Both Department of Transportation and White House officials on Monday dismissed the telephone campaign as common outreach, and said the conversations were legal. Meanwhile, other critics accused Waxman of distorting administration e-mails and responses by officials to questioning by congressional investigators. David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis, the leading Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Waxman chairs, called the Los Angeles lawmaker’s proof of a lobbying campaign “flimsy.” He pointed to a committee that was scheduled for today but cancelled. “If it were proven or anywhere near proven that there was inappropriate lobbying, there would have been a hearing, not just a letter to the CEQ,” Marin said. A spokeswoman for Waxman said the hearing was cancelled because of scheduling conflicts. Los Angeles Democrat Henry Waxman charged Monday that a behind-the-scenes campaign to smother California’s landmark anti-smog law reaches all the way to the White House. Releasing a stack of e-mails showing Transportation Secretary Mary Peters worked personally to drum up opposition to California’s auto-emission standards, Waxman also accused President Bush’s top environmental adviser of green-lighting the lobbying. Waxman wrote White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton and asked him to “repudiate” covert efforts to block the waiver California needs from the Environmental Protection Agency so it can enact its law. “It is not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars to organize a lobbying campaign to politicize this vital regulatory decision,” Waxman said. “The administration is trying to stack the deck against California’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.” The Bush administration and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson have publicly maintained that they have no position on California’s request for a waiver to implement legislation cutting greenhouse gas emissions from cars by 25 percent and from sport utility vehicles by 18 percent, starting in 2009. But in June Waxman learned that Department of Transportation staff had called a number of lawmakers with auto facilities in their districts and asked them to write a letter opposing California’s request. Subsequent e-mails turned over to Waxman showed that the Auto Alliance – a trade group representing Ford Motor Co. and others – provided the agency with the breakdown of auto facilities and employees in each congressional district which DOT officials used to systematically target likely allies. According to the latest round of memos, Peters – often referred to as S1 in the e-mails – herself developed a strategy to stir up opposition from governors. “S1 asked that we develop some ideas about facilitating a pushback from governors (esp. D’s) and others opposed to piecemeal regulation of emissions, as per CA’s waiver petition,” Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Jeff Shane wrote on May 22. “She has heard that such objections could have an important effect on the way Congress looks at the issue,” he wrote. One day later Shane wrote to Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Tyler Duvall, “Are we making any headway in identifying sympathetic governors? S1 asked me about them again this morning. She’s going to want to address it this afternoon.” That same day Peters wrote an e-mail to her chief of staff, Robert Johnson, noting that Duvall and another DOT official “mentioned yesterday that they thought the WH had approved calls to the Gov’s on the issue.” Johnson responded that she was correct. And on May 25, another Peters aide e-mailed Johnson to say that Connaughton’ s chief of staff Marty Hall was “Ok with S1 making calls.” According to a transcript, Hall told Waxman’s staff he did not recall approving phone calls or anything else related to the DOT’s lobbying effort. DOT spokeswoman Kim Riddle issued a statement saying the agency has supported a “single, national fuel economy standard” for more than 30 years. “Our efforts to inform elected officials about the petition before the EPA were legal, appropriate and consistent with our long-held position on the issue,” she said. Yet a number of the e-mails showed that DOT officials were not as confident in the appropriateness of their actions. “I think we need to be a bit careful with this,” Duvall wrote in one missive. “The last e-mail isn’t a good conversation for e-mail,” Robert Johnson wrote in another. Environmental activists wasted no time on condemning the administration. “These e-mails suggest the fix was really in,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “It looks as if the secretary of transportation was functioning as a lobbyist for the auto industry.” California filed its application for the waiver in 2002. EPA Administrator Johnson has said the agency will make a decision by the end of the year. Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the state remains poised to sue the federal government if a decision is not made by Oct. 22. “Whatever pressure or lobbying may have taken place, state and federal lawmakers have a responsibility to allow California and all the other states that are waiting on this waiver to exercise our right,” he said. [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!