(CNSNews.com) - Some conservatives are criticizing a decision by California's Democratic Gov. Gray Davis to hire at taxpayer expense two of former Vice President Al Gore's campaign advisors to assist his handling of the state's energy crisis.
Americans For Tax Reform said Davis is hiring Christopher Lehane and Mark Fabiani because of their reputation as political operatives and California taxpayers are paying them $180,000.
"Governor Davis has more than enough campaign cash to pay for his political operatives. Politicians should not hire hatchet men at taxpayer expense to spin themselves out of a problem they created. Taxpayers should demand a refund," ATR President Grover Norquist said.
California State Rep. Dave Cox (R) echoed Norquist's concerns about the hiring.
"The people of California are facing an energy crisis - not a public relations crisis," said Cox.
"The governor has millions of campaign dollars available to fund his political rehabilitation. He shouldn't ask the taxpayers to foot that bill while he cuts government programs," he said.
But other conservative sources point out that even Republican presidents have hired political operatives at taxpayer expense to assist them with various issues.
"Every president has had political operatives in high profile positions," said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. "You hear no one criticizing Bush for having Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, who helped shape his image during the campaign."
But Americans for Tax Reform countered that Lehane and Fabiani were not being hired for any policy reason, but to politically handle the governor's enemies.
"The president has to hire people for policy reasons," said ATR spokesman David Kralik. "Mary Matalin, Karl Rove, or Karen Hughes are hired for policy, but these people were hired specifically for attack dog purposes."
"Second of all, they were sent to work for Southern California Edison," he added.
Americans for Tax Reform sees a conflict of interest between Lehane and Fabian's public relations work for Southern California Edison and their work for Davis.
The company was working to get a deal with Davis at the time they were hired, ATR said. ATR also expressed concern about what it considered their "nasty reputation" toward their enemies.
"What is not common, I think, is there are very few people as vicious as Fabiani and Lehane," Kralik said. "They are the ones that smeared Katherine Harris. These people are campaign operatives, they are not energy experts."