In the closing days of the hot Dem-on-Dem Congressional primary, Councilwoman Janice Hahn has gone on the attack against Secretary of State Debra Bowen for taking oil money.
Voters head to the polls tomorrow to choose a replacement for retired Congresswoman Jane Harman. As the campaign turned nasty in the final weekend, Bowen fired back with letters from her environmental supporters denouncing Hahn's campaign.
Hahn has pledged not to take oil money — though she has taken thousands
of dollars in oil money in previous campaigns. Despite the pledge,
however, checks from oil firms keep turning up in her account.
For example, in one mailer Hahn attacks Bowen for accepting money from DeMenno Kerdoon, a subsidiary of World Oil, in the late 1990s. But Hahn received $2,500 from three DeMenno Kerdoon executives just last month.
“Janice took a pledge, and then took money,” said Steve Barkan, Bowen's strategist. “That's the ultimate in hypocrisy.”
Over the course of her career, Hahn has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in oil contributions — most of it from Warren Resources, which is the largest oil driller in her district. Last fall, Hahn took $6,500 from Norman Swanton, Warren's CEO, as she sought to pay down debt from her failed campaign for lieutenant governor.
A month later, Hahn backed off on a proposal to tax oil extraction, saying she had been in touch with “various business groups” who suggested it would be the wrong climate to put such a measure on the ballot.
Environmental groups have generally sided with Bowen. In the wake of Hahn's attacks, Bowen produced letters of support from the Sierra Club, the California League of Conservation Voters and Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay.
Bowen also sent out a negative mailer of her own, in which she attacked an insurance industry-backed independent expenditure campaign, which has spent $100,000 supporting Hahn. In e-mails to supporters, Bowen has also emphasized Hahn's financial support from City Hall lobbyists. “Send a message to the lobbyists,” Bowen's mailer says. “Vote Debra Bowen for Congress.”
Dave Jacobson, Hahn's campaign manager, shot back and defended the Hahn mailers: “We're calling out her hypocrisy. She's been taking special interest money and lobbyist money. She was a lobbyist.”
Hahn has returned some oil contributions during this campaign. Others have been returned after the L.A. Weekly asked about them.
For example, Hahn received $2,500 from a Warren Resources executive on May 3. When asked about it, Jacobson said that check would be returned.
On the same date, Hahn received $5,000 from Esther Ek, Warren Resources' lobbyist.
In March, Hahn accepted $1,000 from an executive with WesPac Energy Group, which is trying to build a jet fuel pipeline through Hahn's district. Asked about that contribution, Jacobson said the campaign had not realized that WesPac is an oil pipeline company, and said the check would be returned.
Hahn has also taken $6,500 from two WesPac lobbyists, Rick Taylor and John Ek.
The top two candidates in tomorrow's primary will advance to a general election on July 12. Bowen would be Hahn's strongest opponent in a runoff, so Hahn is attacking her now in hopes that Bowen won't advance. Other contenders include two Republicans, Craig Huey and Mike Gin, and Democrat Marcy Winograd.