Gray Davis Lets the Dogs Out

By Kevin DeCorla-Souza
June 12, 2001


With the energy crisis raging in California and his approval rating falling rapidly, Governor Gray Davis is frantically trying to spin his way out of the mess. Desperate to save his political image and his now damaged Presidential prospects, Davis has enlisted two seasoned political attack dogs to shift the blame for California's energy problems away from himself and on to President Bush, who took office nearly a year after the crisis began.

Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane, the political operatives who worked the media for Team Gore during last year's hotly contested election and for the Clinton-Gore Administration during its scandal laden days in the White House, were hired by Mr. Davis to assist his attack campaign against the President's energy policy. According to a story in the Washington Times, they are being paid $30,000 a month out of California taxpayer money to work as "consultants" for the Governor. Fabiani and Lehane, who call themselves the "masters of disaster" for their ability to unleash attacks against political foes, also happen to work for Southern California Edison, a state utility with an interest in seeking energy price caps.

When President Bush visited the Golden State last week, he met sharp criticism from Governor Davis and his newly hired henchmen They claimed the President was ignoring California's energy crisis and blamed the high fuel prices on Texas energy suppliers, whom they portrayed as the Presidents buddies. They painted Bush as in league with the Texas oilmen who were secretly plotting to "gouge" California energy consumers.

But the President did not give in to Davis' demand for price caps on energy prices, instead choosing to act on economic principle saying "All our efforts are guided by a simple test: Will any action increase supply at fair and reasonable prices? Will it decrease demand in equitable ways? Anything that meets that test will alleviate the shortage, and we will act swiftly to adopt it. Anything that fails the test will make the shortage worse. We will not take any action that makes California's problems worse." The President also pointed out that it was the position of the Clinton Administration to oppose such price caps.

But with Davis and his "consultants" blaming everyone under the sun, including the President, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), energy suppliers, and former Republican California Governor Pete Wilson, who really is to blame for California's energy problems? According to Jerry Taylor (director of natural-resources studies at the Cato Institute) and Peter Van Doren (editor of Regulation magazine), Davis himself is largely to blame. In a guest column for National Review, they wrote:

"To put the calamity of the increasingly fragile grid at Gray Davis's door we need go no further than Gray Davis himself. 'If I wanted to raise prices,' Davis told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, 'I could solve this problem in 20 minutes.' And he's right: That's how the other states on the western grid did it. Electricity in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, etc., is just as scarce and just as expensive as it is in California, but while the Golden State was in the midst of its high-decibel political conniption fit, those states quietly but steadfastly went about increasing retail prices on ratepayers. Consumption fell, conservation took hold, and the meltdown was averted. Davis's recent conversion on the matter of retail prices is a day late and a dollar short."

But to read Governor Davis' opinion piece on the May 31 Op-Ed page of the New York Times you would believe that everyone but himself is to blame for his State's energy woes. Such is the political demagoguery that the "masters of disaster" are known for.

For the Fabiani-Lehane duo, spinning stories and distorting truths are just another day on the job. The two can be credited with countless attacks against Mr. Bush during the election last year. Leading the Gore media offensive during the Florida recount, they painted the image of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris as a Bush partisan. The Times story reported that Fabiani told reporters that Harris was an "obvious political crony" of the Bush family who was engineering "an outrageous attempt by Bush to steal the election." The Times story also reported that "Mr. Lehane publicly denounced Mrs. Harris as a 'hack,' a 'lackey' and a 'Soviet commissar.'" Lehane and Fabiani, among other election attacks, were also responsible for accusing the Bush campaign of including a subliminal message in one of its campaign commercials.

The hiring of the Fabiani and Lehane has not gone over well in the Golden State, causing a stir among California Republicans. According to another story in the Washington Times, Republican lawmakers in California, angered by the $180,000 of taxpayer money to be given to Fabiani and Lehane, are planning to vote against the state budget arguing that Davis should pay the salaries of his political operatives with money from his own campaign war chest instead of with taxpayer funds.

Kevin DeCorla-Souza is an intern at Accuracy in Media.

For questions or comments, please contact Intern@AIM.org.


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