Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown's Arrogant Response to Oil Scandal

Administration claims any member of public would get similar service

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Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is one of the more interesting politicians to cover given his forthrightness. Agree or disagree with what he says—the world has "gone over the edge" because of global warming, for instance—but there's little doubt he says what's on his mind. Brown's press conferences evoke laughter because of his "no BS" words and weird historical references.

He's not your typical elected official, which is what's so off-putting about his clod-footed handling of a recent scandal involving the use of state resources regarding his 2,700-acre family ranch near Williams. The administration's reaction to an Associated Press report is what one one would expect from any politician caught in a snare. The excuses are literally unbelievable. The usually loquacious Brown didn't have anything to say.

Last week, AP reported Brown "last year directed state oil and gas regulators to research, map and report back on any mining and oil drilling history and 'potential for future oil and gas activity' at the Brown family's private land in Northern California". At Brown's request, regulators produced a 51-page report over two days, even though elected officials are not allowed to use public resources for personal reasons.

The state's oil and gas agency called this a proper and legal use of state resources. Administration officials said the governor got no better service than any member of the public might get, and they provided three examples of similar research provided to others.

As AP noted, two of the examples were not for private individuals. One was for the city of Los Angeles, which wields a good bit of clout. Another was for an environmental organization. One was a much shorter request provided to an individual, whose name was redacted. The administration also argued that these are just public records that anyone can compile, although it's unlikely any ordinary person would know how to do this.

AP interviewed industry and past agency officials who said members of the public might get a little help but never anything this extensive or this quick. Even a prominent columnist who defends the governor found that explanation far-fetched. "I'd be seriously shocked if this had gone down as the Brown administration implies: That the governor received no better treatment from his minions than any ordinary citizen would," wrote the Los Angeles Times' George Skelton.

The ongoing news has gotten worse for the governor. "A worker in the state oil and gas regulatory agency lodged a whistleblower's complaint over being ordered to prepare a state map of the oil and gas potential, history and geology of … Brown's family ranch, the worker and her attorney said," according to another AP report. Furthermore, the article interviewed one former official who said state workers "described Brown as being irate" because a supervisor sent him information via email—and such info could be accessed through open-records laws.

Some conservatives have jumped on the matter. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, told the Breitbart news service, "The governor's actions appear to be a clear violation of well-known state law prohibiting the use of public resources for personal gain." Grove called for an investigation and possible prosecution and fine.

Some critics have viewed the scandal through the lens of hypocrisy. The governor's climate-change agenda calls for the dramatic reduction in the use of fossil fuels, although in fairness the governor has been favorable toward fracking and oil-and-gas exploration in the short term. The report found no potential there, so it will remain unclear what he intended to do with the information.

The most entertaining response came from the mischief-makers at Capitol Watchdog, which set up a Web site that lets people ask the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to provide the same service for their property. More than 200 people have sent requests, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which quotes a department official saying it will indeed provide a no-cost map to those who request it. So the administration is doubling-down on its original explanation.

Maybe as the four-term governor becomes nostalgic about his role in California history, he failed to make the proper distinctions between his public and personal lives. Or maybe it's because of arrogance.

"This isn't much of a scandal in the grand scheme of things, but it is definitely an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds and an abuse of officeholder authority," said Dan Schnur, a former GOP political consultant and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. "What's most striking, though, is the lack of any acknowledgement of inappropriate behavior or apology from the governor."

Schnur believes this is the result of California being a one-party state: "It's a mark of the absence of a legitimate two-party system in Sacramento and the out-sized power of the governor that there has been so little pushback from the Legislature. The result is that there's no real pressure on the governor's office to admit any wrongdoing."

Indeed. Clearly, Brown should have known better. And the governor certainly should have dealt with it in a more characteristic and forthright way. Luckily, there's still time for Brown to return to form with a no-BS apology.

NEXT: Smith College bars reporters from sit-in, unless they agree "to explicitly state they support[] the movement in their articles"

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  1. Two weeks for Reason to mention this and right after ‘Red Mercury’ is reasonable.

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  2. FAKE SCANDULLL!

    1. Also Koch Bros!

  3. Jerry – you must be very wealthy to have a 2.700 acre ranch in California.
    Have you heard Dear Leader speak of income inequality?
    Dear Leader says some peoples have more wealth than others and that’s not fair.
    So you should give me some of your wealth so we can be equal.
    That’s only fair.

    1. I hope the State of Jefferson annexes his property.

      1. AMEN!!! Jeffersonian both politically and state wise!!!

  4. I submitted my request! Yay corruption!

    1. They put themselves in a catch 22. If they fail to respond to all new requests as completely and quickly as this one, it will prove that they were lying. Now that people know about it, they will request it. We know that government is incompetent and slow, so they won’t be able to fill these requests if they try to. This will prove that the governor is corrupt.

      On the other hand, if they simply say they can’t or won’t, it will immediately prove that the governor is corrupt.

      “Oh, what a tangled web we weave
      When first we practice to deceive!”

      1. …And California won’t care as it happily goes along the path of one party politics.

        1. Let me guess, Brown’s new slogan:

          Oil for Me, but not for Thee! Because…?
          FYTW!

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  6. Moonbeam broke the law? Say it ain’t so! My grandpa actually met him in the 1970’s, my grandpa got a award from the state of California for privately funding the Sisson Museum and Fish Hatchery in my small home town of Mt. Shasta in Northern California. He said Jerry wore sandals with a business suit and seemed kind of stoned. LOL!!! Said he was a nice guy though, my grandpa didn’t like his policies. It isn’t a surprise, the Democratic party has been entrenched for awhile in California, the more entrenched they are the more corrupt.

    1. Yeah, they’re pretty bad. Democrats love to try and take your stuff too. So none of this is surprising.

  7. “one-party state”

    Isnt that the norm for the country though? We dont have 2 parties much less a truly representative multitude. What we do have is the socially liberal arms of the big government party and the socially conservative arm of the big government party. The only differences are minor distinctions on which parts of your life they wish to control, tax or outlaw,

  8. He doesn’t need to apologize, he needs to pay for the service.

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