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Here In California, It's Do Or Die Time For Gavin

-by Sacramento Sam

So, I’m just relaxing and thinking about this whole Recall Newsom thing. Actually, I’m having flashbacks to the Recall Gray Davis thing. I’m thinking how Gray was doomed when people convinced then Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante to put his name up as a candidate "just in case Gray lost. After all the rolling black out things is pretty bad." How did that work out for Gray?... Where the hell is Kevin de Leon when we need him?

This week Newsom’s approval rating plummeted to just 46% as the public sours on his pandemic management, according to a new Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll. Jeremy White of Politico reported that "If it makes the ballot, Newsom’s support is tepid: just 45 percent of voters said they would vote to retain him, with 36 percent backing removal and about a fifth of voters undecided."

Then I’m thinking about Sandra Diaz of SEIU United Service Workers West openly criticizing Governor Newsom on his COVID response. Wow, one of California’s biggest unions telling the governor that their working-class membership is more important than his political pandering to rght wing anti-masker counties. Ms. Diaz didn’t mince words: "It’s more important for us as a union to see this get better, no matter who that upsets."

Okay, I admit I’m done relaxing.

All this recall madness is driving me crazy-- in a good way. The questions keep firing away at me. Can Newsom get his act together on COVID quick enough to save his political skin? Perhaps with the new centralization of the vaccination process being administered by Blue Cross. After all, everyone knows if you want someone to prioritize the public health over their profits no one is better than the largest private health care provider in the world...

Dammit, I promised myself no Medicare For All discussion in this post. So, allow me to switch to another pressing question for the Governor. Who will the Governor pick to replace Xavier Becerra as Attorney General? Big question and big deal for the Governor. Can the Governor think out of the box enough to appoint a progressive thinker who will become a champion of criminal justice reform and plaintiff rights? Or will he pick a political hack, like himself?

There are several names floating about: Assemblyman Rob Bonta, District Attorney Diane Becten, CA Supreme Court Justice Goodwin H. Liu, District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Congressman Ted Lieu, Assemblywoman Ana Caballero, LGBTQ activist and environmental lawyer Rick Zbur, and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. All of them have a legitimate claim to being criminal justice reformers or at least people who care about reducing mass incarceration. But one person’s progressive is another’s squishy neo-liberal corporate Democrat.

A quick look at their political filings and conservative Assemblywoman Ana Caballero certainly fits that bill. But she looks like an amateur compared to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. A small-town mayor? What’s he even doing on the list? Well, before Steinberg was Mr. Mayor he spent six years as the leader of the Senate Democrats. That meant he was in charge of keeping his fellow Democrats and himself in power. So, like every neo-liberal Democrat, we have to deal with, who were Darrell Steinberg’s special interests friends that kept him in power?

I don’t want to get fancy here but say that over the years Darrell Steinberg has raised millions and millions of dollars from corporate special interests including some of our nation’s most gluttonous takers and givers.

It’s a long list so hold on.

JP Morgan Chase & Co. Federal, Wells Fargo California, Washington Mutual Inc., Bank of America California, California Mortgage Bankers Association, California Bankers Association State PAC, Citigroup Inc., HSBC North America, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Bank of the West, City National Bank, and 1st Century Bank. California Mortgage Bankers Association, California Bankers Association State.

Then there’s the soak-the-poor for our profit empire PHARMA favorites such as Pfizer Inc., Gilead Sciences Inc., Hoffman La-Rouche (HLR) Service Corporation, Johnson & Johnson Services Inc., Amgen USA, Merck & Co Inc., GlaxoSmithKline LLC PAC, Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America Inc. & Affiliates, Bayer, Bristol Myers Squibb Company, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly & Company PAC, and Allergan USA. That thirteen of the top pharmaceutical companies in the United States.

Hold on! I know it’s a lot but be patient because no special interest list without MediCare for ALL over our dead body champions the ever-benevolent health insurance industry. And we’re off­–Blue Shield of California, Anthem Blue Cross, Association of California Life & Health Insurance Companies PAC, Health Net, California Association of Health Plans PAC.

So why is all this special interest fundraising in Steinberg’s past a problem if he becomes Attorney General. Because the Attorney General is supposed… hold on; let’s take the AG’s scope of service verbatim from their website:

The Attorney General is the state's top lawyer and law enforcement official, protecting and serving the people and interests of California through a broad range of duties. The Attorney General's responsibilities include safeguarding the public from violent criminals, preserving California's spectacular natural resources, enforcing civil rights laws, and helping victims of identity theft, mortgage-related fraud, illegal business practices, and other consumer crimes.

That’s right­–- mortgage-related fraud, illegal business practices, and other consumer crimes. In other words, the Attorney General is responsible for taking on the banking industry, the pharmaceuticals, health insurers and punishing them for exploiting consumers. Image what the high-priced lawyers of big PHARMA are going to say the first time AG Steinberg takes them to court for price fixing, "Your honor we ask that the CA Attorney General’s Office recuse themselves because we’ve given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donation to Attorney General Steinberg." Yikes!

But being accused of picking an AG who is stuck in the Sacramento swamp might not be the Governor’s biggest problem with Mayor Steinberg. That’s because Steinberg also brings a bunch of French Laundry baggage. And it’s not the type of trash that can just be dumbed in the container behind the restaurant. In Steinberg’s time in Sacramento, he built the type of Sacramento insider team that gets one to the top of Senate leadership totem. People like hotshot fundraiser and former Democratic Party controller Dan Weitzman and hotshot­ "let’s celebrate my birthday at the French Laundry in the middle of a pandemic" lobbyist Jason Kinney. The Weitzman/Kinney duo are largely credited with getting Steinberg to the top of the state Senate heap and then keeping him there through aggressive neo-liberal corporate fundraising and lobbyist deal cutting. Sacramento people in the know have been telling me that Steinberg’s past may be catching up with him and his once leading contender status for the AG appointment is falling faster than an anvil in free flight. Gone is the neo-liberal bravado and hubris and it seems to have been replaced by a heavy dose of the Governor doesn’t want to be recalled reality. And this is good because there is no one in their right mind that thinks small town former mayor Kevin Falcouner would make a better Governor than small town Mayor Darrell Steinberg would make would be an AG. See how I used irony very cleverly there! I’m done. Oh, yeah and Howie told me he won't run this unless I include something about Ted Lieu-- who I don't know-- being the best candidate for Attorney General in the state.

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