The California Fair Political Practices Commission will investigate donations made to the California Democratic Party by privately owned utilities and other energy interests.
The action was prompted by an August report from the Santa Monica advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which focused on the political influence of companies that rely on fossil fuels.
Despite the report’s heavy focus on Gov. Jerry Brown — it was entitled “Brown’s Dirty Hands” — the commission did not see fit to investigate the governor himself.
“The decision not to broaden the investigation speaks for itself,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown, declining further comment.
The report by Consumer Watchdog tallied almost $10 million in political contributions and compared their timing to decisions made by Gov. Jerry Brown and his appointees. In some cases, donations were made within days of regulatory decisions that benefited the donors.
"This is to notify you that the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission will investigate the California Democratic Party for alleged violations of the Political Reform Act's campaign reporting provisions resulting from information contained in your sworn complaint," the commission wrote to Consumer Watchdog.
The commission stated that it was not investigating "the other persons identified in your complaint at this time."
A spokesman for the state Democratic Party said the organization is aware of the investigation and cooperating fully with the probe.
Jamie Court, president of the consumer advocacy group, said he was pleased with the commission decision, but said investigators need to look deeper than the state Democratic Party.
"It's impossible to investigate a dirty laundry machine without looking into the owner of the dirt," he said. "If you have dirty laundry, it's hard to imagine you have clean hands."
In accepting the complaint for investigation, the Fair Political Practices Commission said it had made no determination about the validity of the allegations in the complaint.