Arnold's No-New-Taxes Pledge in Jeopardy

A November ballot proposition to tax oil produced in California, in an effort to increase alternative fuel use, may threaten California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s no-new-taxes pledge in his race for re-election.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, last week endorsed the oil tax. He had been attacked by his June 6 primary election opponent, State Controller Steve Westly, for accepting campaign contributions from Big Oil.

Schwarzenegger faces the choice of backing a new tax in violation of his pledge or opposing a measure intended to reduce petroleum use in California.

Split on the Right

The phones were ringing off the hook last week in the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the House conservative leader, with callers protesting his proposed immigration compromise. The complaints followed urging by the immigration hard-liner, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

“Call Pence at [his Washington office’s number] and let him know that you do not support his ‘no amnesty’ amnesty,” Tancredo said on the website for Team America, his political action committee. Pence named his compromise, under which illegal aliens must return to their homelands before entering a guest worker program, the “no-amnesty solution.” Tancredo calls it “dressed up amnesty.”

Pence, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, is a member of Tancredo’s Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.

Endangered GOP Seat

The once safely Republican congressional seat in the San Diego area formerly held by the disgraced Duke Cunningham is so endangered in the June 6 election that GOP House staffers are being urged to volunteer and travel across the country to help former Rep. Brian Bilbray in the last week of his campaign.

An appeal made to the Republican aides calls the race “way too close for comfort.” Bilbray’s Democratic opponent, school board member Francine Busby, is being assaulted by National Republican Congressional Committee radio ads as too liberal for the district.

A footnote: Vice President Dick Cheney came to California last week to hold fund-raisers for Bilbray and two endangered incumbent Republican House members, John Doolittle and Richard Pombo.

Estate Tax Switcher

Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, president of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), has been lobbying senators to oppose cutting off debate on repeal of the death tax as that key roll call vote approaches with the issue in doubt.

As a Republican governor, Keating was a staunch opponent of the “death tax.” He told this column that he did not realize then the vast fortunes involved. Keating said he has been on Capitol Hill lobbying on regulatory issues but talks about the estate tax when the issue is raised. Buying insurance is a major tactic in avoidance of the estate tax, and a new TV commercial shows Keating boosting such purchases as a part of retirement planning.

A footnote: Under Keating, the ACLI has contributed $37,499 to Senate Democratic candidates and $35,000 to Republicans. Prior to Keating, in the 2002 election cycle, the life insurance industry favored Republican candidates over Democrats, $82,700 to $34,500.

Conservative Critic

In response to conservative activist Richard Viguerie’s May 21 op-ed in The Washington Post charging that President George W. Bush has “betrayed” the conservative base, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has sent supporters a compilation of Viguerie’s attacks on President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan had been president only seven days when Viguerie compared him to Jimmy Carter, based on his Cabinet selections. The RNC found Viguerie attacks on Reagan throughout his administration, including a 1983 statement that he would not support him for re-election because the president was too soft on the Soviet Union. “The conservative movement is directionless,” Viguerie said near the end of Reagan’s eight years.

A footnote: Opposing President Gerald Ford’s election, Viguerie in 1976 unsuccessfully sought the presidential nomination of the American Independence Party (that had been formed eight years earlier by George Wallace).