SENATOR ANDERSON’S OFFICE BANISHES VOTER WHO ASKED TOUGH QUESTIONS

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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:

  1. Why would you run for County Supervisor and take the job from Dianne Jacob when you are both Republicans?
  2. Why are you for the solar project in McCain Valley, when most of the people in the East County are not for it?
  3. Why is your office right above the office of the company who are trying to put in the solar project in McCain Valley?
  4. 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.

 

 

Comments

I wonder...

... if anyone can help us. Jacob is the only voice on the board for the rural areas. The rest of them represent mostly city type people who do not care how the Real East County is raped. Would Anderson have any more influence with the rest of them? I doubt it. Do we want to try him? As a life long, currently very unhappy Republican, I don't know. Maybe the race will revel more? Anyway, its way past time for the second American Revolution!

There are only a couple of solutions

To having 4 of 5 Supervisors vote against the interests of East County. One would be requiring all supervisors to be elected by all the people, though the small population in these rural towns would still put them at a disadvantage as supervisors would still be apt to represent the more populous areas that have the most votes and ignore places with sparse populations. Another answer would be for some of the unincorporated areas to secede and for their own county; very difficult to do, but probably justifiable given the abuse heaped on the rural areas by the supervisors with the exception of Jacob who DOES stand up for her constitutions on the big energy project issues that are so destructive. Lawsuits could bring some redress but the courts have been reluctant to go against the big energy companies too and lawsuits take years to work through the courts, sometimes after projects are built. Lawsuits against Supervisors and energy companies for the loss of property values might be an effective approach and I have not seen that tried here despite the massive and measurable drops in property values in places like Ocotillo after the wind project went in.

Banished? Better Writing Needed on This One?

I'm not seeing anything in the article to indicate Mr Biggers has been banished: "to send (someone) away from a country or place as an official punishment" or 2) "to forbid, abolish, or get rid of (something unwanted)." At most, the response from the office printed in the story is, "If you contact our office in the future, we will not respond." I doubt Mr Biggers has been banished from visiting or contacting the senator's office unless he made statements threatening the safety of the staff there. The content in this story seems to be Mr Biggers just won't receive a response. Seems like a better word should have been chosen.

Banish

Banish means to exile someone from a place. Exile means to send away. You're parsing words here. Perhaps "shunned" would be more specific. But the voter was clearly made to feel he could not go back to the office; what would be the point of going to the office if they are not going to respond to his concerns and ignore his questions? The voter's own words to me in our interview were that he felt he had "lost his citizenship" ie his right to representation, after this treatment. And this is a voter who actually voted for Anderson. Many years ago I worked for two different legislators in the state capitol. We were also told to be polite and courteous to everyone, no matter how much they might disagree with the Senator or Assemblyman on any given issue. The only exception was if someone actually seemed deranged to the point of being dangerous, in which case we would call the state police. So this reaction by Anderson's office was surprising to me not only as a journalist, but as a former political aide back around 1980, in a day when civility was the norm in our elected officials. There was one other exception; a lobbyist who tried to bribe my boss with a thousand dollar bill was shown the door and told to not come back. he was later arrested when another legislator wore a wiretap with cooperation of state police. But Mr. Biggers has said he did not offer any bribes and based on the questions he raised, he did quite the opposite. He was asking about the Senator taking larges sums of money from other people and advocating on their behalf, against the interests of his constituents. Regardless of what Biggers did or didn't say, the Senator should be answerable to the people for why he's lobbying to help Hamann destroy the backcountry even after he had to give back Hamann contributions in excess of what the law allows. Apparently he is not concerned with how that appears.

I wonder if Anderson's ever

I wonder if Anderson's ever thought about the common root shared by the words "conservatism" and "conservationism?" To judge by his words and deeds, no. Too bad. He should. In Latin, the word "conservare" means to protect and save and preserve--duties that pertain as readily to the beauties of the created order around us as they do to the permanent truths of right and wrong. The willingness of Republicans like Anderson to sellout the small communities and open land of our East County is a betrayal of both its people--us--and its natural wonders. For the sake of both, he must be stopped.

Why is Anderson so defensive.

Why is Anderson so defensive. The politician doth protest too much, methinks. Folks, this guy smells like a party hack--the kind more interested in helping Republicans than his constituents. That we do not need.

It should be noted

That Craig is a Republican who ran for La Mesa Mayor a few years ago. I mention this because criticism is sometimes viewed as more meaningful by the public when it comes from within a party than from outside--more like cleaning house than trashing the opposition.