“Shocked anyone would hire Dean Logan as an election official”

The L.A. Times has an interesting background story on embattled County Registrar Dean Logan, who had the misfortune of presiding over the county’s double-bubble trouble outbreak that caused 50,000 votes to initially not be counted on the Feb 5 primary.

Apparently, Logan was the head of King County’s elections (the Washington state county which includes Seattle) in 2004 when one of the closest gubernatorial contests ended up with the initial outcome (A Republican win) being overturned for a Democratic winner.  Recounts in Logan;s county accounted for the change.

A GOP official who said he was “shocked that anyone would hire Dean Logan,” went on to describe the 2004 governor’s race like this:


“It might be the last thing I think about before I die,” said Vance, the former
state Republican Party chairman who was a King County councilman as well as a
state legislator. “It was unbelievably bitter and all-consuming for all of us.
It was one of the biggest things that has ever happened in my professional
life.”

Ouch!  Still, Democrats in King County remember Logan fondly, but the election was rough enough on Logan that he took a job as L.A. county deputy registrar in 2006, and is now interim head of the registrar since Connie McCormak’s recent retirement.

In all fairness to Logan, regarding the double-bubble mess, the ballot was approved in 2002, years before he got to the county.  Additionally, Logan did attempt to clarify the double-bubble problem (some say a little half-heartedly) in his time as interim head of the department. 

Note to self: get job as California state official

For the umpteenth time I am asking myself why take a job at a privately-owned newspaper, when I could get a job at a publicly-owned state for more pay, benefits, and wildly-overpriced parties.  From the Sacramento Bee, on a $43,000 November bash thrown by the state-owned California lottery:

“Billed as an employee recognition and training event, the expenses
actually went to entertainment, prizes and black-peppered prime rib
dinners for Lottery employees, retires and guests,” Controller John
Chiang said in a statement.

Nearly $30,000 was spent on the Nov.
8 event, intended to celebrate the Lottery’s $20 billion contribution
to education. Besides a dinner and dessert, guests received
silver-framed photo frames, and the Lottery hired a D.J. and
photographer.

An additional $17,262 was spent on mock Lottery games for
entertainment. Among the costs were $5,000 paid to a former Big Spin
host as master of ceremonies and $10,932 worth of prizes, including a
Nintendo Wii, i-Pods and digital cameras.

Get in touch with Sen. Ron Calderon

Several people have called me today in response to a story I wrote on Sen. Ron Calderon’s bill to open up access to some medical records, to ask for the senator’s information to write him.  The info can be found on his web site, but I will reproduce it below.  You can also follow this link to an online sheet to contact him.

Office Locations
Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 4088
Sacramento,  CA  95814
Phone:  (916) 651-4030
Fax:  (916) 327-8755

District Office
400 n. Montebello Blvd., Suite 100
Montebello, CA 90640
Phone:  (323) 890-2790
Fax:  (323) 890-2795

Also, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights can be contacted at

General Consumer Watchdog E-mail
admin@consumerwatchdog.org

Technical Issues/Questions Regarding This Site
webmaster@consumerwatchdog.org

Mailing Address
Consumer Watchdog
1750 Ocean Park Blvd.

Ste 200
Santa Monica,  CA 90405

Phone
310-392-0522

Fax
310-392-8874

Legislature spring break… time for some free trips

The Associated Press reports today that now that the legislature’s “spring break” week has come, delegations of California lawmakers are off on sponsored trips to Spain and Japan.  The Spanish delegation, which includes local Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) is there on a 11-day trip paid for by the California Foundation, which the AP describes thusly:

The California Foundation pays
for airfare, hotels, transportation and some of the meals on the trips
it sponsors. Most of its budget of about $1 million a year comes from
the corporations, labor unions and environmental groups that are
represented on its board of directors.

The trip is meant to study high-speed rail (i.e. ride on it and maybe take a meeting with some rail officials).  The other group, which is going to Japan to study high-speed rail, is the 13th straight legislature group to go there in 13 years.  Last year, legislators, including local Assemblyman Bob Huff (D-Diamond Bar) also went to France to …. you guessed it, study high speed rail.

I guess they must really know a lot about high speed rail now. 


Pelosi: Superdelegates should go to popular winner

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just voiced what many political observers have been saying for months: If the superdelegates vote against the candidate who goes into the convention with the most pledged delegates from the state primaries and caucuses, the Democratic Party will be damaged politically.

Pelosi, who made the comments in a taped segment of ABC’s “This Week” as reported by CNN’s Political Ticker, seemed to be saying that she will cast her vote as a superdelegate for the popular leader of the Democratic nominating contests. Currently, that person is Sen. Barack Obama.

According to the AP, Obama currently leads Clinton by about 142 pledged delegates, a lead that would remain in place going into the August convention unless Clinton takes landslide victories in the remaining primaries and caucuses — an unlikely scenario.

Pelosi’s words carry great weight and could influence many of her fellow superdelegates — Democratic members of Congress, state governors and other high-ranking party officials who get their own votes at the convention. Clinton currently leads the superdelegate county, 249-213 according to the AP.

If they follow Pelosi’s lead, the roughly 700 superdelegates in the party would easily tip the nomination toward Obama.

 

Portantino loses chairmanship

The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert blog is reporting that Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, has been stripped of his chairmanship of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

This appears to be the first sign of fallout from Portantino’s failed candidacy for the speakership. Back on Feb. 28 we speculated on what kinds of repercussions Portantino — and by proxy, the Valley — might face after Portantino lost his challenge to Speaker Fabian Nunez’s handpicked successor, L.A. Assemblywoman Karen Bass. Losing speakership candidates have faced similar punishment before, but we hoped the relatively peaceful nature of the Nunez-Bass transition might have proved benign to Portantino and other challengers.

Apparently not so. Capitol Alert is reporting that besides Portantino another challenger, Hector De la Torre, has also been removed from the head of the powerful Assembly Rules Committee. It seems that both assemblymen were part of an opposition group of Democrats that had joined to try to thwart Nunez’s attempt to have Bass selected as speaker through a procedural maneuver. But De La Torre and Portantino weren’t the only ones involved in opposing Bass, so it is unclear why they were the only ones singled out so far.

Will Portantino’s loss of clout in Sacramento affect the Valley’s already meager chances of attracting state funding in an already dismal fiscal climate? My guess is yes. Higher Education is an important committee, and first to be affected may be our local community colleges like Pasadena, Citrus and Mt. SAC, as well as other universities and assorted students and faculty, whom have just lost a powerful local advocate in the capitol.

Top 10 worst tax increase proposals

Assemblyman Anthony Adam’s office just emailed me a Republican-compiled top-10 worst Democratic tax increase proposals of this year.  Looks like that $14 billion budget shortfall isn’t going to get reduced anytime soon.

  1. The iTunes Tax
    Assembly Bill 1956 (Calderon) would require state tax officials to begin
    imposing sales taxes on music, movies and software purchases made online,
    such as on iTunes.  Democrats have also talked about taxing all items
    purchased on the Internet ($500 million tax increase).

 

  1. Taking Away the Home Mortgage
    Interest Deduction

    Democrats have proposed eliminating the state home mortgage interest
    deduction, also known as the homeowners tax, which provides
    significant tax savings for working families and helps many Californians
    afford the expensive costs of home ownership.  This would be a $5.3
    billion tax hike.

 

3.     
Closing
So-Called Tax Loopholes

Democrats and others have pushed closing tax loopholes, which
is an effort to raise taxes on working Californians.  These so-called loopholes
include taking away the senior citizen tax credit (a $255 million tax increase)
and reducing the child dependent tax credit ($2.4 billion) which will
hurt middle-class families.

 

  1. New Health Taxes
    Democrats have proposed the largest tax increase on businesses in
    state history, an $8 billion jobs tax, to pay for government-run health
    care.  In addition, Assembly Bill 2967 (Fuentes) would impose a new .06
    percent tax on the gross operating costs of every California hospital, to
    pay for new government health care programs. 

 

  1. Creating a New Tax on California Businesses
    Speaker Nez has talked about creating a new split-roll property tax
    on California businesses, which would be a $3 to $7 billion tax increase
    on businesses.  This would lead to higher prices for consumers and the
    threat of job losses.

 

  1. The Plastic Bag Tax
    Assembly Bill 2829 (Davis) would impose a new plastic bag tax, at a
    still-unspecified level, on the plastic bags used by grocery stores and
    other retailers to package purchases.

 

  1. Making It Easier for Politicians
    to Raise Taxes

    Senate Constitutional Amendment 18 (Torlakson) would make it easier
    for local politicians to raise taxes, by allowing educational finance
    districts to impose special taxes by a majority vote.

 

  1. Increasing the Car Tax
    Assembly Bill 2388 (Feuer) would raise the car tax based on the weight of
    the vehicle and the amount of carbon dioxide emissions it emits, to a
    still-unspecified level. 

    Assembly Bill 2522 (Arambula) would authorize San Joaquin Valley air
    quality officials to impose a new $30 car tax on local drivers, without a
    vote of the people. 

    Assembly Bill 2638 (Coto) would impose a new sales tax on the sale of cars
    in California that get less than 15 miles per gallon.

    Senate Bill 1731 (Yee) would authorize San Francisco Bay Area
    transportation officials to impose a higher car tax on local drivers,
    without a vote of the people.

    Democrats have also proposed restoring the higher car tax imposed by
    former Governor Gray Davis and repealed by Governor Schwarzenegger upon
    taking office, a $6 billion tax increase.

 

  1. Increasing the Gas Tax

Assembly Bill 9xxx (Nez) would impose a costly new
oil severance tax on the cost of oil production in
California. 
This will cause gas prices to soar new heights in California as this new tax
will be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices at the pump.

 

Assembly Bill 2744 (Huffman) would authorize San
Francisco Bay Area transportation officials to impose a new gas tax, of as much
as 10 cents per gallon, to pay for new government spending. 

Assembly Bill 2558 (Feuer) would authorize Los Angeles transportation officials
to impose one of two different taxes, subject to a majority vote, to address
climate change an increased gas tax as high as 3 percent, or an
increased car tax as high as $80.

 

  1. Raising Income Taxes
    Assembly Bill 2372 (Coto) would impose a new 1 percent tax on Californians
    earning more than $1 million per year, raising the states highest
    income tax rate to 11.3 percent. 

    Assembly Bill 2897 (Hancock) would impose a new 10 percent tax rate for
    individuals earning more than $136,115 every year ($272,230 for joint
    filers) and a new 11 percent tax rate for individuals earning more than
    $272,230 per year ($544,460 for joint filers). 

State of the race? Depends who you ask

 It would have been pretty clear if Sen. Obama had just been able to take Ohio and Texas: no more endless speculation from the blogosphere, and talking heads, and salaried “political expert” columnists.

But since it isn’t, let’s just revel in the wildly differing opinions on this race.  From Marc Cooper at the Huffington Post:

“There is no plausible scenario in which Clinton can win the nomination. At least not democratically.”

The undemocratic situation Cooper refers to is the possibility that the pledged delegate count will be so close to deadlocked that party-chosen superdelegates will be the one to choose the president (for a recap on what superdelegates are see Fred Ortega’s post of last month.)

Meanwhile, two columns up at the Huff Post, Stephen Schlesinger argues there are plenty of historical examples of superdelegates elevating a candidate with fewer pledged delegates (Clinton) over the front runner:

“There is no rule in the politics of Democratic Party conventions that
says that the contender with the largest number of pledged delegates
short of the total required for nomination should automatically, by
dint of that achievement, be handed the party’s designation. This
argument is now being put forth by Senator Obama’s campaign.”

And, of course, the final x factor is what could happen if Florida and Michigan get their delegates counted (Clinton might still be behind in that scenario, though it would be much closer).  Or, as Cooper and Schelesinger’s colleague, Mark Green, suggests, perhaps Florida and Michigan will attempt a new primary which would actually have all the candidates on the ballot. 

‘Critical Tuesday’: What did Hillary actually win?

Here is a good roundup by the AP about the delegates that were at stake Tuesday and how they were divvied up between the candidates:

There were 370 Democratic delegates at stake in Tuesday’s contests,
and nearly complete returns showed Clinton outpaced Obama in Ohio, 74-65, in Rhode Island, 13-8, and in the Texas primary, 65-61.

Obama won in Vermont,
9-6, and was ahead in the Texas caucuses, 30-27. Ten of the dozen that
remained to be awarded were in Texas; the other two in Ohio.

So as we said earlier, it looks like Obama could take the Texas caucus, pretty much negating Hillary’s primary win there. At this point, with those 12 delegates still to be apportioned, the total delegate count is 1,562 for Obama and 1,461 for Clinton — roughly the same 100-delegate lead Obama carried into the Critical Tuesday primaries.

Again, this is all bad news for Hillary and her supporters. Her victories in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island are little more than morale-boosting, psychological wins, as opposed to actual, statistical ones.

Hillary’s firewall holds

Clinton wins Ohio and Texas, achieving her campaign’s oft state goal of stopping Obama’s momentum with wins in those two large states. So what does this really mean?

Back on Feb. 14 we noted that Clinton would have to win the big “Critical Tuesday” primaries by relatively large margins to really eat into Obama’s delegate lead. She won Ohio by a good 10 points. But Texas is another story. With 98 percent of the vote counted Clinton has a narrow 3 point lead, and in the Longhorn State’s weird “primacaucus” contest she is actually behind Obama by 3 points in the caucus portion of the contest, with about 40 percent of ballots counted.

Unlike California Texas does not automatically award a big chunk of the delegates to the overall winner, so even if she wins the caucus by the same margin as the primary (or if Obama holds his slight lead in the caucus) then they are pretty much gonna split the state’s nearly 200 delegates. Not good for Hillary.

As this article by the AP points out, splitting the vote with Obama at this late point in the primaries does not help Hillary, since Obama still maintains the overall delegate lead:

…even if she wins every contest left, Clinton still would have a hard time overcoming Barack Obama‘s pledged delegate lead. In fact, her task got even harder because even though she won Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island Tuesday night, she didn’t do much to close the delegate gap and with every contest that passes, the number up for grabs drops.

Obama focused on the math while addressing supporters in Texas. “We have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning and we are on our way to winning this nomination,” he said. 

My take? Unless Hillary wins Pennsylvania by a landslide — even with that she may not be able to catch up in the pledged delegate count — she is pretty much finished. Obama will likely hold on to a (however slight) lead going into the convention, and the superdelegates will have to roll over to whoever the popular winner is at that time. Obama wins the nomination.