Democrat ads target Bush energy plan


WASHINGTON, Reuters

House Democrats plan to step up the pressure on President (George W.) Bush over an energy plan “offering no relief” to ease California’s power crisis with a television ad that also targets a local Republican congressman.

Republicans blamed the power crisis on California’s governor, Gray Davis.

The 30-second spot, which will begin airing on Monday, will be the opening salvo in a month-long campaign “to hold Republicans responsible for their lack of leadership on the energy issue,” a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman said on Saturday.

The ad, which will air in the Los Angeles area, raps Bush for not imposing temporary caps on wholesale electricity prices in western states. It also targets Rep. Steve Horn, a California Republican, for standing with Bush in opposing temporary price caps.

Bush, a former Texas oilman, has refused to cap wholesale energy prices as a short-term solution to California’s skyrocketing electricity rates and rolling blackouts.

Bush warned such a move would backfire by removing the incentive for consumers to cut back on energy use and discouraging firms from building new power plants.

DNCC spokesman Mark Nevins said Rep. Horn is specifically targeted in the Democrat’s advertisement because he has failed to “exercise leadership” on an important issue.

“He has a responsibility to take some leadership on the energy issue and provide some immediate relief for California families and he has not done so,” Nevins said of Horn. “He needs to be held accountable.”

“Democrats apparently feel a desperate need to point fingers and blame anyone but themselves for our current situation,” replied Horn through a spokeswoman, Mary Ellen Grant.

“The reason we now have energy shortages in California is that no serious attention has been given to increasing our supply of energy over the past 10 years — including the two years that Gov. Gray Davis has been in charge of the state government,” Horn said.

“The governor’s own electricity expert says that wholesale price caps would make the current situation worse, not better,” Horn said.

The five-term congressman, represents California’s 38th District, which includes most of Long Beach. He won re-election by a narrow margin in a Democrat-tilting district. Democrats consider Horn to be particularly vulnerable and have been eyeing his congressional seat as a prime target in the 2002 congressional elections.

Nevins said the House Democrats’ campaign organization may run ads targeting Republican lawmakers in the Midwest and Northeast, as well.

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee called the Democrats’ ad campaign “shameful politics” and said it won’t work.

NRCC spokesman Steve Schmidt said that while President Bush is trying to solve the energy problem, the Democrats are running attack ads trying to get ready for the next election.

“It’s a year and a-half before the election and they’re trying to capitalize politically on a crisis that the democratic governor is largely responsible for because of his lack of leadership and incompetence,” Schmidt said in a telephone interview.

“The ad will likely backfire because voters know that in California the reason there is no power is because of Gray Davis (the governor) and the Democrats,” said Schmidt.

Two days after unveiling a plan that called for expanding U.S. coal, oil and nuclear power production and offered conservation incentives to reduce record gas prices and eliminate blackouts, Bush took to the airwaves to sell his vision.