Total Recall Recall


As Matt Welch has noted, the recall election of California Gov. Gray Davis is a major go.

While every possible candidate starts mulling over their chances, let me direct you to a cautionary tale about a recent California recall bid that failed–and the horrifying consequences that ensued. While not directly analogous to the current situation, it's always worth remembering the ways in which political actions misfire–and how laws ostensibly designed to "protect" the political process are often used by those in power in vindictive ways.

The setting was the Golden State in the mid-'90s, the pol under fire was then state Sen. David Roberti, and when the bid to unseat him via recall election failed, the two guys running the campaign got hit in the mush with the single biggest campaign finance penalty in Lotus Land's history. As Reason's Brian Doherty detailed in "DISCLOSURE FLAW: The perils of campaign-finance disclosure laws":

In October 1995, California's Fair Political Practices Commission…levied the largest fine in its history, $808,000, against Southern Californians Russell Howard and Steve Cicero. They had been the president and treasurer, respectively, of Californians Against Corruption, a now-dormant group of political gadflies that was part of a coalition dedicated to unseating California Democratic state Sen. David Roberti. Roberti, a 23-year Senate veteran, had been Senate president pro tem for 13 years.

Read the whole tale of woe for an early-morning bring-me-down.