Utilities Spend Lots Of Public’s Money To Influence State Politics
by Teri Sforza, The Orange County Register
The big players on the Orange County business scene poured nearly a quarter-billion dollars into flexing their political muscle in California over the last five years, according to a Register analysis of records kept by the secretary of state.
But the most prolific spenders on campaign donations were not the big banks, or even big retail, as many consumer groups often suspect.
They were, instead, the utility companies that provide gas and electricity to Golden State residents and must win the California Public Utilities Commission’s approval to hike rates.
The top political contributor was Pacific Gas & Electric, followed by San Diego Gas & Electric and Edison International, the parent of Southern California Edison. Together, the state’s three major utilities spent $105.3 million on political contributions, general lobbying and PUC lobbying overthe years examined.
The next-largest donors were health care insurers and providers. The three largest – Kaiser Permanente, Wellpoint/Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield – spent $96.2 million to make their views known to the public and power elite.
“The numbers show that we need to focus more on corporate influence over local elections,” said Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA.