Monday, March 21, 2005

Arguing with LA Times editor about Arnold/Enron story

March 21, 2005

David Lauter
Deputy Editor/Daily
Los Angeles Times
202 W. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mr. Lauter,

Thank you for your quick response.

Since you are a professional journalist, I would expect you would know more about this stuff than I would.

But I was unclear on a couple of things from your response. By saying that it is the attorney general’s prerogative to file lawsuits on behalf of the state, does that mean that there is no suit filed by Cruz Bustamante on behalf of utility customers, as covered by the LA Times on page A21, May 3, 2001? To your credit, you did cover that story, but it was buried on page A21, even though the blackouts were front page news for those of us affected by it. I was giving a college final when a blackout occurred and had to decide between canceling it or having my students huddle under one dim emergency light to finish their essays.

You said you covered this issue prominently, but a search of the archives for Schwarzenegger and Ken Lay or Kenneth Lay turned up a handful of incidental mentions in campaign notebook articles, usually when another candidate or protestor mentioned it, and to their credit, in the columns of Steve Lopez and Patt Morrison.

Further, your Jun 30, 2004 story on page C1 seems to confirm what Greg Palast of the BBC reported the summer before: that Arnold would support the weaker FERC settlement rather than the civil suit filed by Bustamante. The article could have connected the dots to explain why a governor so fixated on slashing our budget wouldn’t be interested in recouping as much as possibly of money stolen from us.

To the Times credit, you have covered Arnold’s push to further deregulate electricity, but again, this was buried in the California section of the paper even though the consequences, further rate hikes and blackouts, would be front page news to most Californians. A scan of recent Arnold front page stories includes his visit to the La Conchita landslide, his proposal for a low budget bridge in San Francisco, and his proposals regarding Indian gaming. Are these stories really more important than our governor trying to help the criminals who screwed us out of billions of dollars and who turned out our lights?

You are right that the meeting with Ken Lay by itself might not mean much, but Arnold got substantial aid from President Bush, not the least of which was advice from Karl Rove, staff loaned from Jeb Bush, and a visit from the President to Gray Davis to say he WOULD NOT intervene to cap electricity prices. At the time, Ken Lay was still the lifetime top donor to George W. Bush (he may still be). It’s not exactly a conspiracy theory to connect dots that big, and if the press was taking it’s watchdog function seriously, Arnold should have at least had to give a good explanation why all those things lined up in his favor without this being racketeering before the election.

You did this kind of work on Arnold’s sexual harassment problems. You didn’t just mention a case as it came up, but did the research to connect the dots. That’s all I’m asking. Connect the dots on the front page of the LA Times far enough before Arnold runs for re-election that information becomes part of the public debate.

Given that television news has become a embarrassment focused on celebrities and murder cases, and the free ride Arnold gets on right wing talk radio, where he is fawned over and unlikely to get a tough question, you have an even greater obligation to give the voters of California the news they need to make an informed decision because they aren’t getting it from any other local media.

1 comment:

nita said...

grrreat response. way to hold his toes to the fire. do post his response...