Boss Ross goes mute

Reformer reformed: So it appears Bites won’t have Ross Perot to kick around anymore. After his plain-talking CEO schtick a few weeks ago failed to fool the legislative committee that was looking into his company’s role in energy market manipulation (see “Now, lemme tell y’all ’bout gaming,” Capital Bites, SN&R, July 18), Perot has dropped even the veneer of public accountability.

Our own Congressman Doug Ose was hoping to grab a few headlines by doing a federal version of the California Senate Select Committee to Investigate Manipulation of the Wholesale Energy Market hearing, casting himself in the lead role played here by Senator Joe Dunn.

Unfortunately, Perot didn’t play along, bailing out on Ose’s hearing at the last minute with the excuse that he had no new information to offer about how his company tried to teach electricity generators how to game the market. Ose then compounded the problem by going easy on one of this drama’s chief villains, George Backus, who partnered with Perot’s company in the scheme but bailed on the Sacramento hearing.

Ose was irked at the spotlight denied by Perot—who grabbed nearly 20 percent of the presidential vote in 1992—and did a little low-key “it’s not over” saber-rattling for reporters; yet Ose’s aides are now singing a different tune, and it sounds a lot like “it’s over.” There could be another hearing in September, but it’s apt to be a cheap knock-off of what we’ve already seen in Sacramento, sans Boss Ross.

Ose’s escapades are having a ripple effect in Sacramento, where Dunn is retreating from his pledge to bring Perot back for more grilling because, as one staffer told Bites, “Perot would refuse to come back.” More hearings are planned once Perot Systems Inc. turns over missing documents, but Perot’s performance was probably the high point of this drama.

The reality of Dunn’s hearing, one missed by many press accounts, was that “Perot was about an hour away from being in real trouble,” as the staffer said. Despite Dunn’s respectful tone, Perot was illogically defending some clearly unethical actions by his employees and partners, and had to be rescued from the inquisition by his lawyers’ late claims to a prior engagement.

He won’t voluntarily put himself in that position again. Or as Perot might say, “Now, it’s simple, you see, a worm just doesn’t put himself on the hook.”

Rough but fresh: Ose is a fairly slick operator, a pro-business glad-hander with a polished wit who strives for the middle of the road. Unfortunately, that road is Status Quo Politics Boulevard, and it’s a road that his Democratic opponent this November goes out of his way to avoid.

Howard Beeman is a liberal in the rough, a farmer who’s turning his family spread in Yolo County into a wildlife preserve, an unguarded soul whose guileless self-confidence leads him to say things like “I just believe that I know a lot of shit.”

Ose is a lock in his heavily Republican district, but Beeman moved to Fair Oaks just to run against him, believing he can rally apathetic voters with his calls to end the drug war, corporate welfare and hair-trigger militarism, and to put more resources into alternative energy sources “because it’s bullshit that we’re not doing that.”

As Beeman so eloquently put it: “I believe the world is a mess and nobody will tell the truth.”

Cops and robbers: Truth, shmuth. Hell, sometimes the powers that be won’t even talk to you. SN&R got a tip last week that a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department deputy had his home searched and narcotics and stolen property were found. The tipster also provided the deputy’s name (which Bites is withholding pending official verification), and said the department is trying to keep this quiet.

So we had a reporter call the department’s Office of Media Information, and a Sergeant Lewis hung up on her. An editor called back and was told the request for information had to be in writing. That was an unusual barrier to a free press, but the editor played along.

A week and three follow-up phone calls later, we’re still waiting for what should be information that gets routinely disclosed by our public servants, at least when citizens are accused of wrongdoing. Then again, nobody ever said it was easy living in a police state.