Category Archives: Politics of Political Reform

An Amended Modest Proposal: Reform “Public Financing” of Campaigns The Easy Way

There’s a whole cottage industry revolving around “campaign reform,” and for the most part it’s produced a lot of nonsense, locally and nationally. However, I am daring to get in the game and make a few modest proposals of my own, not for the sake of helping one partisan side over the other, but instead to give voters a clear choice and to be able to understand for whom or what they are voting for.
Earlier this year, I proposed that anyone running for office in San Francisco in 2012 be asked to sign a pledge saying simply that if they won election (or re-election) to the office they campaigned for, they’d actually serve the full four year term they asked voters for.
This may sound a bit nitpicky, but look at what happened in 2008 – we had several people run for Supervisor who asked the voters to send them to serve as Supervisor. Halfway through their terms, these newcomers then decided they’d had enough, and ran for Mayor. So did a lot of other elected officials.
Not only did they spend a lot of their time away from their six-figure salaried jobs, they asked for taxpayer money to finance piles of junk mail. In fact, we had so many people last year running for Another Office, things pretty much shut down at City Hall, all at a time when we needed people on the job. Add to the fact that taxpayers subsidized most of the Mayoral races (and yet the guy with the Super PACs funded by the 1% won anyway) and it’s clear something is wrong here.
Today I amend my suggestion that candidates running in 2012 sign a pledge to serve out their full terms in office and not run for another during said term with this:
Any candidate that takes taxpayer money in 2012 to run for office in San Francisco should serve out their full term. If they do not, they should be forced to return the tax money they used in 2012 to run for office if they decide to run for another job (Assembly, State Senate, Dogcatcher, Sheriff, etc.)
I don’t think this is an unreasonable request. I’m sure the politicians will ignore it, as they do anything that demands accountability or gets in the way of taxpayer dollars to finance their career advancement. It’d be interesting to see who, if anyone makes such a pledge. San Francisco voters would certainly be the beneficiaries though, since now they at least can figure out who’s telling the truth when they say “vote for me in 2012” and who is not.

Some Relevant Facts on “District Elections” to Consider….

This morning there’s word some folks downtown are trying to change how we elect the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco (again). This time, there’s a proposal to elect some via district and some city-wide. As with any “reform” in San Francisco, this is less about making government work better for all, and is instead another attempt to game the system for one side over another.
That’s not to say that the current system, implemented in 2000, didn’t do the same thing. However, I’d suggest that the problem isn’t with district elections as a concept (even in a smaller city like San Francisco) – instead it’s been the inability of certain factions to adapt and overcome the new terrain. Put simply, if you are faced with district elections, you need to find good people that you can work with to go forth and run who are actually, well, you know, known in the neighborhoods they’ll be representing.
This is basic campaign strategy 101, and yet for almost 10 years, this concept seems to have been lost on some, who seem to want to only support candidates who merely take orders, like a waiter or a waitress in a diner. There are at least two Supervisors elected in 2008 who could have been defeated, had perhaps one side used some tactics not involving the political equivalent of a sledgehammer, but didn’t, and well, they lost.
However, there’s one thing lost in all the discussions about “district elections” that people have generally missed as they blabber on SFGate comments about “the system”- prior to 2000 it was literally impossible to run against a single incumbent Supervisor. Yes, you read that right. If you didn’t like what Supervisor John Doe was doing, and you wanted to run against him and give voters that choice, it couldn’t happen. (Yes, we did have district elections for a short time, which elected Sup. Milk, among others, but it was repealed soon after the assassinations in 1979.)
That’s because of the peculiar way Supervisors were elected prior to 2000. Basically you had many candidates run en masse for Supervisor for a few open spots. The top vote getters would get the seats on the Board, and everyone else would lose.
If we were using this system today, we’d have five spots for people to run for. Every single candidate from the serious to the goofball, would all be on the ballot. This, being SF, you’d have literally a bajillion names to choose from. You, the voter would pick 5, and the top vote getters would be elected, and the rest would lose. You can see how this protects incumbents, who’d have the most money available and “name ID” (which you San Francisco voters really get off on), and how difficult it would be to target a poor performing incumbent who has a lot of cash.
It’s fairly stupid, and between this, and the fact that in the 1990s at one point the Mayor at the time appointed most of the Supervisors anyway, you can see why people rebelled and sent a very loud, very pointed “FU” to Mayor Willie Brown and his appointed princes and princesses.
The only problem with district elections in San Francisco, frankly, is the size of the districts. They’re so small, and often so oddly drawn, they lead to some strange stuff. For example, I used to live on one side of Judah Street and was in Sup. Elsbernd’s district. I moved a block away, and suddenly was in Sup. Mirkarimi’s district. WTF?
There is one idea, however, that might have been worth considering, but I think back in those hyper partisan days when it was the downtown folks sticking it to everyone the way the progressives do now, no one was interested. In many cities (such as Seattle, where I lived for 7 years), they elect candidates citywide, but each position is “numbered.”
This way, each council seat has its own list of candidates to choose from. If there’s an incumbent people can run against them, and if there isn’t, then the seat is open. It creates some accountability with incumbents, but doesn’t have the limits of a district based system, which was a concern amongst some in Seattle. (Oh and in the Irony Department, it was I who first suggested district elections for Seattle based on experiences in the runoff of 2000. Ha!)
The point is simply this – we have been trying to game the system for one side or another with lots and lots of laws and rules, many of which contradict each other. We tried to punish “big time consultants” with a special tax and filing – we ended up punishing the low-paid campaign manager of the struggling citizen campaign. We passed IRV/RCV/WTF and it has been nothing but an expensive pain in the ass that hasn’t delivered on its promises, or gamed the system well (ironically since IRV it is protecting incumbents and “moderate” candidates for citywide office have been unopposed!). District elections have benefits, but there’s nothing suggesting that City Hall is any more responsive to the citizen on Real Issues (Muni, anyone?) than it was before.
San Francisco citizens deserve a process that allows them to choose who they want to represent them at city hall that’s free of too many corrupting influences, while also being compliant with the Constitution. We do not need the government to game the system to help one faction or another, and we do not need a system so complex, only the wealthy can run.
I can’t imagine how it is that a city with so many smart people has to make things slow, stupid, and difficult, and I’ve got to believe there’s enough Smart People out there who can press the reset button and end the howler monkey nonsense that passes for political debate about issues like this. People have had it with a City That Doesn’t Know How, and would like to get their money’s worth when they pay for a multi billion dollar City/County system that could be doing a lot better.

Why the SCOTUS Decision on Corporate Political Spending May Not Be As Big A Deal As You Think

Whenever I wonder if it was a good idea to quit my job, and finally leave the sordid business of political “consulting,” I read the tweets and postings about things like this business about the Supreme Court’s ruling on corporate donations and am glad I don’t have to worry about such things anymore. It’s way more fun (not to mention easier) to throw tomatoes from the cheap seats than have to actually deal with this crap.
If you’re a legal type, you should read Rick Hasen’s excellent blog about election law for links and details about the legalities. There’s already a lot o’ hollering on the center and the left about the evilness of said ruling, and others who think it’s a blow for Lady Liberty’s torch. I, on the other hand, am not really sure a lot will really change.
However, several reasonable folks suggest otherwise, pointing out that most corporate money in politics is already there in some convoluted form, and that for the most part, while politicians of all stripes can do dumb things, or make decisions we don’t like, the actual cases of “corporate influence” aren’t as common as we might think.
News flash: some corporations give money to anti-tax, anti-regulation politicians because, well…..that would be of benefit to them. It’s not like people are born believing in some one true ideology, and they ONLY believe otherwise because someone made a donation they can’t spend on themselves or their family to their campaign fund. To think so is arrogant.
Plus, we’ve had endless jurisdictions attempt all sorts of complex regulations to try and force an outcome of the electoral process, usually to favor one side or another. And yet, you can go to F*cking Liberal San Francisco, and guess what? Despite endless gimmicks, the leftists couldn’t even put up a candidate for Mayor in the alleged bastion of The Left against a “corporate sponsored Mayor” who had real problems. More to the point – when was it the job of the Constitution (or the City Charter) to ensure only one side wins?
Plus, in the end, you find it’s the little campaigns, who don’t have the money to hire lawyers and accountants to comply with complex laws having the screws put to them, while the big campaigns who have the support of established interests can weather whatever legalisms the hippies come up with. Ironic, eh?
Finally, if you’ve ever worked for a big company, you know that big companies and corporations are very bureaucratic, risk-averse to a fault, and do everything in committee. They’re not really eager to have to put their name on some politician’s campaign, and deal with the fallout if said person loses, or have to deal with an endless line of politicos asking for money from them, with the threat they’ll get hurt if they don’t.
Here’s a simple solution that would adjust to the new reality, and bring back a little sanity to the process. Let’s get rid of complex accounting rules for campaigns and come up with a simple system that requires them to publish online within 24 hours what they took in, what they spent it on (or who they spent it on), and make sure that’s super easy for anyone to understand. No silly games, no hiding sh*t, just be honest. If people comply, they’re cool. If they don’t, they have to return the day’s cash, no bullsh*t.
If an ad is put out by a candidate (web, TV, mail, whatever) they have to post a URL linking back to said disclosure. If an ad is produced by some group of people (any kind), they have to say who they are, and post their money and spending just like everyone else. No more games, no more silly stories about quarterly reports, no more accounting gimmicks where campaigns hold off paying staff so they can say “lookit how much cash I have on hand” (when they really don’t), and if someone is actually dumb enough to take a big bag of loot and change their vote on the eve of some Big Issue, well, we’ll all know and it’ll be up to the voters to make that decision.
It’s times like these I’m glad I no longer have to worry about all of this, and instead will watch a short term burst of cash line the pockets of the people who get paid to produce all of this stuff. Ultimately, no matter who wins on election day, the folks who print the brochures and produce the TV ads get paid anyway, so yay for them.
There are plenty of worse ways to make a living, and for those who enjoy it, at least they don’t have to be producing ads for tooth deoderizer.

The City’s Voting Machines STILL Uncertified? Yes We Can!

One of the bigger lies that was told during the campaign to force IRV/RCV/WTF down everyone’s throats was that the system would “save money,” because it would mean no runoff election.
Well, once again, that absurd little promise is proving once again to be false. Last year we had to hand count and re-do people’s ballots for them, all by hand, because of problems with our voting systems. Now, the ugly little problem no one wants to talk about rears its head again, as it’s been revealed NONE of the City’s voting machines are certified for use. Yes, really.
There’s a hearing, of course, but it is scheduled 6 weeks before the election. There is a good chance that the vendor in question might not make the cut – meaning that in an election with a huge turnout, a ton of things on the ballot, and yes, IRV/RCV/WTF, we will be hand counting at tremendous expense, for weeks.
Last year we saw the specter of IRV/RCV/WTF advocates actually attacking Secretary of State Bowen for doing her job to maintain the integrity of the election system – because they wanted to defend their ideological vies, voter rights be damned. Look for a repeat performance this year.
IRV/RCV/WTF’s many promises have mostly been proven false as the system has been implemented. Campaigns are NOT nicer, the top vote getter on Election night wins anyway, incumbents are ensured re-election (thus essentially giving all elected officials 8 year terms) and the crowded podium at debates and in news coverage ensures that the discussion of complex city policy is reduced to 15 and 30 second soundbites at endless “debates” that tell you nothing about what these people plan to do. That is, when we even bother to have people run against each other.

IRV/RCV Backers Bash Me at the LA Times! Woo Hoo!

When I compare the pageview statistics for this site vs. The N Judah Chronicles, or even Adama for President, I more or less figure that this site is read by me, my friends, and the occaisional person who googles something or sees a link at someone else’s site, and that’s it.
Thus, it was hilarious to read the LA times Blog today and see not one, but two random commenters bashing me because I don’t worship at the altar of “Ranked Choice Voting” (or “Instant Runoff Voting”) without question. Um, what?
You really can’t have a reality-based discussion on this issue – the people pushing it are so jihad-like in their fervor, they can’t accept any opposing views (or even suggestions to make it better). They don’t like questions being asked, or suggestions that it isn’t the Only Way To Make Elections Work. All they know is attack attack attack. You wonder if these people ever achieved real power if we wouldn’t have “Thought Police” to knock down your door if you don’t adhere to the Party Line. Ah well.
They certainly don’t like the fact that RCV/IRV had no real impact in most recent elections, and instead spend their time calling me names (kinda like a 9-year old might in the schoolyard), or distorting things I’ve said to suit their needs. Who knew my little political blog had so much influence I still get hate mail from these children? The mind reels at the kind of power I could be wielding with this thing (even if most people would rather talk MUNI or Adama).
Which is fine. You can read everything I’ve written about gimmicky “reforms” for yourself and decide on your own what to think. Personally I’m glad the hatahs are linking back to the site – more ad revenue and more pageviews for the site. Thanks guys!
PS: This just reaffirms once again why people don’t like leftists, or frankly any ideological extremists. They’re so intent on demanding absolute loyalty, without any hint of dissent, they become really nasty people to be around. News flash, people: being jerks doesn’t help your cause – try being a little nicer and people respond in kind. It seems to work for Obama and even McCain, you can have your principles and brown rice, and still be cool.

Give to Barry Obama, Get An Awesome Limited Edition Shirt!

I wish I hadn’t given to Barack Obama’s campaign last night – I wish I’d done so today instead. That’s because you’ll get a limited edition T Shirt that celebrates the fact that they are just a few thousand folks away from having ONE MILLION donors to the campaign.
One million people giving everything from a dollar to 2,300. That’s stunning.
It’s not just about the money, either – people who give once to a campaign will inevitably give again, and they’re more likely to come out and volunteer as well.
Obama didn’t need government cheese for his campaign (like McCain took) and he didn’t need fancy gimmicks to compete against Bill and Hillary’s made-for-the-90s political machine. Instead he’s built what people are calling the first successful viral-marketing political campaign, which combines grass-roots organizing with the technology to easily activate and inform a huge base of support.
Meanwhile, the best Hillary Clinton can do is an angry, whining, negative campaign, all the while she continues to slip in the polls. I don’t know that is going to be particularly successful – after all, people are kind of tired of the ephemeral bullsh*t in American politics we’ve grown accustomed to over the past 10 years. But who knows? Maybe if she screams and yells and kicks and claws and attacks and gets as shrill as possible, she’ll win.
Whatever. Obama’s got a million folks watching his back, and they’re not going to be swayed by 1990s style attack ads. After all, they gave some of their hard earned money to the campaign, and they’re gonna see it through to the end.
PS: For some added fun, check out this story that details HOW the campaigns are spending their money. It’s pretty dramatic…if you give to Hillary Clinton, it’s most likely your money will go to well paid staff and consultants (including one that’s business partners with…McCain’s manager!) and overhead. Obama’s campaign puts more of its money into, um, campaigning, and has way more cash on hand for emergencies. KTHXBAI.

Record Voter Turnout in Presidential Primaries Has Some Lessons for Local Politickers

The LA Times has an interesting report on the record voter turnout we’re seeing in primaries, and in particular the lopsided increase in turnout on the Democratic side.
The article has some interesting facts and figures, but it pretty much bears out what I said last week – that if you have good candidates who aggressively campaign on issues and ideals that people actually care about, people vote. Who told?
(Oh, and I find it equally amazing that Sen. Obama has been able to run an incredibly close race fueled mostly by small to mid-sized donations…while lefty champions are once again left in the dust.)
It’s a stark contrast to the mind numbingly stupid elections we had in Supposedly Liberal Brainiac San Francisco, where “progressives” had a FAIL so complete and total, turnout was in the toilet. And now, of course, the progressives are crying about the Mayor’s shenanigans, not realizing that if they’d just bothered to run a real candidate, the election might have had a different outcome. Boo hoo for them.
Most importantly, these record turnouts of voters are coming out without any of the lefty electoral gimmicks out-of-state reformers are trying to peddle across the country as ways to “increase turnout.”
It’s really simple, people. If you run a good campaign, you win the election. If you inspire people to action, they act. If you listen to people and talk about the issues they actually care about, they get excited and feel like politics is an opportunity for change – not just a tired exercise that people don’t feel matters to them.
There’s a chance that local “progressives” might take a lesson from all of this in the upcoming elections in November, and perhaps try strategies that don’t involved running around in circles, gossiping like junior high girls in gym class, and whining.
News flash, progressives: THIS DOESN’T F*CKING WORK. Stop trying to game the electorate with phony reform bullsh*t. Run on a vision and an agenda that works for the citizens who actually vote in elections, and you might win. If nothing else, it would be an improvement over last year’s “act like gossiping dorks” strategy.
The real winner will be the voters of San Francisco, if they’re given an honest race between various factions who all strive to offer a cohesive vision of policy and politics for the next four years. We’ll see what happens.

When “Progressive” Political Analysis Becomes “Junkie Logic” AKA Disinfo Rehab Time!

The election is barely past us, and already everyone’s trying to spin the results to suit Their Side. It’s been particularly amusing to watch the “progressives” try and spin this latest election as anything but a disaster. It’s a form of “junkie logic,” the same kind a drug addict uses to try and con you into loaning money, only this time the con is on the voter and anyone with common sense.

The usual people are spinning their best (instead of reporting, oddly enough) and predictably, some elected officials are upset too and are trying to contort what happened in November into some sort of a victory.

Heck you can hear it straight from the professional blog-commenters and Greens (yes, sigh, a few of them are still around..) at some event, but frankly, why bother? Junkie Logic is never much fun to listen to, neither is parroting or rubber-stamping the latest from the Politburo.

Ok, enough picking on the “progressive” kids. Let’s just look at some facts, and since I’m not in the business of defending one side or another, try and see if we can cut the nonsense one by one :

“Ranked Choice Voting will increase turnout, and be more inclusive than runoffs. It will save money and more people will participate.”

Oh really. Now let’s take a look at the numbers from our last big runoff, in 2003, supposedly evil because “less people” vote in runoffs (and yet in a twist of Junkie Logic, are the numbers now used by those who promoted RCV/IRV/WTF to say that Mayor Newsom “didn’t win”):

PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 562). . . . . 562 (100%)
REGISTERED VOTERS – TOTAL . . . . . 466,127
BALLOTS CAST – TOTAL. . . . . . . 253,872
VOTER TURNOUT – TOTAL . . . . . . 54.46

Wow, 54%! Now lets look at how we did under the Magical Perfect RCV/IRV/WTF system the “progressives” prommised us would increase voter turnout (and cut costs!)

PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 580). . . . . 580 (100%)
REGISTERED VOTERS – TOTAL . . . . . 419,598
BALLOTS CAST – TOTAL. . . . . . . . . 149,424
BALLOTS CAST – TOTAL CARD 1 . . . . 149,424
BALLOTS CAST – TOTAL CARD 2 . . . . 150,098
VOTER TURNOUT – TOTAL . . . . . . 35.61
VOTER TURNOUT – TOTAL CARD 1 . . . . 35.61
VOTER TURNOUT – TOTAL CARD 2 . . . . 35.77

That sound you here is the Junkie Intervention phone ringing, but no one is answering because they don’t want to hear the news – under the Magical RCV/IRV/WTF system, turnout was dismal, a mere 35% of voters turning out (100,000 fewer than in evil 2003!). But we were promised by radical advocates for the system that if we adopted it, more people would vote and the final vote would be a “true reflection of the people’s will.” (And whatever you do, do not note that there are actually about 40-50,000 fewer registered voters in San Francisco than there were in 2003! That’ll throw the junkie logic off even more!)

Suddnely, now that the vote result is not what some people wanted, that’s not the case, at least according to the Bay Guardian and assorted so-called “progressives.” Junkie Logic to the extreme.

Oh and that claim that this system would “save money” has been pretty much put to rest since we had to hand count, hand rewrite and handle ballots by hand because the voting machines weren’t, um, legal. The spectacle of radical so-called “elections reform” folks like Steven Hill actaully advocating for illegal machines just beacuse it made their phony RCV/IRV/WTF “reform” look bad was, well, crazy, to say the least.

Now, if that Junkie Logic were not enough, let’s take a look at the second big “Progressive” talking point, that of Mayor Newsom’s vote total:

Continue reading

A Question For Mayor Newsom At Tonight’s Debate: Which Campaign Finance “Reform” Do You Support?

As most people don’t know, there’s the one and only “debate” between the Mayor and his Baker’s Dozen of no-names. No one is really covering it, and the TV cameras won’t be there, so you probably won’t see much of it. But, if you have nothing better to do and get a chance to ask Mr. Mayor just what is his position these days on “public financing” of campaigns.

Now don’t get me wrong – there’s no question that the term “campaign finance reform” is a loaded term designed to help one side over the other. Fine. But here’s where I get confused when it comes to Mr. Mayor’s position on the allegedly important issue of taxpayer financed elections (which have done so well here in San Francisco).

I got some plea for money from the from the so-called “Californians for Clean Money” campaign, and as you can see in the accompanying image, I was asked to “join Mayor Newsom” who apparently endorsed the effort at some meeting at some new office in Our City.

Now, let’s put aside the many failed predictions made when the proponents got this thing passed, since that’s obvious. Instead, let’s look at the record of Our Mayor on this supposedly important issue, and wonder if perhaps the folks at the “California Clean Money” campaign might need to do a little more homework before putting press releases out for their cure-all.

Even a cursory glance at the archives of the Voice of the West, little blogs and the Bay Guardian reveal the fact that the mayor has proposed cutting matching funds Continue reading

Time for A Laugh, at the Progressives’ Expense – Gonzalez Really Ain’t Running!

So, finally, the Messiah has spoken, and it turns out Golden Boy Matt Gonzalez really isn’t running for mayor. All the pitiful jabbering and gossiping and puttering on the left about What Will Matt Do was for naught. Now, I predicted this some time ago, but you know what?
Who cares?
And that goes for any more chatter about this joke of a Mayor’s race we have now. Seriously.
Right now I’m just thinking of Eric Cartman and Nelson Muntz getting together, pointing fingers at San Francisco (especially the left) and laughing in their trademarked ways.
What’s funnier is that Mayor Newsom (who throughout his term could not pass a ballot measure or elect a new ally to the board that wasn’t appointed) is Mr. Invicible, and can literally do anything he wants, without any consequences. And yet, he’s still so scared of wealthy interests, he’s going to try and torpedo a MUNI reform measure.
Now who’s laughing?