PG&E's blank check - Page 2

Who is the utility buying off? Start with Newsom, Feinstein, and Willie Brown
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Illustration by Danny Hellman

But Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics spokesperson Naomi Seligman added, "The ethics rules are so incredibly narrow that unless Senator Feinstein was pushing or voting for something that would impact only Mr. Blum, it doesn't count as a conflict."

Still: Feinstein's getting cash directly from PG&E, and then doing the company's political bidding.

NEWSOM'S PG&E PARTY

Newsom, who has won campaigns with PG&E's financial support in the past, is hosting a party called "Unconventional '08" in Denver this week. Guess who's one of the three listed sponsors? PG&E. (The other two are AT&T and the carpenter's union.) And, of course, the person running Newsom's campaign for governor is PG&E's main man, Eric Jaye.

Sups. Alioto-Pier and Elsbernd? Both had PG&E money shunted through independent expenditure committees. Sup. Chu is currently running to keep her seat in District 4.

Former Mayor Willie Brown tops the list of endorsers on Committee to Stop the Blank Check's Web site. PG&E paid Brown $200,000 in consulting fees during 2007.

Neither Brown nor PG&E returned calls for comment and clarification on what exactly Brown's consulting involves, or how much he's getting this year.

Of the 30 paid ballot arguments that will be listed in November's Voter Information Pamphlet, PG&E bought 22 of them — many for well-funded organizations like the Bay Area Council, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and the Republican Party that could presumably pay for their own $2-per-word screeds against the measure.

The arguments all make the same points and parrot the same PG&E lines.

Jaye said that ballot arguments were routinely paid for by other entities, and of the groups that have healthy bank accounts, he said, "We'd rather those groups invest their money in capacity building for November."

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and Plan C all paid for their own ballot arguments. In 2007 the Chamber received more than $350,000 from PG&E in the form of dues and grants. BOMA got a $26,500 grant from the utility company, which also hired the outfit for almost $100,000 worth of consulting work. Plan C's Political Action Committee regularly receives deposits from PG&E during election season.

Other entities that signed arguments paid for by PG&E include: the San Francisco police and firefighter unions, which are constantly asking the city for more money (and now oppose a potential revenue source); the Asian Pacific Democratic Club; the Small Business Network; the Rev. Amos Brown, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Paying for their own No on H arguments: former San Francisco Public Defender and California Public Utilities Commission member Jeff Brown, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, BART board member James Fang, and prominent small businessowner Harold Hoogasian.

PG&E spends millions each year on consultants — and at campaign time, that money turns into political support.

"PG&E's philanthropy has been paying off into manipuutf8g a network of supporters who believe [Prop. H] is going to do something adverse to their interest when in reality it's not," said Sup. Ross Mirkarimi.

Money isn't everything for some organizations. Oakland's Ella Baker Center for Human Rights received a $10,000 grant from PG&E in 2007. Cofounder Van Jones has endorsed the Clean Energy Act.

There's no paper trail for how much PG&E has spent to date on this campaign and the utility will be free to spend money without scrutiny until Oct. 6, when the first financial statements related to the November election are due at the Ethics Commission.

THE OTHER SIDE

But PG&E can't buy everyone — and the coalition supporting the Clean Energy Act is large, broad, and growing.

Prop.