Electoral Reform? Maybe Not

Updated

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Democrats appear to have succeeded in their efforts to scuttle a proposed initiative that would change the way that California chooses its electors. According to the Los Angeles Times, key backers behind Californians for Equal Representation, the group gathering signatures for the measure, have resigned, putting in doubt the group’s ability to get the initiative on the ballot in time for the 2008 election.

Thomas Hiltachk, the lawyer who had led the effort, and Kevin Eckery, the group’s spokesman, quit after they were unable to raise enough money and because one of its major donors failed to disclose the source of his contribution. That donor, Missouri attorney Charles Hurth III, had contributed $175,000.

Opponents called the initiative a “partisan power grab,” because its formula would have  switched the way that the state awarded its 55 electors to presidential candidates. Instead of a winner-take-all system, they would have been awarded by the winner in each congressional district. Such an effort, had it been in place, would have cost  John Kerry 20 electoral votes in the 2004 election, for example.

Democrats mobilized quickly against it, enlisting Steve Bing as one of the potential major donors and drawing support from the likes of Norman Lear. Bradley Whitford shot a web ad that debuted this week on the Courage Campaign website. This week, they had questioned where the opposition was getting its money, and played up Hurth’s connections to the Rudy Giuliani campaign as one of the former New York mayor’s donors.

The effort isn’t officially dead, as a major backer could still come along and fund it. But time is running out, as signatures have to be gathered in the next two months to get it on the June, 2008 ballot.

And the leader of opposition group Californians for Fair Election Reform was cautious about declaring it over.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said in an e-mail to Variety today, “We will treat this the same way Ronald Reagan treated the Commies — trust but verify. We want to make sure that this is not  some kind of ploy to play political possum.  It is clear that the legal exposure that they faced from the creation pf these Nixonian front groups to launder their money, he revelations of the Giuliani-donor connections and the media/blogger scrutiny all led to what appears to be a mass resignation by the folks who cooked up this power grab in the first place.”

And Lehane added this, which is a good note to go out on: “Part of me is wondering whether this is some kind of Republican Vinny the Chin strategy — distract people by acting crazily.”

Mayor_2
Antonio’s Admission:
Antonio Villaraigosa told Michael Eisner, of all people, that he talked with Hillary Clinton about his affair with Mirthala Salinas. Appearing on Eisner’s CNBC talk show, Villaraigosa didn’t offer too many details, and Eisner didn’t press him, but he did keep coming back to the topic, reports L.A. Observed. Video here.

MySpace Place: A very casual John Edwards participated in the MTV/MySpace forum, which turned out to be more substance than style.

McCain’s Dinner: Per USA Today, John McCain dined with James Gandolfini, so is an endorsement in the offing? “Next step?” McCain asked, and grinned. “Maybe have some of my opponents’ legs broken?”

Barack_tyra_2
Tyra Politics:
Barack Obama taped an appearance on Tyra Banks’ talk show on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean that the host has endorsed his candidacy (she has contributed to it, though). Banks says, “If you look at a lot of people in the field we’re in, they’re
constantly endorsing everything – from a new purse to a new hotel. This
is just another thing [to endorse]. I love Oprah using her power,
because she has the influence to change what she feels is necessary.
[But] Oprah has been endorsing a lot of things. I can’t say I’ll
publicly be endorsing a candidate, but it’s something I’m thinking
about.”

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