Crow job

Spin cycle: Republicans and good government types have for weeks been howling about how Governor Gray Davis hired veteran spinmeisters Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane to help improve The Gray One’s battered public image, paying them a whopping $30,000 per month out of the public treasury.

Taxpayers are most certainly being bilked to subsidize our governor’s political ambitions, but that isn’t the part that was bothering Bites last week. No, mostly Bites is indignant about spending so much money and getting so little in return, watching as the guv sinks lower and lower in public esteem.

Davis’ political hit man Garry South responded to the Fabiani/Lehane flap by pointing out that former Governor Pete Wilson in 1992 also hired a high-priced campaign pro, Joe Rodota, on the public dime.

But Wilson had decent approval ratings and a relatively clear and decisive leadership course (albeit down the road of demagoguery) established under Rodota, whereas Fabiani and Lehane have only contributed to the crow feast that the Governor’s Office ate last week.

The pair’s payroll presence gave their boss a black eye when gubernatorial challenger Bill Jones pointed out that before coming to work for Davis, Fabiani and Lehane worked for Southern California Edison, to whom Davis offered such an overly generous bailout deal that it was dead-on-arrival even in the heavily Democratic Legislature.

Jones grandly asked for a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation of the matter and guv press secretary Steve Maviglio meekly denied a conflict of interest existed, but the real damage was already done by the revelation of yet another sign that Davis isn’t his own man.

Maviglio also labored mightily last week to pull off the “we were going to do this all along” spiel during a press conference, announcing that they would now release the details of the Administration’s secretive deals to buy $42.8 billion worth of electricity over the long term from the same generating companies that he labels “thieves.”

The Administration was faced with media and Republican lawsuits forcing disclosure, but decided to commit hara-kiri before they were gored. Maviglio is correct in saying they had planned to release that info eventually, but their premature revelation seems to indicate they were wrong in the first place to withhold what are clearly public records.

And since, like good and bad luck, crow usually comes in three courses at a time, the third leg in the Gov’s Office triad of embarrassments came when energy adviser S. David Freeman violated a workers’ strike of Pacifica Network News by granting an interview.

The 18-month-long strike was organized by the National Writers Union and other labor groups after the corporate owners engaged in “censorship and arbitrary firings at the nation’s oldest listener supported radio network,” according to a letter sent to Maviglio from Aaron Glantz of KPFA.

Maviglio responded by saying he was unaware of the strike and the Governor’s Office would honor it in the future, but he stopped short of an apology, telling SN&R, “I don’t think we need to apologize for something we didn’t know.”

See Tom speak: Southern California conservatives are a uniquely strident lot that are always good for a grin, at least when they are as politically powerless as they are today (Bites didn’t find that quite so funny when they were actually running the state).

Striking Bites’ funny bone the hardest in the last couple of weeks has been the zany Senator Tom McClintock, whose latest crusades are to revive the nuclear power industry and to get rid of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on the freeway.

During a press conference last week, McClintock announced legislation, declaring that “nuclear energy is a necessary source of electricity generation, with no detrimental impact on its citizens and environment.” Yeah, Bites hears radiation is good for the skin, giving it a healthy glow.

That followed another McClintock announcement of a bill to study the effectiveness of car pool lanes, noting that “a typical diamond lane carries only 7 percent of the traffic, yet it consumes 25 percent of the capacity on a four-lane freeway.”

(dramatic pause)

Er, um, Tom, that’s kinda the point. It’s an incentive to make it so drivers use more than 25 percent of their cars’ capacity. If only his logic were as good as his math … and his math ain’t that great.