Nehring, other GOP chairs discuss party’s future

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring is headed for New York City, where he’ll be holding a sort of summit meeting tomorrow with the GOP chairs from New York, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin to map out the party’s strategy for 2010.

To hear many tell it, they’re convening at the end of a great week for the GOP. New Jersey’s Democratic incumbent governor and Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee got their clocks cleaned, to be sure, but it sort of seems this merely proves the Democratic base won’t come out for what they see as crappy candidates.

Jon Corzine came into New Jersey’s governor’s office in 2006 under an ethical cloud and spent his entire term with low approval ratings after a showdown with fellow Democrats that resulted in a state government shutdown, an unpopular plan to lease out the state’s toll roads, budget cuts for state universities, nomination of a state Attorney General who soon had to resign in an ethics scandal, and more. His administration was a car wreck – literally. Polls going into the election showed massive voter disapproval of his job performance, while Republican Chris Christie – although not a great campaigner – fared better. Corzine discovered that money can’t buy you love.

In Virginia, younger and minority voters who flocked to the polls for Obama last year didn’t do so for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds; Democrats couldn’t turn out their base. But before that’s blamed on Obama, consider that although Obama endorsed and campaigned for Deeds, Deeds actually ran against much of Obama’s liberal agenda – against cap-and-trade, against a public health-care option, against the Employee Free Choice Act, against several issues important to Latinos. And exit polls showed 56 percent of Virginia voters said Obama wasn’t a factor in their vote, 24 percent said their vote was meant as a swipe against Obama and 17 percent said it was meant as a show of support for him – so only about one in four voters had an anti-Obama sentiment. (That number was even lower in New Jersey.)

Also, New Jersey and Virginia are the only states that pick their governors in the years right after presidential elections, and Virginia has picked governors from the party opposite the president’s since the Carter Administration.

Meanwhile, a Democrat won New York’s 23rd Congressional District for the first time since before the Civil War – which seems fitting, as it was a Republican Party civil war that made this win possible.

And that civil war isn’t just in one district in the far reaches of upstate New York; the California Court of Appeal just this morning sent back to Alameda County Superior Court a revived lawsuit over control of the county’s GOP committee.

This, I’ll bet, is what Nehring and his fellow chairs will most want to discuss tomorrow – how to move their party forward without the moderate-versus-conservative infighting and undercutting that threatens to tear it apart.


Report: Marijuana enforcement failing, biased

As Californians keep gathering petition signatures for marijuana legalization ballot measures and a state lawmaker rewrites his legalization bill, marijuana reform advocates today are touting a new report that finds no relationship between marijuana arrest and use rates – a sign that the “war on drugs” has failed as far as cannabis is concerned, they say.

In fact, the report by Jon Gettman, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Criminal Justice at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA, finds the current system of criminal penalties encourages uses to buy a little bit at a time, acting as a price support for the illegal market.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the report finds that although the rate of marijuana use is only about 25 percent higher for African-Americans than for whites, African-Americans are three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites.

“These figures paint a devastating portrait of a failed policy that burns through tax dollars while doing nothing but harm,” Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia said in a news release. “Most Americans agree that marijuana prohibition doesn’t work, even if most politicians aren’t yet ready to publicly agree with their constituents.”

It should be noted that the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation funded the report, and that Gettman’s curriculum vitae indicates he’s more of a pro-cannabis activist than an independent, objective academic. That said, the data is what it is.


Campaign finance update: Pot and Perata

S.K. Seymour LLC, the partnership that runs Oakstersdam University and its related “cannabusinesses,” last Tuesday gave $10,000 to Hope 2010, a ballot measure committee (formerly known as Leadership California) controlled by former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata. Perata in September publicly endorsed the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010,” the marijuana legalization ballot measure co-proposed by S.K. Seymour LLC partner and Oaksterdam University President Richard Lee. Hope 2010 is supporting the California Cancer Research Act, a proposed ballot measure that would raise the state’s tobacco tax to fund grants and loans for reaearch; to create, staff and equip California’s research facilities; and to boost efforts to reduce tobacco use. The measure is now awaiting preparation of its title and summary by the state Attorney General’s office; it looks like the campaign has a Web site being built but not yet ready for public viewing.

In other news, Palo Alto physicist Charles T. Munger Jr., son of Warren Buffett’s billionaire investor partner, last week put another $701,260 into his “Voters First Act for Congress” ballot measure, bringing his total so far to $1,003,030. The measure would remove authority for setting California’s 53 Congressional district boundaries from the state Legislature, and would give that authority instead to the same Citizens Redistricting Commission that will soon be setting state Legislative boundaries (as required by last year’s successful Proposition 11).

Pacific Gas & Electric on Friday put another $500,000 into its somewhat euphemistically named “Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote” committee, pushing a ballot measure which would require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of their voters (rather than just a simple majority) before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved, or before providing electricity through a community choice program if any public funds or bonds are involved. Critics say PG&E is playing on populist themes in order to block local governments from abandoning the utility giant in favor of power contracts with smaller, greener energy producers – a movement that’s been gaining steam in recent years. The proponents have until Dec. 21 to gather the 694,354 signatures needed to place this on the ballot next year. This contribution brings PG&E’s stake as the committee’s sole donor to $3.5 million so far.

And Livermore optometrist Scott Kamena on Friday put $23,000 into his own Kamena for Assembly 2008 committee, which had indicated in its mid-year report having $60,749.39 in outstanding debts. Kamena ran in the June 2008 Republican primary for the 15th Assembly District, coming in fourth behind nominee Abram Wilson and candidates Robert Rao and Judy Lloyd.


Boxer: GOP boycott won’t stop climate-change bill

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is moving ahead with her cap-and-trade climate change bill despite Republican threats to boycott next Tuesday’s mark-up session.

“That won’t stop us. We’re going to use every tool at our disposal to get that done,” she said this afternoon during a visit to Blue Bottle Coffee Co. on Webster Street near Oakland’s Jack London Square, at which she was touting her efforts to support small businesses through the economic downturn. Asked to elucidate on “every tool at our disposal,” she replied, “We’ll use the rules of the committee.”

“We are going to sit down on Tuesday, we’re ready to go, we’re not canceling it,” she said “I’m still hoping the Republicans will come to the committee room and do their work.”

Boxer said she can’t imagine why anyone with a chance to end America’s dependence on foreign oil, combat climate change and create jobs all at the same time would boycott such an opportunity, going “absent without leave, AWOL” at a moment so vital to the nation’s interests. She urged the committee’s Republican members to “try to work with us, let’s try to get something done.”

Part of the small-business support scheme of which Boxer spoke today was affordable health care, which she said absolutely must contain a public option. U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., this week said he’ll refuse to caucus with Senate Democrats to break a filibuster on any health care reform legislation containing a public option.

Boxer in 2006 was among Senate Democrats who went to Connecticut to stump for Lieberman in the Democratic primary – angering many of her more liberal constituents, given his support of the Iraq war and other stances – though she later supported Democratic nominee Ned Lamont in that year’s general election. And Senate Democrats have been kind to Lieberman since, including letting him keep his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in hopes he would caucus with them on vital votes such as this.

Asked today what she thought of Lieberman’s health care stance, Boxer replied she “can’t answer for him, I just want to say that we have to get this (health care reform) done.”

“All of our colleagues will be making important decisions, but at the end of the day, we can do this with a majority, not a super-majority,” she said, making it clear she was speaking for herself and not for Senate Democratic leaders.

Democrats would need 60 votes for cloture to overcome a Republican filibuster and bring a health-care bill to the floor for a final vote, but there’s been talk that they might use a procedure called “budget reconciliation” to move the bill through with just 50 votes.


Another award for Schwarzenegger

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Gala in celebration of a new building’s opening last night in Washington, D.C..

McDonough School Dean George Daly also presented Schwarzenegger with the school’s Dean’s Medal, “which is the highest honor bestowed by the dean,” according to news releases from the school and the governor. The school says former recipients have included Prince Philipp of Liechtenstein; former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez; and Ann Misiaszek Sarnoff, chief operating officer of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

I contacted Teresa Mannix, the school’s media relations director, to inquire about whether there are any criteria for this honor, or whether it’s basically an honorary award bestowed upon notable people when they come to speak at the school. After all, it seems a little puzzling for a distinguished business school to bestow its highest honor upon a chief executive whose “business entity” — the State of California — is in such a severe state of fiscal disarray, and who seems to have lost the confidence of his “board of directors” — the people who elected him.

That would be like the National Park Trust giving an award to someone for leadership and innovation in protecting public lands, just one day after that same someone announced state park closures due to budget cuts. Oh, wait – that happened, too.

Mannix’s response is that the medal “recognizes those who have distinguished themselves in various fields. It is not bestowed on all of our notable speakers.”

There you have it – “distinguished.”


What they’re saying about the rise in GDP

From President’s Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Christina Romer:

“Data released today by the Commerce Department show that real GDP [Gross Domestic Product] grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of the year. This is in stark contrast to the decline of 6.4 percent annual rate just two quarters ago. Indeed, the two-quarter swing in the rate of growth of 9.9 percentage points was the largest since 1980. Analysis by both the Council of Economic Advisers and a wide range of private and public-sector forecasters indicates that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contributed between 3 and 4 percentage points to real GDP growth in the third quarter. This suggests that in the absence of the Recovery Act, real GDP would have risen little, if at all, this past quarter.”

“After four consecutive quarters of decline, positive GDP growth is an encouraging sign that the U.S. economy is moving in the right direction. However, this welcome milestone is just another step, and we still have a long road to travel until the economy is fully recovered. The turnaround in crucial labor market indicators, such as employment and the unemployment rate, typically occurs after the turnaround in GDP. And it will take sustained, robust GDP growth to bring the unemployment rate down substantially. Such a decline in unemployment is, of course, what we are all working to achieve.”

From House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“Any positive signs for our economy are welcome, but a jobless recovery is not what the American people were promised. President Obama and his economic team said the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ would create jobs immediately and keep the unemployment rate below eight percent. Since then, roughly three million jobs have been lost and unemployment has risen to near 10 percent.

“For millions of out-of-work families struggling to make ends meet, this recession feels far from over. Yet even now, after the Obama Administration’s top economist has stated that the ‘stimulus’ already had its greatest impact on the economy, Washington Democrats are intent on staying the course and trying to spend, tax, and borrow their way to prosperity. Republicans have proposed fiscally responsible solutions to help small businesses create good-paying jobs and get our economy moving again.”

From House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:

“Today’s news is another important indicator that the Recovery Act is beginning to repair our economy and get our nation back on its feet. While it will take time for all these investments to kick in, we know that the Recovery Act has already helped to stave off hundreds of thousands of pink slips being planned.

“While saving and creating jobs must be a central concern, we also must ensure that Americans still looking for work have the temporary support they need to get by and that displaced workers have access to the education and training they need to succeed in the jobs of the future. We won’t rest until the millions who lost their jobs during this economic crisis have an opportunity to work and are ready to help shape a new era of economic growth and innovation.”