by Jill Stewart
American Reporter Correspondent
August 23, 2003
PUTRID SMELL WAFTS OVER THE CALIFORNIA RECALL
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Five styles have emerged in the governor's race, from the blame-game of Gov. Gray Davis to the compassionate fiscal conservatism of Peter Ueberroth and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to the tax 'em high anti-business jihad of Cruz Bustamante to the ultra-conservative cost slashing of Tom McClintock and Bill Simon.
The fifth is Arianna Huffington, whose candidacy took the most recognizable shape of all. With news that this well-to-do syndicated columnist paid only $771 in IRS taxes over two years and has a tobacco lobbyist as a campaign consultant, her race was smashed as flat as the Salton Sea.
For the rest, the battle raged. Most fascinating were craven efforts in Sacramento to help Davis woo special interests with sleazy legislation, and a sharp divergence between Bustamante and Schwarzenegger over whether California's businesses are a cash cow to be bled, or a battered sector that needs a break.
Davis made sure tv cameras shot him signing bills, but reverted to type once they left, doling out favors in an apparent bid to drum up campaign support.
Mysteriously, judgeships started getting filled after months of delays.
"Now, every day, Davis is appointing judges, so I wonder how much those judgeship are going for?" asked John Feliz, campaign director for Thousand Oaks Republican state Sen. McClintock. "Am I being too cynical? Listen, if Davis doesn't start selling furniture out of his office, I will be surprised."
Davis aides deny that such shenanigans are afoot in the statehouse.
Sorry, I don't buy that.
In fact, the panic to save Davis is so naked that even decent Democrats in Sacramento are behaving like bums.
Look at Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairman Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, who rushed through a sleazy compromise bill - a hastily amended law to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. It comes with a surprise twist to charge us all a double driver's license fee, from $12 to $24, to pay for it.
Equally bad, the bill has been stripped of any requirements that the illegal immigrant be applying for citizenship or have lived in California for a certain length of time. They needn't even produce a Social Security card as proof of identity, just a Taxpayer Identification Number, meaning one person can quite easily create multiple identities.
Clearly, Sacramento still doesn't grasp what is happening in the world beyond the capitol dome, where a populist storm is fomenting.
As this indefensible bill zipped through committee, Steinberg refused to allow questions by legislators. Then the pre-arranged unanimous votes of the Democrats were recorded.
"They were hoping the media would miss what they were up to," says steamed Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, a Republican who co-chairs Schwarzenegger's campaign and supports a far more restricted drivers license for illegals. (Schwarzenegger is against the bill.)
The doubled driver's license fee - watch this one backfire - would pay for "biometric" fingerprinting of illegal immigrants, and, for comparison purposes and supposed post-9/11 security, the biometric fingerprinting of all Californians.
Who asked us? Nobody. Legislators were not allowed to discuss this controversial idea before voting in committee. I, for one, have no intention of letting this spooky state take a high-tech biometric set of my fingerprints for a use they cannot justify. Shall we all get our licenses in Oregon when they next come due?
Incredibly, Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Gil Cedillo's bill introduces a stand-alone technology that prevents illegal immigrants' fingerprints from being linked to police fingerprints, foreign embassy data, or other pre-existing information.
"No control," says a disgusted Garcia.
Davis prays the law will get him the Latino vote. But outraged legislators put a temporary stop to the bill on the Assembly floor this week, and may just win this one.
Sacramento's putrid odors have not yet hit the noses of most media, who were dazzled by Schwarzenegger's entry into the race and are scrambling to cover Bustamante, McClintock, Simon and Ueberroth, all of whom took to the national and local airwaves with gusto.
A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, of 1,540 registered voters, has Schwarzenegger at 23 percent, Bustamante at 18 percent, and McClintock at 5 percent. Some 32 percent are undecided while a stunning 89 percent are following the race closely.
Yet Bustamante has unveiled an almost unbelievably bad plan for a record-high series of tax increases, mostly on small and large businesses at a time when they are struggling.
He wants to gut part of Proposition 13 to boost commercial property taxes $2.9 billion next year. But the new taxes would fall heavily on strip malls and corner stores that are often owned by immigrants.
Bustamante said "we all have to pay our share" yet plans to force small and large employers in California to pay $2 billion for employees who are not insured. With California employers shedding jobs in big numbers (some 20,000 last month), Bustamante seems determined to drive out another 100,000 or so jobs in the next year.
Ueberroth, on CNN and other big outlets, and Schwarzenegger, meeting with reporters, at least grasped basic economics.
At a cattle-call event in L.A., bristling with more tv cameras and radio station microphones than an O.J. Simpson briefing, Schwarzenegger won the rapt attention of skeptical reporters.
At ease and in control, he called for a constitutional spending cap, a 60-day audit to find out where the money is really going, a special session to fix workers compensation, and a meeting with the feds to get reimbursed for illegal immigrants.
Schwarzenegger's theme: "Before we promise anything to anyone right now, I think stop. Stop, stop, stop, with the spending."
Who will the huge number of undecideds choose? Whichever candidate is smart enough to ride the wave of populist disgust into a town that refuses to accept what is happening out there - out there on myriad airwaves over which the insiders have no control.
Watch Jill on Fox News Channel's "The Beltway Boys," Saturday, August 23, 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., PST. Here are my two columns on immigration and the recall.