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Michael Hiltzik: PG&E and the corruption of California politics

February 9, 2010 |  5:13 pm

The serene nerviness of big corporations that poke sticks at their regulators and the general public when their reputations are already in tatters never ceases to amaze and amuse.

There's Anthem Blue Cross, which in the heat of a national debate over health insurance costs jacks up rates in California by 39%. Mercury Insurance, which pushes a ballot initiative that would allow it to redline a whole category of motorists just at the time that a state report alleges it's been discriminating against whole categories of motorists. And as my Wednesday column observes, here comes Pacific Gas & Electric, spending millions to undermine the California ballot initiative system while asking for a billion-dollar rate increase.

What's next -- Toyota coming out for auto safety deregulation?

The column starts below.

Speculation has been raging over whether the U.S. Supreme Court's recent junking of federal campaign spending limits on corporations will be very bad for democracy, or not so bad.

As with many important trends in American society, California was there first, and we have the answer. Thanks to a nakedly cynical $6.5-million ballot campaign launched by our biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, we can say this: It’s going to be worse than you can possibly imagine.

When I first wrote in December about the ballot initiative PG&E concocted to undercut competition from municipal power agencies, the monster hadn’t yet been shocked into life. State officials were still verifying petition signatures, and PG&E had laid out only $3.5 million.

Much has happened since then. The measure has been certified for the June 8 primary ballot, where it will appear as Proposition 16.

Read the whole column.

-- Michael Hiltzik