I've had the most fascinating week! My journey started out innocently (for a VDARE.COM columnist, that is) when I wondered how our beleaguered California Governor Gray Davis would treat S.B. 60—the Gil Cedillo bill to allow illegal aliens to get driver's licenses.
But an unexpected fork in the road took me not to Sacramento but instead to the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and to the Los Angeles law offices of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips where the LA Chamber's Board Chairman George Kieffer is a partner. Finally, by week's end, I found myself on the doorstep of Los Angeles Mayor James ("Los Angeles is a Mexican city") Hahn.
Along the way, to make my week even more interesting, I detoured to the Chicago headquarters of the American Bar Association and to its Commission on Immigration Policy, Practice and Pro Bono in Washington DC.
Early in my research on S.B. 60, I discovered that the LA Chamber has thrown its considerable weight behind Cedillo's bill. And right up front leading the parade is Chairman Kieffer. ("Driver License bill gathering support," by Rick Orlov and Hector Gonzales, Whittier Daily News, May 30, 2003.)
Two things immediately struck me:
On the first question, I enlisted the help of my friends and VDARE.COM colleagues Howard Sutherland and Juan Mann. Sutherland and Mann, both lawyers, took a dim view of Kieffer's promotion of S.B. 60. They agreed that such behavior violated the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law.
We all concluded that any discussion about undermining federal immigration law had to begin and end with U.S. President George W. Bush.
My curiosity aroused, I wondered if the ABA had any thoughts on the subject of members who promote specific state legislation that erodes federal law. I called the ABA headquarters in Chicago to speak with Beth Akins [email her] who is listed as the contact for state and local government law.
But Akins is not a lawyer. She told me she would have someone from the ABA's Commission on Immigration Policy answer my inquiry.
And shortly thereafter, a spokesman (who asked that her name not be used) did call to advise me that the Commission's director (who does not give press interviews and also did not want her name used) recommends that those seeking information regarding S.B. 60 contact – wait for it! - the National Immigration Law Center or Michele Waslin at the National Council of La Raza!
Waslin [email her] actually wrote La Raza's "issue brief" on the driver's license controversy.
Does "ABA" really stand for Alien Bar Association? [ask it]
Somehow, I suspected that conversations with the National Immigration Law Center or La Raza about Kiefer's ethical conflict would not be fruitful.
So I turned my attention to my second question: Why does the LA Chamber give a hoot about S.B. 60 anyway?
According to the LA Chamber's Vice President of Marketing and Communications Robin Ritter Simon [email her], the Chamber has become much more active in social issues in recent years.
Furthermore, Ritter Simon told me that the Chamber's LA Business Climate Committee and its Public Safety Committee support S.B. 60. Among the reasons given: if illegal aliens obtain driver's licenses, they will be able to get insurance.
Hmm. Two problems:
Answer: because the aliens may not buy insurance anyway. California State Automobile Association spokesman Jennifer Mack told me that no insurance company has come out in support of S.B. 60. Apart from anything else, even the premiums available through the California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program are beyond the reach of low-income drivers. (Another detriment: the low cost program is available in Los Angeles and San Francisco only.)
Still seeking a sensible answer about why the LA Chamber backs S.B. 60, I attempted to contact Chairman Kieffer directly. But none of my numerous phone calls and e-mails (to firstname.lastname@example.org) were returned.
Nor did I get any response from LA Chamber staffer Brendan Huffman, who is responsible for the Business Policy and the Public Safety Committees. (E-mail: email@example.com)
Since none of the major players cooperated, I was left to sort it out for myself. That task proved a breeze.
The reality is that the LA Chamber's grass-roots membership is not tossing and turning at night about driver's licenses for illegal aliens.
But pushing SB 60 through would be a feather in LA Mayor Hahn's cap. His relationship with Cedillo would be aces.
And Hahn, you can be sure, wants badly to stand tall among Latinos. A young, ambitious Democrat with deep roots in California politics, Hahn can look ahead to see three juicy political plums ripe for picking: the always-vulnerable Barbara Boxer's U.S. Senate seat in 2004; Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat in 2006 (she'll be 70); California's governorship (Gray Davis will be out—mercifully - because of term limits) in 2006.
Now if Hahn helps Cedillo, isn't turnabout fair play?
Should Hahn have the Latino Caucus' full support and blessing in a forthcoming Senate or gubernatorial race, he'll be half way home.
And who better to help Hahn deliver SB 60 on a silver platter than George Kieffer - Hahn's friend and former campaign political advisor?
After crafting Hahn's mayoral victory, Kieffer continued to play a role in his administration. Kieffer chaired, at Hahn's request, the Los Angeles Economic Impact Task Force [PDF file].
What—if anything—is in this for Kieffer?
But Kieffer appears to be prostituting the 115-year old Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce [warn it] for his own political purposes.
He's made it the Los Angeles Chamber of Capitulation.
[For a patriotic view of the driver's license controversy, see the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License.]
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.