Public Interest Demands Full Disclosure of Politicians’ Junket to Japan with Energy, Telecom Execs

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Santa Monica, CA — Chairs of the Senate and Assembly committees in charge of energy, gas and telecommunications oversight must disclose the details of a privately funded trip to Japan they took for a week at the end of March and beginning of April in the company of industry executives, said the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) in a letter sent to the lawmakers today.

“Senator Kehoe and Assemblyman Levine should be Californians’ first line of defense against profiteering by the energy, gas and telecommunications giants. But no one keeps up their guard while sipping sake and singing Karaoke,” said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with FTCR. “Junkets with special interests have no place in California policymaking. Jetting off to Japan, courtesy of AT&T, is a luxury vacation, not a ‘study trip,’ and is no better than Abramoff’s jaunts to Scotland. It’s no wonder gas prices are nearing $4 a gallon if this is how we make energy policy in California.”

FTCR requested disclosure of any records pertaining to the March-April trip to Japan. Read the letters.

Senator Christine Kehoe chairs the Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications committee and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine chairs the Assembly Utilities and Commerce committee, which oversee the telecommunications, energy and gas industries.

Assemblyman Levine carried legislation last year on behalf of AT&T to open the doors for the company’s entrance into the lucrative cable television market by allowing it to receive one statewide video franchise, eliminating local control and consumer protection. The AT&T franchise was approved last week while the trip was in progress. At that time, state regulators made a point of saying that, under the legislation carried by Levine, they had no power to exact consumer protection requirements from the company.

AT&T is on the board of the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy (CFEE) which funded the trip and California AT&T president Kenneth McNeely also traveled with the group to Japan. CFEE received 1/3 of its 2005 funding from just 10 energy companies, including ChevronTexaco, PG&E and Sempra.

This year, the energy oversight committees are likely to see debate over controversial liquefied natural gas terminals proposed for construction off the California coast. Sound Energy Solutions, another reported participant in the Japanese junket, hopes to build a terminal off the port of Long Beach in conjunction with oil giant ConocoPhillips.

FTCR also submit a public records act request for documents pertaining to the Japan trip to Public Utilities Commissioners Timothy Simon and Rachelle Chong.

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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