Since California doesn’t have any governance problems that require action or merit discussion, isn’t it nice that the race for governor is focused on the question of: who is more tied to Goldman Sachs?
The answer to that is easy: Meg Whitman was on the board and got favorable treatment in IPOs. But I’ve been reluctant to weigh in. Like everyone else, I have so many conflicts of interest that I wonder if I too am a Goldman stooge. A close friend works for Goldman. Another friend did a real estate deal with some Goldman guys. The co-author of my new book is a former shareholder. One of my first editors at the Baltimore Sun has edited terrific stories for McClatchy’s Washington bureau that have exposed Goldman’s bad dealings. And Goldman is my fellow creditor in a bankruptcy fight over my former employer, the Tribune Company.
Plus, as an American taxpayer, my money was used to help save Goldman.
The reality is that millions of Americans have ties of all kinds to Goldman. So it’s hardly surprising that Jerry Brown’s sister works there, that Steve Poizner once took out a loan from Goldman, and that Meg Whitman, a billionaire, has deep ties.
All of this news says absolutely nothing about the governor’s race. It makes the point that the financial services industry in general – and Goldman in particular — is far too big a part of our economy and of American lives – particularly the lives of rich people, including the three leading candidates for governor.
What does the focus on Goldman tell us about the campaign? It tells us that Whitman’s rapid response operation is the best in the race, since her folks are working overtime to turn questions about her ethics with IPOs into a question about her connections to Goldman, which allows her to say her opponents are tied to Goldman too. (Of course, she and her team are being help by the ham-handed blanket attacks on Goldman by labor unions).
The focus on Goldman also confirms, once again, that this is the Seinfeld Campaign: a contest about nothing.
Each candidate has avoided an honest reckoning with the state’s profound governing dysfunction. Whitman has done avoidance most artfully, by dressing up that avoidance in a book of policy proposals that don’t really get at the dysfunction. Poizner has done avoidance in a way designed to hurt his party, by seeking to blame the dysfunction – falsely – on illegal immigrants.
And Brown’s avoidance has been the most honest: thank you very much for asking, but he’s just not going to tell us what he would do as governor.