Sunday, May 5, 2013

What Scandals?

In a recent post I discussed Mark Sanford's bid for congress after his infamous affair. A lot has happened since then. For one, the GOP has pulled support from Sanford's campaign after his strange family life took an even stranger turn. Meanwhile, Sanford is fighting for his political life in a current dead heat with his opponent, Colbert-Busch.
The trend of political redemption has continued in 2013 with Anthony Weiner making an exploratory committee for a potential New York City Mayor bid. Weinner has far less of a chance than Sanford, but its still a fascinating story line.
I still believe that scandals have a negative impact upon candidates. but there is certainly evidence to suggest otherwise.
For another story on the effects of political scandals, check out the blog How Politicians Communicate with the American People:
This blog has a conflicting view point and some interesting data to support it. I still believe that a politicians with scandals are a bad investment. I guess we will see for sure later in 2013 when Sanford and Weinner conclude their respective redemption campaigns.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Waters Backs Greuel, Bass Pick Garcetti

As the election is reaching its climax more and more elected officials and political celebrities are finally picking a side. Recently Maxine Waters chose to endorse Wendy Greuel, while Karen Bass chose to endorse Eric Garcetti.,0,1684436.story
Like so many other events in this campaign the endorsements led to a stalemate. Bass and Waters are two of the more prominent black representatives of Southern California. Garcetti and Greuel bothe need to garner support from the wide open black community. Endorsements from Waters and Bass were both highly sought after. In the end, neither candidate was able to secure support from both of them and so the endorsements would appear to cancel one another out. Jan Perry has endorsed Garcetti, but the pivotal battle for South LA still seems wide open.
The race is tight in many key demographics, but these late endorsements have helped give us a clearer picture of the candidates and their supporters. Kevin James endorsed Garcetti, as James felt he was the more conservative of the two remaining candidates. Waters is one of the most liberal politicians in the state and has chosen to endorse Greuel. It seems that Garcetti is beginning to position himself as somewhat of a moderate, although he did also aggressively court Waters' endorsement.
It interesting to watch these late endorsements role in. Often endorsers wait until the last minute to make a decision, this has been especially true in this close race. If you choose the losing candidate, its best to pick late so that your connection to the loser is brief in eyes of the public. And if you want to be viewed as political Nostredamus who always makes the right pick it is best to wait til the last minute. Being cautious and gauging how the wind is blowing before making a last minute decision increases your odds of being right. Waiting unttil the last minute is how many endorsers have come to be thought of as crucial endorsements, or political king makers.
As the race heats up and election day closes in we are sure to see many more important figures jump off the fence and finally make a decision between Garcetti and Greuel.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mark Sanford Hiking the Campaign Trail

The year’s best April Fools joke was played a day late, and on the GOP. On April 2nd Mark Sanford won the Republican primary for the 1st congressional seat of South Carolina. Sanford has won the right to face Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who happens to be the sister of late night personality (and Super PAC owner) Stephen Colbert. The RNC has been thrust into a lose-lose situation. They can either get in a fundraising and media battle with Colbert to save a seat they have not spent money on in decades, or they can watch Colbert’s sister steal a historically red seat out from under them. Either option looks bad for a party relying on its stranglehold on both the South and the House of Representatives. This race is more than just a funny headline that ought be gracing the cover of The Onion; this is another example of the crossroads that must be faced by todays Republican Party.
            Incredibly, Sanford could potentially win, as recent polls have him behind Colbert Busch by as little as two points. This is a very wealthy and right-leaning district. It is also essentially the same district (after 2012 redistricting) as the one Sanford represented in the early 2000s.
 If Sanford does manage to win, the GOP must be questioning how beholden he will be to them. National and local Republicans did not exactly rush to Sanford’s aid when his scandal broke and many of them were certainly hoping that his opponent would win the Republican primary.
Has there ever been a bigger wild card politician than Sanford? He has risen like a phoenix out of his self inflicted ashes and seems determined to gain power once again. This man seems bound by nothing. His party will be supporting him only for congressional seat numbers, his constituents only because they are demographically far too conservative for Colbert Busch to truly represent their will. If he is elected, nothing will stop him from voting however he desires. The man truly has nothing to lose and no one to represent but himself.
Sanford has been running a campaign based on redemption. It’s a smart gambit. Bring up your affair before anyone else does and your opponents cannot talk about it. Ask your mistress to become your fiancé and take her on the campaign trail. Suddenly she has a name (Belen Chapur) and a face. He has repeatedly thanked her for her longstanding suffering. Voters are starting to feel sympathy for her. Sanford has turned his greatest weakness into a strength.
But there is someone else Sanford has been thanking besides his fiancé: God. Religion and forgiveness have become the backbone of this campaign. This is probably a good thing for Sanford, but it is definitely a bad thing for the conservative party.
The RNC is trying to move away from the stigma that their party is controlled by the far right wing and that Evangelical Christians make up the party base. In contrast, it appears Sanford will run on a social conservative platform.
If the RNC chooses to roll out big bucks to bail out Sanford, they will be forced to tap into campaign coffers meant for the all-important 2014 congressional elections. Republicans can simply not afford to lose their congressional majority.
The Republican Party is truly at a crossroads. They must abandon the tainted and extreme right wing elements of their party to have a fighting chance. The Republican party of the last eight years has been characterized as too old, uncompromising, sloppy, and stupid to win the big elections. They are trying to move in a new direction by placing the moderate Christie and Latino Rubio at the vanguard of their party.
The 2012 election gave them a jolt. Party leadership saw the writing on the wall and they have tried to change. They have taken some new more progressive stances on policy, most notably in immigration.
But they seem unable to help themselves from continuing to support bad candidates in important, public races.
How many Newt Gingriches and Mark Sanfords must the Republican Party suffer through before they decide enough is enough? Southern white males who philander are a bad investment. You do not see the DNC letting John Edwards out of his cage much these days.
Updating their party’s platform on key issues was a step. An actual effort to gain the Latino vote will help too. But until the RNC stops aiding candidates like Sanford, and even allowing them to run, their hopes for 2014 and beyond will look just as bleak as they did on November 7, 2012.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

In a recent post I discussed the incredible low turnout of the Los Angeles' Mayoral primary. Informative Avenue (check out there blog here, commented suggesting that LA does care at least a bit more about the mayoral race than those March numbers suggested and that we can expect to see the turnout percentage pick up when Garcetti and Gruell finally have their showdown. I think these are some great points and that we can expect to see more interest in the race now that it is past a very non-competitive top two primary. I agree with these sentiments, but that being said I think there is another reason worth highlighting as to why LA has had extremely low turnout;  the Los Angeles vote by mail policies.
Los Angeles has some of the worst numbers for voting by mail, and registered voter who have chosen Permanent Vote by Mail. A poor PVM percentage tends to lead to a lower turnout. John Wildermouth of Fox & Hounds made a great case for Los Angeles shifting to a full vote by mail system.

"When the leading candidate for mayor, Eric Garcetti, collects the votes of fewer than 100,000 of the city’s 1.8 million registered voters, it’s not time for fiddling around the edges of voting rules. Go big or go home.
If Los Angeles really wants a truly representative election, the city needs to go 100 percent vote-by-mail. Right now.
It’s not that shocking an idea, really. More than half of California’s votes were cast by mail last November. For the lower turnout June primary, it was 65 percent.
Even in Los Angeles, which for a variety of historical reasons has one of the lowest percentages of permanent vote-by-mail voters in the state, more than 40 percent of those voting in last week’s election cast ballots by mail."

Wildermouth is certainly correct that LA's history and relationship with voting by mail is a complicated one, however the current major source of resistance is Dean Logan, the Registrar for Los Angeles County.
Logan has repeatedly gone on the record stating his beliefs against voting by mail.
In the New York Times: 'Dean C. Logan, the registrar for Los Angeles County, said the rate was partly a byproduct of the popularity of voting by mail in California and partly a function of how the state defines rejected ballots. Its definition includes ballots that voters requested but that the Postal Service returned to election officials as undeliverable.Voter behavior is changing and evolving,” Mr. Logan said. Young people do not sign their names as consistently as older ones, he said, and mail delivery is becoming less reliable.'

The county has the least money and policy invested into voting by mail, consequently LA County has had the lowest vote by mail percentages in the state, and now an overall voter turnout that is lower than the state average (in both the 2012 general and 2013 primary elections). Pretty embarrassing for on of the largest and wealthiest counties in the state. 
It is certainly true that we may me see an uptick in voter turnout now that Gruell and Garcetti are beginning to lay into each other a bit more and make this a more exciting campaign, but the fact remains that Los Angeles has a broken voting process. The state is rapidly moving toward a full vote by mail system (like that of Oregon). Logan's failure to keep pace has led to Los Angeles falling behind the state average in voter turnout.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Conflicting Consultants

California has become an increasingly expensive place to wage a campaign. This is especially true in the large expensive cities of Los Angeles and San Fransisco. Political consulting firms have grown more powerful over the last two decades, and one of the services they offer, direct mail, has become and expensive yet integral part of any successful candidate.
Since 2004, Mack|Crounse has been the industry leader of direct mail consulting. The firm has had a huge impact on the California political landscape, working for many progressive Democrats all across the state, they even worked on the Obama campaigns, and made millions along the way.
However, this past week Mack and Crounse split and the powerful firm dissolved.
It appears Crounse had been taking jobs for Democratic candidates who were running against fellow Dems in top two primaries. Crounse acted on their behalf unbeknownst to Mack through a shell corporation. Though none of the campaigns conflicted with Mack|Crounse clients directly, they were opposite many of the unions and organizations that employed Mack|Crounse.
When Mack heard the news, the firm folded. Both men have taken several employees from the old firm and plan to start new, competing firms.
Aside from being a bizarre and intriguing story, the breakup of Mack|Crounse has some immediate political implications. As one of the largest firms in the state, their breakup may create a power vacuum leading to the rise of several smaller up and coming firms. The two men will try to retain as many of their old clients as possible but remains to be seen how much of a consulting shuffle this will cause.
This story also highlights how modern California politics work. In a state now controlled by a Democratic super majority, Democrats pitted against Democrats has led to more and more uglier struggles between candidates, lobbyists, and consultants with similar visions. The top two primary has led to fiercer primary battles within parties. It has also become clear that direct mail is here to stay, especially in high populated areas like Los Angeles. Consultants have a growing role in California politics, as they experience economic growth it is imperative for a firm to prevent greed from blinding their overall vision and goals.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Paul Rand's Filibluster

The Junior Senator from Kentucky rose to speak, and he just kept on speaking. When he was finally done he had propelled himself to the vanguard of the Republican Party, in the process the sacred political institution of the filibuster received yet another blow. A few weeks ago nobody outside of Kentucky knew who Rand Paul was. At that time, the young guns of the Republican Party were Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz. Paul was not yet the Great Young Libertarian Hope of the RNC. Then Rand had his little Mr. Smith Goes To Washington moment and a star was born. A lot can change in thirteen hours. But in the midst of Rand’s big moment the filibuster took another hit. Paul’s and others actions have continued to change the definition of the filibuster. Once a quaint if not desperate attempt to give voice to the minority, the filibuster has morphed into an unstoppable monster that feeds off political gridlock.
When the dust and Paul’s throat had finally cleared, the Fifth amendment stood protected, Brennan was confirmed, and America was safe from diabolical murder drones. So what really happened? Paul’s coming out party happened, along with the birth of his 2016 presidential bid.
            This was never about Brennan. It was never about drones. It was never about the Fifth Amendment. It was about Paul.
            Shortly after his filibuster Rand spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Then he won the CPAC straw poll, usually a strong indicator of the next GOP presidential nominee.
            He gave a speech that sounded almost identical to the repetitive pseudo libertarian ideology that made up the majority of his filibuster. Suddenly Paul has a stump speech.
Obama used his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention to test out his stump speech upon the world. Paul was not the rising star he is today during the 2012 convention. Unlike Obama he did not have the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the RNC convention.
So he took matters into his own hands. He found a way to twist a CIA nomination into a discussion of his solution for the struggling GOP’s identity crisis. Paul tried his stump speech out on the senate floor, and he found a way to make the whole world watch. You may only have caught a sound bite of Paul’s speech, but that’s all you needed to get the gist of his vision of an RNC 2.0.
It was a savvy political and marketing move. In the age of social media Paul managed to reach his target base of the “college libertarian” by one of the oldest, played out tricks in the book.
There is a great deal of irony in watching the 140-character Twittershpere blow up over a man rambling about nothing for thirteen hours. But the gambit worked and Paul’s name is trending; not just on twitter or Facebook but on traditional news outlets, and more importantly in 2016 presidential polls.
I do not fault Paul for making a thinly veiled personal move on the senate floor. Every senator in history has done that. I blame him for misusing the filibuster and thus adding ammunition to the growing movement to end or severely cripple it.
            Presidents Obama and Bush used so many executive orders that the American public has come to view that strategy as normal as opposed to extreme. In similar fashion the Republican Party has used or threatened to use the filibuster during the last few years more then any other time in U.S. history. It has been a successful strategy, but just as with executive orders, it is a misuse of a small constitutional loophole, almost an oversight.
            Many would argue for the destruction of the filibuster all together. Harry Reed has certainly grown sick of it and was behind the late January filibuster reforms. Reforms that were intended to streamline the process and make filibusters more rare.
            It seems those reforms did not work. I do not believe that any reforms would work; the inherent power of the filibuster is that once a legislator starts talking only his own body can really put a stop to him. There is no real way to change that.
Nor am I in favor of abolishing the filibuster. The filibuster has a certain mystique in the American political landscape. The great equalizer, it gives a voice to the minority in moments of desperation.
            The real way to stop filibusters, executive orders and the like is for congress to become a little bit less polarized. Political gridlock is the cause for these desperate measures. Republicans and Democrats need to take a step back and realize that as effective and attention drawing these filibusters and executive orders are they were never intended to be common components of the modern political lexicon.
            Paul claims his basic beliefs lie in opposing big government; and he believes that this same message appeals to the young base he is working so hard to gain. Ironically, I cannot think of a better example of big government then a half empty senate room held hostage by a self aggrandizing senator speaking on murder drones and his own future amid a government sequester.
            The filibuster is like a comet; they are entertaining to watch every now and again but I’d be all right if I did not see another one for seventy years.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How will the Sequester Impact Los Angeles?

We are now approaching week two of the sequester with no end in sight to the political gridlock that caused it in the first place. Perhaps we have all been distracted by a certain thirteen hour speech, but the sequester has not seemed to attract the same buzz and attention that the fiscal cliff reached. And that is a shame, because unlike the "fiscal cliff," sequester is a real word, is actually happening, and will have widespread affects, even here in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, no one is sure what exactly those affects will be.
If you are unfamiliar with the sequester, here is very informative article discussing the national implications it holds:

But what about California? The above post claims that California stands to lose more jobs than just about every state; over 200.000. Only Virginia and Maryland (with their numerous D.C. and defense jobs) are in the same league.
However, the city of Los Angeles recently released a statement giving a much more specific breakdown as to which jobs and agencies are in danger:

As you can see, the Departments of Public Health, Senior Services, and Community Development are the only programs that will be seeing significant cuts. LA also has defense interests and jobs, but not as much as other areas of California. So at first glance the outlook does not look so bad, but the comes the kicker:
"The ultimate fiscal impact of the 2013 sequester on the County cannot be determined at this time because non of the 12 FFY 2013 appropriation bills, which fund discretionary programs have been enacted. Instead, all discretionary programs are temprarily funded under a Continuing Resolution through March 27, 2013."
Healthcare and other Los Angeles service will currently see small cuts; if this sequester in not ended by the end of March, then we will begin to see major effect form the sequester at our local level.
With Los Angeles government in the middle of an election cycle, and fairly powerless to deal with such a federal matter, the city is forced to rely on a swift end to Washington gridlock. This week we have seen a thirteen hour filibuster over a nomination and the 5th amendment. Then on Saturday night President Obama made a few sequester jokes at the annual Gridiron Dinner (glad to see the sequester did not halt this important event). If Washington can not get it act together and push for something differnt then yet another stop gap that only pushes the deadlines ahead a few months, then Los Angles  and the rest of the country will face some serious cuts in services and jobs next month.