Monday, March 28, 2005

Bruce McPherson confirmation update

On Tuesday, March 29 the Assembly Rules Committee will take up the Bruce McPherson appointment for a second time. The committee met on March 17 and questioned the former state senator, now the governor's nominee for Secretary of State. The committee adjourned without taking a vote on the appointment, and reconvenes tomorrow at 11 a.m. in room 127 of the State Capitol.

The Associated Press is reporting today that the full Assembly is expected to vote on the McPherson appointment this Thursday and if he is confirmed, Bruce McPherson could be sworn in as the next Secretary of State before the end of the week.

That's assuming the Assembly confirms his appointment. Over the weekend partisan activists sent a blizzard of emails around the Internet urging Assembly Democrats to reject the appointment. The concerns of these activists arise from comments made by Democratic Party officials who have been questioning the composition of Bruce McPherson's transition team. Jim Sanders' March 18 Sacramento Bee story provides some additional information about the transition team members.



Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has told the governor that he will support McPherson's nomination, but "there is uneasiness among the caucus," said Steve Maviglio, Núñez's spokesman.

Maviglio said McPherson's 17-member transition team includes a member of Schwarzenegger's staff, Cynthia Bryant, and several others with suspect agendas, including:

* Steven Merksamer, former chief of staff to ex-Gov. George Deukmejian and a powerful Sacramento attorney whose firm represents Citizens to Save California, which is raising money to place Schwarzenegger initiatives on the ballot.

* Beth Miller Malek, who once served as chief assistant secretary of state and is an owner of Wilson-Miller Communications. Her partner, Marty Wilson, has been active in raising funds for Schwarzenegger.

* Adan Ortega Jr., a former chief deputy secretary of state who is described in a transition team press release as an employee of GCG Rose & Kindel. The firm's clients include Diebold Election Systems, which agreed to pay $2.6 million last year to settle a lawsuit claiming it sold the state faulty touch-screen voting machines.

Maviglio questioned McPherson's impartiality in light of such appointments.

"They varnished the transition team with some quality people, but they also have some very partisan political activists that are connected to the governor's initiatives," he said.

McPherson countered that "I feel very comfortable with the members of the transition team. I think we have a top-notch staff."

Other team members include former state Sen. Deirdre Alpert, D-Coronado; Kevin Starr, former state librarian; Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley; Ernest Hawkins, former Sacramento County elections chief; and David Lesher, former editor of the California Journal and former assistant business editor at The Sacramento Bee.

Merksamer, Ortega and Miller Malek defended their selection.

"I'm on the transition team because I worked there for eight years and know every corner of that office and every issue in the secretary of state's portfolio," Miller Malek said.

Ortega said he is not a member of GCG Rose & Kindel. He pays the company for office space and bookkeeping. Conversely, the firm pays him to subconsult on a matter unrelated to Diebold, he said.

"Everyone wants the secretary of state to be bipartisan," Merksamer said. "So he goes out and gets an extraordinarily well-qualified, diversified group of people - and partisans attack him."

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