Is Prop 23 a Head Fake, a Diversion by Prop 26 Proponents?

Craig Miller, of KQED’s Climate Watch blog, details the prodigious outpouring of money from the California business community for the battle against Propostion 23:

In what might signal a final push by Silicon Valley, an environmentally-oriented investor group today released a manifesto from 66 “leading investors” opposed to California’s Proposition 23. The group is said to manage more than $400 billion in assets.

In a conference call with reporters, venture capitalist Alan Salzman called clean technology the “next industrial revolution,” and that “California is at the epicenter.” To prove his point, Salzman pointed to $9 billion invested in “clean-tech” since 2006, in California alone, and he called Prop 23 “antithetical” to the transition that global industry is now undergoing, claiming that 20% of total venture capital funding is flowing to clean-tech, of late.

Salzman’s VC group, VantagePoint Venture Partners, is backing California companies such as electric-car maker Tesla Motors and BrightSource Energy, which was recently cleared to break ground on a major solar-thermal generation project in southern California.

The news call was organized by CERES, a Boston-based business group that promotes environmentally enlightened investment. Chris Davis, who directs investor programs for CERES, said that Prop 23 would be tantamount to a repeal of the state’s fundamental climate strategy and “a huge step backwards for California and the United States as a whole.”

“You simply don’t want to project an image of policy uncertainty in a global marketplace,” said Davis, “because capital can move elsewhere too quickly, to places with more stable commitments to clean energy policy.”

At the same time, the money in support of Prop 23 has suddenly dwindled to a trickle.

What gives?

According to Dan Morain, in his recent Sacramento Bee article, “As Prop. 23 dives, money goes elsewhere,” big oil may be shiifting its attention and resources to Proposition 26:

But some corporations are making a separate play, spending $7 million in recent days to promote Proposition 26, a measure that could appeal to voters angry with government by making it harder for legislators to raise fees.

As it is, lawmakers must muster a two-thirds majority to raise income or sales taxes. But they can impose fees by a simple majority vote, as long as the fees are intended to cover the costs of whatever program they fund.

Proposition 26 would change that requirement. If voters approve the measure, legislators and local officials would need to muster a two-thirds vote before imposing fees.

Chevron, which has stayed out of the Proposition 23 fight, has given $2.75 million to help pass Proposition 26, making it the single biggest corporate giver to the measure.

Philip Morris, the world’s largest cigarette maker, kicked in $750,000 to support Proposition 26, and oil giant ConocoPhillips and Anheuser-Busch Cos., the beer manufacturer chipped in $500,000 each.

Environmentalists are beginning to shift attention to Proposition 26, fearing it could gut programs they hold dear, and restrict the state from raising money needed to implement AB 32, the global warming law targeted by Valero and Tesoro with Proposition 23.

“The environment is on the chopping block,” said Warner Chabot, chief executive of California League of Conservation Voters. “Proposition 23 kills our climate law. Proposition 26 strangles it over a longer period of time.”

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