Politics ain’t pretty

Breit spot: First came last week’s news that Luke Breit, the hippie-turned-political-hitman and press secretary for Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, was the target of a 1999 sexual harassment suit that was settled for $140,000 in taxpayer money.

Then, over the weekend came the ironic word that Breit was to be featured in this week’s issue of Sacramento Magazine as one of the region’s “most eligible bachelors.” Breit cited his most romantic moment as getting “Victoria’s Secret to open early Sunday morning for a champagne brunch and lingerie-buying extravaganza for me and my honey.”

If that cheesy answer and charges of persistently dogging a legislative aide aren’t enough of a clue as to what a slimeball this guy might be, then just talk with Sacramento area poets about the reputation Breit (a past president of the Sacramento Poetry Center) has for chasing skirt at poetry readings.

That rep and a supposedly similar one back home have been chronicled by the scrappy Anderson Valley Advertiser, which holds few fond feelings for the 58-year-old former Mendocino Democratic operative, who was brought to Sacramento in 1981 by Willie Brown to do his political dirty work.

Officials deny the suit’s allegations, but there’s an awful lot of smoke here for no fire.

Perhaps it’s time this bachelor became eligible for what he really deserves: a one-way ticket out of Sacramento.

Dirty dozen: By the time you read these words, Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg’s controversial regionalism bill redistributing Sacramento area sales taxes will have either cleared the Assembly, or it will be dead.

So why should you keeping reading a column with such an ambiguous subject? Because of the dirt Bites is dishing out about the unambiguously autocratic way in which the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week shoved Assembly Bill 680 forward.

For such a fundamental change to tax structure, the bill received no discussion in committee. Instead, Chairwoman Carol Migden called a procedural B Roll Call vote, moving AB 680 forward with the bare dozen votes needed to do so.

And that crucial 12th vote came from Steinberg himself, who is not even on the committee, prompting Republican Senator Rico Oller to write a polemic observing “he got appointed to the committee for a day by sitting in for another Assemblyman in order to guarantee an additional vote.”

Reached by phone at his office on Friday, Steinberg dismissed his appearance on the committee as “totally unrelated” to his bill. He said Speaker-to-be Herb Wesson was super busy these days and asked Steinberg a month ago to indefinitely take his seat on the committee.

So then, how many times has the committee met? Steinberg said he just wasn’t sure, that he’d have to check. But a quick call to the committee got the answer: It was the first formal meeting of the committee this year, although a Steinberg aide later called to say there had been a brief “off the floor” meeting January 10 to move a bill forward.

Oller also complained about Steinberg’s politically motivated last minute changes to the bill, such as creation of a Sacramento regional open space conservancy to be funded by development, a giveaway to win Assemblywoman Helen Thomson’s support.

On that point, Steinberg was unapologetic: “The way you build coalitions is you work with other members.”

You lose: OK, let’s complete the triad of politically ugly items by turning to Washington, D.C., where Congressman Doug Ose continues to see his star rise because of his willingness to play politics on items of real importance.

The latest example is campaign finance reform, which he supposedly supports, although he has in recent weeks refused to lend his signature to a petition that would unclench the Shays-Meehan bill from Speaker Dennis Hastert’s grip to allow a vote.

Good government groups have hammered Ose on the issue, but he remained a dutiful GOP foot soldier. Luckily, two fellow Republicans broke ranks and the bill is now moving, albeit wearing a target for those who would amend it into meaninglessness.

But Bites is sure Ose, being the champion of reform he claims to be, will do everything he can to stop that from happening. Right, Doug?