Has the Boss Called Off the ‘Hit’?

Jeff Denham is farmer. Needless to say his is a high-risk profession. Farmers are at the mercy of a number of uncontrollable factors from the market for crops to government interference to the whims of Mother Nature. With so much uncertainty in their profession most agricultural dependent businesses find it essential to compensate by carefully planning what they can control and this begins with a prudent budget. The welfare of their families and employees depend on their responsible stewardship.

Because Denham takes "farm values" seriously he has been successful enough to be able to afford to take on an additional responsibility. Jeff Denham serves California as a state Senator.

In the Legislature Denham and his colleagues must deal with the challenges of uncertainty similar to those faced by farmers. Millions of Californians depend on the stability of state government which is subject to unexpected changes in the economy the uncertain support from the federal government as well as the vicissitudes of nature.

In this environment Denham’s background has come in extremely handy. He understands that just as a responsible annual budget is important to his business a prudent state budget is vital to 37 million Californians. This is why last year when a majority in the Legislature tried to ram through a high-spending budget plan in the face of an economic downturn Denham voted "No."

Don Perata is the boss of the state Senate. As President Pro Tempore of the Senate Perata behaves as a "boss" in the worst sense of the word. His heavy-handedness is renowned. When two Senators — members of his own political party — attended a fundraiser for a group of which Perata did not approve they arrived at work finding they were unable to enter their offices. The Boss had ordered the sergeants-at-arms to lock them out.

Nor is Perata subtle when it comes to constituents. When several voters at a public event complained to the governor about the effect on the state of illegal immigration Perata dismissed them as "crackers."

With Perata’s history it should come as little surprise that he vindictively targeted Denham for recall as payback for the vote against a reckless budget. Although Denham had been joined in voting "no" by a dozen colleagues he was chosen because as a Republican representing a district with heavy Democratic registration he appeared vulnerable.

With his ability to call on contributors for favors Perata funded a campaign to collect the signatures necessary to place Denham on the June ballot as the subject of recall. The Boss even went so far as to order Senate staff to work on the campaign to unseat Denham.

However Perata appears to have miscalculated. Turns out Denham is very popular with both Republicans and Democrats in his district. He won reelection two years ago with 60% of the vote. And a number of prominent local elected officials who are registered Democrats have expressed their displeasure with Perata’s move. Turlock city councilman Ted Howze summed it up when he said that the recall had been mounted because "[Denham] told the voters of California the truth: that our budget is a mess."

The strength of the pushback has been enough to make the Boss reconsider. Two weeks ago Perata announced he was calling off the effort to remove Denham saying that he thought it would detract from efforts to work out a new budget. Unfortunately his decision comes a little late. Because Denham’s name will still appear on the June ballot as the subject of recall his efforts must continue to
be divided at a time when the people of California desperately need his sane approach and full attention to the upcoming budget that risks being even further out of whack than the last.

And in a late-breaking twist to this sordid story there is a question as to whether the "hit" against Denham has really been called off. Turns out some money has begun to mysteriously show up in the recall effort’s coffers. We don’t know if those funds are tainted with the Boss’s fingerprints but at this point nothing would surprise us.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.