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Shady Sam’s Sham Oil Stance Meets Mariachi Meg

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Sam Blakeslee, the San Luis oilman Californians just can’t trust, is trying to steal a victory in a state senate special election next week by posing as a moderate Republican environmentalist who loves sea otters even more than snowy plovers.

The blunt truth of the matter, however, may be found in 1) the lavish oil industry contributions shoveled into committees that have forked out more than $1 million to back Blakeslee’s play in the 15th State Senate district and 2)  the photograph posted at the top of this story, which shows exactly where the San Luis Obispo GOP assemblyman stood on offshore oil drilling in California – before that whole Gulf of Mexico thing made it really, really unfashionable.

The ex-Republican assembly leader is locked in a fierce battle with former Democratic assemblyman John Laird for the seat representing a vast, coastal district that was held until recently by Lite Governor Abel Maldonado. It’s up for grabs in a special next Tuesday that Governor Schwarzmuscle carefully scheduled to benefit Blakeslee.

Laird just now is getting his brains beat in on TV, as BP, Chevron and other oil companies have rushed to finance pro-Blakeslee independent expenditure committees that are paying for a barrage of ads portraying the Democrat as a crazed socialist considerably to the left of Hugo Chavez.

As we predicted a year ago hardliner Blakeslee now is falsely positioning himself as a pro-green centrist, in an effort to capture a majority vote in the June 22 primary, which would make a scheduled August run-off unnecessary.

“I have been an environmental Republican throughout my service,” Blakeslee told Paul Rogers of the Mercury News. “I’ve never wavered on my protection of the coast.”

Excuse us while we build a tower big enough to hold our laughter.

In claiming he’s against offshore oil, Blakeslee tries to hide behind the skirts of a group of Santa Barbara environmentalists, who pitched the controversial Tranquillon Ridge offshore project, just off the coast of the southern end of the 15th SD, as a way to trade new drilling now for less in the future (for those who’ve been hanging out on Uranus for the last year, our primer on T-Ridge is here).

In truth, Blakeslee’s history on the issue is strongly at odds with the greens who originally co-sponsored the plan with the Houston-based oil company PXP; his record shows a drill-baby-drill determination to ram through the offshore project via a series of backdoor legislative schemes intended to overrun the opposition of the State Lands Commission, which rejected T-Ridge and which, oh yeah, for decades happens to have had sole jurisdiction over state oil leases.

After the lands commission turned down the project in 2009 – saying its promise to end future drilling was unenforceable because the power to do so ultimately resided with the scandal-ridden federal Minerals  Management Service, Blakeslee plotted with fellow knuckledragger assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Orange County to end run the commission, a move that the enviros who originally backed the proposal categorically opposed.

First, the dynamic duo tried to pass AB23*, a DeVore bill that was gutted in the Senate and amended to approve PXP’s T-Ridge project by creating a special exemption and removing it from the jurisdiction of the lands commission.

On July 24, 2009, the measure was heatedly debated in the Assembly and defeated with only 30 of the house’s 80 members supporting the drilling plan.

Within hours, however, the official record of that vote was expunged, in what appeared to be a Blakeslee maneuver to remove his fingerprints from the pro-drilling bill. Despite the insistence of Blakeslee flacks  that he had nothing to do with erasing the vote, the reliable Anthony York of Capitol Weekly shortly after the deal went down cited sources who traced the move to the then-Republican Assembly leader.

For those still pondering the mystery of that expunged vote, Calbuzz is pleased to provide an historic photo of it, which clearly shows Blakeslee among the small minority of those who backed the special interest legislation to expand drilling off the coast.

Two months later, Blakeslee was back at it, this time gutting one of his own bills in an effort have his way on behalf of the oil industry, which would have liked nothing more than to use T-Ridge as a foot in the door to overcome California’s four decade opposition to any new leases authorizing more drilling in state water.

It’s instructive that when Laird kicked off the 15th SD special election campaign by whacking Blakeslee on offshore drilling,  the Republican a) began trying to finesse the issue by touting his purported environmental credentials and b) changed the subject, unloading a barrage of ads assailing Laird as a menace to society on fiscal issues.

Among other crimes, it seems, Laird accepted pay raises that, um, Blakeslee also took (Jon Coupal, the doctrinaire Howard Jarvis acolyte who’s plugging Blakeslee in the IE ads, might want to check out some of Sam’s squishier statements on tax increases here and here).

Then again, if Shady Sam is willing to masquerade his environmental record to get elected, why should anyone be surprised that he’d gussy  himself up on other issues as well?

eMeg proves she has no shame: Guess who’s nowhere to be found on Meg Whitman’s new website Latinos for Meg or in her new Spanish language TV commercials? Former Gov. Pete Wilson, her campaign chairman and iconic diablo among Hispanics in California.

Gone is the “tough-as-nails” Meg Whitman who sternly warned “No amnesty. No exceptions” as she vowed to send the National Guard to the border, crack down on sanctuary cities and generally lower the boom on illegal immigrants.

As Calbuzz predicted a couple of weeks ago: Whitman, now desperate to capture Latino voters she didn’t give a rat’s ass about in the Republican primary, suddenly is all about jobs and opportunity, sunshine and inclusiveness. Oh puhleeeese. What a fraud.

The only uncertainty, as we noted before: “…we don’t know whether, by spending untold sums on campaign propaganda, Whitman will be able to obliterate the collective memory voters might otherwise have of her lurch to the right.”

Oh, and Meg dropped another $20 million into her war chest this week, bringing her personal “investment” to $91 million.

Now, Mariachi Meg is emphasizing that she was never for Proposition 187 (although its chief advocate is her campaign chairman) and she opposes Arizona’s check-their-status law. Maybe – after spending serious money to make the point that she opposes amnesty – she’ll go back to arguing for a guest worker program where people “stand at the back of the line and pay a fine.”

So far no one is up on TV countering Whitman’s hypocritical drive to round up Latino voters. But the Democratic Governor’s Association did create a 90-second video in Spanish called “Send Pete Packing.”

As Tenoch Flores, on behalf of the California Democratic Party,  argued:

“Apparently Meg Whitman forgot that we live in the age of ‘the internets’ – ironic for someone who touts her eBay experience. She sincerely believes a Spanish language advertising buy is going to gloss over the fact that together with her mentor Pete Wilson, and her rival Steve Poizner, she engaged in the greatest Republican Party anti-immigrant hate-fest this side of the California-Arizona border.”

The CDP also reprised Meg’s “Tough as Nails” radio ad and even offered up a Spanish translation. Said Flores:

“Latino voters in California haven’t forgotten about Pete Wilson’s anti-immigrant crusade, and that was over ten years ago. They certainly won’t forget that Whitman used them as foil to get herself through the GOP primary less than a month ago.”

Unless Whitman’s beyond standard quantum limit spending can wipe away all memory.

* In an earlier version of this post we had a typo that labeled AB23 as AB32 — a super mix-up since AB32 is the famous climate-change bill.

Right Thinking: Musings of a True Conservative

Friday, June 18th, 2010

By Jon Fleischman
Special to Calbuzz

You kids get off my lawn! As a daily reader of Calbuzz, it’s easy to start calling Jerry Brown “Krusty.”  But lately he really has been living up to the name.

Between the Goebbels-Whitman comparison, and telling reporters that he’ll talk about his economic plans after he’s elected, you get the impression of a codger who should be retiring and taking it easy.  Certainly not someone running for the state’s top elective office.

Portsiders dominate the B minus: I was on a panel last Wednesday with Stuart Leavenworth, the opinion page editor of the Sacramento Bee, talking to a room full of Republican candidates.

It was rather amusing to hear him acknowledge to all assembled that the total number of Republicans on the Sacramento Bee editorial board is… zero.  But then again, if you keep an eye on their editorials, that isn’t too surprising.

The doctor is in: If the California Medical Association backs a Democrat pickup of Assembly District 5, where Republican Roger Niello is termed out, that means only one thing: the CMA is pushing for a two-thirds Democratic majority in the legislature.

The fact that a doctor is the Democratic candidate really is irrelevant.  The fact that Doctor Richard Pan is a hardcore liberal does matter.

Family feud: Either former Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines will be the GOP nominee for Insurance Commissioner, or he won’t.  But if he is, he will have a big challenge ahead of him.

Most Republicans supported Brian FitzGerald because of his superior ballot title (“Department’s Enforcement Attorney” to Villines’ “Businessman/State Assemblyman”).  But many Republicans voted against Villines because of his unrepentant role as an architect of the largest tax increase in California history.

Time for retirement: If we are going to solve our state’s public pension tsunami problem, two bold ideas are going to have to be on the table.

First, we need to move public employees to a 401(k)-style retirement plan in which the government, as an employer, pays out each year but is then done with its obligation; responsibility for the management of that employee’s fund, and for the decision of when it is valued high enough to retire, should be on the individual employee.

The other point: you can’t solve the problem by simply changing the rules for new hires.  Current employees will need to have a new, less generous benefit for their remaining years of service, such as the 401(k)-style account.

Insiders and outsiders: The apparent victory of Minuteman founder Tim Donnelly in Assembly District 59 is heartening to conservatives.

Not only because it is cool to know that you can win the GOP nomination in a Republican seat with just $22,000 and a lot of volunteers – but because the voters will be sending a strong voice to Sacramento to oppose the kind of insider, tax hiking deal that led to incumbent Anthony Adams’ retirement in that very seat.

Coastal views: This Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacancy in Senate District 15 presents a stark contrast to voters.

Democrat John Laird is so liberal that he makes his moderate Republican opponent, Sam Blakeslee, look like a right-winger.  What is the differentiating issue that matters?  Laird wants to raise taxes so the government sector can grow (or shrink less), Blakeslee wants to keep taxes low, so that the private sector can recover and produce more jobs.

Memo to Frisco: A note to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who are implementing a new regulation out of concerns of radioactivity coming from cell phones: It’s not the phones, it’s the drugs and your status as an international magnet for freaky people that are the causes of strangeness in your city.

Kudos to a pal: Congratulations are really in order to my longtime friend Jeff Randle.  Jeff and I came up in politics at the same time, though on different paths within the Republican Party.

All of these years later, I’m happily publishing a website.  Jeff, on the other hand, is playing a lead role in the election of the next Governor of California.  Very impressive, Jeff.  You deserve much credit – the next round of beers are on you (what you do pays better than what I do).

Jon Fleischman is editor and publisher of FlashReport and Vice Chairman, South of the California Republican Party.  His views are his own.

Calbuzz, Web Partners Ask Gov Rivals to Debate

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Three of California’s leading political websites have invited the two major-party candidates for governor to participate in the state’s first Blogosphere Debate.

Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, in partnership with the College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley, today sent a letter outlining the debate to Mike Murphy and Steve Glazer of the campaigns of Republican nominee Meg Whitman and Democratic nominee Jerry Brown.

Here’s the letter that was emailed today:

Dear Mike and Steve,

On behalf of Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, we are pleased to invite Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown to participate in a two-person, first-ever California Blogosphere Debate. The College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley will also serve as debate sponsors.

As you may know, the Washington Post has named Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics the three leading political web sites in California. Collectively we provide on a daily basis a full range of political perspectives and analysis, from conservative to moderate to progressive.

We have secured Morris Dailey auditorium at San Jose State University for the afternoon and evening of Monday September 13th (with back-up possibilities on the 14th and 15th). The specific time of the debate would be decided later in consultation with the campaigns, but we anticipate a 60-minute event, scheduled at a time between 4 pm and 7 pm. The format, with final details to be determined, would likely include the following:

– Moderator: John Myers of KQED (pending approval from KQED)
– One questioner each from Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics
– Two-minute opening and closing remarks from candidates
– One question for both candidates from each panelist with two-minute responses
– Two questions for each candidate from each panelist with two-minute responses
– One minute rebuttal from each candidate for each question
– Introduction, follow-ups as permitted by moderator and closing statements.

This means each candidate would field six questions: three common questions for both candidates and three questions specific to each candidate. Both candidates would have an opportunity for rebuttal on every question.

We envision candidates standing at podiums with television lighting. Neither candidate would use scripts, notes or props although they may take notes during the debate. A pre-arranged coin toss would determine the order, with the candidates given the option of opening first or closing last. We would offer a live feed to any television or radio station or online broadcaster interested in carrying the debate. We anticipate one pool camera crew to shoot the debate.

As you’re aware the news industry is in a state of radical transformation, with the internet steadily playing a larger and more significant role in setting the public agenda. We believe that our proposal offers a unique and historic opportunity for your campaigns to play an important role in shaping that agenda, and we hope you will give this invitation your most serious consideration. Please respond by 5 p.m., Friday, June 25.

Very truly yours,

Phil Trounstine, Jerry Roberts, Jon Fleischman, Brian Leubitz, Robert Cruickshank

Big Oil’s Hazardous Landscape on AB 32 Repeal

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

By Warner Chabot
Special to Calbuzz

When Texas oil refiners Valero and Tesoro were contemplating whether to buy their way onto the California ballot last winter, they envisioned a ripe environment for their proposition to repeal the state’s clean energy and air standards: skyrocketing unemployment rates, a Tea Party-inspired anti-regulation backlash, and increased skepticism about the science of global warming fueled by the rants of right-wing talking heads Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Sure, the state’s landmark climate law (AB 32) was popular – with 66 percent approval in a PPIC poll and 58 percent in the Field Poll. Yes, Attorney General Jerry Brown had saddled the initiative with a deadly accurate but inconvenient title and summary (“Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions”). And, of course, the then-cheerleaders for the ballot initiative weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer: gadfly Ted Costa (who has since announced his opposition to the measure after being pushed aside) and first-term Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue.

But initiative strategist Mark Carpenter, a former tobacco lobbyist who fought California’s indoor smoking laws, apparently convinced the companies that those obstacles could be overcome by the deep pockets of Big Oil. After all, the $50 million or so it would take to win the campaign was chump change for an oil company that had just upped its CEO’s salary to $10.9 million, a 64 percent increase from the prior year.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot.

In late April, some 1.7 million gallons of oil began gushing from a British Petroleum well in the Gulf of Mexico each day. Horrified Californians continue to be exposed daily to images of brown pelicans soaked in black oil, tar balls washing up on beaches, and devastated local economies.

That’s not exactly good PR for a ballot measure being bankrolled with $2 million from oil companies, including California offshore driller Venoco Inc. Cases in point: the immediate sharp decline in support for offshore oil drilling in California, according to a Los Angeles Times/USC poll and the defeat of a local measure to allow Venoco to begin slant drilling into the Santa Barbara channel.

Or look to the state Senate District 15 special election, as environmental champion and drilling opponent John Laird points out Assemblyman (and former Exxon employee) Sam Blakeslee’s support of the controversial Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project.

Being associated with oil companies is political death this year.

On top of that, voters are beginning to focus on the economic downside of America’s addiction to oil. That is driving a renewed push in the nation’s capital for federal action to support a clean energy economy.

So it was no surprise then that President Obama bee-lined to California, the nation’s leader in renewable energy development, when he wanted to connect the dots between investment in clean energy and the oil spill. He put a bright national spotlight on AB 32’s renewable energy requirements, the driving force behind more than 500,000 clean tech jobs and $9 billion in solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects being built in California.

If the oil spill wasn’t bad enough for Valero’s fortunes, last week’s primary election results might be even more problematic. Two special interest propositions were dismissed by voters despite record-shattering spending by their corporate sponsors.

That will throw a wrench in Carpenter’s calculus for winning, which includes spending up to $50 million branding the oil company measure as a “jobs initiative.”

Voters and the media already are seeing through that fog, noting that it is a deceptive measure that has little to do with employment and everything to do with allowing the company to bypass pollution laws.

And no one is buying that the ballot measure is just a “temporary” suspension of the law either – particularly when the once-in-a-blue-moon economic conditions it specifies (banning implementation of the law unless the statewide unemployment rate exceeds 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters) have occurred just three times in the past 30 years.

It’s just that kind of deception that doomed Props 16 and 17.

The Valero initiative could well be strike three for special interest ballot measures, particularly because its high-profile CEO makes Enron’s Ken Lay and BP’s Tony Haywood look like church mice.

Valero chief exec Bill Kleese – recently named to MSNBC’s “Mad Money” Hall of Shame – dismisses climate change legislation as “alarmist.” He’s taken a lead role as chief attack dog in battling clean energy policy at the national scale as Chairman of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. He also is the brains behind the AstroTurf “Voices for Energy” effort supporting Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s effort to strip EPA of its right to regulate greenhouse gases. (That measure failed in the U.S. Senate last week.).

Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic candidates alike are distancing themselves from the Big Oil initiative.

Meg Whitman, not wanting to give Jerry Brown further ammunition in the gubernatorial campaign, has refused to endorse it (as has Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado). Whitman’s distancing herself from the ballot measure comes despite her call for a one-year moratorium on AB 32. She’s declined to embrace an oil company-backed proposal unpopular among her Silicon Valley supporters, as well as suburban decline-to-state voters she views as key to victory in November.

Candidate Brown has come out strongly against the measure. Running against Big Oil, corporate special interest measures, and fat cat CEOs are all key components in the Brown playbook, and opposing the Dirty Energy Initiative fits nicely into that narrative.

It looks as if Big Oil picked the wrong time and the wrong place for this fight.

Warner Chabot is CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters

Why Some Women Candidates Just Aren’t Feminists

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

By Susan Rose
Special to Calbuzz

Gender balance in public office is a long-sought goal of the women’s movement.  What is politically crucial for feminists, however, is not simply electing equal numbers of women and men to office, but electing women and men who will further a feminist agenda.

While the mainstream media spew coverage about the success of Republican women candidates in last week’s primaries — including Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California, Nikki Haley in South Carolina and Sharron Angle in Nevada — the plain fact is that there was an utter lack of focus on feminist issues in these races.

Despite rhetorical declarations about “mama grizzly” feminism by Sarah Palin, none of these women has actively worked for women’s rights or advocated for social and political equality of the sexes.  They are not your mother’s feminists, nor your grandmother’s suffragists; they are conservative Republicans following the party line.

The California Republican party’s nomination of Whitman for governor and Fiorina for Senate, the first time the state GOP has ever selected a woman for either office, is historic, to be sure. But will they be voices for women in the general election?

It is instructive to note that the day after their victories, Whitman and Fiorina posed  together in a politically crafted tableau, captured in the June 10th LA Times front page photo of the two “united in victory.” The image seemed clearly intended to recall the energy and enthusiasm of 1992’s “Year of the Woman,” when Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein made history as the state’s first female U.S. Senators.

But a review of the platforms of Whitman and Fiorina, as presented on their web sites, shows no policy statements specific to women’s issues or language aimed at reaching out to women: Where do they stand on childcare, violence against women, economic justice, sex and race discrimination, to name a few of the social and political concerns of women?  As a billionaire and a multi-millionaire, respectively, how much do they care about such issues, or are they even aware of them? Apparently not, from the evidence to date.

On the threshold feminist issue of reproductive rights, Whitman declares herself pro-choice but with so many qualifiers that Planned Parenthood’s California political action committee opposes her candidacy.  In “The Truth About Meg Whitman,” PPAC notes that she does not support a minor’s right to access abortion services nor funding for family planning services.

Fiorina is adamant in her opposition to abortion rights and defines herself as pro-life.  She is endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee and the California Pro-Life Council.  [Editor's note: Calbuzz has already called attention to Fiorina's statement cited in the New Yorker:  “I absolutely would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if the opportunity presented itself.” ]

With three of the four top candidates in the general election being women, will we see a gender focus in the general election? How much will the women’s vote count in November? And who will win it?

Attorney General Jerry Brown and Senator Barbara Boxer, two longtime Democratic elected officeholders, both have long histories in California of supporting progressive issues and feminist goals.  Each has a legislative track record.  Boxer has been a passionate voice for pro-choice issues and Brown has a strong record of including women and minorities in his administrations.

They will be challenged by two female wealthy former CEOs with corporate experience, huge resources and no record of commitment to issues affecting women. Can these GOP women convince women voters they will do a better job in Sacramento and Washington?

In the world according to Sarah Palin, feminism can be defined by a working mother who is running for office.  But these female candidates are not feminist advocates. Their platforms reflect no commitment to the advancement of women.

Gender balance is about having a voice inside the halls of government.  If Whitman and Fiorina should win, they will not make women’s issues a priority.  It will be a big loss for women and years before we can regain those voices.

Once again California will be a test case for the nation.

Susan Rose is a former Santa Barbara County Supervisor and served as Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women.  She was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, an organization dedicated to helping women achieve elected and appointive office.

*An earlier version of this post included a summary of Susan Rose’s bio that included an  out-of-date description of her connection to California Women Lead.