By Miriam Raftery
September 27, 2009 (San Diego) – “Our state is in trouble,” former Governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown said at the San Diego Grassroots Democratic Convention here yesterday. Massive deficits coupled with tax revenues drying up are crippling education and public safety, Brown suggested during his speech and in an interview with East County Magazine.
Touted as a likely contender to run for Governor next year, Brown stopped short of declaring his candidacy. He urged voters to ask, “Who in their mind wants to be the next Governor?” Then Brown, 71, quipped, “You want somebody who has no future.”
Brown detailed how as Attorney General, he has gone after some of the biggest companies involved in mortgage fraud, including an $8.6 million settlement with Countrywide. He reminded audience members that as Governor, he vetoed a bill to allow adjustable rate mortgages with negative amortization, which was enacted under a future administration.
He has also sued Beverly Hills investment advisor Stanley Chais for misleading investeors and concealing ties to Bernard Madoff and launched investigations into credit rating agencies’ role in fueling the financial crisis. Most recently, he launched a real-time prescription drug-monitoring system and told convention attendees his office is cracking down on fraudulent ads.
Brown criticized the federal government for pre-empting state’s rights to go after companies for fraud and misrepresentation in a growing number of areas, ranging from sales of energy-efficient appliances to the mortgage crisis.
Long a champion of environmentalism, Brown has led the charge to prevent the federal government from stopping California’s efforts to cap greenhouse gases. “We’re fighting with Congress. We’re fighting with the EPA,” he said, adding that under the Obama administration, Congress has finally adopted the California standard.
He criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (albeit without naming her), for stating that her first act as Governor would be to suspend a new law restricting greenhouse gases. “It’s a war against California,” Brown declared, noting that our state has pioneered standards for clean air and water, as well as many other environmental protections. “We need to be unshackled from Republicans,” he said, adding, “99% of scientists agree on climate change and 100% of Republicans disagree. We can deal with it or not deal with it. If we deal with climate change we can create jobs, have innovation and build up our entire economy.”
He criticized cuts in education spending and increases in class size. “Democracy depends on education. That’s not a new idea. This is what Thomas Jefferson said,” Brown observed, noting that Republicans repeatedly add new tests while “taking money away from schools.” Brown said failures in schools are due to another cause, not insufficient testing. “Families don’t have enough income. Schools don’t have enough resources.” He called for decentralization of power to put more decision-making back into state and local hands. “That’s what democracy is.”
After his speech, Brown spoke briefly with East County Magazine.
He expressed concerns over state firefighting resources being spread too thin in the wake of steep budget cuts. “We need more firefighters,” Brown said, adding, “and we’ve got to do something about crime, too.” (Brown knows about the latter first-hand. “Even though I am California’s ‘top cop’, two of my tires got stolen,” his website states. “No matter, I got new ones and I’m rolling again!”)
San Francisco Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom told ECM in a recent interview that he would sign legislation vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger to provide healthcare for all Californians. So ECM asked Brown if he would sign the measure, which has been reintroduced in the Legislature.
“We just can’t afford it,” Brown replied. “There’s no money for a lot of things. I’m counting on President Obama to get universal healthcare at the federal level.”
We also inquired whether the Attorney General has any investigations ongoing into allegations of wrongdoing made against San Diego Gas & Electric Company, notably boasts made on tape by a member of an Assembly Committee overseeing the utility industry who claimed he had a sexual affair with a lobbyist that some media reports have identified as an SDG&E lobbyist. (SDG&E says it’s conducting an internal investigation and that the lobbyist denies the allegations; the Assemblyman has since resigned.)
“We have not received a complaint,” Brown said, but added, “ You give us a complaint, and we’ll jump on it.”
UPDATE: Sept. 29, 2009 - Brown has formed an exploratory committee to run for Governor, moving closer toward an official announcement of candidacy.