Thursday, October 13, 2005

Busted!

Dan Weintraub also links to this affidavit from the California Teachers Association, which is trying to get a $40 million line of credit to pay for its politicking. The union has not only exhausted the increase in dues it imposed on union members in June to fight Schwarzenegger's ballot drives, but also pre-spent (if you will) all the extra dues it expects to collect through 2008. Foes of the dues hike are trying to get a judge to block the line of credit. Weintraub also notes that the governor's folks believe the unions have raised and spent $100 million in the anti-Arnold campaign.

If you don't live in California, you haven't been bombarded by the ads featuring those public-spirited teachers and firefighters Arnold has picked on with his mean-spirited campaign. Lucky you. But now that the gov has come back with his own ads that cast the battle as one of "government unions in Sacramento" vs. "the people of California," the initiatives' poll numbers are going up. A win for Arnold will not only demoralize the political establishment in Sacto, it'll also leave it broke for next year's (slash public pensions) campaign.

Why Prop 75 could worsen union politicking*

Of course, union members should not be coerced into paying dues to support political causes. But what if Prop 75 makes that the law in California? Union political activities wouldn't end; in fact, they could intensify.

Consider this: Say 60 percent of public employee union members choose to continue lobbying legislators with their dues. Such an affirmation might embolden the CTA to dun willing members a lot more than $60. The potential payoff is stunning. $500 bucks now to purchase the legislative process could easily deliver tens of thousands over time for each member in higher pay, pensions, and health benefits.

To be sure, there's a risk. The casual observer might start looking at goverment workers not as selfless public servants but as yet another money-grubbing special interest group. Given the increasingly duplicitous and vicious nature of the unions' campaign tactics, however, I'm guessing that the unions are willing to take a PR hit over the next few weeks and months if it can lock up their legislative clout for years to come.

*even though I support the Paycheck Protection Initiative.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

How a strip-club scandal helps Arnold

The ever-insightful Dan Weintraub handicaps the race for mayor of San Diego. (Free reg'n may be required.) He also blogs about why voter intensity in California's second-largest city could give Schwarzenegger's reform agenda a boost. When the Democratic candidate, maverick surfer Donna Frye, is threatening to force the government into bankruptcy unless public employees take benefit cuts, you know this gorgeous city's administration has jumped the tracks.

But wait. There's more. The San Diego debacles go beyond creative public financing and overly generous employee benefits. Interest in Frye's earlier write-in candidacy got traction from a scandal involving two council members and the Galardi brothers, who owned strip clubs there and in Vegas. And the Galardis' dirty money -- they bribed public officials in both cities in the hopes of getting laws governing their strip clubs relaxed -- ended a handful of political careers in both places.

The Galardis' shenanigans in San Diego could wind up bringing reform-minded voters to the polls, and giving Arnold's agenda an unexpected boost.

The most noteworthy Sin City pol wrecked in the scandal was former Clark County Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, a successful, straight-arrow flower-shop owner who raised more than 20 children and took an envelope of cash from the Galardis. Also ensnared in the bribery meltdown were two of Harry Reid's youthful proteges -- former commissioners Erin Kenny (the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2002) and Dario Herrera (who lost the race for a new congressional seat that year).

The biggest loser, though, was former commissioner and onetime cop Lance Malone, who served as the Galardis' bag man in both Vegas and San Diego. Malone was convicted along with two SD councilmen in July of corruption, but appeals continue. (A collection of the Review-Journal's reporting is here.)

It was both fascinating and appalling to watch this old-style political payoff scheme unravel. Wouldn't it be priceless if the biggest payoff from this Vegas-led conspiracy lands with Schwarzenegger, and by extension, the forces of reform in California?