UTILITY PROFITS

By Michael Collins

LA Weekly – October 29, 1998

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power StationMoney isn’t everything, but opponents of Proposition 9, the statewide ballot measure that would require a 20 percent rollback in electricity rates, are hoping it’s enough to crush the initiative. Among those furiously funneling cash to “Californians Against Higher Taxes,” (which morphed into the “No on 9 Committee”) are Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric. The big three are bankrolling the anti-Prop. 9 efforts to the tune of $29.9 million – a stark contrast to the scant $1.2 million that supporters of the initiative are working with. The not-so-startling money trail was revealed earlier this month in state disclosure reports.

And how did the anti-Prop. 9 forces put their money to work? Campaign contributions. The big three have given $500,000 to the California Republican and Democratic parties. Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren received $51,000 while Democratic contender Gray Davis took in $64,500.

Both parties and candidates oppose Prop. 9, as do dozens of unions, environmental groups, and police and teacher associations. Opponents of the measure proclaim a gloom-and-doom scenario, saying passage would result in a lowered state-bond credit rating and cuts in education and law enforcement. Of the 162 groups and organizations opposed to Prop. 9, nearly half received money from SoCal Edison in 1997. Other beneficiaries of utility largess include the Republican candidate for state treasurer, Curt Pringle, who scooped in $31,500, while his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, netted $8,500. Bill Lockyer, Democratic attorney-general aspirant, received $21,000 while rival David Sterling garnered $11,500. More than $100,000 was funneled to the consulting firm of Tom Hayes, the former state treasurer who appears in No-on-9 television ads.

All oppose Prop. 9, which promises to pummel the $28 billion bailout of the energy industry for its failed investment in nuclear reactors. Despite the blizzard of bucks and advertisements painting a doomsday scenario if the proposition passes, Prop. 9 still enjoys a 30-point lead, according to a San Francisco Examiner poll.