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INSIDE POLITICS

Upper House No Funhouse? But With All the Antics ...

May 12, 2003|Patt Morrison | Times Staff Writer

One of California's top Republicans atop the Capitol Hill heap is also cracking the whip for President Bush's half-trillion-dollar tax cut wish list. Bakersfield's smart, steely congressman, Bill Thomas, appeared on CNBC's "Capital Report" last week to expound on tax-cut compromise, but was also asked whether he might find himself in the Senate one day:

"No."

Alan Murray: "You don't want to be a senator?" (meaning, doesn't everyone?)

"No."

Murray: "You don't think it'd be fun?"

"Fun doesn't have anything to do with it."

Leapin' Legislators, What a Competition!

Too many people already think of politicians as a class of reptiles. Now the politicians are fussing over amphibians.

A frog-jumping competition near the trout pond on the grounds of the Capitol has become yet another contest that could use a recount.

State Sen. Rico Oller staged the leap to promote the upcoming Calaveras County Fair, drawn from Mark Twain's short story about the celebrated jumper.

The Assembly's GOP leader, Dave Cox, claimed first-place-overall victory for his frog, No Tax Max, recounted the Capitol Morning Report.

Not so fast, said Jim Kjol, chief of staff to Salinas' GOP state Sen. Jeff Denham: His amphibian, Landslide Jeff, leaped 10 feet, 2 inches. But Cox can claim the Assembly frog trophy if he wishes.

But wait! Morning Report got a confession from Laurie Giannini, spokeswoman for the real Calaveras fair and the judge in this case, that she erroneously wrote down 10 feet 2 for Landslide Jeff, who only made 7 feet 2. She awarded the Senate co-championship to Landslide Jeff and to Budget Surplus, the frog assigned to an aide to Arcata Democrat state Sen. Wes Chesbro that really did jump 10 feet 2.

There's something else Mark Twain wrote: "The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet." Just not frogs' legs, please.

A 'Driven Woman' Who Hates to Drive

Rikki Klieman, the defense lawyer/Court TV reporter/actress and wife of L.A. Police Chief Bill Bratton, has joined her husband on the bookshelf with her own autobiography, "Fairy Tales Can Come True, How a Driven Woman Changed Her Destiny."

Beyond accounts of their courtship and marriage, she relates her reaction to her husband applying for the L.A. job: "Am I going to have to move to Los Angeles? ... How am I going to earn a living? ... For all the time I spent in Los Angeles during the Simpson trial, I'd thought the L.A. lifestyle existed in automobiles, not on foot as I chose to live, since I hate to drive and cannot see a damn thing at night."

Once she'd decided to "stop the drama-queen antics" and moved west, she had real estate tales to tell: getting the tour-guide treatment of the Los Feliz hills from Councilman Tom LaBonge, "a delightful nonstop talker" whom she erroneously labels an "Angelino" instead of "Angeleno."

Of the first LAPD cops she met, one looked like an Aztec god, and the other was a "handsome and smiling triathlete.... L.A. cops apparently aren't eating a lot of doughnuts; these guys were spit-polished and muscularly fit."

Live and Let Live -- If It's in the Right District

One of politics' favorite "gotcha" games is playing peekaboo to see whether politicians really live in their districts, or just park a toothbrush there.

The race is on for Irvine's 35th Senate District, soon to be vacated by the termed-out Ross Johnson, who's lived with his family outside Sacramento for two decades but who fulfills residency rules with rented apartments and answering machines.

Two termed-out assemblymen, Garden Grove's Ken Maddox and Irvine's John Campbell, both Republicans, want Johnson's job. Early last year, Maddox bought a house in the 35th, but to keep his residency in his present district, he rented a room from his in-laws and registered to vote there.

Campbell campaign consultant Chris Wysocki told the local Daily Pilot newspaper that that's dishonest and "goes to character."

But what about the incumbent senator, who lives en famille hundreds of miles from his district? "A lot of people drank Kool-Aid at Jonestown," grumped Wysocki. "Just because a lot of people do it doesn't make it right."

(Actually, the cyanide-treated beverage served at the Jonestown mass suicide in 1978 was a grape-flavored Kool-Aid imitator called Flavor-Aid, but "drinking the Kool-Aid" has entered the political lexicon to mean going along with the program, whatever it is.)

Points Taken

* The Marin County Board of Supervisors has joined other California political bodies to oppose the USA Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act as an attack on residents' constitutional rights.

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