The Governor's Wayward Broom
'Housecleaning' puts special interests first.
The governor who was going to clean the house of government
is already in danger of tearing it down.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's first act in office may have been
to cut the car tax, but his second was to put on the
chopping block hundreds of pending public safety
regulations that were reviled by special-interest
Among the scores of new rules that were frozen for six
months â€" in order to be vetted for their
effect on business â€" were regulations to
limit pesticides, to create drinking water standards for
arsenic and to publicly disclose on the Internet doctors'
medical negligence settlements.
Schwarzenegger acknowledged when he ran for office that he
wanted to promote business opportunities, but his freeze of
already well-vetted regulations and his appointment of
anti-regulation regulators to redraft them are beyond the
For example, A.G. Kawamura fought reforms protecting farm
workers and the environment when he was chairman of the
Western Growers Assn. Now Kawamura, who donated the $21,200
maximum to Schwarzenegger's campaign, has been named food
and agriculture secretary and is responsible for
implementing regulations on agricultural reforms. With the
regulatory freeze, Kawamura has a second shot at watering
down the rules â€" which also affect his own
farming operation in Orange County.
Because her last job was top lobbyist for the HMO Health
Net, the governor's chief of staff, Patricia Clarey, just
might be open to calls by the medical industry to revisit
pending HMO regulations governing patients' continuity of
care, direct billing and doctor group financing.
Similarly, it stands to reason that former California
Chamber of Commerce insiders would lend a sympathetic ear
to industry objections to accounting reforms or new energy
efficiency standards for manufacturers. Cassandra Pye, now
Schwarzenegger's deputy chief of staff for external
affairs, was the California Chamber's vice president who
oversaw its political action committee. Richard Costigan,
the governor's top legislative aide, was the chamber's
former chief lobbyist.
And if there was any doubt that Schwarzenegger appointees
would deliver for his biggest business boosters, look only
to the vindictive firing of DMV chief Steve Gourley.
Gourley had a reputation for being tough on car
dealerships, one of Schwarzenegger's top four donor bases.
Sunne McPeak, now secretary of the Business, Transportation
and Housing Agency, dropped Gourley within hours of the
The new administration is not just targeting pending rules
that affect recent laws. Regulations that have been in
effect for the last five years are also subject to review.
Schwarzenegger's order could set the state back years
because crafting the rules necessary to implement
controversial laws involves careful review of statistics,
testimony and voluminous evidence.
The governor's action has the potential to delay important
public-interest protections for a long, long time by
shunting regulations to the sidelines as he puts "reluctant
regulators" in charge. And if anyone doubts the effect of
such reluctant regulators, recent history offers the
evidence of former California Insurance Commissioner Chuck
Quackenbush, who took millions from the insurance industry
for his election war chest and resigned in a high-profile
scandal after selling his office to insurers.
Some public-interest lawyers, such as the staff at the
Center for Public Interest Law, believe that the governor's
executive order might overstep the authority of the
executive branch. How harshly Executive Order 2 is carried
out will probably determine whether a lawsuit is filed.
In his first week, the governor who was going to oust
special interests has managed not only to give them the
keys to government, he's created a potential
separation-of-powers crisis. At the very least, his
Executive Order 2 is going to force government agencies to
do their job twice.
Is this what Schwarzenegger meant in his campaign promise
to bring sweeping changes to Sacramento?
Jamie Court, author of "Corporateering: How Corporate Power
Steals Your Personal Freedom and What You Can Do About It"
(Tarcher/Putnam, 2003), is a founder of http://www.arnoldwatch.org
See the article on Los Angeles Times website