Governor’s greased lighting

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Davis criticized for accepting money from power companies

The San Francisco Chronicle

After having sworn off campaign contributions from energy companies, Gov. Gray Davis has started taking money from power providers seeking to do business with the state.

The two $25,000 contributions came during a series of fund-raisers the governor held when he made a trip last month to the East Coast to view the damage at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The Democratic governor, who has raised more than $30 million for his re-election campaign, has been criticized for taking money from groups that have interests before the administration.

Yesterday, Davis defended the decision to take the money, saying the worst of the energy crisis is behind us.

“My concern was in not taking money from people who were actively selling us power during the difficult early months in 2001,” he said of his decision in January to stop taking contributions from utilities and power companies. “To my knowledge neither of those companies are active players in that process.”

But consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield blasted Davis for accepting the money and said it should be returned.

“If it was dirty money before, it is even dirtier now,” said Rosenfield, who heads the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. Davis is mistaken to think that the energy crisis is over, Rosenfield said.

“Tell that to the 20 million Californians who have seen their rates increase an average of 50 percent,” he said.

The two companies — FPL Energy LLC and Caithness Energy LLC — each gave $25,000 to Davis’ campaign fund.

Both contributors have proposed projects pending in California.

Caithness Energy, a New York-based generator, is expected to file plans to build a power plant with the California Energy Commission later this month. The company wants to build a 560-megawatt natural gas fired plant in Riverside County.

And subsidiaries of FPL Energy, a Florida generator that operates power plants across the country, are in negotiations with the state’s new Power Authority to construct wind turbines in Southern California. The state would buy energy from the turbines and have the option to own them.

In addition, Caithness and FPL are working together to building another power plant in Riverside County. That project was approved by the state’s Energy Commission in March.

Garry South, Davis’ political adviser, said the campaign’s position had not changed with regard to collecting money from energy interests.

South said that the two companies had not been gouging the state and that the fact they had business pending with the state was irrelevant.

“It is not against the law to take money from a company that does business with the state,” he said. South said the contributions had no bearing on any decisions made.

Consumer Watchdog
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