Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Democrats Completely Control Sacramento-- So Why Is It Such A Cesspool Of Corruption?


If the old maxim is true that absolute power corrupts absolutely, then California Democrats have a very real problem. As the power and legitimacy of the GOP has waned, Democrats have seized control of a supermajority in the state, with both hands. With their power now left unchecked by a viable opposition party, the party politics of the left have drifted into corruption, led by party power players like Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Christy Smith, an unaccomplished freshman legislator running for the CA-25 seat abandoned by Katie Hill, as well as a wide cadre of party apparatchiks.

Their goal has been to put their thumbs on the scales of primary elections across the state in order to elect moderate back benchers who will maintain the status quo and not rock the boat for party leadership. The internal party bias has been especially hard on the progressive wing of the party, where the California Democratic party routinely tries to pick the winners of primary races.

The Young Turks recently reported one such story of unethical influence into races that are supposed to be democratic in nature. The story featured Eric Ohlsen who is running for State Assembly in District 36, the Antelope Valley district that is contained within the boundaries of CA-25. According to Ohlsen, he was told at a meeting with Christy Smith that the decision had already been made behind the scenes to support his opponent, Jonathan Ervin, so Ohlsen should just try again in a few years. She also took umbrage with his messaging to get big money out of politics and fight corruption. Ohlsen had said in a speech-- up top-- at the California Democratic Convention, "Democrats have a supermajority in Sacramento and they keep telling us that we need to learn how to compromise. We’re not compromising with Republicans to pass legislation, we’re compromising with industry because they’re donors." Regarding that anti-corruption stance, Ohlsen said, "Christy told me that my anti-corruption messaging was 'personally offensive' to her." Which is probably a good self-assessment because both Smith and Rendon had pushed Ervin from behind the scenes and made sure that opposing candidates did not get any endorsements, which gave Ervin a $121 thousand advantage over everyone else in his race.

Ohlsen confirmed in a follow up interview that during his meeting with Smith, she had noted that both herself and Rendon had endorsed Jonathan Ervin before any primary races had even begun, effectively removing any democracy from the Democratic Primary.

Rendon has a long track record of using his influence with the unions and special interest groups to deny funding and endorsements to any candidates that he does not hand pick. His position as Speaker of the House in the State Assembly gives him leverage over groups that may potentially offer endorsements to candidates. By offering to reduce access to legislators, Rendon can control or eliminate the flow of money to candidates that he does not approve of. Encouraging his membership in the Assembly to direct funds at particular candidates is another tactic that Rendon has used to starve out competition from progressive candidates, and favor ones, like Ervin, who will act as an empty vessel for his agenda.

Threats of the denial of funding have also been used against other progressive candidates such as those who support Cenk Unger. Alaina Brooks, SEIU delegate for California's 36th Assembly District, executive board member for Local 2015, made it very clear to the Ohlsen camp that if he continued to support his fellow progressive candidate that his political future would be in jeopardy.

Goal Thermometer"The amount of pushback that we have gotten is surprising to me," Ohlsen said, "Nearly every Democrat in Sacramento ran on talking points to get money out of politics, but as soon as you ask, 'that sounds great, so where is your bill?' they start working like crazy behind the scenes to block you from competing." With a supermajority of Democratic votes in the California Legislature, passing any anticorruption measures would be a simple task, the problem is that the measures would need the support of people who have spent their careers benefiting from the money in politics.

This is the reason why many states have enacted publicly funded elections, which limit the ability of party elites and special interests to pick and choose the winners of elections before they have even began. It is a proposition that has been supported on the national level by several Presidential candidates including Tom Steyer, who said, "I think the point about publicly funded campaigns means that if you are running, the public will fund a campaign that’s at least comparable to what anyone’s going to spend on their campaign," Steyer told reporters. "And that’s actually I think the easiest way to go about this and the proper way."

Also on the national level, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has faced many of the same problems by bucking the party establishment. She rose to prominence by defeating Joseph Crowley, a corporate Democrat who portrayed himself as being a progressive liberal while simultaneously taking money from Goldman Sachs, Facebook, Google, BlackRock, amongst others. AOC has continued to garner criticism from her own Democratic colleagues for holding House Democrat’s feet to the fire regarding financial corruption within the party.

The GOP lost their position as a viable opposition party in the state, but by quashing the voices of opposition within their own ranks, Democrats could undo any gains they have been given. The activities of Rendon and Smith to put their thumbs on the scales of party elections could create a culture of corruption that will bring down their own house. Matt Stoller summed the problem up nicely in a 2019 column for the Washington Post, "For too long, disagreements in the Democratic Party have been kept behind closed doors, and the result was the protection of powerful financial interests. It is time to start talking about this dynamic, so that voters can make a democratic choice about what kind of politics they actually want to build. That, in the end, is why it’s called the Democratic Party."

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At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, the USA in microcosm. The democrap party *IS* corruption (corporations and special interests buying policy = fascism). Anywhere the party gets a majority, the betrayals, failures and indifference to those who elect them become apparent. Yesterday it was VA. Now it's CA.

Remember when CA was going to pioneer MFA? It was the democraps who smothered that in the cradle. How many billions in profit have insurance and phrma extracted from CAians since that betrayal? How much of that did the democrap party earn as kickbacks?

It is sheepdoggery of the worst kind to suggest that reforming the democrap party, in CA, VA or in the USA is even possible. You will sooner turn frogs into elephants with gene splicing.

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Democrats Completely Control Sacramento-- So Why Is It Such A Cesspool Of Corruption?" - Res ipsa loquitur?

At 2:08 PM, Blogger davidchop said...

Helping elect people who don't meet your purity requirements hardly makes it a "cesspool of corruption." That the establishment doesn't support anti-establishment candidates shouldn't come as a revelation.

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


"You will sooner turn frogs into elephants with gene splicing."

Don't look now, but I'm halfway there: don't shit your pants next week when I hold a press conference and introduce my "EleFrog" to the world.

On an unrelated (and less silly) note - do you have a Disqus account? I would love to see you interacting with the commenters at this blog (see link). Surely you don't want to limit your perspicacity to DwT! and Smirking Chimp!


At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am myself a resident of CA, and I will definitely point out to the "Any Blue Will Do" fantasists what a mess our "Democratic" supermajority is making of this state.

Jerry Brown was once deemed the ultimate liberal yet he OK'd fracking, especially in Kern County where the Garlock and San Andreas faults run. Gavin Newsom is doing nothing about the theft of water from the Bay Area for the Republican farmers of the Central Valley, who think we are also going to pay for expensive concrete dams built with dwindling groundwater to catch rainwater which isn't falling. "Democrats" are also holding up the State's proposed MFA and Net Neutrality legislation.

There is no way in hell I will ever allow the GOP to again take power in this state, but I find it increasingly difficult to support "Democrats" as well. This is why I wrote in "None of the Above" on my ballot for US Representative. I deemed neither of the choices offered to me suitable for the position.


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