Arnold’s Christmas stocking was a $10,000 gift from cell phone giant
Cingular. This added to the quarter million in campaign contributions
that the Guv has already received from the communications industry,
including max-out contributions from other telecom powerhouses such as
SBC and Nextel.
Four days after receiving the Cingular contribution, Arnold formally
requested that California Public Utility Commissioners freeze
regulatory proceedings and review all regulations issued over the past
five years, in order to assess the regulations’ "impact on business,"
in compliance with an executive order on this subject issued more than
a month earlier. (Read a copy of that letter from the Governor.)
Because the PUC is a constitutionally independent agency, it is not
subject to gubernatorial orders, but the Gov has asked the
commissioners to "honor the spirit of my executive order on a voluntary
What kind of regs might Arnold’s donors want terminated? The PUC is
currently considering the Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights,
which would expand privacy protections, improve billing accuracy and
clarity and mandate fair contract terms among other reforms. Tipsters
tell us there’s likely collusion on the issue between Schwarzenegger
and PUC President Michael Peevey, who, since coming to the Commisison
from the private power industry, has made every effort to block
consumer protections in the name of protecting business interests. With
Arnold’s request in hand, President Peevey now has another tool to take
the Consumer Bill of Rights off the hook.
The rest of the PUC will hopefully take some direction from the courts
where consumers scored a victory against Cell-Hell this morning. A Los
Angeles judge refused Nextel’s request to toss out a case brought by
our organization (The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights). The
case takes issue with Nextel’s decision to stop itemizing bills and the
company’s refusal to refund all customers for four phony text messages
Nextel sent and charged to all customers. Because the bills were no
longer itemized, most people did not know that they were charged for
the phony text messages. What’s Nextel’s response? Consumers can pay
$2.50 per phone, per month to get a full itemized bill, go to the
library and download the bill from the internet or they should keep a
diary of their cell phone calls.
We’d like to see a diary of communications between Arnold and the PUC
President. If the Telecom Consumer Bill of Rights is derailed, their
bill to the public will be hundreds of millions of dollars in
overcharges, frustration and lost time.