California Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed his cabinet secretary, Ana Matosantos, to serve as his “energy czar,” the Sacramento Bee reports, announcing Friday that “the entire system needs to be reimagined,” and “we cannot afford the kind of public safety power shutoffs we’ve experienced over the last week.”
Californians who have experienced power outages might think it odd that the governor should look to a “czar” figure to address a statewide energy problem. Californians also have grounds to regard Ana Matosantos as a dubious selection for the job.
In 2009 Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger picked the Puerto Rico native Matosantos for state finance director. With only a BA in political science and feminist studies, Matosantos’ qualifications were decidedly on the thin side.
In 2011 she was busted for drunk driving in Sacramento but Gov. Jerry Brown refused to accept her resignation. Matosantos served nearly four years as Brown’s chief budget advisor and her tenure was marked by “multibillion-dollar shortfalls.”
Covered California, the state’s wholly owned subsidiary of Obamacare, then took on Matosantos at $120,000 for a six-month stint. Her performance did nothing to prevent Covered California from becoming what health journalist Emily Bazar described as “widespread consumer misery.”
In 2016 Congress passed the PROMESA legislation to deal with Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt and the legislation created the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi favored Matosantos for a board post and President Obama duly appointed her. It was not disclosed that Matosantos was also on the board of the Matosantos Commercial Corporation,” owned by her wealthy family, with deep interests in the energy business on the island.
“Given the recent evidence of blatant conflicts of interest of Ana Matosantos, her removal seems like the best place to start.”
According to Christopher D. Coursen, former counsel of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, the Oversight Board “has been a complete failure and has not achieved anything of significance.” President Trump and Congress, need to replace members “clearly unfit to serve” with those dedicated to restoring fiscal responsibility in Puerto Rico. “Given the recent evidence of blatant conflicts of interest of Ana Matosantos,” Coursen says, “her removal seems like the best place to start. And that review and her subsequent removal needs to happen now.”
That was in April of 2018. In August, 2018, Ana Matosantos was still on the Board and by all indications, she remained a member. For Gavin Newsom, Matosantos was one of the “most capable public servants in America” and a person of “unrivaled professional accomplishment coupled with a personal determination to serve the public good.”
Gov. Newsom is on record that his cabinet secretary is a “genius” and Capitol Weekly explains that Matosantos “makes the trains run on time.” As the Sacramento Bee noted, “Ana Matosantos will continue to serve as Newsom’s cabinet secretary while also working as the state’s energy czar, where she will be charged with helping fix the state’s utility problems.”
Californians will be watching to see how she reimagines the entire system.