GOP Hearts Perata 

Democratic leader takes the heat after messing with a sacred cow; will the real Don Perata please stand up? and Jerry Brown pulls an end run.

In a deep-blue state like ours, it makes sense that state Senate strongman Don Perata is blaming those mean Republicans for the FBI corruption investigation of him. But are GOP politics really behind the Perata probe? Doubtful.

Take the day last December when the feds raided the home of Don's son Nick Perata. Daddy's lawyer George O'Connell took the opportunity to suggest that the FBI had tipped off the press to the search. "Today's Ken Starr-like publicity stunt," O'Connell was quoted as saying, "is the latest example of a Republican-appointed prosecutor abusing and misusing the legal system in order to inflict maximum partisan political damage."

Nice quote. Too bad it's total BS.

What O'Connell didn't divulge at the time was that the feds also had executed a search warrant at the senator's Oakland home that day. Reporters didn't realize it until a week later because they had not, in fact, gotten a tip-off from any FBI witch hunters. So why did the media flock to Nick's house? In the case of the Oakland Tribune, the first outlet on the scene, one of the younger Perata's neighbors had tipped off the paper after seeing the feds lingering around.

The truth of the matter is that Republicans love Don Perata. Okay, maybe they don't love him, exactly. But they find him a hell of a lot more palatable than Martha Escutia, the lefty whom Perata narrowly defeated to become boss of the Senate. That's according to Kevin Spillane, a Republican political consultant in Sacramento. Perata is at least willing to cut a deal now and then, he says. "The Republicans were rooting for Perata," Spillane recalls. "Escutia is a bomb-throwing ideologue," he adds. "Republicans believed they could at least work with [Perata] on a few issues."

For instance, Perata recently joined GOP Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger in his call to roll back a section of the California Environmental Quality Act, a move that -- whaddaya know? -- would benefit some of the senator's top contributors: Oakland developers.

But the senator really surprised his party pals last month when he made it known he was open to tweaking Prop. 98, the voter-approved initiative that earmarked a percentage of the state budget for education. It's hard to imagine Escutia sticking out her neck like that. As a result, the California Teachers Association, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of Democratic candidates and causes last year, is targeting the Don. Over the past couple of weeks the teachers' union has bankrolled phone banks, hung signs on telephone polls that read, "Shame on you Senator Perata," and sent out thousands of glossy mailers declaring "Senator Don Perata wants to cut funding for local schools" to the senator's East Bay constituents. A longtime Democratic staffer in the capital grumbled that just when the Dems seemed to have Schwarzenegger on the run, "Perata steps in front of the fuckin' train."

Postscript: For all the money the teachers' union must've spent on its glossy mailer, it would have been nice if they had a picture of Perata -- the real one, that is. Instead, the piece shows a body double pictured from behind, along with the caption, "Don't let Sen. Don Perata turn his back on our public schools." The stand-in is a model of a young businessman with lush, straight dark hair; the real Perata has thinning curly gray hair. Maybe CTA honchos should have just bided their time for the inevitable police mugshot before sending their broadside off to the printer.

What Would Jerry Do?

Say what you may about Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, the dude is shrewd. Maybe he isn't Jesus, but shrewd nonetheless. To wit: throwing cold water on a protest last week by scheduling a job fair to coincide with a lunchtime "job march" outside City Hall by curfew foes Critical Resistance and All of Us or None.

Brown has taken flak from activists for his get-tough policy of imposing a 10 p.m. curfew on parolees. Critical resisters argue that ex-cons need jobs, not curfews. When Brown caught wind of the planned protest, he brought in job-finders from local churches and nonprofits to staff an event complete with complimentary coffee and pastries. This hastily arranged job fair had its shortcomings: As far as Feeder could tell, the city of Oakland itself had no jobs to offer. And it seemed unlikely that a con experienced only in writing "kites" -- secret messages between inmates -- would be qualified to be a marketing communications manager at Bank of the West. Such details, however, seem to have been overlooked by the daily press, and Brown, who is running for attorney general, got his jabs in afterward.

"These two protest groups pretty much discredited themselves today," he wrote in his blog (JerryBrown.typepad.com). "They managed to demand jobs and sabotage a job fair within one hour." By "sabotage," the mayor was referring to the moment when the fifty or so protesters moved indoors and crashed the fair. All or None leader Dorsey Nunn proceeded to get into a shouting match with Ron Owens, an ex-con who helps find jobs for parolees. When someone asked if he worked for Jerry Brown, Owens snapped back, "I told you, I work for Jesus Christ."

Actually, Owens is on the mayor's payroll as Oakland's parolee intervention coordinator. But it's easy to see how the guy might get Jesus and Jerry confused: One's the messiah; the other has a messiah complex.

This Ain't Rocket Science

Finally, here's a gem of a head-scratcher on the last Pleasanton City Council agenda: "Proclaim March 14-20, 2005 as 'Brain Awareness Month' in Pleasanton." Have a great Brain Awareness Month week, everyone.

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