… relatively speaking.

Of all the position statements filed by politicos in the Pacific Lumber bankruptcy — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and now Rep. Mike Thompson — Thompson’s, submitted on Friday, comes closest to actually taking a position on the case.

As with all political communications, you have to read between the lines. Thompson lists five principles he believes should guide the reorganization of the bankrupt company. The first three are boilerplate. Like those who came before him, Thompson believes that any new Pacific Lumber Co. should keep the mill open, maintain the company’s forests as working timberland and abide by the terms imposed on the company as part of the 1999 federal/state buyout of the Headwaters Forest.

But in the last two points to Corpus Christi Federal Bankruptcy Judge Richard S. Schmidt, Thompson goes far beyond what his predecessors had to say:

4) Ensure that the timberlands and mill are owned and operated by an entity(ies) with a proven track record utilizing sustainable management of California’s redwood forests and with full knowledge and experience in the operation of a mill;

5) Limit or restrict the reliance on the expenditure of additional public funds for any plan that is finally adopted.

On the surface, this is milquetoast. But Point No. 4, with its implied emphasis on the word “sustainable,” is an obvious dig at Maxxam and probably a tilt toward a rival Pacific Lumber Co. aspirant, the Mendocino Redwood Company. But it’s Point No. 5 where Thompson seals the deal. Fact is, Maxxam’s principal reorganization plan is the only one on the table that would require a vast infusion of public funds. (Maxxam’s “alternative” plan — its real plan — wouldn’t, though Hurwitz would likely try to hold the “Ancient Forests” hostage until such time as the government coughed up some serious scooty.)

So take #4 and #5 together, and you get a subtle but pronounced tilt away from Maxxam — something no other politician has done as obviously. Why doesn’t Thompson just out and say it, then, you wonder? Well, as the great Norman Wilson noted in a similar context, “You don’t dance on Clay Davis’ grave until you know the motherfucker is dead.”

Download the Thompson letter (.pdf).