The curious thinking of Chip Ashley, managing editor of Community Alliance and second vice-chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Party Central Committee, muddied the case against fracking last week. Too much fracking is ongoing or planned here in the Valley for us to afford petty partisan political bickering..
In the letter to the Fresno Bee included below, Ashley asks why, if Fresno Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson “can’t be bought,” he accepted any money from fracking interests.
Although there are no stupid questions, this one makes you wonder what crib the writer crawled out of, all swaddled in pampers, to waste our time trivializing a vital issue. Nevertheless, it raises issues for reflection, for example: the whole question of how legislative district campaigns are funded and how legislators like our beloved former Assemblyman and Representative Dennis Cardoza, the Pimlico Kid – Annapolis MD, can afford to buy, stable and train race horses.
The American political system cannot function today without special interest money any more than agribusiness could function without undocumented workers.
Career politicians like Patterson are what we might call entrepreneurial commodities. They are viewed by business as necessary commodities for business enterprise. For enterprise to prosper, it requires the favor of politicians, who, in the present moment, must (in a phrase as trite as an rictus of phony agony on the faces of the politicians who repeat it) “balance the needs for growth against environmental protection.”
In other words, with particular dramatic meaning in the valley with the worst air pollution, some of the worst poverty and water pollution in the nation – the agonized politician is in the horrible position of having to choose between the profits of some industrialists and the financiers behind them and – perish the thought, public health and safety.
The politician goes with Business almost every time. If he’s Republican like Patterson he doesn’t even have to apologize. He is expected to vote against public health and safety.
The entrepreneurial side of the politician/commodity is how he chooses to support or oppose certain bills. He may gain business favor by supporting a bill that favors a certain industry. On the other hand, he may support regulation for another industry until that industry’s lobbyists bring him enough money to calm his scruples. Or else, like Patterson, he could appear supportive on sort of general partisan ideological grounds but deny he could be bought. That's a position that is just calculated to titillate your generic oil-and-gas lobbyist.
We suspect Patterson’s positive dog-and-pony show about fracking, along with his stern denial of being bought, might attract more cash from the oil-and-gas industry.
Fracking is as serious as a 7.8 MMS earthquake, like the one along the San Andreas Fault in 1906. This seriouslness is just completely beyond the ability of a legislator to understand, anymore than the little geniuses 15 years ago understood what deregulating the state's energy markets would do. They really aren't competent to do much more than shake down a cotton ginner for a big contribution. - blj
Patterson and fracking…Fresno Bee
At a forum on fracking he hosted on Dec. 3 in Clovis, Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, bristled, "I can't be bought." This was in response to a query from the audience about how much he has received in campaign contributions from the oil industry.
Mr. Patterson said that 4% to 5% of his campaign money comes from oil.
"Fracking in California: The opportunity for energy independence and economic prosperity" was the title of the forum. The single panel at the hour-and-a-half event, described on Mr. Patterson's website as "a frank and clear presentation," consisted of three "industry experts" and no experts on climate change, no scientists or geologists, no opposing points of view.
Indeed, this "forum" was little more than a fracking infomercial where the audience was entertained with inane and misleading anecdotes from Mr. Patterson's hand-picked "experts."
So let's accept for the moment Mr. Patterson's testimonial that he "can't be bought."
Well, then, why did Mr. Patterson take the money?
If fracking for oil in the San Joaquin Valley will, indeed, be such an unmitigated boon to the local economy, with hardly any environmental downside, why not refuse the money and promote fracking anyway?