Telluride second-home owner and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is having her conservative street cred questioned for doing something that’s apparently a big no-no in the No-Bama GOP of 2009: Whitman gave money to environmental causes.
The San Jose Mercury News last week reported that Whitman, seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, filed a 2008 tax return revealing a $1.15 million contribution to the campaign to preserve Telluride Valley Floor.
Anyone familiar with T-Ride knows Valley Floor is the nearly 600-acre parcel that for years was the subject of a bitter battle to either preserve it as open space or develop it in typical resort-town condo-schlock style. Whitman’s campaign swears she only contributed to its preservation after developers had received $50 million for the parcel in town condemnation proceedings.
That’s not a good enough excuse for a government land grab in the opinion of state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, who’s also seeking the GOP nod to replace the term-limited Schwarzenegger. His campaign also pointed to Whitman’s $200,000 contribution to the Environmental Defense Fund for its work in preserving a California river delta while publicly opposing the project.
“What we see now is that Meg Whitman is a dishonest billionaire and writes huge checks to opponents of California farmers while telling campaign lies,” Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen told the Mercury News. “Will the real Meg Whitman please stand up?”
Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds fired back: “That statement is from a hysterical spokesman of a campaign that’s on the ropes.”
Whitman’s own website claims she’s in a dead heat in polling with the only major Democrat still in the race, former Gov. Jerry Brown.
The Telluride Watch newspaper riffed on the controversy by pointing out that being conservative and supporting conservation are not mutually exclusive. Nor is environmentalism an inherently Democratic value. This from the Watch:
“’The party is coming off of two straight election losses,’ said Jim DiPeso, policy director for Republicans for Environmental Protection, who suggested that the GOP is in the midst of trying to figure out whether it’s the ‘big tent of Ronald Reagan’ or a ‘straight jacket’ where only people who adhere to certain strict ideologies need apply.
“’Since when is it not conservative for a Republican to care about land conservation?’ he said.
“’Conservatives pioneered the conservation of open space,’ he continued, noting Republican President Theodore Roosevelt’s role in expanding the national forests, parks and wildlife refuges, and that President Herbert Hoover proclaimed the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument.
“’Clearly Teddy Roosevelt knew that the protection of our natural heritage was important for keeping the country strong,’ he said.
“And not for nothing – Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and also established the Environmental Protection Agency, the REP website notes.”