When news hit Monday that the California Supreme Court had created political turmoil by throwing out the state's new voting maps, the phone lines and email in-boxes of Sacramento operatives quickly whirred to life
It was indicative of the hair-trigger speed with which politics moves these days. So quickly, in fact, that the panicked politicos who immediately reached for their smartphones didn't realize they were the victims of an April Fool’s Day joke.
Longtime lobbyist and political observer Scott Lay included the fictional piece in his popular email newsletter, the Nooner.
The article was full of hints that it was a fabrication: The name of the court case was made up. The first letter of each paragraph spelled April Fool’s. There was even a disclaimer at the end admitting the whole thing was supposed to be a joke. But in a town where lawmakers don't even read many of the bills they vote on, close reading is not a strong suit.
It was the perfect trick, combining a trusted source for news, an opaque topic and a political environment that demands rapid reactions. And like the best jokes, it revealed something deeper about its subject -- Sacramento is a place where much information is traded without being truly understood.
"Not a lot of people want to read specifics about redistricting," said Paul Mitchell, a Democratic consultant who has worked on the topic. "People have been trained to read the headlines and react." He added, "That's how Sacramento works."