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Brown Returns Campaign Contributions Amidst Public Utility Investigation

Brown Returns Campaign Contributions Amidst Public Utility Investigation

Gov. Jerry Brown says that he returned $9,000 in campaign contributions from six Pacific Gas and Electric employees in July because of the utility’s close ties with state regulators.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the California Public Utilities Commission and PG&E have been at odds since a gas explosion incident in 2010 that killed eight people in San Bruno. On Monday, emails were released by PG&E revealing that the Governor’s Office was involved in the negotiations between the two entities.

The Bee further reported that a December email to a PG&E executive from Michael Florio, a Brown appointee to the PUC, Florio said he understood a concern about pressure in a gas line but that “Dana Williamson from the Gov’s office may be calling” someone else involved with similar questions and that, “you should probably warn him.”

Florio indicated that the governor’s office suggested a compromise with San Carlos officials over gas line pressure – at a level with which PG&E was not comfortable.

“We want to go ahead but now the Governor’s office is asking if we can somehow ‘compromise’ with the City on 240 psi, which is the number they think they can live with,” Florio wrote.

On top of that, according to CBS San Francisco, PG&E has admitted to influencing which state judge would decide whether it could raise rates. PG&E has removed three employees for coaxing the CPUC to install a favorable judge to hear a request to raise rates after the San Bruno explosion.

Nevertheless, Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown, said that the administration’s involvement in the negotiations was appropriate. “The emails show that administration staff asked a PUC commissioner appropriate questions regarding safety concerns, he said. Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, added that the $9,000 in donations were returned “to be prudent in the midst of the inquiry.”

PG&E Corp contributed more than $50,000 to Brown in his run for governor in 2010 and donated $25,000 to his initiative to raise taxes in 2012.

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