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The California Recall Plot


By

Michelle Mairesse



     It was an extraordinary moment. Congressional Representative Darrell Issa stood before a press microphone array and wept. He had just spent two million of his estimated $300 million fortune gathering signatures and running campaign ads urging citizens to recall California Governor Gray Davis and replace the governor with Issa himself.

      Issa had reason to hope. Ben Ginsberg, the attorney who headed the Bush team in the Florida courts in the 2000 presidential election, had been Issa's advisor during these months of importing, organizing, and deploying petition circulators from out of state. Then a thunderclap came out of the blue and Issa's dream collapsed: The night before Issa cried on camera, a movie star announced on Jay Leno's Tonight Show that he, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was preparing to be California's next governor.

He's cardboard and so am I

     Issa had neglected to mention his questionable past: three investigations for auto theft, one indictment for grand auto theft, a conviction on a concealed weapons charge, and allegations by former business associates of arson and insurance fraud.

      Although the Republican wheeler-dealers kindly allowed him to pick up the recall tab, they never considered backing his run for the statehouse. Arnold was their boy from the beginning--and had been for years.

     Think back to the manufactured electrical power crisis of 2001. While Gray Davis was unsuccessfully trying to get through to Vice President Dick Cheney, Enron official Ken Lay, Texas energy traders, and Bush and Cheney cronies were conferring with Vice President Cheney in Washington and scheming to create power shortages in the golden state.

     They gamed the system so successfully in California that they soon were raking in fortunes and flicking the lights on and off all over the state. After the third rolling blackout had occurred in California, Lay called a secret meeting of high Republican honchos at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He invited such notable Republicans as then-mayor of Los Angeles Richard Riordan, convicted junk-bond scammer Michael Milken, and steroid-enhanced movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

     At that time, Lay was collecting allies for his plan to bring even more deregulation to California while he and his "competitors" were busy creating a rigged market that was to cost California more than $7 billion. Mighty Enron, favored and well-connected as it was, overreached and crashed, but not before it had thrown myriad businesses into receivership, annihilated billions of dollars of its own assets and workers' pensions, and wrecked public utilities in several third world countries.

     Not everyone was unhappy about the rolling blackouts. California Republicans gleefully announced their strategy on the Internet, with such conservatively compassionate messages as: "Use blackouts to break Davis, and use Davis to break the Democrats."

     The strategy seemed to be working. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission declined to intervene, although ratepayers in San Diego County eventually saw their energy bills increase by 300%. In pursuit of petty, partisan politics, the Bush administration allowed corporate outlaws to inflict grievous harm on the citizens and businesses of California. With electricity selling for $1500 per megawatt hour, Silicon Valley workshops, hospitals, and schools went dark; the poor dispensed with gas and electricity, and small businesses closed their doors. Belatedly, the FERC capped prices at $273 per megawatt hour.

     In a desperate attempt to lower energy prices, Gray Davis bought futures in the hope that California could buy natural gas for less than the market price. When natural gas prices fell through the floor, California actually had to pay more than market price for gas.

     Again, the Bush administration could have prevented this move, but chose to play politics with the welfare of California citizens. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham knew that Saudi Arabia had contracted with the seven major Anglo-American oil companies and Enron, which specialized in liquid natural gas, to distribute liquid natural gas worldwide. Abraham knew that gas prices would drop. If he been a real public servant instead of a political time-server, he would have consulted with Davis and warned him against purchasing the gas futures.

     Gray Davis was not responsible for deregulating energy in California. Davis did what he legally could do to get the energy leeches off California's back, but the Bush administration colluded with the leeches. The person responsible for the deliberately manufactured crisis, the person who promoted and signed the energy deregulation bill that Davis inherited, was California governor Pete Wilson.

     Schwarzenegger's campaign manager is, of course, Pete Wilson.

     On April 12, 2003 while Issa was circulating recall petitions, Schwarzenegger conferred at the White House with Karl Rove, the man who has been called "Bush's brain." He appears to be Arnold's brain as well, for Schwarzenegger has surrounded himself with political consultants who are as ethically-challenged as any of Bush's appointees.

     Take Schwarzenegger's media director, Don Sipple, for example. He accepted $120,000 from California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush to produce an underground political campaign ad for the commissioner. Sipple's payment came from a $13 million fund intended for earthquake victims, who never saw a cent of it. Quackenbush encouraged insurance companies to donate money to foundations in lieu of paying larger fines for mishandling Northridge earthquake claims. For this and other scams, Quackenbush faced impeachment and was forced to resign in disgrace. In 2000, the Assembly Insurance Committee censured Sipple, Jeff Randle, Marty Wilson, and Joe Shumate for participating in Quackenbush's fun and games and racking up six figure payments diverted from the general fund. It is mind-boggling to learn that these men now serve as consultants to Schwarzenegger, who vows "to clean up Sacramento."

     Last November, the citizens of California elected Gray Davis to serve as their governor for another four years. An elected official can be removed for malfeasance, but Davis is no malefactor. His budget figures are no worse than those of the Republican governor of New York, not to mention the Republican president of the United States.

     Funding George "leave no millionaire behind" Bush's tax-cuts for the rich was costly for all the states, including California, but California is far from collapse.

     An August 17 Los Angeles Times editorial maintains that the state of the state is not nearly as grim as the doomsayers claim. California has no more unemployed workers than has the rest of the country, and unemployment is greatest in Silicon Valley, where the high-tech bubble burst and created much of the budget deficit. The number of businesses actually increased during the energy crisis in 2000, the latest year for which statistics are available. Another Schwarzenegger advisor, Democratic billionaire Warren Buffett, in a pronouncement that was not much bruited abroad, said, "California has a vibrant economy."

      According to Paul Krugman, news reports continue to talk about a $38 billion deficit, although next year's (2004) projected gap is only $8 billion.

     For what crime, then, have the Republicans conspired to flout the will of the California electorate? It's simple. Davis is a Democrat. He's on their hit list. He fits their pattern:

     After removing 90,000 qualified voters from the rolls and falsifying returns in Florida, the Republicans stole an election they could not win from Al Gore.

     Six states, after installing voting machines manufactured by right-wing Republican companies, noticed voting irregularities in the 2002 congressional elections, some resulting in surprising Republican victories. The companies would not permit their machines to be examined.

     Every ten years, all the states redraw electoral districts based on the federal census. Texas reapportioned its electoral districts three years ago, giving Democrats 17 seats and Republicans 15 seats in the U. S. Congress. After the jiggered Republican victory in the 2002 elections, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tried to install a new districting map, based on fuzzy Republican math or dowsing or divine inspiration, which would give the Republicans 22 seats and the Democrats 10. Understandably, the Democrats left town to avoid being steamrollered.

     The California recall election will cost taxpayers $67 million and, considering the number of contestants, 135 in all, is expected to culminate in the same kind of polling fiasco that occurred during the hijacked Florida presidential election.

     Theoretically, Gray Davis could be recalled if he got 49.9% of the vote while a challenger won with only 10% of the vote.

     Those are odds that fit very nicely into the Republican plan for winning elections: If you can't win or steal an election, recount, reverse, or recall.

     Don't make the mistake of thinking that the Bush junta is stupid. Unscrupulous, yes. Even crazy. But not stupid.







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