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Padilla returns $35,000 from Pacific Gas & Electric

September 16, 2010 |  3:19 pm

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is returning a $35,000 campaign contribution he received from Pacific Gas & Electric the day after one of the company’s pipelines exploded in flames and leveled a portion of a San Bruno neighborhood.

The money arrived Sept. 10. On the same day, Padilla, who as chairman of the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee oversees PG & E’s industry, announced that he would call a hearing to investigate the explosion.

After The Times inquired about the contribution and Capitol Weekly published an item about it Thursday, Padilla’s campaign spokeswoman Yvette Martinez issued a statement saying the Los Angeles-area lawmaker was refunding the contribution.

“The contribution in question was pledged to the ballot measure committee long before the tragic explosion in San Bruno.  Sen. Padilla has never – nor will he ever –  allow legislative decisions to be affected by outside political donations, as demonstrated by his swift call for immediate hearings on this tragedy," she said. "However, he’s decided out of an abundance of caution to return the contribution.  He and his colleagues intend to be asking tough questions and demanding serious, candid answers and the last thing he wants to do is give anyone reason to question the objectivity of that process in any way.”

The utility’s contribution was made to Padilla’s ballot measure account, California 2020, and thus not to subject to the strict donation limits of $3,900 per election for legislators' reelection committees.

-- Shane Goldmacher and Anthony York in Sacramento