"Integrity abuses" charged in initiative to suspend California climate law
A bitter split among backers of the controversial November ballot initiative to suspend California's 2006 first-in-the-nation global warming law broke into the open Wednesday. Ted Costa, chief executive of People's Advocate, a Sacramento-based anti-tax group that was an original sponsor of the measure, told the Los Angeles Times that "big money interests have come in and shut out the people."
Costa, whose populist group has sponsored conservative ballot propositions for more than two decades, had drafted the initiative along with Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Marysville), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay) and Sacramento attorney Thomas Hiltachk, but said he was shut out of the process after the group, calling itself the "California Jobs Initiative Committee," raised some $600,000 from two Texas-based oil companies.
"I wanted to do a grassroots operation and involve a lot of people," Costa said. "But they believe they can run this thing out of the country club and to hell with the little people of California. If they have half a million dollars, how come they haven't reported it?" he asked.
Under state law, financial disclosure forms are required to be filed with the California Secretary of State within 10 days of raising $50,000. However, although paid signature gatherers were deployed more than a week ago, financial forms for the initiative committee have yet to be filed. Costa charged that "you have to put up $250,000 to do that" (launch signature gathering) and added that the group "spent $160,000 on research more than 60 days ago." He said he would consider filing a counter-initiative "to point out the integrity abuses."
Costa also aimed his attack at Goddard & Claussen, Sacramento political consultants, who have taken over the campaign. "They're a bunch of greedy consultants feeding off the trough," he said. "I said I could qualify this initiative for $1.2 million. They'll probably spend $3 million, and all that money will go to consultants. These guys have a Watergate mentality."
Logue, however, responded that "there is no corruption in any money that is coming through. Everything is above board. When the money is in, we will abide by state law." He declined to confirm reports that most of the money has been donated by two Texas-based refinery giants, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. Logue also said he did not know when the financial disclosure forms would be filed, nor did he know how many signature gatherers are on the streets. "I would like to know that myself," he added.
Costa's criticism, Logue charged, results from the fact that People's Advocate was not hired to operate the signature-gathering. "Ted basically didn't get the contract to do the signatures, so he's mad," Logue said. "Goddard Claussen decided to go with another firm which guaranteed they'd get the signatures. The best company is going to get the contract. That is called free enterprise."
Logue said that the Jon and Ken radio show will sponsor a five-hour signature gathering rally in Ontario March 18. The conservative talk hosts are outspoken opponents of the state's climate law, the most comprehensive in the nation, which seeks to cut greenhouse gases 15% over today's levels by 2020. Climate scientists say that carbon dioxide and other gases emitted from cars and factories since the industrial revolution threaten to disrupt the planet's climate.
Under the California law, known as AB 32, power plants, refineries, cement manufacturers and other industries would be forced to install expensive equipment to cut emissions. The proposed ballot initiative would suspend the law until unemployment in the state drops to 5.5% or below for at least a year. The state's jobless rate is over 12% today.
-- Margot Roosevelt
Photo: Activists favoring the ballot initiative rallied Tuesday at a Valero gas station in Sacramento with signs saying "Thank you Valero" after a Monday protest at the same station by anti-initiative activists. Credit: Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs