Tag Archives: Art Torres

Latino In America San Francisco Edition

Last night I attended the advance screening and panel session of Latino in America a CNN produced series that will be airing tomorrow October 21 and 22nd.

By 2050, the U.S. Latino population is expected to nearly triple. This October, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien explores how Latinos are reshaping our communities and culture and forcing a nation of immigrants to rediscover what it means to be an American,” is the statement on CNN’s website to entice potential viewers. CNN has been working hard to market this four hour series by hosting advance screening parties across the nation. It’s obvious that the series is a serious effort to capture a larger share of the Hispanic market.

Despite their efforts, CNN which pledges itself as the ‘most trusted name in news’ is also the home of Lou Dobbs one of the most vitriolic anti immigrant voices in the media.  Presente.org  a national online advocacy organization has been running a very strong campaign to highlight the blatant lies Lou Dobbs spreads on his program. He has claimed that “Just about a third of our prison system is made up of illegal aliens.” But the Department of Justice reports that immigrants (legal and illegal) make just 6% of the prison population.  

After the screening there was a panel discussion led by CNN en Espanol’s anchor Gabriela Frias and a Q & A session with the audience. The panelists included a reporter from the San Jose Mercury Newspaper, one of the reporters who put together the series and retired Senator Art Torres. One of the more interesting questions asked, was about the hypocrisy of CNN promoting Latino in America while simultaneously hosting Lou Dobbs. Ms. Frias and the reporter from the series sidestepped the issue by responding that their job was to get good stories out and that Latinos in America have to be heard but they suggested contacting the powers that be of CNN to make the questioners view point’s heard. Sen. Art Torres responded that he felt Dobbs’ view points had marginalized him.

I asked the panel what they thought about the current California water policy issues and how Glen Beck and the Republican Party were using the Central Valley Latino community for their astroturf campaign. Sen. Torres said that

If they (the Republican Party) thought the Latino community was that stupid then they were in for a rude awakening akin to ‘Pee Wee Wilson’ and his disastrous Prop 187 campaign.

I was happy to hear Sen. Torres say this because that particular fight put many Latino boots on the ground in California for the Democratic Party. It was during the Prop 187 and 209 campaigns that I myself became more politically active and I see that time period as a defining point in my life for the path that I would eventually follow working full time in politics. As the Comprehensive Immigration Reform issue comes up in Congress it will be interesting to see if CNN ultimately chooses Lou Dobbs and his hate speech or Latinos in America. America’s Voice and Media Matters planned to run an ad targeting Dobbs during the broadcast of Latino in America, but CNN refused to air it.

America’s Voice says it plans to run the ad on a competing network.

Campaign Update: CA-03, CA-04, CA-46, Assembly & Senate

Here’s some tidbits from the campaign trail with 12 days out:

• CA-03: Bill Durston and Dan Lungren debated last night, and it was a predictable affair, says Randy Bayne:

Nothing new, no fireworks, no knockout punch, no excitement of any kind was reported by either MyMotherLode.com or the Stockton Record. Just what we already know – Durston wants us out of Iraq, doesn’t like No Child Left Behind, and thinks the bailout is the wrong solution. Lungren supports the occupation, favors No Child Left Behind, and voted for the bailout.

If you’re looking for change from eight years of down the toilet policy, and you don’t want to continue flushing our future down the crapper – vote for Bill Durston.

If the registration stats cited by anecdotal reports are at all accurate, we’re going to be very close to registration parity in this seat by Election Day.  Lungren may be acting positive in public, but inside the campaign they must be terrified.  They probably didn’t expect Durston to run a credible campaign.

• CA-04: Tom McClintock has caught a bit of trouble for relating gay people to dogs in a roundabout way.

“Lincoln asked, ‘If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? The answer is four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one,'” McClintock said in a statement. “And calling a homosexual partnership a marriage doesn’t make it one.”

I’m pretty sure that means nothing at all, but California’s Alan Keyes has had to distance himself from the comment.  Meanwhile his much bigger problem is lacking the funds to run a proper campaign.  He’s now taken to relying on cheap robocalls, and Charlie Brown has immediately called on him to stop.  Dirty trick robocalls that appeared to be coming from the Brown campaign were a major factor in John Doolittle’s narrow re-election in 2006.

• CA-46: I didn’t get a chance to post Debbie Cook’s amazing closing statement at Tuesday’s debate.  Here it is.

The OC Register has a story on this race today.  These “Challenger hopes to upset incumbent” stories have a familiar feel to them – the pose of surprise that the race is competitive, the quote from the shallow CW fountain like Allen Hoffenblum explaining why the incumbent is probably still safe, and the overall sense of shock, which would be natural if you weren’t paying attention for the last 18 months, like, um, us.

• Assembly & Senate: Art Torres and Ron Nehring had a debate yesterday, and I think Torres needed to be prepped a little better.  He claimed that Democrats could grab a 2/3 majority in the legislature but then couldn’t come up with a simple list of what seats are in play.  He should be reading more Calitics.  Nehring replied with a lot of bunk and a little truth.

None of that adds up to 54 and 27, of course, and Nehring said Torres’ boast “just doesn’t pencil out.”

He noted that Democratic efforts to oust Sen. Jeff Denham via recall failed miserably this year and the party ended up with no opponent to challenge Sen. Abel Maldonado in Santa Maria, a district believed to be winnable by a Democrat.

On the Assembly side, Nehring said, Republicans “have a great shot at holding on to” the 15th and “have a number of strategic advantages in the 78th (because) the Democrats have nominated the most liberal candidate (Marty Block) they possibly could.”

In the 80th, the Democratic candidate (Manuel Perez) “is getting hammered on … social issues which are important to many people in the Latino community,” Nehring said.

“I don’t know how can you be serious about trying to have a two-thirds vote in the Legislature,” Nehring told Torres, “when you blow so many of these opportunities.”

I’ll go bottom to top on this.  Manuel Perez is going to CRUSH Gary Jeandron, and if anyone’s being hammered, it’s the Republicans.  The IE money is pretty one-sided in the state.  Between that and the registration gains, it’ll take more than just spin to dig your party out of its self-created hole, Mr. Nehring.

However, on one point I will agree with you.  The Denham recall and Maldonado disaster have indeed stopped the potential forward momentum in the Senate.  Of course, Torres couldn’t say the plain truth – that Don Perata is among the worst leaders in recent Democratic Party history, and has completely set back the state in major ways by his blunders.  He is an embarrassment.

Torres: “This is about voter suppression.”

I just jumped off a conference call with some members of the Democratic National Committee and CDP Chair Art Torres about the arrest of YPM founder Marc Jacoby on suspicion of voter registration fraud.  As you may know, Jacoby’s firm has been “slamming” voters in the Riverside County area, telling them that they were signing ballot initiatives but actually flipping their party affiliation to the Republican Party from the Democratic Party.  While the substance of the call was to talk about hypocrisy in the GOP, raising the issue of ACORN in recent weeks while blinded to the fraud their own vendors participate in, Torres was pretty unsparing in his description of YPM.  “The California GOP and the RNC need to terminate their relationship with YPM immediately,” said Torres.  “They shouldn’t wait for a conviction to distance themselves from these shady practices.”  It was revealed yesterday that a joint finance committee of the RNC, McCain-Palin and the Yacht Party has been paying Nathan Sproul, who owns a separate voter registration group that has been accused of rampant fraud.  Said Torres, “This is a consistent pattern of bad behavior.”

Curiously, nobody seems to be talking about the bigger issue here, which is the fact that YPM was not only slamming voters, but changing their ballot status to absentee, so that when a voter goes to the polling place on Election Day, they are told that they signed up to vote by mail and cannot vote in the election without their absentee ballot.  There are issues with slamming, related mainly to GOTV efforts (Democrats don’t try to turn out Republicans), but the absentee situation is a pretext for real disenfranchisement.  So I asked Chairman Torres about this, and he agreed.  “This is designed to create confusion at the polls and force people into filling out provisional ballots.  There are still hundreds of thousands of provisional ballots that haven’t been counted from Ohio in 2004.  This is about voter suppression, and we’ve seen it over and over again in California.”  He related it to the Dirty Tricks Initiative and the signature gathering fraud used to try and get that on the ballot.

The question, of course, is what we can do about the particular voters affected.  YPM is out of business and hopefully their founder will be in jail.  But there is no telling how many voters had their party ID switched or their ballot status switched.  Hopefully the Secretary of State can come up with some way to verify anyone who passed through YPM’s hands.

CDP To Poizner: Stop Funding Voter Registration Fraud

(The man who would be Governor… – promoted by jsw)

Title updated.

When Republican State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced with California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring on August 28, 2008 that he would contribute enough money to pay $5 for every new Republican voter registration, no one expected a voter registration card “slamming” program.  

In San Bernardino County the California Republican Party with their local Republican affiliates hired a firm from outside California called YPM – Young Political Majors, owned by a man named Mark Jacoby and run out of Florida and Arizona – to commit the same voter fraud that got YPM run out of other states.

(more on the flip)

Moreover, this isn’t something new. YPM has a bad track record stretching back years and years.  For example, the following story comes from an article written in 2004:

Young Political Majors LLC, or YPM, is a company registered by Mark Jacoby at a Town ‘N Country residence.

Jacoby appeared this summer at the election office in Gainesville with a box of about 1,200 voter registration cards. Of those, about 510 voters had switched to the GOP.

Elections Supervisor Beverly Hill spoke with Jacoby and grew suspicious. She randomly called the Republicans to verify they wanted to switch. All of them said, “Absolutely not,” Hill said. “They didn’t even know they had signed a registration form,” Hill said.

Here’s how YPM does it: their paid signature gatherers ask registered Democratic voters to sign a claimed legitimate petition (in this case a petition to “stop sexual predators from getting out of jail”). Then, depending on the circumstances, they tell the voter that the petition is not legal unless they re-register as a Republican, or they have the voter sign in two places – one of which is the bottom of a Republican voter registration card.

It is simply unacceptable for this type of activity to go on here in California.

“This insidious and fraudulent practice is called ‘slamming,’ and Insurance Commissioner Poizner must put an immediate stop to funding this conspiracy to commit fraud,” said Senator Art Torres (Ret.), Chairman of the California Democratic Party (see letter below letter).      

The San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters, Kari Verjil, has allowed the slamming to continue for weeks.  The California Democratic Party is calling on the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office, the Secretary of State and the State Attorney General’s office to investigate and prosecute those who are knowingly committing fraud.  

The same situation is known to have occurred in Riverside County. This past August the Registrar of Voters, Barbara Dunmore, referred that fraud to the Riverside County District Attorney.

American voters should not be treated this way.

* * *

Here is a copy of the letter Chairman Art Torres sent to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters.

September 16, 2008

Via Facsimile (909) 387-2022

Ms. Kari Verjil        

San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters

Dear Registrar of Voters Verjil:

Our offices have received numerous calls about the California Republican Party’s use of “slamming” — illegally re-registering Democrats as Republicans — in your county.

I would like to know the status of your investigation of the Republican slamming.  A few thousand voter registration cards are being turned in each week to your office and it appears your office has not stopped this fraudulent practice.  

In calls to a random sampling of 100 of these voters, we found one-third of the phone numbers were either disconnected or the wrong number.

When phone slamming happened several years ago, the federal government, as well as state and local officials put a stop to it.  

You must stop this illegal practice whereby American citizens who have registered as Democrats, whether earlier this year or several years ago, are being changed to Republicans with your county voter registration cards by organizations authorized by you to do voter registration.


Senator Art Torres (Ret.)

Chairman of the California Democratic Party

cc: Secretary of State Debra Bowen

    Attorney General Jerry Brown

    San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos

Art Torres Hijacks CDP Position to Push for Dianne Feinstein for Governor

On so many levels, this is totally uncool:

Most political observers expect that if Feinstein were to run, she would be the overwhelming favorite, since she is the best known and has been popular in the state since her 1992 election to the Senate.

“If she decides to enter the race, it’s cleared,” California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said.

Over the flip are reasons why I think this is uncool:

Here are a few of the reasons why this is uncool:

  • Either Art Torres is a fool when it comes to media or he is intentionally trying to clear the field.
  • Either Art Torres hasn’t been paying attention to why Hillary and Lieberman lost or he is lying to the press about DiFi’s inch deep support carrying her through.
  • Either Art Torres is out of the loop with the campaigns that are going forward or he is making assumptions against the evidence that the other campaigns realize DiFi can and will lose.
  • Either Art Torres doesn’t care that he made an ass of himself when DiFi lied to him about retroactive immunity or he is willing to burn what little crediblity he has left in the hopes of trying to get the California Democratic Party to have a crappy nominee.

Why doesn’t Art Torres want the CDP and Democratic voters to have a choice?

Democrats Making Their Case In Rural Counties

Cross posted on Daily Kos

PhotobucketDemocrats in Yolo County are fired up and ready to go.  They met last night at the historic Palms Playhouse in Winters for a rally sponsored by the Western Yolo County Democratic Club.

Over 100 people came out to listen and cheer as guest speaker CDP Chairman Art Torres, along with candidates Lois Wolk (SD-05), Mariko Yamada (AD-08), and Jeff Morris (CA-02), talked about “Why Rural Families are Voting Democratic – Taking Back Red California.”

Oh, and the old-time music and the free spaghetti dinner weren’t exactly deal-breakers either.

The speaking schedule was full. In addition to the politicians, there were local food and farm activists, as well as local organizers like Claire Black-Slotton, the executive director of Yolo United, and Ryan Loney, the Northern California Field Director of Students for Barack Obama and an Obama delegate to the Denver convention.

A major theme that emerged as speaker after speaker addressed the audience was the real need for California activists to get involved in local Congressional races, whether it’s for Jeff Morris in CA-02, Bill Durston in CA-03, Charlie Brown in CA-04, or Jerry McNerney in CA-11.  There was a clear sentiment among those who attended that just winning back the White House in 2008 will not be enough; we must have strong Congressional majorities to support Pres. Barack Obama as he leads our nation.

One speech in particular that really resonated in this rural setting came from Richard Rominger, a former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton administration who is currently advising the Obama campaign on agriculture affairs. Here’s what Rominger had to say:

Richard Rominger, Art Torres, Lois Wolk


What are rural Americans thinking about these days? Farm prices, food prices, fuel prices, health care costs, the war in Iraq, immigration, climate change.

A couple of quotes from Senator Obama: “When we strengthen our rural communities, we lift up our entire nation.” “I think that people who live in rural areas can feel confident that I’m not a newcomer to this.”

Senator Obama supported passage of the current Farm Bill, but said he wanted more reform. The Farm Bill was passed by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate over President Bush’s veto. Senator McCain opposed the Farm Bill, saying he would have vetoed it just as Bush did. The bill included more money for conservation programs, including the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program; more money for nutrition programs, including more fruits and vegetables for school lunch programs, more help for farmers markets, and increases in food stamps; more support for agricultural research; and a boost for renewable energy. It is clearly better than the previous Farm Bill, although it is far from perfect.

Senator Obama has repeatedly voted to fund agriculture programs while Senator McCain has repeatedly voted against funding agriculture programs.

Senator Obama would limit farm subsidies to prevent very large farms from collecting the vast majority of subsidies. Senator McCain voted against capping subsidies.

Senator Obama has voted for emergency assistance for farmers in times of disasters. Senator McCain has repeatedly voted against emergency assistance for farmers.

Senator Obama supports immediate implementation of Country of Origin Labeling, starting with meat products. Senator McCain voted against Country of Origin Labeling.

Senator Obama voted for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Senator McCain repeatedly voted against it.

Barack Obama has a comprehensive energy plan to help Americans cope with the energy crisis in the short term, and make the long-term investments we need to break our addiction to oil. He will use some of the oil companies’ record-breaking profits for an Emergency Energy Rebate of $1,000 per family or $500 per individual. He will also release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to cut prices.

Within ten years we could save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined, by increasing fuel efficiency standards for our vehicles, working with the auto industry to put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars – cars that get up to 150 miles per gallon – on the road by 2015, and investing in the development of new fuels.

Senator Obama will help create five million new jobs by investing in a clean energy future: Investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to develop clean energy technologies, from jump starting the commercialization of plug-in hybrids to advancing the next generation of biofuels. These are five million jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Barack Obama would diversify our energy sources by adopting an aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard, requiring 10% of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025. That will spur significant private sector investment in renewable sources such as wind and solar, creating thousands more new jobs. (You may have noticed the recent news articles about 11 shiploads of wind turbine parts being unloaded at the Port of Sacramento for a new wind farm near Rio Vista).

As president, Obama will implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. And he’ll work with our allies abroad to develop effective emissions reduction efforts.

Senator Obama has proposed a plan to extricate the U.S. from the misguided war in Iraq. Senator McCain would prolong the Bush policies.

Senator Obama supported the expansion of the successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Senator McCain joined President Bush in opposing the expansion of this successful program.

Senator Obama supports increasing access to health care in rural areas by investing in Health Information Technology and TeleMedicine. When Senator McCain was asked about his rural health care plan he admitted it does “not sound too serious.” In 2003, Senator McCain voted against funding for rural Medicare health care providers.

On immigration, Senator Obama supports comprehensive reform, including secure borders, an Ag Jobs Program, and a path over a period of years for those already here illegally to earn resident status. Senator McCain originally supported comprehensive legislation, but has since backed away from it.

For the estate tax, Senator Obama supports the limits that will be in effect in 2009, which is $3.5 million per person, $7 million per couple, which will exempt 99% of farms and businesses. Senator McCain supports higher limits which will allow wealthier tax payers to escape the tax.

To sum up, an Obama administration, along with Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives will provide an economy that answers the needs of farmers and all of rural America, as well as our urban and suburban neighbors, and returns the United States of America to its former position of leadership and respect in the world.


Online Organizing Director

California Democratic Party

Why The Perata/CDP Scandal Threatens The Fight for Congressional Seats

“It just seems to me it is improper. It reduces confidence in government and also particularly the Party. I think the Party is going to have a tough time with all this publicity raising money from the smaller donors.”

-Bob Stern, President, Center for Governmental Studies on KCRW last night talking about the California Democratic Party wasting $450,000 on Senator Don Perata’s criminal defense fund. CDP flack Roger Salazar refused to go on at the same time as Stern and Rick Jacobs to debate the scandal.

Yesterday, David Dayen explained Why The Perata/CDP Scandal Threatens The Budget Fight. Yet that isn’t the only casualty from the culture in Sacramento that has put the California Democratic Party in crisis.

TPM Election Central is reporting on the target list for $34 million in DCCC reserved TV time this fall. Of the 31 races targeted, zero are in California.

Which brings me back to last night’s ill-timed fundraiser with Speaker Karen Bass. The actblue page to RSVP for the account said the money was going to support the California State Democratic Committee – Federal Account. Great idea, Madame Speaker Bass helping Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi pick up more seats and be able to overcome the Blue Dog Caucus siding with the GOP to obstruct Pelosi’s leadership.

With California unable to count on DCCC ad money against any of the very vulnerable Republican Representatives, it is clear California Democrats need to plan to win on our own. Which is why yesterday’s LA Times editorial on the CDP wasting money on Don Perata is so counterproductive. We need the resources to win on our own and we need small dollar donors to get there. Yet the actions of the CDP discourage small dollar donations. The results are clear, including last night, the CDP has only raised $6,630 ALL CYCLE in federal money on actblue. To put in perspective, San Diego County Democrats have raised more than 20 times that much federal money on actblue — from more than 30 times as many small dollar contributions.

It could be another landslide year, but it probably will be yet another year when Democratic Congressional challengers don’t get the support they could and should count on from the CDP. In fact, when taking into account outstanding debt, the CDP Federal Account had less than $300,000 as of the end of May. And Democratic state senate challengers have already seen $450,000 wasted on not helping elect Hannah-Beth Jackson and Lois Wolk. We can trust in the CDP if the goal is to seize defeat from the jaws of victory (which it might be, Perata already called uncle on two state senate races so far this year). Or we can reform and begin fighting to beat Republicans instead of coddle the Democratic Party establishment. The first step is accountability. Again, Senator Don Perata needs to give back the $450,000 and Art Torres should step down as CDP Chair for wasting $4,450,000 not electing Democrats this fall.

A Tale Of Two Parties

Here’s a story I’d like to see from top Democrats someday:

The California Republican Party poured $345,000 into Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian’s state Senate campaign last week, a sign that party leaders hope to make a run at the seat of termed-out Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden.

The party followed up that donation by giving $595,000 to former Assemblyman Tony Strickland, the GOP nominee in another fall Senate campaign.

The races are the only two of the 20 Senate seats up for election in November where competition is expected.

By the Bee’s calculations, by the way, Aghazarian has a 9:1 fundraising advantage over our candidate, Lois Wolk.

Meanwhile, on our side, the lump-sum payments go… elsewhere.

If the apologists don’t see how bad this looks, I can draw them a map later.

[UPDATE by Brian]: Well, we can’t compete with these sums, but how about we throw a little love towards our two candidates in these districts. Both Hannah-Beth Jackson and Lois Wolk are strong progressives and would make excellent Senators. So, let’s Pick up the slack at ActBlue.

Art Torres to Embarrass Speaker Karen Bass Tonight

Disgraced California Democratic Party Chair Art Torres apparently intends to attend a small dollar fundraiser with Speaker Karen Bass this evening and make our Speaker look ridiculous by asking for Democrats to give $50 on actblue while the CDP is wasting $450,000 not electing Democrats. Those attending Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s home will be in the awkward situation of having wasted a contribution to the CDP while the latest scandal is being ripped on the editorial page of the LA Times:

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee reported that the California Democratic Party used $250,000 of its contributors’ money to pay the legal expenses that Perata (D-Oakland) has racked up defending against a criminal probe by the FBI.

It’s all perfectly legal, but it sure stinks. […]

As for Perata, Democrats not just in his district but anywhere in the state must wonder what their party is doing. They have every right to expect that contributors’ money will be pumped into districts where Democrats are locked in tough election fights with Republicans, or into struggles with the GOP over the budget. Instead, it’s paying the legal bills for Perata, who simultaneously is leading the fight against a redistricting measure on the November ballot.

When politicians demonstrate contempt for Californians, Californians respond in kind. Term-limits reform, badly needed to fix the state’s broken political system, lost at the ballot box in large part because voters mistrusted Perata, Nuñez and Schwarzenegger, and with some reason. The notion that elected officials are paid by the public to do the public’s work has become distressingly quaint.

This is clearly indefensible, which is probably why Bob Mulholland chickened out on debating the issue with Rick Jacobs on KPFA this morning. According to the host, Perata’s flacks also refused to go on the show. With today’s editorial rightly blasting the CDP, the press is trying to get people on record and the word on the street is that the CDP and Perata’s team are refusing to try and defend the indefensible. Props to any press organization that can get the CDP or Don Perata to debate this in public.

There isn’t a debate because there is no excuse for this waste of money. Don Perata needs to immediately refund all $450,000 and Art Torres must resign in shame before tonight’s fundraiser to avoid making a fool of Speaker Karen Bass. And then both should apologize to Hannah-Beth Jackson and every Democrat on the ballot this fall for having such contempt for the concept of trying to win elections.

[UPDATE by Dave]: The problem here is transparency, and it’s not limited to funding.  Watch palace courtier Bob Mulholland respond to the fact that his boss essentially lied about Sen. Feinstein and the FISA bill:

So I contacted the party today to see if Torres would comment on today’s votes. I got a callback from party political advisor Bob Mulholland, who noted Obama voted for immunity today too as a compromise. “Our attitude as a political party is, let’s win the election and we can start cleaning up the constitutional mess Bush gave us,” Mulholland said.

In other words, shut up and trust us, we know what we’re doing.  I think it would be easier to win the election if they weren’t laundering half a million dollars to the Senate leader’s legal defense fund and embarrassing the entire party.  Speaking of which, why IS he still the Senate leader?  Why haven’t there been immediate caucus leadership elections in the wake of this?  Nuñez at least had the sense to step aside.

California Democratic Party in Crisis; Art Torres Should Resign

Every political insider in the state woke up this morning, opened the Sacramento Bee and read:

Perata aid angers some Dems

$250,000 to help with his legal bills should go to 2008 races, they say.

The California Democratic Party’s decision to spend another $250,000 on Senate leader Don Perata’s legal bills has angered some party activists, who say the money would be better spent electing Democrats this year.

The Oakland Democrat has racked up nearly $2 million in fees fending off an ongoing FBI corruption investigation in the last four years. With the latest donation, made July 1, the party has now given a total of $450,000 to help cover Perata’s legal bills.

“The California Democratic Party is in business to defeat Republicans and elect Democrats,” said Rick Jacobs, co-founder of the Courage Campaign, a left-leaning online activist group. “It’s not really to keep corrupt politicians out of jail.”

Steve Cummings, vice president of the Democratic Club of Ventura County, said that while he had not personally formed an opinion, “People are going to be livid.”

Democratic activists who want to take advantage of what could be another tidal wave year should be livid to see the CDP waste money like this. Wasting money on an impotent lame duck who should have passed the batton to Darrell Steinberg long ago instead of electing Democrats is plain stupid. There is no excuse. Art Torres should resign in shame. With this latest scandal, on top of the $4,000,000 he wasted on Fabian Nunez, it is abundantly clear that Torres has no intention of doing his job.

Tomorrow, Speaker Karen Bass is hosting a small dollar fundraiser for the CDP. How can Speaker Bass honestly ask Democratic activists to go to Actblue and make a two figure donation when the CDP is writing six and seven figure checks that have nothing to do with electing Democrats? Chair Torres is embarrassing Speaker Bass with this crap and putting her in an awful position thanks to legal crisis created by the clear appearance of impropriety by Senator Don Perata.

At the heart of the crisis rolling the CDP is money. While DNC Chair Howard Dean and Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama have crossed the bridge to the 21st century and inspired small dollar donors to build people-powered political operations, the CDP is actually going backwards and Chair Torres is running things worse than when he was first anointed by then President Bill Clinton a decade ago. Chair Torres is either unable or unwilling to lead the CDP in this direction. As such, he has no business being Chair and should resign immediately.

When I hear the name “Art Torres” I have a sour taste in my mouth. My first thought is how far the $4,450,000 he has wasted could have gone to register and organize Democrats. Think how far that could have gone towards actually helping Charlie Brown this cycle, or Debbie Cook or Russ Warner or any of the great challengers who should be receiving strong support from the Party. If we lose Proposition 8 and California codifies discrimination into the state constitution, I’m going to think how far that money could have gone towards registering and turning out Democrats. Think how many organizers could be hired and trained with such a large sum.

The California Democratic Party is lost and the first step to set a new course is to admit that the CDP is FUBAR with Art Torres at the helm. Chair Torres needs to step down, preferably before he shames Speaker Bass at tomorrow night’s small dollar fundraiser. For as long as he stays, it makes no sense for small donors to contribute and every Democrat on the ballot this fall in a tight race is at an extreme disadvantage. It is time for reform, for progress. It is time to start winning.

[UPDATE by Dave] – Might as well add this here – the FISA Amendments Act passed today, and Sen. Feinstein voted for cloture, for the final bill, and against stripping out immunity.  Art Torres told us all that last year, she “led the fight” to stop telecom immunity in the United States Senate.  Draw your own conslusions.