A question for Justin Fareed: How do you really feel about offshore oil drilling?

Justin Fareed
Justin Fareed

Even if Republican Congressional candidate Justin Fareed isn’t legally required to disclose his unpaid work on his family’s ranch, his reluctance to talk about it makes it look like he has something to hide.

That something — according to his detractors — is the tie between the Fareed family ranch located in Kern County and the family of Howard Keck Jr., the heir to a California oil fortune.

As Tribune writer Matt Fountain reported in a Sunday story, Keck was once married to Fareed’s aunt, and members of the Keck family were formerly listed as ranch employees.

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Fareed downplayed the connection in a Tribune interview; he told Fountain his aunt divorced Keck long ago and said the link between the two families has nothing to do with his campaign.

As far as Fareed is concerned, that’s the end of the story — when Fountain attempted to ask some clarifying questions, Fareed and his campaign manager accused him of “playing games” and threatened to require him to submit all future questions in writing.

We get it. Fareed and his supporters believe the “Keck connection” is tenuous at best and by no means proof that Fareed is in the pocket of “big oil,” as his opponents claim.

As Republican Party attorney Charles Bell put it: “This is the worst kind of political smear — a guilt by association insinuation about oil and gas and energy.”

We aren’t going to weigh in on whether or not Fareed was required to disclose his connection to his family’s ranch — that’s for lawyers to argue — but in the interest of transparency, it would have been wise.

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And what would Fareed have to lose? His supporters wouldn’t care.

Besides, it’s not as though Fareed’s connections to the oil industry are a well-hidden secret. It’s been widely reported that he has accepted large donations from oil interests. It’s also well known that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke co-hosted a private fundraiser for Fareed. (That would be the same Zinke who announced in April that when it comes to offshore drilling “nothing is off the table” — and later turned around and took Florida off the table.)

Fareed would be a far more credible candidate if he lost the huffy attitude, stopped speaking in sound bites and told voters what he really thinks about off-shore oil drilling, instead of continuing to play the we’ve-got-to-protect-the-environment-but-still-consider-all-the-options card.

That’s not fooling anyone; go back far enough, and you’ll get a clearer idea of what Fareed really thinks about oil.

A May 2014 edition of the Santa Maria Sun included this quote from Fareed: “I am very much for a de-carbonized future, but in the meantime, we’re dependent on hydrocarbon.”

The article went on to say that Fareed “encourages oil exploration and doesn’t think the country knows enough about hydraulic fracturing to tighten regulations or ban the practice.”

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By 2016, Fareed had massaged his sound bite; he spoke of supporting a “de-carbonized future ... but until that is widely accessible, we have to have a balanced approach.”

That’s the same vague line he’s trumpeting today.

Rather than make assumptions, we’ll put the question — in writing — to Fareed:

What, exactly, is a “balanced approach” — and does it include opening our coastline to more offshore oil drilling?

We know where the incumbent, Rep. Salud Carbajal, stands.

We look forward to an answer from Justin Fareed.