Grassroots Infrastructure for Initiatives and Recalls is Growing in California

Earlier this month the effort to recall Gavin Newsom was officially ended. As reported in the Times of San Diego on March 17, “Last week, the California Secretary of State’s Office informed Erin Cruz of Palm Springs that her petition effort to oust the Democratic governor had failed.

A year earlier, an initiative to repeal California’s gas tax made it onto the ballot, only to be defeated in the general election of November 2018. These represent two significant failures on the part of populist conservative reformers in California. But the story of these two failed attempts at change should not dishearten activists.

The ability for underfunded, technologically savvy groups of activists to use the initiative and referendum process to attempt fundamental change in California is a mega-trend that has just begun. It represents an existential threat to California’s ruling establishment. Without major donors, without support from political parties or the media, a movement has formed that does not yet realize its power.

The Recall Gavin petition drive was launched by author and current congressional candidate Erin Cruz and a core group of committed activists. Within 150 days they had to attempt to gather a daunting 1,495,709 signatures. They ended up collecting a gross total of 352,271 signed petitions, of which 281,917 were verified and valid. This may not have been nearly enough to put a recall onto a statewide ballot, but it is nonetheless an astonishing and record-setting achievement, because they did this with nothing. No significant donations. No professional signature gatherers.

The Gas Tax Repeal in 2018, launched by Carl DeMaio, was a hybrid effort, enlisting the support of volunteers as well as hiring professional signature gatherers. But DeMaio’s pioneering tactics, which utilized volunteers not only to gather signatures but also to verify signed petitions, permitted his organization to negotiate nonexclusive arrangements with professional signature gathering firms, and ultimately brought the total cost to qualify the initiative down to a fraction of what a conventional effort would have cost.

Grassroots Initiatives Enabled by Technology Are the Future

Change in California is not coming from the state legislators, who are controlled by the overwhelming power of public sector unions in an alliance with left-leaning billionaires and compliant corporations. Apart from the unlikely entrance of a maverick billionaire into the fray, cases where California’s business sector fights this alliance are rare. While private sector interests do have some fight left in them – the upcoming campaign against the split-roll initiative and the effort to repeal portions of AB 5 are examples – for the most part the fights they choose are defensive, and the strategy they prefer is compromise and tactical retreat.

What California’s state legislators and elite power structure have not reckoned on, however, is the growing potential for activists, linked together and coordinated using online resources, to put transformative initiatives, referendums and recalls onto the state ballot. There are millions of Californians who feel completely disenfranchised by California’s political establishment who can now be mobilized using online assets. Compared to past election cycles, the cost today to do this is negligible.

Organizations that worked on the Newsom Recall and the Gas Tax Repeal remain active, and are launching new campaigns. Erin Cruz’s Restoring America Now Action Fund is actively moving towards circulating a petition to recall Xavier Becerra, and has announced plans to launch additional recalls of top state elected officials. Orrin Heatlie, a retired law enforcement officer who was involved with Cruz on the first Recall Gavin effort, has launched the California Patriot Coalition and is on the verge of circulating a 2nd petition attempting to recall Newsom. Carl DeMaio’s Reform California organization remains active and could become involved in new initiative efforts.

Overcoming Obstacles to Establishing Grassroots Power

The technology to allow registered voters to download, print, sign, circulate, and even verify signatures is already present. Even ten years ago, such a comprehensive set of online assets would not have been feasible, but a lot has changed in a decade. Today, virtually everyone, including senior citizens, are online and know how to navigate a browser to download and print a document. Today it is possible – at zero cost – to shoot an instructional video with a smart phone, then upload it so anyone can watch it. Today, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used by tens of millions of Californians, making it possible for powerful groups to form virtually overnight and, and at no cost, get directed to websites that will assist them to download, print and sign ballot petitions.

An example of the power of social media can be found in the latest recall Newsom effort led by Orrin Heatlie, who has created Facebook groups dedicated to the recall in every county in California. Anyone interested in trying again to recall the governor can go into Facebook, search on the term “Recall Gavin 2020,” and the main page will come up. Members can then be directed to the site for their particular county. Tens of thousands of Californians have already joined these Facebook groups.

It is easy to overstate the difficulties of doing something as radical as putting a half dozen or more initiatives onto California’s state ballot by November 2022. But while the professional consultants who advise activists to only try for one or two initiatives are not necessarily right, there is a limit. How many petitions shall a volunteer circulator be asked to carry? How many petitions shall a supporter be asked to download, print and sign? It is safe to say that fewer than three would be too few, but more than ten would almost certainly be too many. A consensus must form around roughly a half-dozen measures, and that won’t be easy.

One obstacle, if the goal is not only to make the ballot, but to win, is to avoid initiatives that are divisive to the voters. That is not to suggest avoiding initiatives that will trigger fierce institutional opposition. An initiative to reform union work rules, as attempted by the Vergara case which lost on a technicality, would arouse the full resources of the teachers union in opposition. That’s fine. But avoid initiatives that split California’s electorate into two bitterly opposed camps. We all know what those are. Steer clear of them. And that, too, will not be easy, because often the most committed and effective activists are those who care about one and only one issue. Their support is required. They must be respected and convinced to be part of a broader movement.

Another obstacle, perhaps the biggest, is to avoid diluting efforts. Across the state, there are groups of potential volunteers that want to be part of something big and are ready to support it with their individual donations and volunteer time. But which something? Will it be the recall Becerra effort, or the 2nd recall Newsom effort? And as the calendar winds its way into the 2022 election cycle, with several attractive reform initiatives being circulated, which one will they support?

The solution here is also not easy, but it is necessary. The grassroots, statewide groups of volunteers that intend to circulate reform initiatives will have to cooperate with each other. There are a few levels of cooperation, and the higher the level of cooperation that can be achieved, the better. Here are some ideas:

Ways Statewide Reform Initiative Organizations Can Cooperate

1 – At the very least, statewide groups cannot put out competing initiatives that both accomplish the same goal. During the recent Newsom recall effort, not only was Erin Cruz’s group circulating a petition, but another group led by James Veltmeyer also had a recall petition approved for circulation. Although Veltmeyer’s effort never acquired momentum, it created confusion among potential supporters. In a different set of circumstances in the future, duplicate petitions might destroy the chances of either to succeed.

2 – The next level of cooperation would be for the various county organizations that are set up to receive and verify signed petitions to cooperate with each other. This could be via an agreement between the statewide groups sponsoring them. For example, Orrin Heatlie’s California Patriot Coalition already has active networks in every county. DeMaio’s network of county organizations can presumably be activated at any time. Erin Cruz has announced the intention to mobilize organizations at the county level in the near future. What these statewide groups can do, along with not launching duplicate petitions, is to promise to forward signed petitions that one county group receives by mistake, to the correct county group. If that is impractical, then they can exchange with each other a single statewide address, and agree to forward petitions to the correct statewide group. This will prevent any petitions being lost.

3 – The ultimate level of cooperation would be for the statewide groups to share the resources of their county volunteer organizations. This could work on a county by county basis. But if, in a particular county, the volunteers for one statewide initiative effort have a backlog of thousands of signed petitions they need to verify, and in that same county, another statewide initiative effort has over-capacity because they have more volunteers available than petitions requiring verification, they could assist the other group. This would reassure volunteers that they aren’t in the wrong place. It would let them know that regardless of which organization they support, they will still be part of a unified effort to transform California.

Another way to cooperate would be to share online code. While the websites and databases necessary to run these efforts have already largely been built, each organization has online strengths and weaknesses. Sharing best practices would go a long way towards shortening the learning curve, and could spell the difference between success or failure for some efforts.

To coordinate a cooperative effort, the California State GOP could get involved, once their focus on November 2020 is behind them. But grassroots reform can occur with or without the CAGOP. In some respects, if the groups pushing these initiatives avoid extreme propositions that divide the electorate, it might be better for them to remain totally nonpartisan. Reforming public education, restoring law and order, rewriting CEQA for the 21st century, financing new water and transportation infrastructure, and saving the pension funds are not partisan issues, nor are they extreme. They are populist issues with broad support from Californians of all types.

Technology and populism can align to allow ordinary Californians to fix their broken state. California is ripe for a fundamental political realignment, and for the first time, California’s grassroots voters can take matters into their own hands.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

California Likely Closed Through April

Forget shelter in place: It may be time to settle in place.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that California will likely remain closed through April. His prediction came the same day President Donald Trump announced his intention to reopen the country by Easter, on April 12.

Newsom did not directly address Trump’s comments, but he emphasized that such a timeline would not work for California.

  • Newsom: “We’re trying to bend that curve, but we haven’t bent it. … April, early April, I think that would be misleading to represent, at least for California. … I’ve said this very honestly and objectively based on all the expertise and experts … the next six to eight weeks will be pivotal and will be determinative in terms of being able to … reset expectations. … I said eight to 12 weeks … we can continue to do what we’ve done, and if we do that, hopefully, we’ll be in a very different place than we are today. I think April, for California, would be sooner than any of the experts I’ve talked to would believe is possible.”

By underscoring his reliance on health experts to determine an appropriate time to reopen the state, Newsom implicitly contrasted himself with the president, who said he chose the April 12 date because “I just thought it was a beautiful time.”

However, it’s ultimately governors, not the president, who will decide when their states reopen for business. To date, almost half of U.S. states have imposed lockdowns in response to coronavirus. …

Click here to read the full article from

Trump, Congress agree on $2 trillion virus rescue bill

The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The urgently needed pandemic response measure is the largest economic rescue measure in history and is intended as a weeks- or months-long patch for an economy spiraling into recession and a nation facing a potentially ghastly toll.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. It still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

Gavin Newsom’s Solution to California’s Homelessness Problem: Throw Another Billion Dollars at It

California’s homeless population keeps skyrocketing, and so has the number of bills aiming at solving the homelessness problem. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a billion-dollar plan designed to get more houses built for those who need it. But even that much money isn’t likely to help many people if the underlying problem remains unchanged. To solve California’s homelessness problem, you have to address inflexible zoning rules and ineffective municipal bureaucracies.

Newsom’s executive order allocates $750 million to build more affordable housing units and to establish a California Access to Housing and Services Fund within the state’s Department of Social Services. The goal is to pay rent for individuals facing homelessness and to make vacant state properties available immediately as shelter options. An additional $695 million will be used to boost preventative health care measures for the homeless through Medi-Cal Healthier California for All.

This follows 18 housing bills that Newsom signed into law last fall. The bills are supposed to accelerate housing production, but they don’t have much teeth. They require local jurisdictions to publicly share information about zoning ordinances and other building rules—not to roll the regs back, just to be more transparent about them. They also ask cities and counties to maintain an inventory of state surplus land sites suitable for residential development.

California voters also approved $4 billion in bonds last year for affordable housing programs.

“You can’t just throw money at homelessness and a lack of affordable housing and expect that you’re going to achieve the result that you’re hoping to achieve,” says David Wolfe, legislative director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. After all, it hasn’t worked so far.

California is home to almost half of America’s homeless population, and the median price for a house there is more than twice the national level. Fixing that problem means building more houses, but zoning laws and anti-development activism make that difficult. Serious reform will require moves like modifying city codes to let developers build units that aren’t single-family homes. And dialing back rules, such as the California Environmental Quality Act, that let neighborhood activists block new construction with faux-environmental concerns. And, in general, clearing away the thicket of state and local regulations that get in the way of meeting the demand for housing.

“If you’re a city council,” San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting told Curbed San Francisco, “the people who vote for you oppose the housing you’re creating, and you’re creating housing for the people who have yet to move in.”

Californians also have to contend with a perverse incentive built into Proposition 13, a measure that limits property-tax increases on homes until they’re sold. This gives cities a reason to encourage commercial instead of residential development.

As legislators continue to pour money into housing programs, perhaps they should think more about how to address the broken system responsible for the mess. In the meantime, others will look for ways to route around the system. Silicon Valley giants have begun to propose their own housing projects, underscoring the state government’s inability to move forwards with its own reforms.

MASHA ABARINOVA is a Burton C. Gray journalism intern.

This article was originally published by

California’s SB 50: A Model For Addressing the Urban Housing Crisis

Earlier this month, California state senator Scott Wiener began the third year of his push for a state law to override local zoning and authorize midsize apartment buildings near transit stops. The latest version of his bill, SB 50, comes with a twist that augurs well for its passage and eventual impact. 

The bill tackles a thorny problem. Longtime residents, especially homeowners, resist neighborhood change. They’re also the dominant force in local politics. The preserve-the-neighborhood norm would be innocuous if it was limited to a few locales, but when all of a metro region’s municipalities throw up barricades to new housing—and just as environmentalists are rallying to protect exurban greenfields—the cumulative effect is disastrous: wildly unaffordable housing, a working-class exodussprawling homeless encampments, and enormous foregone productivity. This is the story of coastal California since the seventies.

The ambition of SB 50 is to turn the clock back to an earlier era—not just pre-1970, but before the Great Depression, when single-family homes in growing cities were commonly torn down and replaced by small apartment buildings. After World War II, this pattern of incremental densification largely disappeared. Today, the expansion of urban housing stock is basically confined to formerly industrial and commercial zones. The majority of buildable land in major cities remains locked up in the zoning straightjacket. Once a tract has been zoned and developed for single-family homes, it’s stuck.

Two questions have dogged Wiener’s effort to loosen the straitjacket. First, how could a bill that upsets so many homeowners and local officials ever pass? And second, even if the bill passes, what’s to keep homeowner-dominated cities from making the nominally permissible new housing practically impossible to build? To mollify opponents, Wiener has made it clear that his bill would not touch local authority over demolition controls, design standards, permitting procedures, impact fees, and more. But the less that the bill preempts, the easier it will be to evade.

The new version of SB 50 deftly resolves this dilemma. Instead of immediately “up-zoning” all residential parcels within a half mile of a transit stop—as the prior versions would have done—the bill defines a default zoning “envelope” for these parcels. Local governments will get two years either to accept the default or propose an alternative “local flexibility plan” that creates an equivalent amount of developable space in the aggregate, while also scoring well on certain transit and fair-housing metrics. A flexibility plan takes effect only if approved by the state housing department; otherwise, the SB 50 up-zoning kicks in, by default. 

The provision for local flexibility plans should make SB 50 both easier to pass and more resistant to local gamesmanship. Though some local governments may pursue the old strategy of regulatory obstruction, that approach carries legal risk. The more prudent course for many local officials will involve submitting a local flexibility plan that lightens the density load on their most resistant constituents while authorizing commensurately greater heights and residential density in more supportive neighborhoods, as well as in formerly commercial or industrial zones.

Once a local government follows this path, the state housing department will exert significant control over the stratagems by which a municipality might kill development on newly up-zoned sites. A local flexibility plan must “increase overall feasible housing capacity,” as the new SB 50 declares. To deliver on that goal, the state agency could insist that a flexibility plan put reasonable limits on fees, permitting times, demolition controls, and more.

The state agency might even allow regional local governments to exchange “SB 50 density” with one another. Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch has made a name for himself fighting SB 50. If another Southern California city were willing to take Beverly Hills’s mandated density—for a price—Mirisch could propose a deal, perhaps even subsidizing an expansion of the other city’s transit system. His wealthy constituents would have no trouble affording it. However outlandish Beverly Hills’s land-use practices may be, California will be better off if Mirisch devotes his formidable resources to wheeling and dealing over flexibility plans, rather than spearheading a campaign for SB 50’s repeal.

California has long been the poster child for housing-policy dysfunction, but the problems facing San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego are also playing out in superstar cities across the nation and worldwide. The new SB 50 is a model that can travel. Urbanists everywhere should take heed.

Christopher S. Elmendorf is Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Trump Approves First Solar’s Mega-Farm in California Desert

The Trump administration on Wednesday will announce the authorization of a roughly 3,000-acre solar farm near Palm Springs, California, after developers scaled back its size to help avoid threatened desert tortoises and cultural artifacts.

First Solar Inc.’s 450-megawatt Desert Quartzite project in eastern Riverside County has been praised by some environmentalists for its careful design on lands teeming with protected species and relics.

“It’s a big project, over 2,700 acres. That’s no small chunk of land, and they’re going to squeeze 450 megawatts out of that,” said Casey Hammond, the Interior Department’s acting assistant secretary of land and minerals management. “If you look at how they scaled it down from where they first were — it’s 1,000 acres less — and what they’re going to crank out of there, utility payers should get a good value.”

The project, being developed by Desert Quartzite LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar, is expected to be in operation by 2022. …

Click here to read the full article from Yahoo Finance.

Newsom’s 2020-21 Budget – A Big Pie, But Empty Calories

Governor Newsom has unveiled his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2020-21, and it comes in at a whopping $222 billion. That’s up from $209 billion last year, and sharply up from a few years ago. Backing up a decade, the 2010-11 budget totaled $130 billion. What on earth could justify a 70 percent increase in spending in just ten years?

Shown below is the shocking growth in California’s state budget over the past forty years. The chart includes not only general fund spending, along with special funds and bonds, but also federal funds which are not included in the $222 billion total, but which are administered by the state and spent in California.

As can be seen, the growth hasn’t been uniformly up. There was a drop during the mild recession in the mid 1990s, another one in 2004-2005, and a plunge during the great recession that affected 2011 through 2014. But overall, spending growth over the past 40 years looks a bit like the proverbial hockey stick.

To have a fair discussion of spending growth in California, however, it is necessary to adjust for population growth and the impact of inflation. That is not a problem, since population dataCPI trends, and historical budgets are all easily found online. Back in 1977 California’s population was 21.9 million, and the CPI was 56.9. For the last five years, California’s population has hovered just under 40 million, growing by only a half million in that period of time, averaging barely 100,000 per year (ponder that fact, Gov. Newsom).

Shown below is per capita state government spending in California expressed in 2019 constant dollars. Viewing this information puts the current budget growth into context, and as can be seen, the trends are sharply upward, especially in the last two years.

Examining the categories of spending growth separately, all of the categories show huge increases. In constant 2019 dollars, per capita general fund spending has risen from $2,124 in 1976-77 to $3,650 in 2019-21. Special Funds spending has soared, from $418 per capita in 1976-77 to $1,507 in 2019-20. And Federal contributions to the state have also risen sharply, from $1,637 forty years ago to $2,669 today. In constant dollars, adjusted for inflation, per capita state spending in California has roughly doubled over the past forty years.

From this analysis, it should be obvious that California’s government has been spending more every year, a lot more, even after adjusting for population growth and the impact of inflation, and the trend has been nearly continuous for the last forty years. To suggest that Californians should pay more in taxes to support a near doubling in per capita government spending because Californians have more income today is so ridiculous that further analysis isn’t required. Just look around.

Compared to forty years ago, Californians cannot afford to purchase homes, they cannot afford to pay college tuition, they cannot drive on uncongested freeways, and they cannot expect their children to get a good education in public schools. Forty years ago, they could expect all those things.

There have been many improvements to our lives over the past forty years – the tech revolution and precision medicine, to state two obvious examples – but apart from cleaner air and less crime, the state can’t take much credit for improvements to the quality of life for Californians. The state can take credit, however, nearly exclusive credit, for making California unaffordable, for ruining California’s public schools, for driving up the cost of college tuition and neglecting our highways. And the state is fast losing all the gains that were made in fighting crime since the 1970s.

So while there are plenty of pet programs to assail in Newsom’s budget, and some trillion dollars in debt and unfunded liabilities that make mockery of the alleged surplus, the elephant in the room is to compare where we are to where we were. What happened? We spent more, much more, and life is harder, much harder. The workers are moving out, while the indigent pour in for the benefits and the super wealthy invest in security systems and beachfront property.

It’s important to ask where all this money goes. It’s important to make the obligatory pie charts and understand who gets what. But more important is why are we spending so much? What is the pie so much bigger today, yet provides less nourishment than ever?

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

Poll: Bernie Sanders Leading in Close California Presidential Primary

With just over a month and a half until voters go to the polls, Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading a tight three-way race in California’s Democratic presidential primary, a new survey released Monday afternoon found.

The poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, found Sanders leading with 27 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 24 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 23 percent.

Sanders jumped 10 percentage points since the last time PPIC surveyed Californians in November, mirroring a similar surge in recent months around the country for the Vermont senator. But his lead remains well within the poll’s margin of error, a sign of how close the race for the White House remains in California. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News.

Gov. Newsom’s Bad First Year

Nearly anyone who has watched Governor Gavin Newsom would agree he’s a good public speaker. He often talks about California’s great economy and diversity, and eloquently conveys the bold ideas he believes the state should embrace. He speaks of dreamers, doers and courageous risk-takers.

Sadly, there is a dichotomy between what Gov. Newsom says and what he actually does. 

Looking across that divide, we see that Gavin Newsom’s first year as governor was a disastrous one for far too many Californians.

In summary of his first year – “On the Record with Governor Newsom: One Year of California for All” – he mentions repealing the sales-and-use tax on diapers. What he failed to mention was that he misled the bill’s authors on an important detail he buried inside the bill. 

He originally promised a permanent repeal of the tax, only to change his commitment later to a five-year repeal. The bill’s authors sucked up that change only to find out later that Newsom—without consulting them first—walked things back even further by shortening the tax relief period to only two years.

Words versus actions.

In another example of the governor’s talk-versus-actions issue, his column touted investing $2.75 billion to confront California’s homeless crisis. He says homelessness is a housing problem and that he wants to build more homes. However, he hasn’t acted to fix one of the main problems causing homebuilding in California to be so expensive – the morass of state and local mandates and regulations that builders have to slog through to build anything. Without plugging that sinkhole, you end up with outcomes such as  a 72-unit apartment building for the homeless in Los Angeles that cost a shocking $690,692 per unit to build.

At that cost per unit, the governor’s $2.75 billion would build about 4,000 apartments, and that would be only if every penny goes toward building and nothing else. California has the nation’s highest homeless population; over 130,000; 4,000 apartments won’t even come close to solving homelessness.

Newsom also failed to mention that during his campaign he promised to appoint a cabinet-level “homeless czar” to solve the homeless crisis in California. But after his swearing-in he backed away from the idea and instead chose to create  another committee filled with elected officials. 

And now he’s announced the hiring of Matthew Doherty—a Washington, D.C. based consultant—as a part-time advisor on homelessness. Solving homelessness in California is clearly a job with full-time needs and responsibilities. So, even as Gov. Newsom is writing that he’s “working nonstop to confront the statewide crisis of homelessness,” he’s hiring as part-time consultant as the point man on the issue  who will at the same time juggle a bunch of other clients and responsibilities from over 2,700 miles away.

Nice words, lack of meaningful action.

Additionally, Gov. Newsom has played fast and loose with California’s gas tax dollars. He’s been caught trying to divert gas tax money away from fixing roads and highways and toward building more bike lanes. So much for that lockbox we were all promised. Under Gov. Newsom’s leadership, Californians now pay the highest gas taxes and fuel prices in the nation, higher even than in Hawaii, which has to import gas halfway across the Pacific Ocean.

His column sung of California having its largest rainy day fund in history, yet failed to mention that even with a $22 billion revenue surplus he and his fellow Democrats still felt it necessary to increase the taxes and fees Californians pay. We have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, the state has a surplus, and still Newsom and his fellow Democrats chose to take actions that increase the cost of living and make California even more unaffordable.

Governor Newsom wrote of “pursuing solutions that work.” Like his decision to limit – and in some cases eliminate – permitting for California’s in-state oil and gas production. Not only are California jobs being jeopardized, but it also means California will have to buy more petroleum from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Latin America and import to California. Is that a solution that works?

Our California governor, who claims to have your back in Sacramento, is the same guy who deceived the public about something so mundane as where he was going to live, approved spending millions of tax dollars for dog parks and garden sculptures, and who signed into law AB 5, which blocks many independent contractors from earning a living in this state. He’s the governor who failed to advance the undergrounding of electrical lines to reduce the risk of wildfires, increased taxes on cell phones, and added tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building homes.

Gov. Newsom’s column is positive and aspirational. He speaks a good game and talks pretty, but pretty words are not reality – actions are, and his are hurting many Californians.

Corrin Rankin is president, Legacy Republican Alliance.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

‘Hidden Truths Stripped From the National Dialogue’ – The president’s power over foreign policy

From the book “Hidden Truths Stripped From the National Dialogue” by Bruce Herschensohn



The most pertinent excerpts follow from the decision of United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation in which the “external realm” and “external relations” are terms used at times for what is now more frequently called foreign affairs, foreign relations, or foreign policy:

“In this vast external realm, with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As [U.S. Congressman, later to become U.S. Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John] Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations’…The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at a very early day in our history [February 15, 1816], reported to the Senate, among other things, as follows:

“The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. He manages our concerns with foreign nations and must necessarily be most competent to determine when, how, and upon what subjects negotiation may be urged with the greatest prospect of success. For his conduct he is responsible to the Constitution. The committee consider(s) this responsibility the surest pledge for the faithful discharge of his duty. They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility, and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety. The nature of transactions with foreign nations, moreover, requires caution and unity of design, and their success frequently depends on secrecy and dispatch.

“It is important to bear in mind that we are here dealing not alone with an authority vested in the President by an exertion of legislative power, but with such an authority plus the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations – a power which does not require as a basis for its exercise an act of Congress, but which, of course, like every other governmental power, must be exercised in subordination to the applicable provisions of the Constitution. It is quite apparent that if, in the maintenance of our international relations, embarrassment – perhaps serious embarrassment – is to be avoided and success for our aims achieved, congressional legislation which is to be made effective through negotiation and inquiry within the international field must often accord to the President a degree of discretion and freedom from statutory restriction which would not be admissible were domestic affairs alone involved. Moreover, he, not Congress, has the better opportunity of knowing the conditions which prevail in foreign countries, and especially is this true in time of war. He has his confidential sources of information. He has his agents in the form of diplomatic, consular and other officials. Secrecy in respect of information gathered by them may be highly necessary, and the premature disclosure of it productive of harmful results. Indeed, so clearly is this true that the First President refused to accede to a request to lay before the House of Representatives the instructions, correspondence and documents relating to the negotiation of the Jay Treaty – a refusal the wisdom of which was recognized by the House itself and has never since ben doubted…

“When the President is to be authorized by legislation to act in respect of a matter intended to affect a situation in foreign territory, the legislator properly bears in mind the important consideration that the form of the President’s action – or, indeed, whether he shall act at all – may well depend, among other things, upon the nature of the confidential information which he has or may thereafter receive, or upon the effect which his action may have upon our foreign relations. This consideration, in connection with what we have already said on the subject, discloses the unwisdom of requiring Congress in this field of governmental power to lay down narrowly definite standards by which the President is to be governed.”

Bruce Herschensohn is a preeminent foreign policy expert, political commentator and author. He advised the greatest foreign policy presidents of our time, serving in the Nixon Administration and on the Reagan Presidential Transition Team. Herschensohn is a Senior Fellow in International Relations at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.