CARBgate Update: Schwarzenegger Taking A Hit Nationally
I wouldn't have expected the national media to pick up on the story of the Governor's actions not matching his rhetoric when it comes to the environment, but the New York Times actually found some room for it in today's paper. They even highlight the governing-by-magazine-cover that has become a staple of this Administration.
In September, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, signed into law a landmark emissions-reduction measure and then drove a green bus during his easy, breezy re-election campaign. Since then, he has announced that he will buy offsets for his own personal carbon emissions, threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over air quality and appeared on the cover of Newsweek spinning a globe on his finger [...]
But the Governator’s eco-friendly reputation may have taken a dent over the last week in a messy battle over the leadership of the California Air Resources Board, a science-geared agency that has traditionally operated with considerable autonomy, even though its 11 members are political appointees. Its most visible mandate is the nuts and bolts of putting the emissions law, known as AB 32, into effect [...]
“We have schizophrenia here,” said James Marston, a lobbyist for Environmental Defense who worked on passing the emissions law. “Even while we were doing AB 32, the Schwarzenegger administration was a little schizophrenic." [...]
“There’s an obvious difference to what he’s been saying and what his administration and other appointees have been doing,” said Don Perata, a Democrat who is president pro tempore of the State Senate. “There’s some real knuckle draggers over there.”
The replacement of the fired Robert Sawyer on the board with environmental stalwart Mary Nichols certainly reflects an effort by the Governor to stop the bleeding. But the Democrats in the Assembly are holding a hearing on the Sawyer and Catherine Witherspoon resignations today, and when our man in Sacramento Frank Russo has any information we'll bring it to you.
Meanwhile, two top aides to Schwarzenegger, Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy and Cabinet Secretary Dan Dunmoyer, were asked to testify in the hearing, and the Governor refused their participation. So committee Chair Loni Hancock is talking about subpoenas:
Assembly Democrats said they may need to subpoena two of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's aides, who are expected to rebuff an invitation to testify at an oversight hearing today on why two officials were forced from the state's air resources board.
Berkeley Assemblywoman Loni Hancock sent letters to Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, and Cabinet Secretary Dan Dunmoyer, asking them to testify at the Natural Resources hearing she heads. Her committee is looking into accusations that the administration interfered with the board's implementation of AB 32, the landmark law to curb greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020.
"If we don't get the answers we hope and expect, the committee will explore the option of a subpoena," said Steve Maviglio, deputy chief of staff for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles.
Schwarzenegger's aides had not replied to Hancock by Thursday, though a spokesman said they will send a representative of the administration to the hearing but not the two staff members.
Dan Walters thinks that this could be some kabuki theater, which would be interesting, because clearly there is a real conflict over implementation of the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, and clearly neither side wants to give an inch. The Governor has the upper hand because the Air Resources Board, which is tasked with implementation, is entirely appointed by him. But the Legislature can undertake meaningful oversight like they are today, and use Schwarzenegger's fascination with his own self-image as a lever to get the required solution. This bit, incidentally, from Walters' story, was remarkably reminiscent of another chief executive:
Núñez [...] said he had wanted Kennedy and Dunmoyer to appear before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee today -- asking first orally and then, late Tuesday, in the form of letters to the two gubernatorial aides. [...]
Later, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Aaron McLear, said such an appearance "would be unprecedented," which doesn't square with the historical facts. Kennedy, who was then a high-ranking aide to Schwarzenegger's predecessor, Democrat Gray Davis, testified before a legislative committee delving into a scandal involving a software contract with Oracle Corp. five years ago. In fact, the circumstances were somewhat similar, with critics alleging that Kennedy had interceded with a state agency for political reasons.
A press flack calling appearances before legislative committees "unprecedented" when the same person sought to testify has HERSELF appeared in the past? Knock me over with a feather.