Mark L. Nathanson, a former California coastal commissioner in jail for taking bribes, says that Gray Davis joined him at the trough. After his indictment in 1992, Nathanson told prosecutors about a “high political figure” who had also benefited from the California Coastal Commission’s corruption. Gray Davis is that politician.
Davis angrily denies the charge and dismisses Nathanson as a “convicted felon.” Davis’s denial would be convincing if his record were generally pure. But it isn’t. As the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported, Davis has received “$8.3 million from donors with business before the Coastal Commission,” most of whom “got their permits approved.”
Were Davis one of those pro-development Republicans he likes to badmouth, his Coastal Commission’s granting of permits wouldn’t seem strange. But he ran against Dan Lungren on a protect-the-coast platform. Why then is his Coastal Commission handing out permits like candy?
Of the “96 permit applications involving the governor’s donors that have come before the commission since Davis took office, 73 were approved, records show, while 18 were postponed. Only five were denied,” reports the Chronicle.
For some reason, Davis was very eager to see that movie mogul David Geffen could build a seawall around his Malibu mansion. The commission’s experts, according to the Chronicle, opposed Geffen’s plans, saying the wall would contribute to beach erosion. But Davis’s secretary of resources put pressure on the commission to overrule these experts. The Chronicle found records showing that while “the permit was pending, Geffen and his DreamWorks partners combined to donate $25,000 to Davis.”
Any connection? No, of course not, say Davis officials. But the Chronicle couldn’t find the same level of solicitude shown on behalf of permit applicants without deep pockets. Stephen Enkeboll told the Chronicle that for him it “was a complete nightmare working with the Coastal Commission.” He wanted to build a house not even on the coast, reports the Chronicle, but “in an oak-studded Malibu Canyon,” which is considered a “coastal zone.” It took him a year to get a permit, then after construction of the house “a commission official saw that the rear deck extended under the drip line, or perimeter, of a nearby oak tree — near enough, he decided, to threaten the tree’s long-term survival.” So Enkeboll was told to reconstruct the deck: “they made me pull half the deck out, so I’ve got this half-assed deck on the back of my house.” He was also told to plant 30 oak trees.
Let’s take a wild guess here and say David Geffen probably wouldn’t have to had to chop up his deck.
In the light of this Chronicle report, Mark Nathanson’s charge against Davis appears relevant. Yes, Nathanson is a “convicted felon.” But that just may mean he is a little more clumsy than Davis.
Davis is trying hard to shame the media into ignoring the charge. Which may work. After all, many in the California media know that Davis is corrupt and they don’t care. He is “right on the issues” and that for Teddy Kennedy/Bill Clinton liberals is the only real voting criterion. In a telling example of this logic, the Los Angeles Times admitted in a recent editorial that Davis’s “obsessive pursuit of every last campaign dollar from special interests is unseemly” and then endorsed him anyways.
One of the more outrageous ironies in this race is that Davis, using money collected corruptly, has been able to finance a blizzard of ads portraying his opponent as corrupt. A la Bill Clinton, Davis is gutting out his scandals through shamelessness and Big Lies.
He campaigned the first time on coastal issues, proceeded to let his donors chew up the coast, and now he is back hawking his environmentalism.
Nathanson used the Coastal Commission as a collection basket and went to jail. Shouldn’t the penalty for Davis at least be political defeat?