Twenty-six companies with business before the state donated $9.8 million to Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party over the last eight years — and those donations were often made within days or weeks of winning favors.
That’s the contention of “Brown’s Dirty Hands,” a report released Wednesday by the Santa Monica-based public interest group Consumer Watchdog.
Those 26 companies included California’s three major investor-owned utilities — Occidental, Chevron, and NRG — which collectively contributed nearly $6 million.
Liza Tucker, who authored the report, said the information “raises troubling questions about whether quid pro quos are routine for this administration.”
The report was not released to the public until 10 a.m. Wednesday, so companies have not yet had time to respond to allegations contained in the presentation.
An extensive review of campaign records, publicly released emails and other documents at PUCPapers.org, court filings and media reports shows that Brown allegedly intervened in regulatory decisions favoring companies in the energy industry, Consumer Watchdog said.
The report alleges that Brown and his operatives have used the state Democratic Party as “a political slush fund” to receive contributions from unpopular energy companies in amounts greater than permitted to his candidate committee.
Between 2011 and 2014, the energy companies tracked in the report donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown’s re-election, Consumer Watchdog said.
The report cites Southern California Edison as an example. The Rosemead-based utility donated $130,000 to the California Democratic Party on March 26, 2013. That was the same day that Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey cut a secret deal with an SCE executive in a Warsaw, Poland hotel room to make ratepayers — not shareholders — cover 70 percent of the $4.7 billion cost to close the fatally flawed San Onofre nuclear plant, according to Consumer Watchdog.
Peavy is currently under criminal investigation for conspiring to obstruct justice by illegally engaging in and concealing ex-parte communications, and inappropriately interfering with the San Onofre settlement process by pushing SCE to fund $25 million of greenhouse gas research at UCLA in exchange for the deal, according to the report.
And three days before SCE announced that it would close San Onofre permanently, the company donated $25,000 to the California Democratic Party, the report said.
Consumer Watchdog additionally alleges that Chevron donated $135,000 to the California Democratic Party the same day lawmakers exempted a common method of well stimulation from legislation meant to regulate fracking.
The report also says that power plant developer NRG wasn’t a Brown donor until the company cut a “sweetheart deal” with the PUC to settle the state’s case over its 2001 electricity price manipulation, touted as a win by the governor’s office.
Rather than paying back the state, the company was allowed to spend $100 million of its $120 million fine to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure. And two months later, NRG began donations to Brown, his causes, and his party that would come to $105,000, the report said. A lawsuit against the PUC, filed by electric charging station competitor Ecotality, called the deal illegal because it awarded a monopoly to an out-of-state company.