An Illuminating Look Several Light-Years Back


In the years between 1994 and 2000, California's three little pigs--its investor-owned utilities and/or their parent companies--spent $51.6 million on political campaigns. Most of it, about $39 million, was spent beating back Proposition 9, which if you don't remember (and who can?) would have thrown deregulation into reverse.

An additional $18.6 million was shelled out for six years of lobbying the governor, the Legislature and state agencies. The point-six part of that was spent by Pacific Gas & Electric .tin the first quarter of this year, even as PG&E; was prepping itself to file for bankruptcy protection and make a bid for a bailout.

The study by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity found that way over half a million went to the campaigns of three leading politicians, all of whom have said the dough did not influence them: $171,000 to then-Gov. Pete Wilson, who signed deregulation into law; $212,186 to state Sen. Jim Brulte, the Rancho Cucamonga Republican whose name topped the author list on the deregulation law; and $268,135 to the campaign causes of state Sen. Steve Peace, the El Cajon Democrat held up as the Frank Lloyd Wright of deregulation (Wright's houses always looked fabulous but didn't always function ideally).

The utilities are, of course, PG&E;, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric: the one that's filed for bankruptcy protection, the one that may want to, and the one that's still carrying a torch, a lighted one.

All Moneyed Up and Nowhere to Go

OK, everybody: s-l-o-w-l-y take one step back.

Now that it looks like Newport Beach Republican Chris Cox won't be taking off his congressional neckties in exchange for a black robe on a federal bench, anyone who had been angling to run for his seat had better make other plans.

This means you, Mark C. Johnson.

With Cox staying put--his odds of surviving confirmation in a newly Democratic Senate were shriveling anyway--Johnson has the million and a half for a campaign, and nothing to spend it on.

Johnson is co-founder of Republicans for a New Majority, a bunch of people with a bunch of money to spend on moderate GOP candidates. He won't run against Fullerton Republican Rep. Ed Royce, or against Orange County's solitary congressional Democrat, Loretta Sanchez. But reapportionment might open up a new congressional district, or rejigger the one that now belongs to surfin' Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who expected to collect big at his $1,000-per Arnold Schwarzenegger fund-raiser over the weekend.

Think the Balkans are complicated? Look behind the Orange Curtain. "Things," said Johnson circumspectly, "may turn out to be a lot more convoluted than any of us are expecting."

Walt Yes, Al No

Disney plus Navy equals "Pearl Harbor" the movie. The U.S. Navy gave Disney unprecedented access, and Disney made script changes per the Navy.

But actor Ben Affleck, aboard the carrier Constellation off San Diego on Sept. 13, filming scenes involving Gen. Jimmy Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, took a break from films for . . . politics. Surrounded by sailors, he began making a commercial on behalf of Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign. Cut! Cut! Military property is off limits for political purposes, sailor! A Navy lieutenant stuck a hand in front of the camera--and it wasn't a salute.

Biting the Hand That . . .

Barely a month ago, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus gave a pass to Rep. Maxine Waters, saying it wants to elect more Latino politicians but not at the expense of simpatico non-Latinos like Waters, whose South-Central Los Angeles district has a huge Latino population.

But in comments last week about Antonio Villaraigosa, the man running to be Los Angeles' first Latino mayor in more than a century, the African American member of Congress (who endorsed Villaraigosa's opponent, Jim Hahn), demanded, "Who is Antonio Villaraigosa? Where did he really come from? How much time has he spent in public service? . . . We need to know these things."

For the record, Villaraigosa has spent six years not exactly hiding in the Legislature, including nearly two years as Assembly speaker, and years more as a community activist. He comes from L.A. Waters was born in St. Louis.

The Man in Tartan Returns?

It's the question all of Sacramento is asking: With state Sen. Tom McClintock considering another run at the state controller's job, will "Cousin Angus" be back?

In ads for his 1994 campaign, which he lost to Kathleen Connell, the Thousand Oaks Republican tapped his Scottish roots to conjure the kilted cousin, who bragged in an accent as dense as highland heather that Cousin Tom is a true skinflint Scot, "tighter than a bullfrog's behind." Has anyone called the Scottish Anti-Defamation League?

But Cousin Angus, says McClintock, "is so angry about the energy situation he may be running himself--for governor."

A Little Rice, A Lot of Oil

The few, the proud, the California Republicans are desperately trying to flush some big-name candidates out of the undergrowth, and the latest quail to emerge is Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security advisor and a former Stanford provost.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call says state party Chairman Shawn Steele is talking her up to run against Sen. Barbara Boxer: "There's a long list of quality, top-flight Republicans emerging to run against Boxer [pregame big talk, there], and Rice would be among those ideal candidates."

Besides saying "Condi loves" California, Rice's office demurred, with the usual "no plans" quote that always leaves some running room.

With gas above $2 a gallon in the state, maybe now is not the right moment for Rice, who sat on the Chevron board and has a 150,000-ton oil tanker named after her.

Quick Hits

At an Irvine fund-raiser, former GOP Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle drummed up $15,000 for a Democratic former colleague, L.A. mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, whom Pringle called "an honorable guy." . . . Amid the talk of outgoing L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan running for governor on the Republican side, records show Riordan donated $12,500 to Davis' campaign on March 2, 2000, which his wife matched a day later. . . . Two dogs, each kitted out in Hahn or Villaraigosa political trinkets, met nose to nose in Venice to urge the candidates to support a canine beach in Los Angeles, which has none.

Word Perfect

"What do you want from me, a quote that I'm going to raise taxes? That will kill me when I run for president in New Hampshire."

State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, to reporters asking whether he'd raise taxes to plug the holes left in the budget by the energy crisis.

Columnist Patt Morrison's e-mail address is This week's contributors include Nick Anderson, Mark Z. Barabak, Dan Morain, Jean O. Pasco, Tony Perry, Margaret Talev and Jenifer Warren.

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