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New Secret Offshore Deal, AB32 Rollback Brawl

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

In the latest twist in the Tranquillon Ridge saga, Calbuzz has learned that PXP oil company and its environmental allies have submitted a new proposed agreement to the State Lands Commission aimed at authorizing expanded drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Our efforts to learn how the new proposal differs from an earlier version, which the commission rejected last year, were unsuccessful, however, because neither the parties nor the commission would release a copy, saying the document is a draft, and the deal is still under review. (Our all-you-need-to-know primer on T-Ridge is here).

“We signed a confidentiality agreement,” Paul Thayer, Executive Officer of the Lands Commission, told us. “They want to get our reaction to it. It’s being reviewed at a staff level, and we’ve also asked the (Attorney General’s) office to look at it.”

The previous PXP-EDC agreement, reached in 2008, was kept secret until Calbuzz obtained a copy and published the document. At a time when controversy is still simmering over elements of the first agreement, key opponents of the project are unhappy with the news that an amended version of the proposed deal is, at least for now, being kept confidential.

“I’m disappointed that PXP and EDC are going down the same failed road,” said Democratic Assemblyman Pedro Nava, whose district adjoins the proposed new drilling. “Whatever the new agreement says, apparently both PXP and EDC believe it can’t stand public scrutiny and so they are hiding it.”

“PXP likes to claim some kind of oil company executive privilege,” he added.

As a political matter, the secrecy of the first agreement played a key role, both in its defeat before the commission, and in the widespread opposition to the T-Ridge deal generated among other environmental groups.

When Calbuzz disclosed the text of that agreement, representatives of both PXP and the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center told us they were working on a second version, aimed at addressing various concerns that commissioners expressed in voting against the plan last year. Both organizations said that the amended agreement would be made public.

“No, it is not final yet,” Linda Krop, chief counsel for the EDC, emailed us when we asked for a copy of the new agreement.

“We have nothing to hide,” said Scott Winters, a spokesman for PXP. “Once the agreement is final, we will release to the public.”

“Substantial amendments have been added to clarify the enforceability concerns raised by the State Lands Commission (SLC) staff and members of the environmental community,” Winters added in email responses to our questions.

Thayer said the Commission’s review of the proposal was conditioned on keeping its contents confidential.

Nava said the Commission’s willingness to enter into a confidentiality agreement with an applicant “certainly piques my interest.”

“I’ll be inquiring into the terms and conditions under which (SLC) entered into such an agreement.”

Weed whacker alert: PXP’s Winters said that release of the new agreement depended entirely on when the lands commission scheduled another hearing on the project.

“As of right now, the SLC has not calendared this matter for a re-hearing. PXP’s hope is that the SLC will move expeditiously to hold a re-hearing,” he said. “The sooner the SLC schedules a hearing, the sooner the public will have another chance to consider the benefits offered by the project to discuss whether approval is in fact in the best interest of the state.”

We asked Thayer when PXP might get a new hearing in front of the commission. He said it depended on whether they filed a new application for the project, or requested a rehearing on their previous application. A new application would require staff to review it within 30 days, and commissioners to act in 180 or fewer days, he said. But PXP has asked for a faster method to gain approval, such as a rehearing. “We’ve never done one,” Thayer said, adding that the staff is investigating the possibility of such a procedure.

Jerry Blasted on AB32: The folks behind the movement to suspend AB32, California’s historic climate-change legislation, are furious at Attorney General Jerry Brown for the ballot title he has assigned to what they were hoping to sell as the “California Jobs Initiative.”

Crusty’s title:

Suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming until unemployment drops below specified level for full year.

(Which is a little like titling the initiative to legalize marijuana as follows: Ushers in an era of human kindness and peace on earth through availability of non-toxic and eco-friendly natural substances).

The anti-AB32 initiative is backed by Assemblyman Dan Logue of Chico and U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock,  Ted Costa and others who argue the legislation is a job killer – as Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner also contend.

Score round one for Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, who has hired our old pal Steve Maviglio to manage the opposition.

As a political matter, Brown has hardly been neutral about AB32. In fact, when he was on KGO Radio last week he referred to people opposing the measure as “Neanderthals . . . who want to turn the clock backwards.”

Here’s the dilemma for business interests who’d like to chip in to kill AB32:

1) this is likely the only legacy achievement Gov. Schwarzmuscle has going for him and he’s not going to be happy with people who try to kill it and 2) with a ballot summary like that, who’s going to vote to give a break to “major polluters”?

You never know. Maybe eMeg or the Commish will toss in a few million to the effort and campaign for it. Of course, we think it will backfire in a general election, but hey, stranger things have happened in California politics.

GOP ratfuck update: As close readers will recall, an online firefight broke out last December between Chip Hanlon, proprietor of the Red County web sites, and Aaron Park (formerly known as Sgt. York),  who was one of his bloggers. When Hanlon fired Park/York for secretly being on Steve Poizner’s payroll, we gave Hanlon a hat tip for “canning Sgt. York and disclosing the matter to his readers.”

Given what we knew then, it made sense to note that, “At a time when ethical blogging is too often an oxymoron, it’s nice to see somebody step up to defend his credibility.”

Since then, we’ve learned more, which colors our HT just a bit: It seems that buried deep in eMeg’s campaign finance report is a $20,000 disbursement to Green Faucet LLC, which is an investment firm owned by Chip Hanlon and also the parent company of his Red County web sites. The payment was made about a week after Hanlon fired Park, the erstwhile, paid Poizner sock puppet.

Hanlon tells us this was a straight-up business exchange: eMeg bought advertising on his web sites. And sure enough, her ads are there. But we spoke with another advertiser on Red County who’s paying about $300 a month – closer to the going rate for small political sites – for equivalent exposure on Red County sites. Which suggests the $20K from eMeg could be a big, fat subsidy to Hanlon – not much different than the $2,500 a month Park was getting from Poizner (and which, he says, eMeg’s people tried to match).

All of which raises questions about the use of web site commentary by MSM media, like when the Mercury News recently called on Matt Cunningham, a featured Red County blogger, to comment on Poizner’s charge that eMeg’s consultant had tried to bribe him out of the governor’s race. If you really want to get into the internecine Orange County GOP rat-fucking, you can catch up to the action here and here and here.

(Memo to eMeg Marketing Dept: Our New York-based, commission-paid advertising staff would be well pleased to get $20K for ads on Calbuzz. Hell, they’d even take $300 a month like Poizner is paying for his ad on the page. Plenty of free parking.)

10* of the Top Quotes of the Week in CA Politics

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

From The Commish taking a big swing at eMeg to Hurricane Carly aiming a low blow at the the sheepish Dudley Do Right, this week easily scored as the most entertaining to date of 2010, simply because of the surfeit of great quotes flying across the internets. Here are 10 of the best things anybody said about California politics. [Make it to the end for the contest challenge.]

1-”Usually that sort of thing occurs in a one-on-one conversation. It takes a true imbecile to put it in writing.
– Former federal prosecutor Donald Heller offering a lawman’s perspective on eMeg strategist Mike Murphy’s ham-handed effort to force Steve Poizner from the governor’s race.

2-“Part of this is politics.”
– Michael Semler, Sac State political science professor with a lofty thought about the Poizner-Whitman political extortion clash. Ya think?

3-“There are some things that sound easy, but you might as well send somebody a get well card.”
– Speaker Nancy Pelosi, suggesting Hallmark is to be preferred over trying to pass health care reform in pieces.

4-“My goal is to get things noticed.”
– Fred Davis, guerrilla ad man for Hurricane Carly Fiorina, on the viral sensation of his Demon Sheep ad attacking Tom Campbell..

5-If she emerges from the primary she’ll find that California voters of all parties will reject her brand of strong-arm politics.”
– An unctuous John Burton, who would disembowel relatives just for saying the word “Republican,” objects to Meg Whitman’s brand of campaigning.

6-“Kamala Harris opposes the death penalty. In fact, she refused to seek the death penalty even for a convicted cop-killer. She also refused the death penalty for an illegal immigrant gang member who murdered an entire family. This murderer was on the streets only because Harris had released him when he was arrested a few weeks earlier. And he was able to stay in San Francisco despite being arrested because Harris opposes deporting illegal immigrants, even after they commit violent crimes.
“She also created a program that trains illegal immigrants for jobs in the U.S. One illegal immigrant from her program robbed and then tried to murder his victim.”
– Description of San Francisco D.A. and Democrat attorney general wannabe Kamala Harris from poll question by primary rival, Assemblyman Ted Lieu. We think they were testing her negatives.

7- ‘Let’s say what we mean, mean what we say.”
– Meg Whitman, in her new TV ad, which she was forced to change after being caught exaggerating about how long she’s lived in California.

8- “I think some of these Neanderthals, is what I’d have to call them, who want to turn the clock backwards, don’t fully understand the job-creation potential that AB32 and our climate-change laws in California will be able to stimulate . . .
– Undeclared Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown, talking about his soon-to-be-formal GOP opponents on KGO Radio.

9-“No matter where you go in the world, people still want to come to California. There’s no one screaming, like, ‘I can’t wait to get to Iowa.
– The diplomatic Gov. Schwarzmuscle, endearing himself to folks in the Hawkeye State.

10-“After reading the ridiculous charges made by Steve Poizner during today’s strange press conference, all I can say is that I’m starting to worry about the Commissioner’s mental condition.”
– Meg Whitman senior adviser Mike Murphy responding to charges that he tried to extort Poizner out of the governor’s race (see #1 above)

* We lied. Here’s one more quote we couldn’t resist:

“Our campaign will forever be a demon sheep free zone.”
– Chuck DeVore, trying to raise money off Carly’s awful ad.

CONTEST HERE! To the Calbuzzer who posts an even better quote than the ones we have here before Monday — two coveted Calbuzz buttons! Totally arbitrary judging by Dr. P.J. Hackenflack.

Meg’s Trouble With Women, Jerry’s With Youth

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Your faithful Calbuzz datasluts couldn’t wait to mine last week’s Field Poll crosstabs for the governor’s race, so we could tell you about nuggets like:

While Jerry Brown is beating Meg Whitman 44-32% overall, he’s ahead 48-33% among women who give eMeg a pathetic favorable rating of 19-20%.

Facing numbers like that, Meg’s multi-million-dollar consulting corps must be scrambling to figure out how in the world they can sell their candidate to women voters.

On the other hand, we already noted that eMeg is crushing Commish Steve Poizner in favorability among Republicans – she’s at 34-8% positive and he’s gasping at 18-19%. Down in the crosstabs, however, we find that the former eBay CEO is killing the Insurance Commissioner among the conservative GOP primary voters Poizner is trying to capture by 45-15% and among what Field called “tea party enthusiasts” by 51-12%.

So excuse us if we pay a bit more attention at this stage of the race to a Brown-Whitman match-up than to a Brown-Poizner contest. Which leads us to the fact that although  Brown’s overall favorable rating overall is 44-32% positive, among people most likely to actually vote in November – those age 50 and older – his favorable is 51-34%.

However, the Attorney General’s favorable among those under 50 is just 36-29% and among those under 30 — who can’t even remember when he was governor — it’s just 24-17%. Six in 10 younger voters have no opinion about him.

The good news in this for Crusty the General is that our best estimate – from pollsters we trust – is that about six in 10 voters in November are likely to be 50 and older.

The bad news for Brown is that no matter who emerges as his Republican opponent -– and at this point it sure looks like eMeg with her unlimited self-funded campaign budget — Brown can expect to get hammered on TV starting in about March with ads aimed at younger voters portraying him as old news, over-the-hill status quo.

“Jerry Brown and his entrenched allies will be spending millions to defend failure and the status quo in Sacramento, and Meg is committed to defeating them,” Whitman mouthpiece Sarah Pompei told Contra Costa Timesman Steve Harmon last week, limbering up for some serious trash talk.

And even if, as we hear, Brown’s got $12.5 million in the bank (some of which is restricted for the general election), he’s not likely to have enough to strike back with much force -– at least not in paid media. Which means he’d better have some nifty op-research up his sleeve and hope it’s strong enough to put eMeg on the defensive.

There is an opening for the AG there: Meg’s favorable is just 25-20% overall, so 65% of the voters don’t even have an opinion about her yet. And though she’s doing better in Southern California and the Central Valley, in her own Bay Area back yard her favorable is a negative 27-30%.

Brown’s goal right now is to pre-frame the onslaught against him as an attack by the silk-stockinged, white-gloved, greedy, corporate bastards against his Little Guy Campaign, to wit, his uberpopulist comment last week on KGO radio:

“Her whole theory is that she can buy the mind of California and whoever fights her will be so small, compared to the amount of money that she’s gathered up on Wall Street, that she will pulverize any opposition through the paid takeover of the airwaves of California.”

We noted last week that Brown is beating Whitman 71-15% among Democrats and – importantly – 47-25% among independents, while Meg leads 69-13% among Republicans.

GOP Primary and General Election Match-Ups

But in the crosstabs we also find that while Brown kills Whitman 81-8% among liberals, and Whitman wins handily at 66-18% among conservatives, it’s Jerry who’s got the self-identified “middle of the road” voters at this point, by 47-30%. They represent 46% of the likely voters in the Field Poll’s November projection.

It’s no surprise that Brown leads 59-33% among union households while Whitman leads 51-40% among those with incomes of $100,000 or more.

Brown and Whitman run almost dead even among white voters at 43-42%, but among Asians and Pacific Islanders Brown leads 39-19%, among Latino’s he’s ahead 52-29% and among blacks the AG is ahead 76-7%.

Calbuzz Bottom Line: To get in the game, the Commish  is going to have to go negative on eMeg with something that rings true and can peel away conservatives, otherwise, he’s dead in the water.  As long as Poiz remains irrelevant, eMeg has to boost her status among women and begin to create a Jerry-as-aged-incumbent narrative. Crusty needs to hold the women and independents, make a positive impression on younger voters and prepare for the negative attacks about to come.