Brown is Back - by Lloyd Billingsley

Can Californians afford the leadership of their former governor Jerry Brown?


He has not yet officially declared, but last week California Attorney General Jerry Brown, a former mayor of Oakland and a three-time presidential candidate, filed papers with the California Secretary of State that will enable him to raise more money to run for governor, an office he held from 1975 to 1983.

On October 1, Brown announced that he would investigate ACORN, an organization much in the news. The investigation provides some clues as to what a new Brown administration might be like, and recalls key events from his past terms as governor – an office whose clout extends far beyond the Golden State.

As the world knows, ACORN’s California staffers were caught on film handing out advice about the best way to smuggle in underage prostitutes into the United States, not exactly legal activity. That news did not prompt California’s attorney general immediately to launch an investigation. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger requested the investigation, but it took Brown several weeks to get on board. His angle is also of interest.

According to spokesman Scott Gerber, Brown’s office will not limit its inquiries to the activist group. It will also look into the circumstances under which ACORN employees were taped. So, the undercover filmmakers, Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, are as much a target as ACORN, a government-funded strike force of the left claiming to aid accredited victim groups. That recalls Governor Jerry Brown’s grant of amnesty to Dennis Banks, a founder of AIM, the American Indian Movement.

Banks took part in the occupation of Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington DC, and Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973. He was acquitted of the charges over Wounded Knee but convicted of riot and assault over a courthouse gun battle at Custer, South Dakota. Rather than serve time, Banks fled to California.

There Governor Jerry Brown refused to extradite him, and Banks took full advantage of the protection by studying at UC Davis and serving as chancellor of Deganawidah-Quetzecoatl University (DQU), a ramshackle outfit of left-wing origins near Sacramento. Banks also taught at Stanford but thought it best not to prolong his stay in California beyond the governorship of Jerry Brown. In 1983, he duly fled to a reservation in New York State.

Jerry Brown’s choice for a seat on the California Arts Council was actress and left-wing activist Jane Fonda. This came not long after Fonda jollied it up with the Stalinist North Vietnamese regime while it was torturing American POWs. She also made anti-US broadcasts from Hanoi and allowed herself to be photographed, looking positively euphoric, on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. After U.S. withdrawal, she remained uncritical of the Communist regime and attacked those who criticized its repressions.

In filling the council seat, Governor Brown, who opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, did not lack for choices. His selection of Jane Fonda was a poke in the eye of the soldiers who fought bravely in Vietnam, despite wavering support from Washington, and who were being vilified in the streets and in popular culture. The U.S. military is now battling foes such as the Taliban, again with wavering support from Washington, and similarly under fire from the Left.

The Fonda appointment was not the only disappointment of Brown’s gubernatorial tenure. As Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee notes, Brown rode into office in the wake of Watergate as a reformer who would restrict the influence of special interests. Instead, says Walters, Brown “created the almost hegemonic power of public worker unions.” These favor continued expansion of state government and, as attorney general, Brown is still lending them a hand.

As a result, the unions have prospered. In 2000, Gov. Gray Davis and the state legislature established the UC Institute for Labor and Employment as a gift to the California Labor Federation. From 2000 to 2008, the legislature gave the institute $37.4 million in taxpayer funds. The institute uses taxpayer money to crank out biased studies, labeled as UCLA or UC Berkeley studies, for release shortly before key votes.

California is in the throes of its worst budget crisis since the 1930s. Yet, in 2008, the legislature still saw fit to give the labor institute another $5.4 million. This time Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the funding. But after the veto, attorney general Brown joined other leading Democrats to pressure the University of California to pony up the money. The University of California system has been cutting services and raising student fees for several years. Nevertheless, it managed to find $4 million for an institute that it did not create and has no obligation to fund.

Brown’s advisers say he won’t make the official call until next year. Dan Walters, meanwhile, has dubbed Jerry Brown the “leading contender” for governor. But given Brown’s troubling political legacy, one must wonder if California can afford his leadership once again.