Money talks—and helps win elections.
The campaign disclosure statements from the end of last year—Oct. 1 to Dec. 31—are in and show what any seasoned political observer would expect—big self-loans and heavy developer contributions for the conservatives and grassroots table scraps thus far for the progressives.

The biggest single givers so far in this early campaign season, at least in Butte County, are also the biggest recipients. The Republican candidates for the District 3 Assembly seat, Rick Keene and Dan Ostrander, have lent themselves a staggering $102,788 and $400,000, respectively. Ostrander raised an additional $3,300 from 18 individual contributors, while Keene’s raised more than $60,000 in individual contributions. By contrast, the Democratic candidate for the same race, Stuart King, has thus far raised a modest $1,500, which includes $440 in loans and $990 in non-monetary contributions.

In the race for the 3rd District supervisor’s seat, incumbent Mary Anne Houx has gathered $18,394, while opponent Chico City Councilmember Steve Bertagna has picked up $14,075. Houx got money from ex-Supervisors Len Fulton, Hack McInturf and Ed McLaughlin, as well as retired Chico City Manager Fred Davis. Bertagna got $500 each from builders like Shastan Homes, Land’s End Real Estate, Hegan Lane Partnership, Tony Symmes, Thomas Fogarty, Epick Inc., as well as Skyway Beacon, car dealer Ed Wittmeier and dentist Michael Jones.

Sheriff Scott Mackenzie came up with $11,217, while his opponent, Perry Reniff, has $22,779, including $500 from former Sheriff Mick Grey. Mackenzie gave more than half of his take to political consultant David Reade.

And, on a sad note, at least for local conservative candidates, the late Dan Drake, perhaps the most prolific campaign contributor in Butte County history, gave Keene and Bertagna $1,000 each the last week of October. He died a month later.

Other interesting tidbits gleaned from the campaign disclosures: the Referendum Committee (those are the folks trying to keep Plan 5 from passing at the polls) brought in a whopping $18,900, while the Yes on Measure B committee (they’re called the Fair Elections Districts Campaign) took in just $305—and that was a single donation of a billboard paid for by Supervisor Curt Josiassen; Supervisor Jane Dolan’s campaign war chest swelled by $16,643 since October, while her opponent, John Merrifield, raised only $2,000, half of which came from his mother, the other half from Lee Hubert, widow of former Chico City Councilmember Ted Hubert.

Shrimp win big in court
While developers may joke that they dine on fairy shrimp in vernal-pool sauce, the building industry has to eat its hat—for now—after the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 14 refused to reconsider the decision of an appeals court to list several freshwater crustaceans as endangered. Barbara Vlamis, executive director of the Butte Environmental Council, called the decision “very positive.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1994 had listed four species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the Building Industry Association of Superior California, along with the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, challenged that distinction and sought to have it reversed. They argued that it was wrong for lawmakers to rely on the Constitution’s interstate-commerce clause in setting federal environmental regulations because species like the shrimp have no commercial purpose.

M. Reed Hopper, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said he wasn’t surprised and predicted the Supreme Court will eventually take up the issue as similar, pending cases progress. Besides the argument of unconstitutionality, Hopper said the ESA is flawed because “it does not take into account people” and “social needs” like housing and agriculture.

More than 80 percent of the state’s vernal-pool wetlands have already been lost to development and other people-pushed impacts, Vlamis said. "People don’t understand the value they have to the food chain," she said.