Sam Blakeslee forms Munger-funded think tank

State Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, announced today that he’s forming the California Reform Institute, “a think tank designed to create practical, implementable, politically viable solutions to current public policy issues,” according to his news release.

Sam Blakeslee“As a state legislator for eight years I saw first-hand how difficult it was to advance pragmatic, common sense solutions to our state’s problems,” said Blakeslee, who served three Assembly terms before being elected to the state Senate in 2010. “There is no existing support system for leaders who are willing to work across the aisle for the good of the state. The California Reform Institute will provide that infrastructure and occupy the space where cooperation and results can happen.”

The institute will be seeded with $750,000 from Charles Munger Jr., 55, of Palo Alto, who bankrolled California’s recent redistricting reform ballot measures.

“I have experienced first-hand the challenges of advancing reform in the state of California,” Munger said in the news release. “Many view the divisions in our legislature with cynicism and have given up; but I believe the passage of reforms that would be supported by a large majority of our citizens is both possible and worth fighting for. The California Reform Institute will provide the infrastructure to develop and pragmatic proposals for those who are similarly reform-minded. I have worked with Sam for many years on a variety of reform projects and have been impressed with his unusual combination of political and policy insights. He is just the kind of leader who can apply common sense principles to forge innovative solutions.”

California has often felt like a think-tank farm, replete with pundits, politicos and blue-ribbon commissions galore but still coming up short on solutions. But Blakeslee is insisting his institute is different from other groups because it won’t craft unrealistic proposals that the Legislature would never pass; rather, he’s aiming at “sound, innovative public policy that is both pragmatic and implementable.”

Of course, that’s what all of them say. Blakeslee did, however, include some statements of support to buoy his claims. Longtime GOP campaign strategist Dan Schnur, who chaired the Fair Political Practices Commission and now directs USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics, said Blakeslee “has earned a reputation for working across the aisle and putting the best interests of the state ahead of his own personal ideology. He is exactly the right person to lead an institute that will support leaders who value pragmatism over partisanship.”

Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino said in his region, “the global capital of innovation, entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and perspectives come together – left, right and center – to pull together for the collective good.

“Regrettably, in Sacramento, our state capital, legislators from diverse backgrounds and perspectives – left, right and center – have a more difficult time pulling together for the common good,” Guardino said. “It is why the mission of the California Reform Institute is so important. It will help foster real change by supporting legislators who want to make our government more reflective of the excellence of its people.”

Hector De La Torre, the Democratic former Assemblyman from South Gate now serving on the California Air Resources Board, noted he served with Blakeslee for six years in the Legislature.

“Sam has always played an important role in the legislative process because he is deeply principled but also fiercely independent,” De La Torre said. “He has a track record of looking for ways to make the system work and unite people around a good idea. I am hopeful that through the California Reform Institute, Sam can continue to bring people together with a combination of good ideas and bipartisanship, to show that our system can be made to work for the people of our great state.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.