Anderson running against Supervisor Jacob, but refuses to answer questions about his special interest ties
A podcast of this interview is now online. Listen now at: http://k003.kiwi6.com/hotlink/lckbr8zs0o/Newsmaker-BiggersTom-AndersonVoter.mp3
Hear the full show from Feb. 23, 2015 here: http://k003.kiwi6.com/hotlink/octrm252x1/ECMShow2-23-15.mp3
This interview originally aired Monday, February 23rd on KNJS 89.1 FM during our East County Magazine show which airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5 p.m.. You can also listen live at www.knsj.org or download the TuneIn Ap to hear KNSJ on your cell phone.
By Miriam Raftery
February 22, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)—State Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) has been endorsed by the County Republican Party for his candidacy challenging East County’s Dianne Jacob for her seat on the County Board of Supervisors next year. But increasingly, media and constituents are raising serious questions about Anderson’s motives for running and his close ties to special interests—questions that Anderson has refused to answer.
Thomas Biggers is a constituent who voted for Anderson previously. But after doing some research, he became concerned and visited Anderson’s local office. He asked four questions--which led Anderson's staffer to ban Biggers from the office:
- Why would you run for County Supervisor and take the job from Dianne Jacob when you are both Republicans?
- Why are you for the solar project in McCain Valley, when most of the people in the East County are not for it?
- Why is your office right above the office of the company who are trying to put in the solar project in McCain Valley?
- Why are you taking campaign contributions from them?
In response, Anderson’s district representative Josaline Cuesta sent the following terse reply:
Dear Mr. Biggers:
You have the right to speak freely in this country about any issue you wish. Unfortunately, your phone call from February 5, 2015 introduced the notion of bribery. The senator prohibits team members from any communications or meetings with anyone who believes they can bribe him. Senator Anderson works to uphold the highest ethical standards for his office and cannot be bought. Such a suggestion, even in passing, is an affront to the integrity of our open democratic institutions and will not be tolerated. If you contact our office in the future, we will not respond.
In an interview with East County Magazine on KNSJ, Biggers expressed shock at the response. He says he never called Anderson, only visited in person, and provided us the written copy of his questions. He bristled at Cuesta’s insinuation and says he never attempted to bribe the Senator, merely voiced concerns about large sums of money the Senator has taken from a special interest whose project the Senator supported.
Biggers says the treatment he received by the Senator’s office made him feel as if “I lost my citizenship.” Biggers says he voted for the Senator in the past, but won’t vote for him again.
ECM asked the Senator’s office for a response to Biggers’ concerns, and we have not received a reply. But the questions raised by Biggers are ones that media might well be asking, too.
Anderson sent a letter to San Diego’s Supervisors recently urging them to approve the Soitec projects on land owned by the Hamann Companies, from whom Anderson leases his office space.
Anderson also took $30,000 from Hamann Companies and Hamann family members back in 2009 when he was running for the Assembly. (Photo, right: Anderson with Gregg and Debby Hamann) His campaign was fined $20,000 by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission for accepting campaign contributions over the $3,900 maximum donation for state Senate campaigns from Hamann as well as local tribes, which were funneled through the Fresno Republican central committee in violation of state law. He returned donations from Hamann as well as from Sempra, parent corporation of SDG&E, which also exceeded state limits and were channeled through the GOP in Fresno.
His opponent back then, Riverside Supervisor Jeff Stone, a Republican, called Anderson’s actions “felony money laundering” and questioned why the District Attorney in San Diego, also a Republican, had not filed charges. Republican Mayor of La Mesa Art Madrid also characterized Anderson’s actions as money laundering, referring to the Senator as “the Maytag man” in remarks made to East County Magazine at the time. Anderson settled the FPPC case for $20,000 in fines but did not admit wrongdoing.
In an interview with East County Magazine in May 2010, Anderson insisted the excess contributions were merely “mistakes” made during a campaign that took in over a half million dollars.
"There was no money laundering,” he said adamantly. “I'm endorsed by the Deputy Sheriffs, police, the CHP. Do you think they would endorse me if I was a money launderer?"
Biggers isn’t the only one raising questions about Anderson’s motives for challenging Jacob, a popular Supervisor who has served for some 25 years, winning her last two races with margins of 77% or more over Democrat Rudy Reyes.
Jacob has been an outspoken opponent of major energy projects that are opposed by most of her constituents in the impacted communities. Soitec’s projects alone would cover over 1,100 acres of rural land with solar panels each 48 feet wide by 30 feet high. Two hydrologists have predicted that massive amounts of water used in construction could drain groundwater resources so low that wells could run dry and permanent ecological harm could occur.
These and other energy projects that Jacob opposes pose severe and unmitigatable fire risks, according to the environmental impact reports, in areas that have already had the worst wildfires in California’s history. Other concerns include destruction of rural character, views along historic highways, glare, loss of wildlife habitat, and reduction of property values for neighboring homes.
Anderson has not taken a stand against any major energy projects recently proposed in East County, including Sunrise Powerlink, Quail Brush gas-fired power plant, Tule Wind in McCain Valley, Soitec’s Solar and others, despite requests from constituents asking him to do so.
The Valley Roadrunner in Valley Center, in a February 5th article titled “Where in the world is state Senator Joel Anderson, R-38th District?” noted that Anderson was absent on the opening day of the 2015 Legislative session in Sacramento. The Roadrunner reports that Anderson was meeting with a lobbyist from the insurance company Geico, a major past campaign donor, over a lobster luncheon, as FollowTheMoney.org listed.
Eddie Kurtz, executive director of Courage Campaign, a nonpartisan organization, criticized the Senator for a lavish lunch with a lobbyist while “his constituents back in California are struggling to make ends meet.” He added, “Senator Anderson should explain what was talked about during that lunch and what promises were made.”
Many of Anderson’s constituents are unaware that he is the California representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which named him ALEC’s legislator of the year in 2011. ALEC is financed by major corporations – especially the oil industry, pharmaceutical and tobacco companies.
ALEC asks its legislative representatives to introduce model legislation benefitting its corporate backers, which also include the insurance industry interests over those of consumers in various measures, as well as privatizing public education, denying climate change, and promoting free market, pro-business doctrines. The group has become so controversial that public pressure led to several major corporations cancelling membership in ALEC including Mcrosoft, General Motors, Coke, Proctor & Gamble and Bank of America.
Anderson has refused to respond to inquiries from various media outlets regarding his stances on controversial energy projects or his ties to ALEC and other corporate and special interests. He also refused to fill out Project Vote Smart’s political courage test, which measures each candidate’s willingness to provide citizens with their positions on key issues. His score? Zero.
Anderson has long run as a “tax fighter” according to his campaign materials. But since he won’t be termed out in the State Senate until2 2018, if he were to defeat Jacob and win his race for Supervisor in 2016, he would saddle taxpayers with the cost of a special election to fill his legislative seat.
Times of San Diego reports that a letter from prominent Jacob supporters also cautioned backers against Anderson, albeit without naming him overtly, Times of San Diego has reported.
“Dianne will be seeking her final term on the Board of Supervisors next year, but because of term limits there are a number of termed-out politicians who could run against her,” said an email Friday signed by 16 community leaders. “It would be a tragedy if a politician, whose only interests are advancing a political career and delivering for special interest supporters, replaced a committed public servant like Dianne.”
UT San Diego reports that GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric had expressed anger at Jacob for supporting a measure to limit contributions to Supervisors, and some see Anderson’s candidacy as retribution against Jacob for her action. Anderson’s early candidacy announcement may be in time to avoid the new campaign spending limits kicking in for the future.
The UT predicts that the campaign for the District 2 supervisorial seat representing East County promises to be a “high-spending affair” with “plenty of intrigue for the general public and political insiders alike.”
The UT story also raises questions over Anderson’s reasons for running against East County’s popular supervisor. “For one thing, Anderson, who was elected to the Legislature in 2006, has not said much, if anything, publicly about why he wants to be a supervisor and what he considers to be Jacob’s shortcomings,” the UT notes.
Jacob also sought the GOP endorsement, but received no response to her request to address the central committee, the UT indicated. Her letter stated, ““As a member of the Board of Supervisors, I’ve advocated for principles that form the foundation of the Republican Party — fiscal conservatism, efficiency in government operations, limits on the role of government, support for local business. The results speak for themselves.”
One thing Jacob hasn’t done, however, is cave in to demands of powerful special interests including energy companies and developers seeking to push forward large-scale projects that she believes would be harmful to her constituents.
The same cannot be said of her opponent, Senator Anderson. Despite the protests raised by Anderson’s aide to Biggers’ perfectly reasonable question inquiring why the Senator supported a project backed by interests from whom he took large sums of money.
But if Anderson doesn’t want his constituents to worry that his actions may have the appearance of bribery, instead of banishing voters from his office who dare to ask tough questions, the Senator might better serve the public by not taking actions that favor special interests which have lavished large contributions on his campaigns—and by being forthcoming with his reasons for trying to unseat Supervisor Jacob.