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Schwarzenegger aide used state job for campaign work, group says

May 20, 2010 |  6:36 pm

An aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent campaign material from her state e-mail account and appeared to be soliciting opposition while at work to a proposed initiative that would suspend California's anti-global warming law, according to documents released by a taxpayers' group Thursday.

Lisa Kalustian, a chief deputy director at the governor's Los Angeles office, sent an e-mail at 11:09 a.m. March 30 that included an "endorsement form" with the letterhead and address of Californians for Clean Energy & Jobs, the name of a political committee formed to fight the initiative.

"Would be interested in your thoughts as to what your position may be, or if you'll be getting involved at all?" Kalustian wrote. "Thanks much!"

The endorsement sheet instructed to return it to Mercury Public Affairs, a consulting firm that does campaign work for the governor. State law does not permit taxpayer funds to be used for political activities.

Schwarzenegger considers the 2006 law one of his biggest achievements. The initiative would suspend the law, which is set to begin taking effect in 2012, until California's unemployment rate remains at 5.5% for a full year, which opponents maintain would effectively repeal it.

Kalustian also included fact sheets that had the Californians for Clean Energy & Jobs letterhead and referred to the initiative, including one with a headline, "Valero Oil Company's Initiative Would Kill clean Energy & Air Pollution Standards in California."

Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's spokesman, said the governor's office "absolutely has the right to educate Californians on the benefits" of the law. But he added: "An e-mail went out with campaign materials that shouldn't have, and we'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

In her e-mail, Kalustian referenced a conversation she'd just had with the recipient about "efforts underway to undermine" the law. The recipient's name was redacted by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Assn., which opposes the global warming law, which it says hurts the economy.

"The governor's office is misusing taxpayer funds, taxpayer-funded staff and potentially other public agencies to undermine a ballot initiative just because he disagrees with it," Jon Coupal, president of the taxpayers' group, said in a statement. "It is not only illegal, it is a violation of the public trust."

-- Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento