Bill Clinton, Irwin Jacobs and San Diego – the Wisconsin of the West

by on June 2, 2012 · 31 comments

in Election, Politics, Popular

The best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.”  Second Coming, William Butler Yeats

President Bill Clinton was in Wisconsin on Friday, June 1, stumping for Milwaukee Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett.  Barrett is running against Governor Scott Walker in the upcoming recall election on June 5th and the race is a tight one.

Walker, who rode into office with a six point victory over Barrett in the 2010 mid-term elections, immediately focused upon dismantling the public employee collective bargaining laws in the state, reducing the number of individuals eligible for BadgerCare, the state’s health insurance safety net, lowering taxes on the wealthiest, and slashing the budget for education.

What ensued politically was a very long winter of discontent, Wisconsin style.  Democratic state legislators went MIA; thousands of protesting teachers and police, firefighters and union supporters filled the streets and capitol building for weeks on end.  Labor activists and Democrats turned in one million signatures to recall Walker this past January.

Wisconsin has become a symbol of the bitter partisan fight over the civic soul of the country, and the election results there may well indicate in what direction our democracy is headed.  E. J. Dionne Jr.  of the Washington Post writes “Walker is being challenged not because he pursued conservative policies but because Wisconsin has become the most glaring example of a new and genuinely alarming approach to politics on the right. It seeks to use incumbency to alter the rules and tilt the legal and electoral playing field decisively toward the interests of those in power.”

Walker has a prodigious war chest of $31 million versus $4.2 million raised for Barrett.  The majority of Walker’s support has come from out of state donors.  The Koch brothers backed group Americans for Prosperity is on a multi-city Wisconsin bus tour touting Wisconsin’s successes, but not “electioneering” for Scott Walker because that would be illegal.

The Left has been howling, not surprisingly, that the Democratic National Campaign Committee (DNCC) has not provided support to Barrett’s abysmally out funded campaign.  Enter Bill Clinton at the 11th hour to boost the enthusiasm and voter turnout with a rousing speech.

Clinton soundly rejected the divide and conquer strategy that a recently leaked Walker video expressed.   He used Chicago, Jacksonville and San Diego as examples of cities in which good governance is achieved despite divergent political views.

When Clinton spoke about San Diego (4:34min), he alluded to it as a city with a Republican mayor and the most Nobel Prize winning scientists in the country.   He then specifically called out “prominent Democrat” Irwin Jacobs, and Qualcomm the communications company he co-founded as an example of how creative cooperation works.

For those of us who actually live in San Diego, Clinton’s comments are not without irony.  Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio has referred to San Diego on numerous occasions as the Wisconsin of the West.  If anyone “seeks to use incumbency to alter the rules and tilt the legal and electoral playing field decisively toward the interests of those in power,”  DeMaio or his Republican challenger Bonnie Dumanis, or recently declared Independent challenger Nathan Fletcher would certainly fill that particular bill.

Irwin Jacobs, Democrat, threw his support to Bonnie Dumanis back in February.  While our local elections are non-partisan, it is naive to believe that candidates are not influenced or driven by ideology—look no further than Carl DeMaio, San Diego’s own ideologically driven Captain Ahab, obsessed with the slaughter of the pension whale.

Jacobs, who stresses the need for a business friendly environment supported by educational and cultural opportunities, will support whoever best butters his bottom line.  That trumps any Democratic core values on the same topics that he purports to hold.  Jim Miller writes about this phenomenon at greater length in his article Cory Booker Nation.

Bonnie Dumanis is currently in a distant fourth place in the mayoral election.  It will be instructive to see who Irwin Jacobs supports in the runoff.  I suspect that he does not give much thought to San Diego as the Wisconsin of the West.  I can imagine him at some future Democratic function at which President Clinton will also be in attendance and I feel pretty sure that  they will discuss economic virtues and spend little time on the subject of our civic soul.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Such clarity is rare – thank you Anna.


Kimberley June 2, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Thanks for writing about this. I happened to catch the Clinton reference to SD and felt ill because of all the Democratic sellouts who’ve reared their ugly heads this election cycle and in particular in our Mayoral race. At least it is all making sense now and won’t be such a surprise when wealthy Dems. and their elected surrogates fail to support progressive Democrats.


Martha June 3, 2012 at 3:18 am

Hear, Hear! THIS is why San Diego has been doomed to Republican mayors for the past 20 years, despite a Democratic majority in voter registration for the past decade — as well as a Republican Board of Supervisors despite 3 districts being mostly w/in City limits. Any challenger to this developer/Big Biz-friendly club is routinely reviled and shunned.


dave rice June 2, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Wow, what an odd comparison. Thanks for mentioning this Anna, I’d otherwise not have heard it.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I heard on KPBS that Bill Clinton was in Wisconsin — safely at the eleventh hour, as you point out — supporting the Milwaukee mayor who’s running underfunded against embattled Tea Party Governor Scott Walker. Good thing I missed the Irwin tribute from my least favorite Democrat.

Irwin Jacobs was once chairman of the La Jolla Democratic Club. He used to work at UCSD. Then he founded and developed Qualcomm which has provided many jobs to locals and to foreigners on special visas, developing cell phone technology and spin-offs like red-light-cameras. He and his wife have contributed generously to San Diego’s Opera and Symphony and theater scene. All wonderful. Credit is due.

But lately Jacobs has interfered in areas where strong opinion accompanies his big philanthropy — supporting a non-educator public school superintendent over others; trying to change the composition of the Board of Education and limit its authority; proposing to radically alter the geography of central Balboa Park; bankrolling conservative stratagems like Strong Mayor form of government and throwing support to political campaigns far outside the circle of a Democratic Party family.

Hey, it’s a free country and he’s entitled. But there’s a cadre of folks in this town just like Irwin Jacobs in their Democrat-In-Name-Only (DINO) politics. And like Bill Clinton, they are smart, successful, comfortable, rolling these days only with others from the One Percent and blinded by their personal transformations and transgressions.

There’s lawyer Lynn Schenk who recently personally pilloried Bob Filner, the only Democrat in the mayoral race and the best candidate in years. Schenk, who once worked for young Governor Jerry Brown, also may have engineered the recent “Brown Hearts Fletcher” charade. There’s silent Vince Hall over at Planned Parenthood whose outfit recently “thanked” GOP Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in a pre-election mailer. There’s Price Charities’ Murray Galinson who is openly supporting another Republican for mayor. There’s Alan Bersin, a one-time Clinton appointee and my personal favorite serial offender DINO who, as superintendent of schools, worked hand-in-glove with patrician GOP power-broker/downtown developer Malin Burnham, before signing on with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, before going to D.C. to do border patrolling and immigration enforcement for Obama’s Janet Napolitano. And there are other lesser lights, but I am tired of this long list.

Democratic sellouts, Kimberley says? That doesn’t begin to describe their perfidy, their mean-spiritedness, their self-serving. I think they need a different Party.


Kimberley June 3, 2012 at 12:06 am

Yes, I got that Planned Parenthood email and found it weird, shameless and out of the ordinary. Disgusted, I immediately unsubscribed. PP of the SouthWest won’t be getting my donations. But there seems to be an unusual tsunami of 1%ers crushing San Diego, determined to install their Manchurian Candidate. You mentioned Schenk and Brown and I mentioned Hall and Johnson. There’s also David Brooks cutting and pasting a Fletcher campaign bio., a shout out from Speaker Perez, Obama’s La Jolla Fundraiser Christine Forester and Bloomberg’s meddling where he doesn’t belong (doesn’t he have teachers to bash?) What bothers me about Brown is that he has repeatedly expressed his frustrations with the CA Republicans in the legislature who’ve sworn a blood oath to Grover Norquist, stymying any possibility of real compromise that would include both tax increases and service cuts. That would define a “moderate”. Fletcher and the rest of the Norquist cabal don’t fit that bill.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Greetings, Kimberley — and I know you can’t possibly be the Channel 10 News anchor Kimberley Hunt who’s married to that Billy-Ray ex-Charger who’s anchoring the Union-Tribune’s new TV station. You and I could be bookends to this disgraceful story.

Thank you for mentioning Sacramento Mayor Basketball Johnson “hearting” Nathan on behalf of Governor Brown. Mayor Basketball is married to Dragon Lady Michelle Rhee, ex-supe of D.C. public schools who now runs a private foundation out here devoted to charter school expansion (which sucks the lifeblood from the public school system.) Rhee and Johnson were recently feted here at USD’s conservative Center for Education Policy and Law that’s run with private money from Irwin Jacobs and friends.

Mayor Ban-the-Big-Gulp has weighed in — what Californian wants a NYC nanny-stater plug? — and insipid conservative NYT columnist David Brooks, whose interview never even included a question for Fletcher about working for GOP Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, now jailed for selling votes.

But Nathan then scored a celebrity-style interview with Patt Morrison in the LA Times, and she did ask the dreaded question. Nathan, who worked for Cunningham as chief of staff for two and a half years and exited just before the indictments, denied ever “really” knowing his boss and mentor. Oh well, hasta la vista, baby, he’s moving on.

I’d forgotten about “Democrat” Christine Forester laboring in the high-stakes fund-raising vineyard for Nathan, then still a Republican. And I hope to be able to forget the week’s worth of TV ads displaying the bereaved parents of murdered Chelsea King flogging Fletcher as the One. These ads have disappeared, only to be replaced yesterday with new TV ads showing a photo of Nathan and other Sacramento operatives with Governor Jerry Brown.

Who’s bankrolling this stuff? Why are Democrats falling like ten-pins when we have a terrific Democratic mayoral candidate in Bob Filner? What are they afraid of?
Let us get out the vote on Tuesday for Bob Filner for mayor, the best man in the race, the best candidate we’ve had in years.


Anna Daniels June 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Fran & Kimberly- I just got an amazing education. Thanks.


Shane Finneran June 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Man, I love it when an article is awesome and also inspires terrific comments! Good stuff, y’all.


Kimberley June 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Thank you, Anna!


Kimberley June 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm

No such luck! Suburban PTA mom of 4 kids and staunch education advocate. Huge fan of Diane Ravitch and extremely familiar with Michelle-First-Rhee. My in-laws have lived in DC since the 50’s. You are probably familiar with DER – Democrats for Education Reform. Eric Bauman from LA was trying to put a stop to this education privatizing organization from co-opting the party brand. Reed Hastings Netflix CEO is part of the Billionaire Boys club trying to privative public ed. and is funding Ind. Voter Network (ITN) that the SD Millionaires also joined, attempting to push the fletcher brand of “independent”. Forgot about Dede. I think I knew that. In Feb. before a PTA trip to Sacramento we met with Fletcher and he stated teachers should take a 14% pay cut, insisted that schools have actually increased their funding in the last 3 years, and while a mom was practically in tears describing her daughter’s issues in a crowded classroom, he robotically began reciting statistics and numbers. The guy’s a sociopath. I’ve had many dealings with him in the last 3 1/2 years. During that same meeting, my hero and 90 year old friend who is fighting for kids and education refuted fletcher’s republican claim that no one wants to pay more taxes by saying that he did and fletcher condescendingly resorted to that worn out line of “if you want to volunteer to pay more I can give you an address.” Sorry, have you ever tried to fundraise? 10 to 25% give while the rest ride on a free lunch. Taxes don’t work if they aren’t mandatory. This is the kind of idiocy I’ve witnessed from him and the other Grover Norquist/Jon Fleishman/Jon & Ken lackeys. My statewide education advocate parent group is Parents for Great Education. You can check us out on Facebook (if it’s around much longer).


Kimberley June 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

BTW – I spent half the day canvassing for Filner and I think I talked someone out of voting for NF with my rant about how he’s destroyed public education (while claiming to support it) with nonstop cuts and corporate giveaways, using school property and income tax revenue to pay for them.


Lori Saldana for Congress June 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm

As is often the case, California lead the nation in this anti-public employee, anti- union revolt. In 2003, Gov. Schwarzenegger won in a statewide recall. Then, in 2005, using the ballot measures in place of the legislature since he lacked a Republican majority, he attacked state employees and pensions.

Californians rejected his cuts to public employee pensions, but it worked well to lead the state into chaos and fiscal dysfunction that exists to this day. Remember: California was subjected to 5 straight years of state-wide special elections, or 8 of the last 9 years, thanks to Schwarzenegger and his colleagues. Here’s the election timeline of the last 10 years that contributed to weakening campaign coffers for so many organizations to this day:

2002: midterm elections (Gray Davis)
2003: Governor recall (Schwarzenegger)
2004: Presidential elections
2005: Anti-public employee ballot measures
2006: midterm elections (Schwarzenegger re-elected)
2007: finally, a break! No statewide election after 5 straight years!
2008: Presidential elections
2009: Special tax initiative, when Schwarzenegger refused to raise sales tax to balance budget
2010: midterm elections

So, California went through a lengthy series of state wide elections, each one draining the unions of campaign money and weakening their ability to push back against draconian proposals. Sound familiar? Yes, California is very much like Wisconsin, but at the ballot box, not in Sacramento.


Andy Cohen June 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm

You can thank California’s Constitution for most of this. The 2/3 majority required to pass most legislation is killing this state, forcing the state’s government to have to appeal directly to the voters. Lori should know this well, having spent 6 years in the Assembly. Per Prop 13, any revenue bills need a 2/3 majority in order to pass, meaning the minority Republicans have total control.

Prop 13 needs to be either repealed or updated to reflect the current realities of California.


Marcus Jay Shapiro Green Party June 3, 2012 at 1:29 am

Filner might be the best for San Diego, but he still didn’t get the Green Party endorsement.


cahlo June 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

public unions are borderline criminal. in their collective bargaing, the side that pays the bill is not represented (the public), the other sides at the table are in the union’s pocket……just my opinion….go walker!


Andy Cohen June 3, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Really? Then perhaps you need to vote for different local representatives, because it’s their job to represent “the side that pays the bill.” The unions don’t negotiate against themselves, you know, thus making your statement above rather incomprehensible.


Andy Cohen June 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm

By the way: In the last 6 years (particularly here in San Diego) it’s been the unions that have given much back that they previously had via collective bargaining. The unions have made ALL KINDS of concessions for the betterment of San Diego.


Kimberley June 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Cahlo – you are missing the bigger picture. Even in high school I understood something called the “Jim Crow Laws Effect”. Basically the corporate masters get the poor whites and blacks fighting against each other for who is a lesser human in order to continue to exploit their labor for greater and greater wealth appropriation. In this case it’s the union workers vs. nonunion. We’ve had a 401K for 25 years and it’s been repeatedly decimated. We have no entity to advocate on our behalf when corporations, banks, fund managers or other Wall Street entities basically rig the game and steal our savings. Unions with pensions have enough stock ownership that they can potentially insist that outsized compensation packages for loser CEOs be curtailed. This was recently done in the case of Walmart. Corporations will always try to extract maximum profits from workers. That is their job. They are not charities. There needs to be a counterbalance to that.


Anna Daniels June 3, 2012 at 9:22 am

Thanks for all the comments that provide more insight into what we are up against here. There are very few places locally where you can find this kind of analysis, and that is a large part of our problem. The key players remain invisible to the majority of us or they are presented as one dimensional pillars of our civic society. Fran, Kimberly & Lori, thanks for for taking the time to provide your valuable comments.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm

It’s 1:45 p.m. on the Sunday before the June 5 Primary Election.
You may add the sainted Dede Alpert to the list of “Democrats” falling in line with Nathan Fletcher: I just answered a robo call from her on his behalf.


Frank Gormlie June 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm

WE’ll remember all the Dems who supported Fletcher or Dumanis for that matter, ahem Lynn Schenk.


Andy Cohen June 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Ideological purity or bust!


Linda Lee O'Carroll June 3, 2012 at 7:16 pm

I was sick when I received a robo call from Jerry Brown supporting Nathan Fletcher ( not endorsing him for mayor, just supporting him )! What does that mean? It means that Gov. Brown who received my vote both times he became Gov., because I saw him as a man who lives his life upholding democratic values as he did as the Chair of California’s Democratic Party, has turned his back on fellow Democrat Bob Filner. I spent 38 years volunteering for the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association on the local level as a teacher. I have been working, phoning and walking the precincts for Bob Filner these last few months. Congressman Bob Filner gets reelected because he has earned the reputation that he comes through when notified by his constituency of problems in San Diego. He is well respected. A man of the people and for the people should have the endorsement of his fellow democrats! I feel betrayed. I looked up Nathan Fletcher’s recent voting record and again, I feel betrayed that he received Gov. Brown’s support!


Kimberley June 3, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Could the robocall have been a clip of Brown’s statement out of context? Brown was responding to a question at a presser and stated he was able to work with Fletcher on an issue (or something to that effect).


Anna Daniels June 3, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Kimberly, I arrived home this evening to find the same robocall with Brown “supporting” Fletcher on my answer machine. I deleted it before I got all of the details about who sent it because I felt the need to stick fish forks in my eyeballs to offset the throbbing in the back of my head. I’ve been poking around and found this on the KPBS site , dated May 30, because it is the same language in the robocall. The KPBS post says “It is not a formal endorsement.” The statement reads:
“Nathan Fletcher stands out from the pack especially when he voted to close a big tax loophole that rewards companies that ship jobs out of California. In the face of partisan pressures, he maintains his independence and calls it like he sees it.”
So I am calling this one “truthiness,” and it is deeply confusing. If I get another call I will be much more diligent.


Kimberley June 3, 2012 at 11:29 pm

I’m confused as to if the robocall is in Brown’s voice or someone reading the statement. I thought Brown put out a statement. John Myers on the Channel 10 site wrote about this and made it sound like political payback for Fletcher’s cooperation.

Here is some background: During the 2009 budget negotiations (when 2/3 passage was required) big corporations were pushing for 3 big tax cuts: Single Sales Factor, Net Loss Carryback and Credit sharing. California Budget Project wrote extensively about this because of the expected loss to state revenues of $2 billion. In Spring of 2009 I went to a Fletcher Scripps Ranch coffee and asked if he supported these – of course, 100%. At the last minute out of state corporations got inserted into the bill an option to choose between the current taxation and Single Sales. Current corporate taxation is a measure of property, employees and sales within the state, so of course this would advantage out of state companies. Apparantly, no one understood that this would be the result. Ever since then, they’ve been trying to undue this mess, but with only 50% needed to cut taxes, but 2/3 to raise them we had yet another systemic imbalance.
So, Fletcher actually caused the problem he now claims to have solved. But the problem was never solved. In January 2011 Brown proposed a bill to close the loophole by eliminating the choice of taxation measures and requiring Single Sales Factor(sales in CA) only. But the savings would go to pay down the deficit and to schools, that had been further cut to pay for the corporate tax cut, thus violating the Grover Norquist tax pledge. So all Republicans refused to work with the Governor. Then this measure in the Spring of 2011 was recrafted to use the money for other tax breaks and thus be revenue neutral. Jon Fleishman of the Flashreport tweeted that this would not run afoul of the tax pledge. Fletcher used that, posting the Fleishman statement on his website and sending out an email to constituents with a link to Fleishman’s statement, as his permission to play ball with the Governor. The bill still could not pass and currently there is a November 2012 ballot measure to close this darn thing and use the money for energy upgrades on public buildings. Some wealthy San Francisco environmentalist bankrolled the signature collections. He was going to table it if Speaker Perez’s attempt to close the loophole and use the money for college scholarships was successful, but that just failed too.
In the end, California’s kids continue to get screwed. As a sidebar, while corporations got their tax cuts, education funding was cut dramatically and parents saw their child tax credit reduced from $310 per child to $99 per child. “Reforming the tax code” in Republican speak is all about making it more regressive.


Anna Daniels June 3, 2012 at 7:54 pm

All of you smart articulate commenters out there, help us deconstruct why Brown, Schenk and Alpert are backing/”supporting” Fetcher.
What do each of these Democrats receive in return for rejecting Filner, a terrific mayoral candidate who is a member of the progressive caucus and has a great record with his constituents?
The fall of Brown Schenk and Alpert is a cautionary tale that explains why progressives will never have nice things like liberty and justice for all.


Kimberley June 5, 2012 at 12:51 am

Corruption at its’ finest? So, Brown has this tax measure and he needs funding and backing from the business community to get it passed. San Diego multimillionaires offer a deal – back our errand boy Fletcher for mayor and we’ll provide lots of money for your ballot measure campaign. We’ll even throw in some change for your reelection and add to the DNC coffers, etc. Isadore Hall, Kevin Johnson, Juan Vargas, John Perez – perhaps they are all dancing for their sugar daddies. And the rest of the party stalwarts? Perhaps their deal with the devil is that San Diego can be thrown under the bus so that big moneyed interests can fund Democratic campaigns across the country. Just a theory…


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I have a very astute non-ideological friend who closely observes all political elections. He never falls in love, even if he is amused by rapscallions like former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, and he takes a dim view of the intelligence of the electorate. He sees the pernicious influence of money in elections, the boundless egotism of big-givers, the self-importance of their political lackeys and the elaborate self-deception that wishful thinking voters indluge in.

Rather than tear our hair or put out our eyes trying to imagine why these betrayals happen at the hands of one-time players like Lynn Schenk and the faded Dede Alpert and even, be still my heart, our likely-desperate Governor Jerry Brown — how big is the state deficit now and he’s still flogging a bullet train??? — we might do well to hang on to our basic values and just call it as we see it, as it is.

I’m looking forward to reading the Free Press.


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