California DISCLOSE Act: Will our Mansoor, Silva, and/or Norby buck their Party and stand up for transparency?


OC Republican Assemblymen Allan Mansoor, Jim Silva, and Chris Norby - on the fence!


Santa Ana Republican activist Mike Tardif wants you to know he’s DROWNING under a DELUGE of Tom Daly mailers.  And we progressive Democrats have been bitching about it here for weeks.  Glossy, well-produced, full of half-truths and lies, these mailers – like the equally deceptive and well-done Tom Daly TV spots the whole county has been subjected to – are credited to Jobs PAC, a “bipartisan coalition of California employers.”   Only close readers of blogs like this, or people with the time and wherewithal to do their own research, know that Jobs PAC is mostly oil companies like CHEVRON, tobacco companies like PHILIP MORRIS, insurance companies like FARMERS, and real estate interests, all of whom hope to get special favors if and when Daly is elected and his progressive foe Julio Perez is defeated.

Just as irritating to SOME, although much smaller in bulk, are the numerous mailers sent on Julio’s behalf by coalitions of UNIONS, under the equally anodyne rubric “Orange County Dignity PAC.”  I mean, who doesn’t like JOBS, who doesn’t like DIGNITY?  But a lot of people would take an ad with much more salt, if they knew it was from Chevron or public employee unions.

Meanwhile down in Costa Mesa/HB/Newport, rightwing assemblyman Allan Mansoor is getting SWAMPED by hundreds of thousands of dollars of ads attacking him and lauding his moderate Republican opponent Leslie Daigle.  These ads come from something called “Spirit of Democracy California,” which is actually nothing but the very controversial moderate Republican reformer Charles Munger Jr, a billionaire associate of Warren Buffet.  But only the wonkiest among us know that fact.

Just think how much more of an open, honest discourse it would be – for ALL of us – if the Daly ads were festooned with the logos of Chevron, Philip Morris, and Farmers Insurance;  if the Perez ads featured the logos of the public employee and other unions;  and if the attacks on Mansoor featured the grinning bowtied mug of “RINO” reformer Charles T Munger?  Y’know?

That’s exactly what the California DISCLOSE Act (AB 1648, Brownley) is attempting to enshrine in law.  It’s something everyone who cares about transparency and honesty in our politics should be for, no matter how left, right, Republican, Democrat, or independent you are.  And it’s on the Assembly floor today, having passed through all necessary committees.  *Update – it’s up for a vote FRIDAY June 1.

But at this point it is behind ONE VOTE.  Not a SINGLE REPUBLICAN has agreed to vote in favor of it.  (Why not?  We’ll look at that below.)  San Diego Republican Nathan Fletcher is a co-sponsor…but then he left the Party and became an independent – D’oh!  However, we do have three Republican Assemblymen in our own fair county who have at least been considering doing the right thing, breaking with their Party, and supporting transparency in our politics:  Costa Mesa’s Allan Mansoor, Huntington Beach’s Jim Silva, and Fullerton’s Chris Norby.

Allan Mansoor, as of this eleventh-hour writing, seems the most open.  His constant buzzword since being elected to the assembly has been “reform,” although many of us mean several different things when we use a word like “reform.”  Still, Allan is finding out what it’s like to be the nonstop target of attacks from a mysterious, endlessly funded source, calling itself “Spirit of Democracy California.”  How would YOU like it if you woke up every morning being savaged by the “Spirit of Democracy” – especially when you know it’s really a billionaire Republican who basically wants Republicans to compromise more with Democrats?  (I mean – I also want them to, but I can see how aggravating that would be to a hardcore rightwinger like Allan, and how it might drive him to back this reform.)  Call Allan NOW.   (916) 319-2068.

Jim Silva was (along with the dearly drip-parted Duvall) the only OC legislator with the common sense and independence to vote – from the beginning – against the sale of the OC Fairgrounds, which is how we became friends, and how I ended up posting a very positive interview with him here.   He also loves to talk about “transparency” – transparency which would have prevented the Fairgrounds Swindle from the beginning, transparency without which Arnold would never have attempted to “slease” our public buildings (another thing Silva and I both fought against), transparency which is the hallmark of the California DISCLOSE Act.

When we spoke to him, he said he was still making up his mind about this bill.  And (more than once) he told us the (obviously very traumatic to him) story of how one time he was attacked with a cartoon showing him to be a puppet of the unions – and months later, it turned out this attack secretly came from “the unions” themselves!  Rather than responding “Huh?” we pointed out, “This is exactly what the California DISCLOSE Act would have prevented!”  A devious attack like that, if that’s actually how it went down, wouldn’t even have happened if the perpetrators were required to identify themselves.

If you’re a constituent of Silva’s – i.e. in Huntington Beach, Westminster, Seal Beach, Cypress, that whole area – he needs you to call him NOW at 916-319-2067 to put some steel in his spine.  He is termed out and not running for office this year – how could the GOP punish him?  He does plan to run again, for Correa’s old Senate seat, in two years, but really, who would still hold this vote against him then?  Many of us would remember it positively.  I have a feeling things are going to be very different – especially in terms of Republican LOCK-STEP DISCIPLINE – by 2014.

Then there’s Chris Norby, (916) 319-2072, who has always seemed to be one of the more honest and independent Republicans in our Assembly.  When Jerry Brown and Sacramento Democrats joined him last year in his opposition to Redevelopment Agencies, he was the only Republican Assemblyman to not play partisan games by suddenly reversing himself to defend the RDA’s.  (Eventually others joined him.)  My colleagues met recently with his top Fullerton aide Bruce Whitaker (also a Fullerton councilman; and, like Norby, a close associate of Tony Bushala’s – watchword transparency, accountability, you know – THAT Bushala?)  Bruce seemed receptive and gave us the impression he would try to convince Norby to vote in favor, but then on further contact Bruce said he had “concerns” with the bill’s “fairness.”

Well, that’s exactly what we’d like to discuss, whatever legitimate concerns there are.  We want this to be a BIPARTISAN bill and we’re open to any reasonable amendments from Republicans that won’t destroy the bill’s effectiveness.  It IS too late to put in amendments THIS WEEK, but if it passes the Assembly it will move on to the Senate where it COULD be amended, and then will need to come back to the Assembly in its final form.  Thus, any Assembly Republicans who vote for it now can make it clear that they will vote against it later if it’s not amended the way they want. This is standard practice.

Pretexts, quibbles … and the Chamber of Commerce.

Why are Assembly Republicans so lock-step against this sensible reform bill, and why are Silva, Norby and Mansoor so cautious about bucking their Party on this?  They claim, without much justification at all, that the bill is tougher on corporations than on unions.  For one thing, there’s talk about LOGOS.  The bill would require a company’s or union’s LOGO to be placed on an ad they pay for.  Republicans pull out a very small violin and lament over how much work, meaning and value go into a company’s logo, how extremely sacred and personal the little suckers are.  Well.  If it comes down to giving up the logo for a few Republican votes, maybe that could happen.

Grasping for straws, they stammer, well, not everybody knows WHICH unions are (the currently demonized) Public Employee Unions.  The ones that are should have to make that CLEAR, they caterwaul.

Weak stuff.  There are no good arguments against this bill, except the one that someone of whom you are a wholly owned subsidiary really doesn’t like it. And the California Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the California Chamber of Commerce (along with the rotting corpse of Howard Jarvis Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.)

And, although the bill would constrain unions equally as much as the Chamber’s corporations, it’s the LATTER who fight transparency tooth and nail.  That’s because their financial power over our politics is 17 TIMES that of the unions, and they want to keep it that way.

Let’s hope that one, two, or three of our OC Republicans do the right thing today Friday.  What would Hiram Johnson have done?  What would Teddy Roosevelt have done?  Let us hearken back to a time when not all Republicans were spineless corporate whores.

Now let me go check if the vote has happened yet…

[UPDATED Wednesday night.  Vote will be Friday.  Make those calls Thursday!!!  Thank you.]

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.