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California and the West

Ads Support Davis Actions, Legislature in Power Crisis

March 30, 2001|DAN MORAIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Backers of Gov. Gray Davis are airing radio ads saying the governor and Legislature are working hard to solve California's energy crisis, in what could be the beginnings of a campaign against an initiative that doesn't yet exist.

The ads, airing in Los Angeles and elsewhere, also offer a boost to Davis, at a time when private polls suggest voter skepticism that he is solving the energy crisis.

Backers of the ad campaign, funded with a relatively modest $100,000, say the spots were not intended to help the governor.

"The story here is that this group would like to see partisan politics stay out of it," said campaign consultant Rick Claussen of Goddard-Claussen, who specializes in initiative campaigns and produced the spots. "We need to keep people focused on the solutions."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 4, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Energy ads--A Friday article incorrectly characterized the role of Gov. Gray Davis' political consultant, Garry South, in radio ads being aired by a group called Energy for California. South was not involved in planning the ads.

Claussen said the group, called Energy for California, could become a political organization that would counter initiatives aimed at undoing whatever solution Davis and lawmakers come up with.

At least one and possibly more initiatives related to the energy crisis will probably be on statewide ballots in 2002. Consumer activist Harvey Rosenfield of Santa Monica, who has promoted several initiatives, says he is considering entering the fray.

"I'm flattered," Rosenfield said. "This has to be a first: an ad campaign against an initiative that hasn't been drafted."

The sponsoring group includes Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr and entrepreneur Reed Hastings, both of whom have donated $25,000 to Davis' 2002 reelection effort and were major backers of an initiative that the governor promoted last year to ease approval of local school construction bonds.

Chris Townsend, who hosted a fund-raiser for Davis in Orange County earlier this year, also is involved, as is Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group director Carl Guardino, a Davis appointee to the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state's power system.

The group also includes William Hauck of the California Business Roundtable and Daniel Case of the San Francisco investment bank Hambrecht and Quist.

The ads open with voices saying there is no crisis, then switch to an announcer who says the crisis is real and that "California faces even more energy shortages and blackouts this summer if we don't all do our part."

"Working together, we can have adequate supplies and a secure energy future. That's what Gov. Gray Davis, the Legislature, business and community leaders are working to do."

The ad refers to steps being taken in Sacramento, including "historic statewide conservation programs like the governor's 20/20 program." Although it is not final, that proposal promises to give people 20% rebates on the remainder of their electricity bills if they cut use by 20% between June and September.

"They're not political ads," said Garry South, Davis' chief political advisor, who was involved in the planning. "They don't say, 'Vote for Gray Davis.' They're about the energy crisis."

The ads are designed to "reassure people and calm people down," said Darry Sragow, a political consultant who works for the state Assembly's majority Democrats.

"It is a critical and dicey time for [Davis] politically," Sragow said. "It's not something from which he cannot recover. But he shouldn't be feeling comfortable."

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