The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

April 11, 2010
PG&E is paying good money for its endorsements

PG&E has sent the first mailers for its Proposition 16 initiative on the June 8 ballot this week, and many more are sure to follow, as California Forum makes clear today.

PG&E has bought space on roughly 20 slate cards targeting the left and the right, environmentalists and business interests and anti-tax voters, according to its latest campaign filing.

Slate cards occupy a sketchy niche in the business of politics. Read them with skepticism.

Slates have names suggesting they are actual organizations. In fact, virtually all of them are run by political operatives who have built mailing lists over the years and appear able to deliver votes.

One is called the Democratic Voters Choice card, which is aimed at Democratic voters. Another is called Citizens for Good Government. It is tailored for Republicans.

Each shares the same consultant, Thomas Kaptain of Burbank. PG&E is paying a combined $200,000 to appear on the two cards.

Another is COPS Voter Guide. Its name suggests it represents of police and sheriffs. Some cops are involved, but not many. PG&E paid COPS $100,000.

Several are put together by Orange County attorney James Lacy, and his firm, Landslide Communications. All of Lacy's cards are aimed at conservatives, particularly those who focus on taxation. Lacy said he intends to mail more than six million pieces in the June election.

PG&E is paying $19,600 to appear on the Small Business Action Committee Newsletter, according to its campaign finance state.

Small Business Action Committee was established to "battle for small business on important political issues." It's run by Joel Fox, former head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and editor of the on-line Fox & Hounds Daily political blog.

PG&E is paying $42,000 to appear on the National Tax Limitation Committee's card, also put out by Lacy's Landslide Communications. National Tax Limitation is run by Lewis K. Uhler, a long-time Republican activist and veteran of Gov. Ronald Reagan's administration.

Like many slate card operators, Uhler said he only takes money from causes he believes in. While he said he has "no love for PG&E," he believes in the initiative to block the expansion of public power.

"Government should not be in business," Uhler declared.

That's open for debate, although so far, there isn't much argument from the No-on-16 side. As we note on the front of Forum today, PG&E has spent $28.52 million to boost Proposition 16. Foes have raised virtually nothing. In the business of politics, the side with the most money usually wins, or at least, delivers the most mail.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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