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Dem operative accuses Whitman campaign of lying to police

Nick Velasquez, still fuming over the Whitman campaign’s treatment of his campaign tracker, Jeremy Thompson, earlier this month in Orange County, is accusing the campaign of lying to police.

Velasquez, of the anti-Whitman opposition research group California Accountability Project, got his hands on the Santa Ana police department’s report on the incident in which Thompson was ejected from a Whitman campaign event on March 10. In it, Thompson was referred to as an uninvited guest who was “causing problem (sic) and refusing to leave.”

Thompson, indeed, had e-mailed the campaign for tickets and was provided a ticket when he arrived at the event, Velasquez said. But when Sarah Pompei, spokesman for Whitman, recognized Thompson from previous events that he’d taped on his digital recorder — which is what trackers do for campaigns in the service of catching potentially embarrassing YouTube moments, a la the infamous macaca moment that ruined ex-Sen George Allen’s political career — she asked him to leave.

And for good measure, the building’s security team physically escorted Thompson out of the building, though he was willing to leave peacefully, Velasquez said.

“They knew he had a ticket, and still called the cops on him, claiming he did not, lying in the process,” Velasquez said. “Clearly it was an overreaction on their part, and overkill to try to have someone arrested for going to their event.”

Pompei said it was perfectly reasonable to ask someone who’s working for the opposition to leave a private political event. The Whitman campaign was taping a staged townhall meeting to be used in a 30-minute infomercial.

“While he may have received an e-mail about the event, he certainly wasn’t an invited guest,” Pompei said. “We don’t make a habit of inviting rival campaign workers to our private events when we’re filming for an informercial for the campaign’s use.”

Pompei continued to deny that the campaign called police, even though the building operator said he hadn’t called police.

“Our campaign did not call the police,” she said.

Velasquez noted that Pompei, only days earlier, had wrongly claimed that officials at the Union Pacific Railroad facility asked that the press not be invited on a tour of the intermodal facility that Whitman took. A spokesman for the railroad said that wasn’t the case.

“Her credibility is suspect, given she was caught lying,” Velasquez said. “It’s an issue of overkill and their credibility.”

Since then, Thompson, the tracker, has not had much luck getting into Whitman events.

Last night at an open Whitman event in Redondo Beach, Thompson was told that the crowd was at capacity and refused entry.

“I was sitting there as they allowed other folks in,” Thompson said. “If they’re so afraid that she’ll say something unpalatable, then it’s all the more reason somebody other than a friendly crowd should be watching.”

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Dems deem East Bay AG candidate ‘not viable’

Mike SchmierEmeryville attorney Mike Schmier is steamed that despite his place on the Demcoratic primary ballot for Attorney General, the California Democratic Party won’t let him speak or stand for endorsement at its convention next month in Los Angeles.

Schmier, 65, will be on the Democratic primary ballot along with former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo; San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris; former Facebook executive Chris Kelly; Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara; and Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark. Those six were “deemed viable and eligible to seek our endorsement,” according to a letter issued Friday
by California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton and other statewide party officers; Schmier was not.

This is Schmier’s third Democratic primary bid for Attorney General; he ran in 1998 and 2002. He also ran in the 2000 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Dianne Feinstein, and he ran for governor in the great recall circus of 2003.

His platform each time has centered on the cause that he and his brother, attorney Ken Schmier, have made their crusade: Ending the practice of “nonpublication” of court rulings. A unpublished ruling is effective only in the case in which it’s filed and can’t be cited as precedent in other, similar cases; it’s a common practice in California and federal appellate courts, but the Schmiers and others contend it erodes courts’ accountability to the people and to the law. Mike Schmier argues that fixing the economy, education, health care, housing, environmental protection and transportation all depends on restoring uniform and equal enforcement of the law.

(UPDATE @ 12:10 P.M. MONDAY: Mike Schmier reminds me that the federal courts already ended their old practice forbidding citation in 2006, and citation of unpublished opinions issued since January 1, 2007 may not be prohibited. The Schmiers continue their battle trying to get California’s appellate courts to do the same.)

California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said the party’s convention rules state that the party’s statewide officers in consultation with the chairman determine which Democratic candidates for statewide office are viable and eligible to seek the party’s endorsement.

“As best I can tell this candidate has no endorsements listed on his own web site and has either received zero contributions to his campaign or the contributions don’t rise above the threshold required to be listed on the SoS (Secretary of State) web site,” Flores e-mailed me. “I’m sure those were among the factors that statewide officers took into consideration when determining which candidates were viable and eligible for party endorsement.”

The party is returning to Schmier the banners, videos and promotional gifts he had intended to use at the convention. Schmier says it’s “marginalization” and “fascism.”

It’s an interesting situation. Does anyone who manages to get on the ballot deserve time at the party’s podium? If so, it’ll get crowded, because Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner aren’t the only major-party gubernatorial candidates this year – there are six other Democrats and six other Republicans on the ballot. Should all of them get equal time from their respective parties?

On the other hand, Schmier is the only Democrat on the ballot who was deemed ineligible for his party’s endorsement. Another way to look at it would be the shallowness of Schmier’s pockets: How seriously would the Democratic Party have taken Chris Kelly, who also has never held elected office, had he not put up $4 million of his own money for his campaign? And do endorsements follow money, or vice versa?

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Watch Karl Rove interview in Lafayette

I covered former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove’s speech and book-signing event in Lafayette at noon today and he spent about 20 minutes with reporters after his appearance event. Watch the video below.

Rove answered questions about the California gubernatorial and U.S. senate races, the role of the tea party movement and his recommended fixes to the recently adopted health care legislation. Rove is on a book tour, where he is promoting his memoir, “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative and the Fight.”

Read the ContraCostaTimes tomorrow for my full story.

I didn’t have room in the print version for Rove’s interesting comments during the interview about the tea party movement, which has seen some bad publicity from the actions of some of its more extremist members. Rove urged tea party members to carefully police themselves and avoid being hijacked by wannabees who failed to get elected to party offices and Ron Paul supporters. (Is there any group that Ron Paul supporters haven’t tried to hijack?)

You may also be interested in the scene outside, particularly after the viral YouTube video of Rove’s book signing in Beverly Hills on Monday night, where an anti-war Code Pink protester tried to handcuff him as a war criminal. As you can see from this photo taken by Times reporter Jonathan Morales, the turnout wasn’t quite what Code Pink had hoped.

Here’s the link to my video from today’s interview with Rove.

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FPPC ballot-measure beef targets Rep. Berman

Supporters of 2008’s successful Proposition 11 redistricting-reform measure and of another measure proposed for November to widen Prop. 11’s scope filed a complaint with a political watchdog agency today against those seeking to undo it.

The complaint asks the Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate whether House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, D-Los Angeles, and his brother, political consultant Michael Berman, are the puppetmasters of the “Yes on FAIR (Financial Accountability In Redistricting)” committee, which is pushing a ballot measure to repeal Prop. 11.

The complaint says Yes on FAIR lists only UCLA Law Professor Daniel Lowenstein as the committee’s principal officer, yet news reports and other evidence outlined in the complaint indicate that the Bermans are behind it and are actually exerting control over its actions. Hiding involvement in a campaign committee is a violation of California’s Political Reform Act (PRA), and the complaint says voters have a right to know who’s trying to reverse their will of just 16 months ago.

Today’s complaint was filed by the Voters First Act for Congress committee, which is awaiting verification of signatures to place on November’s ballot a constitutional amendment removing authority for setting California’s 53 Congressional district boundaries from the state Legislature, and giving that authority instead to the same Citizens Redistricting Commission that will soon be setting state Legislative boundaries as required by Prop. 11. Voters First Act for Congress is wholly funded by Palo Alto physicist Charles T. Munger Jr., son of Warren Buffett’s billionaire investor partner; last Tuesday he put another $370,500 into the measure, bringing his total out-of-pocket spending since October to just over $3.1 million.

Attorney Steve Lucas, discussing the complaint with reporters on a conference call this afternoon, said this complaint doesn’t address other, potentially serious implications under federal law. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which Berman supporter, prohibits committees controlled by members of Congress from raising “soft money” from corporations and unions, and also from raising money from anyone in amounts exceeding $5,000 – both of which this committee has already done.

Derek Cressman, Western Regional Director of State Operations for the nonprofit, nonpartisan government accountability group Common Cause, told reporters the Bermans have “a significant degree of self-interest” behind undoing Prop. 11, especially if Munger’s measure is about to expand it – Howard Berman represents a notoriously gerrymandered district, and Michael Berman has made a great deal of money as a redistricting consultant.

Rep. Berman issued this statement today:

Howard Berman“While I haven’t been officially notified of the Munger complaint, a copy has been sent to me by the media. There is no substance to the allegations that I either control the Yes on FAIR Committee or have violated any provisions of the Political Reform Act.

“As evidenced by my disclosed contribution to Yes on FAIR, I have never hidden my opposition to the Munger initiative or my support of the Financial Accountability in Redistricting initative.

“But I suspect that this filing illustrates the definition of a ‘frivolous’ complaint designed solely to get media attention, irrespective of its total lack of substance.”

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Political oversight agency rules against Whitman

So, now we know that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown can exhort his labor friends to help him out — and even ask them to attack his opponents! — without fear of legal reprisals.

The Fair Political Practices Commission ruled against Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s campaign Monday, which had claimed that Brown had coordinated political maneuvers with the independent expenditure committee, Level the Playing Field 2010.

The Whitman team thought Brown had been caught in the act when video surfaced of him telling a gathering of labor supporters, “We are going to attack whenever we can. But I would rather have you attack. I would rather be the nice guy in this race.”

Whitman’s attorney, Tom Hiltachk, included the clip of Brown’s comments in a followup to his original complaint, which had complained that past assocations between Brown and several members of Level the Playing Field amounted to illegal coordination.

But FPPC political reform consultant Adrianne Korchmaros, in a terse ruling, said there was “insufficient evidence on the complaint, and continues to be insufficient evidence despite subsequent additional information provided by the complainant, to support this allegation.”

She said that FPPC regulations provide “safe harbor” to candidates who, in a non-specific way, ask for support.

The candidate would lose that “safe harbor” if he discussed details of how money might be spent with an independent expenditure group prior to the expenditure, she wrote.

However:

“Requesting that audience members attack his opponent does not rise to the level of providing details regarding a future communication,” she wrote. “Further, a supporter of a candidate does not have her ability to make an independent expenditure stripped away merely because she was an audience member at an event where the candidate exhorted her to support him.”

Chris Lehane, chief strategist with Level the Playing Field, called the ruling a victory against “Nixon-style” politics.

“They want to intimidate folks from speaking against her,” Lehane said. “This was a window into Queen Meg’s character and a glimpse of how she would be as governor. If someone challenges her, she’ll do everything to intimidate them.”

Lehane said Whitman should pay the cost of the investigation, which he called frivolous.

Tucker Bounds, Whitman’s deputy campaign manager, said the ruling will provide a benefit to the public.

“As a result of our filing, Team Brown will now be outwardly advertising exactly which unions are propping them up — and that’s a victory,” Bounds said. “The truth is these groups are attacking Meg in order to elect their guy Jerry Brown and preserve the unions’ stranglehold on Sacramento. That’s a fact that isn’t going to be lost on anyone.”

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Marijuana and the ‘Manhattan Madam’

Having qualified just last week for November’s ballot, the folks behind the measure to legalize and tax recreational marijuana launched their first radio ad today.

The 55-second ad, running on stations in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area media markets, features former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff and police officer Jeffrey Studdard explaining his support for the measure:

“Like many other cops and law enforcement professionals, I’ve seen firsthand that the current approach on cannabis is simply not working.

“It’s led to violent drug cartels, dealers in our schools and our streets, and cost millions of dollars – without reducing consumption.

“That’s why cops support Tax Cannabis 2010, the initiative to control and tax cannabis.
It will provide billions to fund what matters, and allow police to focus on violent crime.

“It’s time to control it, and tax it.”

Listen to it here:

The proponents say the public is on their side (at least, as of a year ago) even if this year’s crop of candidates isn’t. But at least one candidate likes the measure, though she’s not from California.

(Cue Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.”)

New York gubernatorial candidate Kristin Davis – formerly the “Manhattan Madam” who provided escorts to former New York Attorney General and Gov. Elliot Spitzer, for which she was convicted of promoting prostitution and served four months on Riker’s Island – said today she sees the Golden State’s marijuana-legalization ballot measure as a milestone to be emulated in the Empire State. From her news release:

Kristin Davis“Californians have figured out what New Yorkers need to figure out. Marijuana is a $10 billion-a-year industry in New York State. Its legalization and taxation will help New York’s current financial crises.

[snip]

“California is setting a precedent that hard times call for innovative solutions. California is facing an enormous budget deficit and rather than raise taxes in a struggling economy, the voters have taken measures into their own hands and put the issue on the ballot so that the people can decide. Californians are sending the message that they are unhappy with the status-quo and are taking their State back”.

“It’s time New York follows suit. As our budget deficit rises to over $9 billion, it’s time we look for ways of bringing in new revenue rather than increase taxes on struggling New Yorkers. None of the career politicians offer any solutions to our troubled economy; they only offer more of the same – tax increases and service cuts.”

“Our budget shortfall has gone from $7 Billion, to $9 Billion, to an estimate $15 Billion in just a few weeks. Legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana will generate $1 billion in new revenues, save millions in wanted law enforcement, cut court costs and help balance the budget.”