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Fight splits backers of ballot initiative to suspend state's global warming law

Ted Costa says his group, People's Advocate, has been shut out of efforts to suspend AB 32, which would force oil companies to slash emissions of greenhouse gases.

March 12, 2010|By Margot Roosevelt

A fight has split backers of a November ballot initiative to suspend California's 2006 global warming law.

"Big money interests have come in and shut out the people," said Ted Costa, chief executive of the Sacramento-based anti-tax organization People’s Advocate, one of the initiative's original sponsors.

Costa, whose populist group has promoted conservative ballot propositions for more than two decades, had drafted the initiative along with Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Marysville), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay) and Sacramento attorney Thomas Hiltachk. But he said he was shut out of the process after a group, the “California Jobs Initiative Committee,” raised about $600,000, reportedly from two Texas-based oil companies.

The two companies, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., operate major refineries in California that could be forced to slash their emissions of greenhouse gases under the law.

"I wanted to do a grass-roots operation and involve a lot of people," Costa said in an interview. "But they believe they can run this thing out of the country club, and to hell with the little people of California. If they have half a million dollars, how come they haven't reported it?"

Under state law, financial disclosure forms must be filed with the California secretary of state within 10 days of collecting $50,000. Although paid signature-gatherers were deployed more than a week ago, financial forms for the initiative committee have yet to be submitted.

Costa says that to launch signature-gathering, the group would have had to spend at least $250,000 so far, adding that it had already "spent $160,000 on research more than 60 days ago."

Logue, however, responded that "there is no corruption in any money that is coming through. Everything is aboveboard. When the money is in, we will abide by state law."

Logue said he did not know when the financial disclosure forms would be filed, nor did he know how many signature gatherers are on the streets. "I would like to know that myself," he added.

Under the California global warming law, known as AB 32, power plants, refineries, cement manufacturers and other industries would be forced to install expensive equipment or purchase emissions allowances so that the state can cut its carbon footprint by 15% by 2020. The proposed ballot initiative would suspend the law until unemployment in the state drops to 5.5% or below for at least a year. The state's jobless rate is above 12%.

Costa also aimed his attack at Goddard & Claussen, the Sacramento political consultants who have taken over the campaign. "They're a bunch of greedy consultants feeding off the trough," he said. "I said I could qualify this initiative for $1.2 million," he said. "They'll probably spend $3 million, and all that money will go to consultants."

A spokeswoman for Goddard & Claussen declined to comment. However, Logue said Costa's criticism results from the fact that People's Advocate was not hired to gather signatures. "Ted basically didn't get the contract to do the signatures, so he's mad," Logue said.

"Goddard Claussen decided to go with another firm which guaranteed they'd get the signatures. The best company is going to get the contract. That is called free enterprise."

margot.roosevelt @latimes.com

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