People’s Politics

The Latest on T-Ridge, the Gov’s Race, and the Supreme Court’s Big Campaign Ruling

Another county heard from: Hannah-Beth Jackson is the latest local Democratic pol to jump into the fray over the Tranquillon Ridge offshore proposal, signing on as a paid consultant for the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), a sponsor of the project.

The former Democratic assemblymember, who said she recently started “a little consulting” operation, got a call from EDC’s Linda Krop, seeking help in navigating the increasingly bumpy politics surrounding T-Ridge, which has grown from a local environmental concern into a major statewide issue.

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“I’m helping with the Sacramento piece, and with the strategy piece,” Jackson said in an interview. “I’m trying to help them through this conflagration.”

With environmentalists split on the issue—sometimes bitterly—Jackson said she is trying to refocus attention on what she called “the win-win aspect” of the project. The Houston-based PXP oil company is promising a future, permanent end to oil drilling from four platforms in federal waters off the coast of Santa Barbara, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in new state revenue, in exchange for a lease to slant drill into state waters from its Platform Irene operation.

Governor Schwarzenegger strongly supports T-Ridge, and his new budget proposal counts on $140 million in revenue from it to backfill cuts he said he plans to make in the state parks department. Calling Schwarzenegger a “bully,” Jackson said that EDC does not support the oil/parks budget swap, but that its only goal is to get a rehearing for T-Ridge before the State Lands Commission.

“This is the best opportunity we have to get rid of” offshore drilling operations, she said.

Dialing for dollars: Meg Whitman, the Republican frontrunner for governor, has poured another $20 million of her own fortune into her bid for the GOP nomination, bringing the total of her own contributions to $40 million. More than five months before the June 7 primary, the former eBay CEO already has spent as much as airline executive Al Checchi (the previous record holder for self-funding candidates) did when he won 12.5 percent of the 1998 Democratic primary vote.

Whitman, at least at this stage, appears to be getting something for her money. A new Field Poll shows her leading Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner 45-17 percent among Republicans, and gaining against Attorney General and presumptive Democratic nominee Jerry Brown, who leads her 44-32.

Interestingly, Brown runs stronger among women only, trouncing Whitman 48-33 percent; overall, women surveyed have an unfavorable view of the Republican frontrunner, 19-20, with a large majority saying they don’t know enough about her to form an opinion.

Brown’s biggest challenge is among younger voters, who form the core of the 24 percent overall who say they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion, despite his four decades of activity in California politics. Statewide, Brown is viewed favorably, 44-32; but six in 10 of those younger than 30, who can be forgiven for not remembering the last time he was governor, have no opinion. Of those who do, only 24 percent have a favorable impression, while 17 percent hold an unfavorable view.

What the Supreme Court has wrought: The best line about last week’s big U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to donate to federal campaigns came in the New York Times editorial bashing the decision:

“The ruling is likely to be viewed as a shameful bookend to Bush v. Gore. With one 5-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority stopped valid votes from being counted to ensure the election of a conservative president. Now a similar conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.”

Beyond its national partisan tilt, however, the impact of the ruling in California is likely to be limited this year to Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate race.

“There’s no impact on state races,” said Karen Getman, a prominent campaign law attorney in San Francisco. “But in House races and the U.S. Senate race, the dynamic has changed.”

With most of the state’s congressional districts currently gerrymandered, the ruling is unlikely to cause major swings in state House races this cycle. But incumbent Boxer, facing a tough political environment for Democrats, could become a test case for how the new court decision affects a big, expensive Senate race. Of course, Boxer could get a boost from organized labor, which is also allowed to contribute freely to independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of candidates.

Bottom line is that the big winners will be campaign media buyers and TV stations throughout the state, which could find special interests and campaigns road blocking available ad times.

Since no less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people too, at least company is now taking the next logical step.


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