Big Daddy

Big Daddy: Pitching a fit

Dear Big Daddy,
What’s with the Democratic consultants whining about Jerry Brown?
Mary in Milpitas

Dear Mary,
Call me old-fashioned, but when a Democratic political consultant whacked the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, that consultant was toast. Either he offered a public apology or he didn’t work again – at least not for me or any other Democrat. End of story.

But that was then and now is now. There’s been a power shift in Sacramento away from the candidates themselves and toward the consultants. Brown is a throwback, a challenge to that trend, and I can’t say I blame the folks who cash the six- and seven-figure checks for being a bit worried.

But what would Jerry do with a political consultant anyway? Giving Brown a political consultant is like hiring a groomer for a chimpanzee or a journalist. It’s a hopeless enterprise. Brown is going to do what he wants to do, say what he wants to say. Why should he pay someone big bucks for not being able to do anything? We already have one lieutenant governor. Isn’t that enough?  

It’s not hard to see why the consultants are so concerned. Jerry Brown throws a wrench in the Consultant-Industrial Complex. (For details on this, please see entry under Whitman, Meg). If this is allowed to go unchecked, it’s a slippery slope. Pretty soon, candidates may actually want to think for themselves, stand up to an interest group that gave them money. The possibilities for peril are manifold.

Consultants are in it for three things: The money. The right to say I told you so. And the money. So in the absence of cash coming from the Brown campaign, it looks like many Democrats are focusing on the other thing.

But it’s not like there is no Brown campaign. It’s just not called the Brown campaign. Meg Whitman gets it. I’m not quite sure why nobody else seems to understand this. Because of the state’s asinine campaign finance laws, Brown is subject to fundraising limits. Therefore, his supporters are forced to move the big money into an independent expenditure committee. I don’t know how many times I can say this. The union IE campaign IS the Brown campaign, at least through the summer. The Brown campaign itself will kick in some time around Labor Day.

Journalists seem to be confusing this with the Rudy Guiliani or Steve Poizner strategy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike those two, Brown actually has political friends who are stepping into the breech. The silence from the formal Brown campaign is not the same as the strategic silliness we saw from the other two.

So, let the consultants gripe. Let the journalists get it wrong. It’s that time of year. And nobody likes missing out on a paycheck. I get it. It’s a tough job market everywhere, and the consultant racket is no different. Everybody wants to be working, and right now the only political consulting job with the big bucks is with Meg Whitman. As Bill Germond once said, never cheapen the beat. Nobody with Whitman, from Mike Murphy, on down is cheapening that beat, let me tell you. I was state treasurer and I know money.  Whitman’s got it and Jerry doesn’t, and that’s the tale of the tape.

Let the hand-wringing continue. It’s what consultants do best. And if Jerry wins this thing, just listen as they all try to tell you over a warm glass of whiskey that they were the ones whispering in Jerry’s ear, pro bono, all along.


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