Sunday, August 31, 2008

Redistricting measure backers blast prison guards, Perata

Backers of November's political redistricting measure took the state prison guards union to task Wednesday for giving State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata $602,000 to help defeat the measure.

The four contributions to Perata's Leadership California committee since late May have come as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association lobbies the Legislature — where Perata, D-Oakland, still holds sway — for a pay raise, Proposition 11's supporters said.

"CCPOA and Senator Perata, in our opinion, should be ashamed of themselves for what appears to us to be a pay-to-play strategy at its worst," state AARP president Jeannine English said, noting CCPOA has much at stake, and "making sure that the dysfunctional Sacramento status quo remains in place really benefits them."

"Prop. 11 is too important not to pursue, and this situation clearly underscores that fact," California Common Cause Executive Director Kathay Feng said, arguing the measure aims to empower voters and neuter big-moneyed special interests. "If they were really interested as they say in opposing Prop. 11, why didn't they put their money into the 'No on Prop. 11' fund?"

"We just have more faith in Senator Perata to get the job done," CCPOA spokesman Lance Corcoran replied later Wednesday, saying it's unimportant where the money goes so long as it's used against this faulty measure. "We do nothing different than the teachers, trial lawyers, oil companies Advertisement— everything's above board, everything's reported, but, of course, because it's 'the evil prison guards union,' this is a problem."

Few deny that letting the Legislature draw its own map has created a bipartisan gerrymander allowing little competition and coddling ideological extremism. Proposition 11 would create a 14-person commission — five Democrats, five Republicans and four others — randomly selected by the state auditor from an applicant pool to draw California's state Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization districts using new standards that emphasize compactness and neighborhoods' geographic integrity. Congressional redistricting would be left in the Legislature's hands.

Foes say it would create a new bureaucracy with an unlimited budget that need not reflect the state's diversity. Some Democrats, including Perata, call it a Republican power grab and note Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Dream Team committee is by far Proposition 11's biggest patron, having put up almost $2.9 million; in fact, the governor will host another fundraiser Monday in Sacramento, asking $2,500 to $25,000 a head.

No on 11 spokesman Paul Hefner, a longtime Perata campaign consultant, accused proponents of "selective memory" in taking money from the governor and his donors while decrying the CCPOA and Perata. There is no pay-to-play here, he insisted; Perata "makes all his policy decisions on the merits."

  • Conrad Black loses appeal of fraud, obstruction convictions
  • Governor enlists former foe for redistricting reform
  • Democratic leaders accused of pressuring supporters of redistricting measure