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Chapter XI.

Machine Amends Direct Primary Bill[57].

By Trick Prevents Senate From Concurring in Amendments to Correct Clerical and Typographical Errors, Thus Creating a Situation Which Threw the Measure Into a Committee on Free Conference With Power to Amend.

It is a very good rule to be sure that your rattlesnake is dead before placing yourself in a position to be bitten. The reform Senators neglected this rule, with the result that after they had the machine element whipped on the direct primary issue, they placed themselves in a position where the "performers" struck at them viciously, and snatched victory from them.

As was shown in a previous chapter, the Direct Primary bill, after it had originally passed the Senate in the face of machine opposition, was allowed to go to the Assembly containing several serious clerical and typographical errors. The Assembly corrected these errors by a series of ten amendments. It was necessary for the Senate to concur in these amendments to get the bill into proper form. The amendments added in the Assembly to which the anti-machine Senators took exception, were seven in number and dealt principally with the changing of the method of electing United States Senators, from the plan of State-wide vote, to that of district, advisory vote. The seven were known as the "vicious amendments"; the ten correcting the typographical errors were called the "necessary amendments." There is no good reason why the ten necessary amendments should not have been made before the bill was first sent to the Assembly. But they were not, and the errors which were thus left in the bill served the machine most advantageously when the final fight came. After Wolfe had given up hope of compelling the reform Senators to concur in the vicious amendments read into the bill in the Assembly, his play was to bring about a situation by which the bill would be thrown into a Committee on Free Conference. The committee would be appointed by President Porter of the Senate, and by Speaker Stanton of the Assembly. Such a committee would, of course, be in sympathy with machine policies, and could be counted upon to amend the bill to the machine's liking. There is little doubt that the machine leaders in the Senate and the machine leaders in the Assembly acted in conjunction in the proceedings which followed Senator Wolfe's action in abandoning his efforts to force the anti-machine Senators to support the so called vicious Assembly amendments.

Wolfe's first move was to ask as a matter of courtesy that the Senate adopt his motion to reconsider the vote by which it had the week before refused to concur in the Assembly amendment. This request the reform element granted, purely as a matter of courtesy. Wolfe then edged up a step nearer.

No sooner had he received the courtesy of reconsideration than both he and Leavitt were to the fore with a suggestion that the Senate should refuse to concur in all the amendments and let them be threshed out in the Assembly. The purpose of the two machine leaders was apparent.

Had the Senate concurred in the ten Assembly amendments made necessaryto correct typographical errors, and refused to concur in the seven objectionable amendments, all that would have been necessary would have been for the Assembly to recede from its objectionable amendments. But if Wolfe could so engineer matters that the Senate would refuse to concur in all the amendments, then it would be necessary for the Assembly to recede from all its amendments, including those intended to correct typographical errors, or send the bill to a conference committee, to be selected by Stanton and Porter. From a Committee on Conference to a Committee on Free Conference, also to be appointed by Stanton and Porter, and with full power to amend the bill to its liking, was but a step. The Committee on Free Conference was Wolfe's aim. He eventually got it.

Boynton and Walker were quick to see the trend of Wolfe's requests, however, and Walker moved to vote on the seven vicious amendments on one roll call, and on the ten correcting the typographical and clerical errors on a second.

As a substitute Wolfe moved that the seventeen amendments be passed upon under one roll call.

At first Senators Cutten and Stetson apparently could not see the trend of Wolfe's scheming. In the debate that ensued Wolfe pretended indignation that his motives were being questioned.

There was very good reason for questioning Senator Wolfe's motives, but Cutten and Stetson and even Walker assured Wolfe that no reflection upon him was intended. What these men should have done was to have denounced Wolfe right there as a trickster and made no bones about it. But on the absurd assumption that a member of the State Senate is necessarily a gentleman, the much deserved denunciation did not come.

However, Wolfe's motion did not prevail and the amendments were taken up one by one. Six of the seven vicious amendments were rejected, the first of the six by a vote of 19 to 20.

This brought the Senate to the amendments intended to correct typographical and clerical errors. And here the vote switched. The reformers had up to this time been voting to reject the amendments, because the amendments were objectionable, while the programmers in the first instance voted for concurrence. But when it came to amendments intended to correct typographical and clerical errors only, Wolfe and his following, with the exception of Burnett, who refused to stand for any such dastardly piece of work, voted to refuse to concur in the amendments, while the anti-machine Senators, of course, voted to concur in them.

Burnett, voting with the anti-machine element, gave them twenty votes, leaving Wolfe and his following only nineteen. But twenty-one votes were necessary for concurrence. The machine, while it could not force the Senate to concur in the vicious amendments, could prevent the Senate's concurrence in the amendments to correct the clerical and typographical errors. The bill was accordingly sent back to the Assembly with the typographical and clerical amendments still in dispute.

Even before the bill had reached the Assembly, Senator Frank Leavitt and George Van Smith of The Call were on the floor of that body, fighting to prevent the Assembly receding from its amendments.

When the Assembly grasped the fact that the Senate had refused to concur in the amendments necessary for correction of typographical errors, those who were working for an effective Direct Primary bill were thrown into the greatest confusion. Speaker Stanton's rulings which followed, were not calculated to relieve the situation. Speaking from the desk, Stanton said:

"If you recede from some of these amendments and not from others where will your bill be? It will be dead. The only thing that you can do to save the Direct Primary bill now is to recede from all the amendments and let the typographical errors remain in the bill, or refuse to recede from any of the amendments and let the bill go into conference. If you recede from some of the amendments and not from others, your bill is dead. We cannot send this bill back to the Senate saying that the Assembly has receded from some of the amendments and not from others."

Assemblymen Preston, Bohnett and others who were standing for an effective measure, were amazed at the position which Stanton had taken.

"I cannot for the life of me," said Preston, "see why we cannot recede from part of the amendments and refuse to recede from the others. Some of these amendments are really necessary for the good of the bill. Others should be rejected. Give me fifteen minutes and I will guarantee to dig up authorities which will show us the course to be pursued."

Assemblyman Bohnett confessed himself unable to understand why the Assembly could not send part of the amendments to conference and not the others.

By this time matters had got so warm in the Assembly that Senator Leavitt found it necessary to lend dignity to the occasion by taking his seat at the side of Speaker Stanton, whom he engaged in conversation. The conference was, of course, carried on in whispers.

Assemblymen Young, Bohnett and others, finding that it would be impossible under the assumption of the Speaker to refuse to recede from part of the amendments while receding from the others, advised the good government members to refuse to recede from all the amendments, and pass the bill, typographical errors and all.

It was demanded of Bohnett if this would not lead to the practical defeat of the measure. Bohnett insisted that it would not; that the typographical errors, while deplorable, did not materially affect the bill.

However, many of the better element of the Assembly did not dare to take the risk, and the motion to recede was lost by a vote of 29 to 42[58].

Assemblymen who unquestionably stood for a good bill voted against receding. Had the vicious amendments alone been under consideration, they would have voted to recede. Among these were such men as Assemblyman Drew of Fresno. The Assembly, having refused to recede from its amendments, the bill went to a Committee on Conference, appointed by Speaker Stanton and President Porter. The machine had gained its point.

The Conference Committee consisted of Senators Wolfe, Leavitt and Wright, and Assemblymen Leeds, Johnson of Sacramento, and Hewitt. Of the Committee, Hewitt[59] was the only member who favored a Statewide vote for United States Senator, and opposed the advisory district vote. The committee had scarcely been missed from Senate and Assembly chambers before it was back to report that no agreement could be reached.

The same members were thereupon appointed as a Committee on Free Conference, which gave them power to amend the bill. As a Committee on Free Conference they recommended the advisory district vote plan for the nomination of United States Senators[60].

Senator Wolfe, having got the bill in shape to his liking, with a suave smirk upon his face, stated that he trusted that all the Senators present would vote for the measure.

"Not on your life," came Caminetti's protest.

And Caminetti did not vote for the Free Conference Committee's report.

But in spite of Caminetti's protest, both Senate and Assembly adopted the Conference Committee's report. They had to do so or defeat the bill entirely. Caminetti was the only Senator who voted against it. The machine, after a fight of nearly two months, in which it was twice defeated in the Senate, and escaped defeat in the Assembly by only one vote, that of Pulcifer, had carried its point, had succeeded in denying the people of California the privilege of casting a practical, State-wide vote for United States Senators.

What the anti-machine Senators[61] thought of the outcome is best expressed in the little speech which Senator Stetson made his fellow-Senators in explaining his vote to accept the report of the Committee on Free Conference.

"Before voting on this matter," said Stetson, "lest any one in the future may think that I have been passed something and didn't know it, I wish to explain my vote, and wish to say that this permission accorded a candidate to go on record to support that candidate for United States Senate, who shall have the endorsement of the greatest number of districts, comes from nobody and goes to nobody. It means nothing - mere words - idle words. The only way in which a candidate could have been pledged would have been to provide a pledge or instructions to the Legislature. The words 'shall be permitted' mean nothing and get nowhere. I shall vote for this report, not because I want to, but because I have to if we are at this session to have any Direct Primary law at all."

[57] The plain citizen will marvel at the lengths to which the machine went to prevent a provision being incorporated into the Direct Primary bill for the selection by State-wide vote of United States Senators. The plain citizen does not, however, look upon a United States Senator through the same eyes as the machine. To the plain citizen that United States Senator is desirable who represents policies beneficial to his country and his State; to the machine that United States Senator is desirable who will in effect turn his Federal patronage over to the machine. The election of United States Senators by State-wide vote would take their appointment out of machine hands, which would mean loss to the machine of Federal patronage. For this reason the almost unbelievable lengths to which the machine went to prevent the provision for State-wide vote for the election of United States Senators being incorporated into the Direct Primary bill.

[58] The vote was as follows:

Ayes: Messrs. Bohnett, Callan, Cattell, Cogswell, Collum, Costar, Flavelle, Gerdes, Gibbons, Gillis, Hinkle, Holmquist, Irwin, Johnson of Placer, Juilliard, Kehoe, Maher, Mendenhall, Odom, Otis, Polsley, Preston, Sackett, Stuckenbruck, Telfer, Whitney, Wilson, Wyllie and Young - 29.

Noes: Messrs. Barndollar, Beardslee, Beatty, Beban, Black, Butler, Coghlan, Collier, Cronin, Cullen, Drew, Feeley, Fleisher, Flint, Greer, Griffiths, Hammon, Hanlon, Hans, Hawk, Hewitt, Johnson of Sacramento, Johnson of San Diego, Leeds, Macauley, McClelland, McManus, Melrose, Moore, Mott, Nelson, Perine, Pugh, Pulcifer, Rech, Rutherford, Schmitt, Silver, Stanton, Transue, Wagner, Wheelan - 42.

[59] Hewitt voted against the amendments the day they were read into the bill.

[60] The Free Conference Committee's amendment was in full as follows:

"By nominating petitions signed and filed as provided by existing laws party candidates for the office of United States Senator shall have their names placed on the official primary election ballots of their respective parties, in the manner herein provided for State offices, PROVIDED, HOWEVER, THAT THE VOTE FOR CANDIDATES FOR UNITED STATES SENATORS SHALL BE AN ADVISORY VOTE FOR THE PURPOSE OF ASCERTAINING THE SENTIMENT OF THE VOTERS IN THE RESPECTIVE SENATORIAL AND ASSEMBLY DISTRICTS IN THE RESPECTIVE PARTIES, and the Senatorial and Assembly nominees shall be at liberty to vote either for the choice of such district expressed at said primary election, or for the candidate for United States Senator who shall have received the endorsement of such primary election in the greater number of districts electing members of his party to the Legislature."

[61] Stetson was not the only Senator to protest. Senators Campbell, Holohan and Miller sent to the Secretary's desk the following explanation of their votes: "We voted for the Direct Primary bill because it seems to be the best law that can be obtained under existing political conditions. We are opposed to many of the features of this bill, and believe that the people at the first opportunity will instruct their representatives in the Legislature to radically amend the same in many particulars, notably in regard to the election of United States Senators, and the provisions that prevent the endorsement of a candidate by a political party or organization other than the one that first nominated such candidate."

A second protest, signed by Senators Curtin, Cartwright and Sanford, was also printed in the Journal. It reads as follows: "We voted to adopt the report of the Committee on Free Conference on Senate Bill No. 3, not because we believe it to be what is desired by the people of this State, but because we believe it to be the only bill that can be adopted at this late hour, as the Legislature is about to adjourn."

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