Anti-AB 32 Campaign Should Be Interesting

The ballot initiative to suspend the implementation of California’s landmark greenhouse gas legislation — which qualified for the ballot last week —  should garner huge amounts of attention and spur job growth at least in the world of ballot campaigns.  The California Public Policy Institute is predicting that proponents and opponents of the initiative (which doesn’t have a number yet) may spend more than $150 million and set a new spending record on the campaign.

The proponents of the measure to overturn AB 32 — at least until the state’s unemployment rate is below 5.5% for a year, which is what the initiative calls for — are completely predictable with a couple of exceptions.  Oil companies funded the petition gathering drive to get the anti-AB 32 initiative on the ballot, with two Texas-based oil companies leading the charge.  They were joined by the mysterious Adam Smith Foundation, a Missouri non-profit devoted to “protecting private property,” which contributed a half a million dollars to the campaign.  And the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association — best known for its commitment to California’s famed property tax initiative Prop. 13 — threw in $100,000 as well.  The initiative’s supporters are so far framing their campaign as devoted to protecting jobs for Californians.  The campaign’s title for the initiative? The very subtle California Jobs Initiative.

But opponents of the ballot measure got a big victory from Attorney General and Democratic gubenatorial nominee Jerry Brown in the way his office drafted the official title and summary that will appear on November’s ballot.  Here’s the official title:

Title:  Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions that Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.

And here’s the summary:

Official Summary: Suspends state laws that require reduced greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.  Requires State to abandon implementation of comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension is lifted.

Many voters are likely to use the title and summary as a guide to how to vote. The opponents of the initiative   should be happy with Brown’s choice of words.

At least as interesting will be what kind of money will be available to the initiative’s opponents.  So far Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading the verbal charge.  He calls the sponsors of the initiative “greedy Texas oil companies” and says he will not let AB 32 be suspended “on his watch.”  The honorary chairman of the campaign to retain AB 32 is former Secretary of State George Schultz.  And the official organization to oppose the measure, Californians for Clean Jobs and Energy, says it has raised $1 million so far, $500,000 of which is from the Green Tech Action Fund made up of clean tech companies.  But will opponents come close to meeting the millions oil companies are preparing to spend in favor of the initiative?   Will the Governor reach into his own deep pockets or succeed in pressing supporters to give to the anti-initiative campaign?  And will opponents actually need significant money to defeat the initiative?  Last June’s ballot included two initiatives that reeked of providing advantages to private businesses. Despite heavy spending in their favor with little opposition, both went down to defeat.

, , , ,