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Are Californian Utilities Buying Votes?

This article originally published on San Diego Loves Green
by Roy L. Hales

Almost 38% of the votes cast in favor of AB 327 last month came from Assembly Members who list “electric utilities” among their top ten campaign contributors. That is a lot of money and it is worth noting that these were not the only “yes” votes that received money.

AB 327 would repeal existing limitations for increasing the electric service rates of residential customers, including California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) customers, but also requires that the Public Utilities Commission ensure that low-income ratepayers are not overburdened by monthly energy expenditures. Utilities companies would not be allowed to increase billing to more than $10 per month for most customers, or $5 per month for customers in the CARE program.

The problem, according to a recent press release from the  Latino group PresenteOrg, is that “these fixed charges would amount to $10 a month, or $120 annually, and could not be avoided by conserving energy or using rooftop solar energy… The legislation proposed represents the latest effort by the big utility lobby to curve the growth of rooftop solar in California.” AB 327 “ would add significant fixed charges to energy bills for users in Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric territories.”

One has to wonder if there shouldn’t be conflict of interest legislation for occasions like this. Unfortunately, the only prohibition is against outright bribes. That would both be difficult to prove and in some cases (especially the smaller contributions) unlikely. Yet lobbyists, employed by the utilities companies and other interest groups, must be exerting some influence or they wouldn’t continue to pump millions of dollars into political coffers every year.

Bill AB 327 passed, the final tally being:

Yes – 66
No – 4
Absent – 8

The Bill passed to the Senate and is currently before the Appropriations Committee.

From the video “Edison hates Solar Power“

From the Video “Edison Hates Solar Power

Presente.org and the Other98.com put out a satirical video called “Edison hates rooftop solar,” which states  Edison wants to “keep solar panels” of customers roofs and has a “business plan” to “force” customers to buy “dirty energy” from “dirty power plants.” Southern California Edisondid not get the joke and issued a Cease and Desist Order.

In response, Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of the Latino group PresenteOrg, said, “Southern California Edison’s threats against us are a joke. Instead of trying to divert the public’s attention by threatening to take legal action against our video parody, Edison and other utilities need to tell the public why they’ve spent nearly $900,000 lobbying Latino legislators.”

A little closer to home, East County Magazine did a search on Senator Ben Hueso, who represents East County, and discovered that “electric utilities” contributed $28,000 to his campaign during 2012. This sector was among his top ten contributors.

With the exception of Marie Waldrun (R), who was absent, all of San Diego’s Assembly members voted for AS 327: Ricky Chavz (R) from San Diego, Allan Mansoor from (R) Carlsbad,  Shirley Weber (D) from Chula Vista, and Brian Maienschein (R) from El Cajon

From the Video “Edison Hates Solar Power“

From the Video “Edison Hates Solar Power

Want to See the full Roster for AB 327?  Assembly Members who list “electric utilities among their top 10 contributors are marked in red.

Yeas – 66 (Around 38% list “electric utilities” in their top 10 contributors)   

Achadjian, Katcho – R/Santa Barbara – $15,700  (out of $368,409)
Alejo, Luis – D/Hanford – $11,000 (out of $414,765)
Allen, Michael – D/ Santa Rosa – $7,800 (out of $2,074,897)
Atkins, Toni – D/Lemon Grove – $53,100 (out of $774,269) 
Bigelow, Frank – R/Sacramento – $16,300 (out of $787,626) 
Bloom, Richard –  D/South gate – not in top 10 (out of 859,034)
Bocanegra, Raul – D/Arleta  – $44,100 (out of $1,063,189)
Bonilla, Susan – D/Oakland – $67,790 (out of $573,241)
Bonta, Rob – D/Hayward  – $91,516 (out of $700,541)
Bradford, Steven – D/Rialto – $55,200 (out of $680,096) 
Brown, Cheryl – D/Los Angeles – not in top 10 (out of $290,459 
Buchanan, Joan – D/Oakland – $76,450 (out of $648,393)
Calderon, Ian – D/West Covina – $20,500 ( out of $792,755)
Campos, Nora – D/Santa Cruz – not in top 10 (out of $577,909) 
Chau, Ed – D/El Monte – not in top 10 (out of $1,470,913) 
Chávez, Rocky – R/San Diego – not in top 10 (out of $268,251)
Conway, Connie – R/Stockton – not in top 10 ($1,4554,549)
Cooley, Ken – D/Vacaville – not in top 10 (out of $4,113,825)
Dahle, Brian – R/Santa Rosa – not in top 10 (out of $483,706) 
Daly, Tom – D/Anaheim – not in top 10 (out of $526,712) 
Dickinson, Roger – D/Santa Rose – $7,200 (out of $439,810) 
Donnelly, Tim – R/St Luis Obispo – not in top 10 (out of $289,803)  
Eggman, Susan – D/San Francosco – not intop 10 (out of $546,091) 
Fong, Paul – D/Salinas – 12,500 (out of $562,763) 
Fox, Steve – D/Palmdale – not in top 10 (out of a mere $21,142)
Frazier, Jim – D/Martinez – $14,400 (out of $647,333) 
Gaines, Ted – R/Roseville – $27,256 (out of $1,255,896) 
Garcia, Christina – D/City of Industry (out of $457,032) 
Gatto, Mike – D/Burbank – not in top 10 (out of ($1,235,404) 
Gomez, Jimmy – D/Inglewood – 9,700 (out of $771,813) 
Gordon, Rich – D/San Jose – not in top 10 (out of $736,771) 
Gorrell, Jeff – R/Pasadena – $17,200 (out of $458,717) 
Gray, Adam -D/Los Altos  – not in top 10 (out of $2,050,772) 
Grove, Shannon – R/Visalia – $12,900 (out of $505,005) 
Hagman, Curt – R/Long Beach – not in top 10 (out of $624,751) 
Hall, Isadore – D/Riverside – not in top 10 (out of $975,883)  
Harkey,Diane – R/Oceanside – $12,300 (out of $504,345) 
Hernandez, Roger – D/Los Angeles – not in top 10 (out of 729,363) 
Jones-Sawyer, Reggie – D/Claremont – not intop 10 (out of $464,705)
Linder, Eric – R/Chino Hills – $5,400 (out of $135,615)  
Logue, Dan – R/Chico – not in top 10 (out of $586, 141) 
Maienschein, Brian – R/El Cajon – not in top 10 (out of $390,968) 
Mansoor, Allan – R/Carlsbad – not in top 10 (out of $371,624)
Medina, Jose – D/ Ontario – not in top 10 (out of $1,950,603) 
Melendez, Melissa – R/Huntingdon – not in top 10 (out of $296,572)  
Mitchell, Holly – D/ Long Beach – not in top 10 (out of $458,739) 
Morell, Mike – R/ Van Nuys – not in top 10 (out of $462,954) 
Mullin, Kevin – D/Mountain View –  $9,050 (out of $507,685)  
Nazarian, Adrin – D/Los Angeles – not in top 10 (out of $569,084) 
Nestande, Brian – R/ West Hollywood – not in top 10 (out of $624,223)
Olsen, Kristen – R/SanFrancisco – not in Top 10 (out of $682,756) 
Pan, Richard – D/Sacramento – not in top 10 (out of $1,009388) 
Patterson, Richard – R/ San Jose – not in top 10 (out of $214,069) 
Perea, Henry – D/Fresno – not in top 10 (out of $1,156,651)
Perez, John – D/El Segundo – not in top 10 (out of $2,621,242) 
Perez, Manuel – D/Norwalk –  $20,700 (out of $638,328) 
Quirk, Bill – D/Fremont – $9,900 (out of $621,129) 
Quirk-Silva, Sharon – D/Yucaipa – not in top 10 (out of $678,928)
Rendon, Anthony – D/Rancho Cucamonga – not in top 10 (out of $836,156) 
Salas, Rudy – D/Bakersfield – not in top 10 (out of $1,440,137)
Skinner, Nancy – D/San Ramon – $19,146 (out of $686,440) 
Ting, Phil – D/ San Mateo – not in top 10 (out of $1,017,203) 
Wagner, Don – D/Costa Mesa – not n top 10 (out of $320,499) 
Weber, Shirley – D/ Chula Vista – not in top 10 (out of $470,358)
Wieckowski, Bob – D/Modesto – not in top 10 ( out of $580,591) 
Wilk, Scott – R/ Santa Clarita – $6,900 (out of $374,522) 
Williams, Das – D/ Westlake Village – not in top 10 (out of $685,834)

Nays – 4 (None listed “electric utilities” in their top 10) 

Ammiano, Tom – D/Stockton – not in top 10 (out of $257,825) 
Blumenfield, Bob – D/Los Angeles – not in top 10 (out of $714,215)
Stone, Mark – D/Fresno – not in top 10 (out of $322,525) 
Yamada, Mariko – D/Roseville – not in top 10 (out of $223,384)

Absent: 8 (37.5% listed “electric utilities is their top 10)

Chesbro, Wesley – D/Redding – not in top 10 (out of $426,069)  
Dickinson, Roger – D/Santa Rose – not in top 10 (out of $439,810) 
Grove, Shannon – R/Visalia – $12,900 (out of $505,005)
Holden, Chris – D/Woodland Hills – $13,000 (out of $911,806) 
Jones, Brian – R/ East County (San Diego) – $9,800 (out of $352,530) 
Levine, Marc – D/Lodi – not in top 10 (out of $379,154) 
Muratsuchi, Al – D/Murrieta) – not in top 10 (out of $2,333,471) 
Waldron, Marie – R/San Diego – not in top 10 (out of $230,634) 

 (Image at top of page from video Edison hates rooftop solar“)
 
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