Investigative journalism web site Pro Publica has charged that a group of California Democrats in the House of Representatives conspired with union members, community groups, elected officials and others to influence the outcome of redistricting lines by a bipartisan citizen panel.
The story claims that the people who testified before the citizen commission charged with redrawing the district lines did not identify their ties with the Representatives, and that their testimony resulted in redrawn districts favorable to Democrats in the state.
The web site says that the result of the new district lines came about because of "skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoke-filled rooms of old."
But Martinez Rep. George Miller said the Pro Publica piece is not true.
“ProPublica really has done a disservice to its readers by implying that the delegation held secret meetings, which it did not, or controlled the outcome of the redistricting commission, which it did not," Miller told Martinez Patch. "Members of Congress followed the Commission’s proceedings and acted in accordance with ethical and legal guidelines. And the Commission is solely responsible for the final maps, which they produced based upon extensive public testimony and their own lengthy deliberations.
"Somehow, ProPublica failed to report that several Democratic members of Congress ended up with districts that will either be very difficult to defend or where Members will have to run against each other in primaries, hardly evidence that the delegation controlled the outcome of the Commission’s work. And the fact is, the Commission ended up drawing districts that were fairly compact without regard to political registration. A number of commentators have pointed out the serious flaws in ProPublica’s story. The story is a disservice to people following redistricting, but, as I said, in the end the Commission did its job.”
Some of the other commentators Miller referring to include political columnist Dan Walters, who said in the Sacramento Bee that the legislators weren't underhanded, but just playing the game of politics extremely well.
Not surprisingly, Robert Cruickshank of the web site Calitics is significantly less diplomatic about the Pro Publica piece, using a term for it that shall not be reprinted here.
Chances are, if you're an average citizen wtih a job, bills, mortgage, kids and a hundred other distractions and obligations, the whole redistricting adventure probably didn't register terribly high on your personal radar. It was important because the citizens' commission was a voter approved panel, and it was the first time such a method had been tried in California.
The outcome in Martinez was significant enough; it resulted in Miller getting a new district, which includes parts of Contra Costa he has not represented in the past, and losing the northern half of Martinez, his home town. Solano County congressman Mike Thompson represents that part Martinez now.
Still and all, it was a dull affair. Leave it to the politicians to find a way to make a relatively mundane procedure into a cloak and dagger adventure filled with charges of chicanery, smoke-filled rooms and dastardly deeds.