Joe Conason's Journal

The GOP strategists behind the California recall include some fairly unsavory characters. No doubt they'll be eager to help Arnold "clean house" if he wins.


Salon Staff
August 15, 2003 12:40AM (UTC)

If it quacks like a crook
To uncover the twisted roots of the California recall, Max Blumenthal had to dig beneath the freshly buried ambitions of Darrell Issa. In the American Prospect, Blumenthal displays his findings: a "cabal" of usual suspects, including "Sal Russo, who handled banker Bill Simon's hapless 2002 gubernatorial campaign, and David Gilliard, a veteran GOP strategist with a career steeped in scandal," along with "former Enron pollster and Republican tactician Frank Luntz, who devised a strategy for the recall campaign centering around negative character attacks and avoidance of policy discussion." The true history of the recall, in fact, is that the cabal tapped Issa as their funding stooge only after several other party fat cats -- including Arnold Schwarzenegger -- had turned them down.

Now that poor Issa is merely a tear-stained memory, Arnold has moved in with his own crew of GOP consultants. They include some fairly unsavory characters, notably media man Don Sipple, whose ascendance in the Schwarzenegger camp suggests a certain recklessness on Arnold's part. Ugly personal conduct isn't Sipple's only problem. Three years ago, according to Blumenthal, the consultant was "exposed for accepting $120,000 from then-California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush -- a [Republican] client planning to run for Senate -- to craft a veiled campaign ad in which the commissioner played a starring role. The money Sipple received was part of $13 million intended for earthquake victims. The victims never saw a penny of it, and Quackenbush was forced to resign in disgrace." Yesterday, Schwarzenegger hired Martin Wilson, yet another consultant implicated in the Quackenbush scandal, who took $375,000 from the former insurance commissioner.

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No doubt these boys will be eager to help Arnold "clean house" in Sacramento if he wins. Let's hope they don't return to the Quackenbush method, which involves absconding with anything that isn't nailed down. When they aren't gorging themselves on public money, humanitarians like Sipple complain about government expenditures on such items as schooling and medical care for immigrant children. In fact, he and other Schwarzenegger aides are most closely associated with former Gov. Pete Wilson and a certain style of race-tainted, wedge-issue politics -- such as the notorious "They Keep Coming" ad that targeted Latinos in 1994.

Doctor Frankenfox, I presume
My speculation about the instigator of the Fox News lawsuit against Al Franken turned out to be correct, as Matt Drudge reported Wednesday. Unable to disprove Franken's scathing charges against him, Bill O'Reilly pushed the Fox lawyers into filing their speech-stifling action against Franken's publisher. After being humiliated by the comedian, he tried to get his bullying network to avenge him. But now, having created this monstrous fiasco, O'Reilly can only watch while the civilized world lambastes his employer and boosts his enemy's book into the Amazonian heights. His nightmare won't be over for a while, because this is coming his way soon from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
[2:10 p.m. PST, August 14, 2003]

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