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Jerry Brown Criticized for Big Oil Donors

Jerry Brown (Sandy Huffaker / Getty)
Sandy Huffaker / Getty

Pay-for-play accusations are being levied against longtime California governor Jerry Brown in a new report from Consumer Watchdog that details $9.8 million paid in contributions to Brown’s political and other initiatives, many of which occurred in close succession with policy moves favorable to the 26 energy companies that donated.

Three companies listed in the report,  “Brown’s Dirty Hands,” are identified as the state’s “major investor-owned utilities, Occidental, Chevron, and NRG.” The three alone account for $6 million of the contributions.

Consumer Watchdog announced the report, stating:

An exhaustive review of campaign records, publicly-released emails and other documents at, court filings, and media reports, shows that Brown personally intervened in regulatory decisions favoring the energy industry, and points to Brown and his operatives having used the Democratic Party as a political slush fund to receive contributions from unpopular energy companies in amounts greater than permitted to his candidate committee. Between 2011 and 2014, the energy companies tracked by Brown’s Dirty Hands donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown’s re-election. Earmarking to the Democratic Party is illegal. Consumer Watchdog is forwarding its report to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Brown’s office has denied influence from the contribution on his policies, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Brown spokesman Evan Westrup called the report’s allegations “downright cuckoo.” Westrup maintained the Brown has an “unmatched” leadership record on climate issues.

In one case detailed in the report, Southern California Edison (SCE) gave $130,000 to the California Democratic Party, concurrent with a deal made in Poland between the California Public Utilities Commission’s then-President Michael Peevey and one of the company’s executives to saddle ratepayers with 70 percent of the $4.7 billion cost to close southern California’s San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The watchdog group cites an email from SCE’s CEO, which claimed Brown had formed an agreement with the CEO. The CEO wrote that on the day of closing the plant, Brown would tell the press that Edison was acting responsibly.

The Tribune mentioned such an email from Edison International chairman Ted Craver to the company’s board that said Brown was in Palm Springs with President Barack Obama as the California governor took the call and made the agreement.

A February 2015 Los Angeles Times report stated that Peevey’s emails, obtained through a public records request, show Peevey giving former PG&E executive Brian Cherry “tactical advice about how to influence Gov. Jerry Brown about upcoming commissioner appointments at the PUC.”

The report offers everal other instances as evidence of corruption in the Brown administration. It points to Brown’s executive secretary, Nancy McFadden, a PG&E executive before moving to working for Brown, calling her the company’s “back-door route” on pending utilities commission appointments, citing emails.

Brown’s sister, Kathleen Brown, is also mentioned in the report for her June 2013 acquired position on Sempra’s Board of Directors. She served for a time as California’s State Treasurer.


A FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) spokesman acknowledged receipt of Consumer Watchdog’s report this week, according to the Tribune. The spokesman said that the report was received as a complaint.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 


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