on to second, the election will pivot on the state’s tipping point: public employee union power and privilege (Alvarez) vs. conservative efforts to save the state from fiscal ruin (Faulconer).

Susan ShelleyReceiving much less coverage than the San Diego race was a special election in Assembly District 45 – the Democrat-controlled western San Fernando Valley. For this, I’ll turn to a Democrat commentator, Scott Lay, who compiles the daily Nooner summary of State political news:

AD45 (W. San Fernando Valley): Matt Dababneh (D) is holding on to a precarious lead over Susan Shelley (R) in the west San Fernando Assembly seat vacated by now-LA councilmember Bob Blumenfield. Several political observers are spitting out their coffee this morning as they wake up to these results:







Democrats have a near 2-to-1 margin in this district, and even if every independent voter joined the Republican party, they still would fall short of Democratic registration. Dababneh had far more resources and virtually all the endorsements. Shelley’s entire campaign down the stretch was about “protecting Prop. 13,” arguing that if Dababneh went to Sacramento he would be part of a two-thirds Democratic majority that might ask the voters to consider changes to the voter threshhold for special taxes or to create a split roll for corporations. …

Nobody knows what is going to happen in AD45. Our standard forecasting would project that late absentees and provisionals reflect election day, although that formula has always given the edge to the more liberal candidate. If we use that formula and ignore that recent tradition, Shelley wins. But, honestly, nobody knows at this point.

Well, I know something: This ain’t the same California it was a few months ago!

The Great Redistricting Heist

Proposition 20, which passed in 2010, was supposed to set up a nonpartisan redistricting committee that was tasked with sorting out the gerrymandered mess of California political districts in the interest of creating a fairer system. The committee of just plain citizens was supposed to draw new lines based on input from the communities themselves, not the political parties.

As the committee set about doing its work, the California Democratic Party was already primed and ready to illegally (or at least immorally) influence the process.  The Republicans, as they do, respected authority and stood on the sidelines as they were supposed to.

The Democrats of course deny they conspired to corrupt the redistricting process, but Tuesday’s election tells a different, more truthful tale:

  • California Democrats picked up four seats in the US House of Representatives
  • Democrats gained super-majorities (2/3-plus) in the State Assembly and Senate. The exact size of the super-majorities won’t be known until the final ballots are counted and the tight races are decided, but it appears unlikely Dems will fall below 2/3 in either house.

“It Ain’t Me”

ProPublica, the independent, non-profit investigative journalism outfit, proved to me it really is nonpartisan when it broke the story of the Democrat’s shameful success last December. The lengthy expose’s title tells it all: How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission. You should read the entire article, but here’s a quick summary of the Democrat’s scam:

Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of [district] configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.

When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.

In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map.

Did it work? ProPublica found a memo that was written as the process was wrapping up that said, ““Every member of the Northern California Democratic Caucus has a ticket back to DC. This is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated by advocates throughout the region.”

Most acknowledge the Democrats weren’t as successful in Southern California but there were victories. One involved Orange County’s large Vietnamese community which pleaded to the Redistricting Committee for a district aligned with Little Saigon’s boundaries. That went nowhere. Instead, Little Saigon was split in half to ensure Democrat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez would have a safe district.

Progressivism at Its Best

The scam is a classic example of negative effects of the grip of the Progressive philosophy on California, which I discuss more fully in Chapter One of Crazifornia: “How the PEER Axis (Progressives, Environmentalists, Educators and Reporters) Turned California into Crazifornia.”

Being secular and therefore fundamentally amoral, Progressives see nothing wrong in bending the rules to achieve ends they believe are better for the greater good of society. And, despite ample evidence to the contrary, Democrats believe having more Democrats in office will lead to a better California, a better America and a better world.

The ends, as Saul Alinsky so strongly postulated, justify the means.



The Crazifornia Propositions Voter Guide

Uglies, Goodies and Don’t Bother Me’s make the Crazifornia Proposition Voter Guide a Must!

When I was interviewed by The Weekly Standard for an upcoming article about this November’s flock of Crazifornia ballot initiatives, that’s how I categorized them: “Five uglies, four goodies and two don’t bother me’s.” (I’m still not sure how to spell that last one!) Coming up with that summary took hours of research, which you can save yourself with The Crazifornia Propositions Voter Guide.

Here are my recommendations, in ballot order, with those in red being the most critical:

Prop 30 – Ugly

It’s hard to even get by the name of this one – Temporary  Taxes to Fund Education, Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding – without uttering that most common of election season bromides, “How stupid do they think we are?”

This proposition’s position at the top of the ballot is the result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s strong-arming of the system to gain advantage, and that pretty much sums up this initiative. Its advertising campaign is basically strong-arming, too; picture an image of a sweet classroom teacher with a gun to her head and the slogan, “Pay up or the teacher dies!” Brown could have linked passage of his tax  hike to the jobs of bureaucrats, regulators and tax-collectors instead of teachers, but we know how that would turn out.

If Proposition 30 passes, California will have the highest income taxes of all 50 states, and its already secure ranking as the state with the highest sales tax will become more secure.  California spends three times more per capita on social welfare programs than it should, based on national per capita averages. It doesn’t need more revenue, it needs more disciplined spending. Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Closing steadily at 50.8 yes, 39.9 no. We might still defeat this one!

Prop 31 -  Goodie

If the LA Times is against it, we must be for it. This latest effort from California Forward would create a two-year budget cycle for the state in order to reduce end-of-the-session craziness (I doubt the craziness would disappear, but still like the idea of taking more time with budgeting), require the legislature to find off-setting cuts for any new expenditure of $25 million or more, require performance reviews of all state programs, plus a few other good ideas.

The LA Times doesn’t like it because “it could only be revised by another vote of the people.” Exactly! Leave it to the legislature and they’ll be back to their old tricks in no time.  Vote YES, but note that OC Supervisor John Moorlach, a leader in the fight for fiscal responsibility let me know he’s voting no because it “forecloses on the Laffer curve” by limiting the legislature’s ability to enact tax decreases. Like all things from California Forward, 31 is a mixed bag.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: About one-third are still undecided so this one could still flip. Yes: 30.7, no 37.8

Prop 32: Goodie

Here’s another run at “paycheck protection” or curtailing the power of unions (and corporations) to mandate paycheck deductions used for campaigning and lobbying. Of course, corporations don’t do mandatory payroll deductions for lobbying, so clarity demands saying that this is an effort to curtail union power.

And it needs to be curtailed if California is every going to gain the fiscal sensibility it must gain to become healthy once again. Public employee unions own Sacramento now, as just the two biggest public union funders of lobbying in Sacramento spend more than the pharmaceutical industry, PG&E, Chevron and ATT&T combined.

The unions are spending really big to stop Prop 32, contributing nearly $60 million thus far. Until Charles Munger responded with a $23 million contribution in support, opponents had outraised supporters five to one. They’re still up by about $13 million.Vote YES

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: A long-running dead heat, with 44.4% yes and 43.8% no.  The 11.5% undecided are going to be barraged with ads from both sides.

Prop 33: Don’t bother me

This is Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph’s second run at insurance regulation tweaking via the ballot box. Last time around (Prop. 17, 2010), Mercury spent about what they’ve spent this time – $17 million – trying to accomplish the same thing, which is to blah, blah, blah, zzzzz.  I figure they figure they’ll make more than $17 million off higher premiums if it passes.

One reason to vote for it is that Harvey Rosenfield is against it. This is a guy who has milked propositions for millions in personal gain, so I lean toward supporting what he opposes. But this kind of junk shouldn’t be clogging our ballots, so Don’t Vote.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Holding at 54.8% yes, 33.6% no.

Prop 34: Ugly

Propositions, as you’ll learn in Chapter 1 of Crazifornia, were the Progressive’s wet dream of the early 1900s. Prop 34 shows why, as it would take capital punishment off the table in California, thereby moving the state closer to Europe.

Arguments fly on both sides of this longstanding and controversial issue, but here’s one that works for me: If the death penalty is no longer in a prosecutor’s bag of tricks, the number of plea bargains and confessions will drop dramatically. Even with delays that are far too long before sentencing and execution, the chance of taking up residence on death row remains the penultimate bargaining chip. I don’t want it taken away, and neither should anyone else who puts victims and justice ahead of criminals and legal technicalities. Vote No.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Steady and unbelievably tight at 43.9 yes, 44.9 no.

Prop. 35: Don’t bother me

Don’t bother me, but don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of human trafficking, a subject I wrote passionately about quite frequently in my Cheat-Seeking Missiles days. It’s the sinful side of the human nature played large and its perpetrators will need Christ’s forgiveness; they’re certainly not getting mine.

But why is it on the ballot? Even the inept California legislature has done enough law-passing to discourage the practice and incarcerate the perpetrators. Since it won’t make any difference in the results, Don’t Vote.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 79.7%, no 12.3%.

Prop. 36: Goodie

I was all for the first three-strikes proposition, but it turns out that it had unintended consequences, as so many propositions do. Prop 36 corrects this while keeping the intent of the original proposition intact.

Basically, it separates truly heinous offenders from run of the mill bad guys, with the former still subject to life in prison without parole on their third strike and the others not. California spends way too much on prisons for a lot of reasons, one of which is that we simply have too many prisoners. Let’s save some money by letting some bad but not too bad guys do their crime and serve their time. Vote Yes.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 71.5%, no 17.3%. It looks like even Californians can agree on this one.

Prop. 37: Ugly

If California’s recent voting trend holds, Prop. 37 will pass because it has a lot of corporate money against it. Yes, a big majority of Californians are anti-business and it shows on proposition votes (and when rich Republicans run for state office, right Meg?). And this one has a lot of corporate money flooding the opposition.

But the current Around the Capital Polling Average indicates that might not happen this time. The yes vote is strong at 56.2%, but the no vote is climbing at 32.7%, and a lot of money will be spent on NO ads in the next two weeks.

It made my ugly list because Prop. 37 is the new Prop. 65.  In other words, it was written by trial lawyers for trial lawyers. Like 1986′s Prop. 65, it has a seed of a good idea. Then it was that people shouldn’t be exposed to carcinogenic chemicals without knowing it; now it’s that they shouldn’t be exposed to genetically engineered foods without knowing it. But like 65 was an elaborate ploy to funnel millions of dollars to trial lawyers (almost $500 million to date, in fact), so is Prop 37.

Don’t be fooled. Prop 37 is not about informative labels for you. It’s about label regulations that are so complex that farmers, processors, manufacturers and retailers are bound to make mistakes. And when they do, they’ll be sued by a pack of legal mutants. Vote NO.

Prop. 38: Ugly

Prop. 38 is another tax increase, but with this one the money is earmarked for schools. Why, if 1988′s Prop. 98 guarantees they’ll get over 40% of the general fund anyway? And why, since all that money has done nothing to lift our schools out of the cellar?

Well, it turns out the state legislature routinely steals Prop. 98 money from schools and rarely pays it back. In Crazifornia, I put the current IOU at $3.6 billion. Surprised?

But what good would even $3.6 billion do? At a luncheon yesterday, political mastermind Dan  Schnur quoted a Harvard study that found it would take $1 trillion a year to raise California schools to mere mediocrity if nothing is done beyond money to improve the system.

So let’s force the schools and the legislature to fix education by not giving the schools more money. Let’s force Sacramento to drop regulations that cost school districts $400 million a year to keep up with. Let’s let classrooms get bigger again because we’ve learned that all we’ve gotten from small classrooms is more mediocre teachers. Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 42.1%, No 47.0%

Prop. 39: Ugly

This one will pass for sure because it taxes the other guy, and Californians don’t mind taxing the other guy, as they do regularly with smokers, drinkers and millionaires. (Hm, strange company there!)

Be that as it may, there are two things wrong with Prop. 39 that definitely make it ugly. First, it taxes business. Yes, they’re out of state businesses, but Californians are more addicted to taxing business than smokers are to cigarettes, drinkers are to booze and millionaires are to … success. They’ve hit bottom. It’s time for an intervention, not another hit.

Second, about half the money raised – a stunning $500 million a year – will go to “create energy efficiency and green energy jobs” in California. Haven’t we had enough Solyndras and A123′s? Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: No surprise at 54.2% yes and 30.7% no.

Prop. 40: Goodie

Here’s something more rare than a California gnatcatcher eating an elderberry beetle: A GOP-sponsored proposition that’s polling very favorably. But that may be because it’s just the precursor to the really big vote that will follow.

Prop. 40 would subject the California senate district lines drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to a vote of the people, with interim boundaries for the next state-wide election set by court-appointed officials. California Democrats smartly and unethically took over the Citizens Redistricting Commission so the boundaries need to be redrawn. This proposition will make that vote possible. Vote YES.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: 44.2% yes and 25.8% no. It should win, but with 30% undecided, it could still go south.

The Battle of the Bulges

Yes, it looks like a pair of Oakley sunglasses, but it’s really how California voted in the 2008 presidential election, distorted to show proportional population of the various regions of California.  Without population distortion, California looks like its Republican – modestly Republican, but Republican nonetheless.  Factor in that the coastal regions are much more populated than the eastern regions, and you see the truth – California is very blue.

It’s interesting that two of the three deepest blue areas – Central LA and the East Bay – are big minority strongholds.  We think of Coastal LA, a.k.a., the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, as deep blue, but it’s washed out compared to the black and brown neighborhoods of Central LA and the East Bay.  If the GOP is going to have any chance of turning Crazifornia back into California, it’s going to have to figure out how to draw more votes out of these neighborhoods. As long as they’re voting 81%+ for Democrats, insanity will continue to reign.

For more very interesting stuff on California’s political geography, read PPIC’s new report.


More Evidence Proposition Reform is Needed

With California’s legislature barely breaking into double digits in favorables, it’s not easy to make an argument for stripping the people of their power to make their own laws through propositions and overturn unpopular laws through referendums.  But then a couple proposed propositions come along that make compelling arguments for reform.

That’s the gist of my latest “Crazifornia” piece in the Daily Caller, which ran this morning.  Here’s the intro:

California’s system of initiatives, referendums and recalls, which started nearly a century ago as a defiant act of progressivism under the mantra of “people power,” has performed pretty much as one would expect. It’s brought the system to its knees.

Fiscally, propositions have given the people control over as much as 80 percent of the state’s budget, which has made balancing budgets impossible. Legally, propositions have been a boon for the trial lawyers who write them and then fleece any corporation that runs afoul of their arcane, ever-changing provisions. And morally — well, morally, California is doing all right, having remarkably held back propositions to legalize gay marriage and marijuana, even if more voters voted for legal pot than voted for Meg Whitman, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor. Still, most conservatives in the state feel a pro-gay marriage proposition eventually will prevail, and advocates for legal pot say the loss in California was a victory, making the issue mainstream and opening the door for future activism here and in other states.

Last week, news came of two new initiative drives, one statewide and one in San Francisco, that could potentially overshadow all earlier propositions in their negative impacts on life in California. The first is a clever bit of wordsmithing that would force the state’s two nuclear power plants to shut down. The second would ban circumcision in San Francisco.

Want to find out more about these two abominations? Read the rest of the piece here.

Utter Obliteration

Twenty-two days after the midterm elections, Steve Cooley has just conceded to San Francisco left-wing DA Kamala Harris in the attorney general race, making the devastation of the California GOP complete.  With the Secretary of State no longer reporting any “close races” on her website, we now know that Dems hold every state-wide position, and every Dem incumbent running for Congress or the Legislature was re-elected.

And, of course, Prop 25 made the GOP irrelevant in the budget process, since the Dems will be able to pass whatever monstrosity they wish upon California with a simple majority.

The GOP train has officially wrecked.  Is anyone ready to stage the come-back that’s supposed to happen at this point?

A relevant bit on Harris from Wikipedia:

[C]ritics argue that San Francisco sends fewer people to jail per arrest than other counties throughout the state. The San Francisco DA’s incarceration rates are among the lowest in the entire state of California—fully 10 times lower than in San Diego County, for example. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “roughly 4 of every 100 arrests result in prison terms in San Francisco, compared with 12.8 out of 100 in Alameda County, 14.4 of 100 in Sacramento County, 21 of 100 in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, 26.6 of 100 in Fresno County, 38.7 of 100 in Los Angeles County and 41 of 100 in San Diego County.”

On the plus side, her inability or unwillingness to incarcerate dangerous felons may be just what California’s ruined prison system needs.

Did California Become Irrelevant Nov. 2?

As commentators broke down the midterm election results on election night and the next day, you could almost hear them dismiss California as the land of fruits, nuts and irrelevance.  It’s easy to see their point.  The rest of the nation looked at the mess we’re in and did something about it; Californians looked at an even worse mess and voted to make it worse.

You know the talking points: We re-elected every single incompetent, egotistical, out-of-touch politician that contributed to the mess – as of this point in the ballot counting, not a single member of the California congressional and legislative delegations was sent packing.  What a stunning endorsement of idiocy!  But it didn’t end there.  Californians passed Prop 25, giving the Democrats complete control of the state budget, as an award for their effectiveness at destroying the state’s economy.  And they ensured that the California would stay mired in recession when they voted for draconian economic mandates by voting down Prop 23.

So, as voters in nearly every other state set new courses, it’s easy to count out California as a powerful national influence.  But it’s wrong.

Ever since Republican Hiram Johnson became governor of California in 1910 and told voters he spoke for the insurgents, defining insurgency as “opposition to the looting of the people by the unholy alliance between big business and politics,” California has been the nurturer of America’s Progressive movement.  The state’s modeling of Progressive legislation and policies and the sheer number of progressives churned out by its schools and universities has given the movement staying power – so much staying power, in fact, that it’s unlikely Barack Obama would be president today were it not for California’s Progressives, right up to Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman and, once again, Jerry Brown.

Sure, politicians, think tanks and campaign managers will be studying election results everywhere else to see how to capitalize on, or crush, the Tea Party’s influence, but just as surely, Progressives, environmentalists, social justice advocates and union bosses will be studying what happened in California, so they can replicate it in their state next time around.

Besides, California’s influence on government goes much deeper than mere elections.  We kid ourselves if we think our elected politicians control the show. They come and go, but the bureaucrats, regulators and legislative staff are forever, and they’re where the rubber of government really hits the road.  Because California trains so many Progressives and pushes them into government, the state will continue to influence America, even if voters are trying to steer a different course.

This was evident when federal eco-bureaucrats followed Californian’s lead when they started setting the new federal vehicle fuel economy standards, just as it was evident in the eleven states that recently announced they would blindly follow California down the trail to eco-economic lunacy by adopting our Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.  Like California, they will force industry to switch to low-carbon fuels that just aren’t there or just can’t perform – if there were a ready alternative for carbon-rich gasoline, Californians wouldn’t be burning 45 million gallons of it a day.

Don’t count out California.  It may be sinking into economic ruin, but plenty of states and municipalities continue to jump aboard, eager to follow our lead, no matter where it leads them.

A Smokin’ Take-Away from the Midterms

I heard plenty of commentators pass off the defeat of Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization measure on the November 2010 ballot, with a condescending, “Even California isn’t that crazy.”  You would think these professional pundits would know by now that it is never a good call to underestimate the craziness of California.

Which leads up to my favorite election fact from the 2010 election:  More Californians voted to legalize pot than voted for Meg Whitman for governor. So we really are that crazy!

With the final votes yet to be tallied, Meg got 4,027,661 Californians to vote for her  while nearly half a million more, 4,502,657, voted to legalize pot.  You could almost double the population of North Dakota with the difference between the two tallies.  The Whitman campaign spent $163 million on her failed effort ($141 million of her own money and a mere $22 million in Meg-free campaign contributions), so each vote she collected cost her $40.47.  The much-derided Prop 19 supporters, in contrast, spent $4 million on their campaign, or $1.13 per vote.

More significant, though, is what running a social-reform proposition in California means to the rest of the nation, even if the proposition loses.  Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, put it this way, “California’s Proposition 19 may not have won a majority of voters yesterday, but it already represents an extraordinary victory for the broader movement to legalize marijuana.  Its mere presence on the ballot … elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy.”

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, another pro-legalization group, added, “One of the greatest hidden victories of the Prop 19 campaign was that it trained the emerging generation of marijuana reformers on how to run a legalization campaign, and left virtually all of them wanting to win on this issue in 2012.”

Colorado is a likely target, underscoring California’s continuing ability to influence American society, even if the state’s voters continue to vote as strangely as they did in 2010.