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THE CALIFORNIA ENERGY CRISIS

Utilities Help Davis Raise $14.2 Million

Politics: The governor's campaign donations exceed those of the previous year. Lawmakers get thousands from Edison parent.

February 01, 2001|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Despite a state energy crisis and national elections, Gov. Gray Davis managed to raise $14.2 million in his second year in office, roughly $1 million more than he collected in his first year.

And campaign contribution records show that the parent company of Southern California Edison showered lawmakers with thousands of dollars in contributions in December--the same month the company announced it would eliminate hundreds of jobs and suspend quarterly dividend payments.

An Edison spokesman said the company was keeping commitments it had made in previous months to the lawmakers and noted that it turned down roughly $250,000 in requests made by lawmakers in December.

The governor's campaign kitty is now bulging with $25.9 million, according to a campaign contribution report. The document shows that Davis raised $8.4 million during the first six months of last year and another $5.8 million during the latter half.

Garry South, the governor's chief campaign strategist, said Davis has not held a fund-raising event since mid-December, in part because of previous plans to hold a number of major events this spring but also because of the energy crisis.

"We have an economic and electricity problem that has pretty much consumed all of the governor's time," South said.

Campaign records show that Davis accepted a $10,000 contribution from Duke Energy, one of the major power generators that sell supplies to California.

South said that the fund-raising event where the money was raised was held last May--before the state became engulfed in its current crisis--and that the check was not received until August.

"I don't believe there was any discussion about returning that particular contribution," South said.

He added that Davis' fund-raising committee returned a $2,500 contribution about two weeks ago after it was determined that the money had come from the parent company of one of the independent power producers with which the state is negotiating for long-term electricity purchases.

"We sent it back," he said.

Davis accepted $15,000 in August and September from Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison. He received $10,000 from PG&E Corp., the parent company of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., on Oct. 30, which brought the amount the company contributed to Davis last year to $48,500. The October contribution by PG&E was accepted even as it became increasingly clear that the utility was headed for financial hard times because of the state's failed deregulation scheme.

"We didn't turn them away," South said.

In December, the month when Edison International announced cutbacks, it contributed a combined $27,000 to 15 lawmakers.

Tommy Ross, regional vice president for public affairs for Southern California Edison, said the money reported for December reflects commitments the company made last October and November.

"We cut off all new campaign contributions in the early part of December of last year," said Ross, who added that money given to lawmakers came from shareholders, not customers.

The December contributions made by Edison International include $2,500 to Los Angeles Assemblyman Rod Wright, a Democrat who heads the Assembly Utility and Commerce Committee and $1,500 to Assemblyman Fred Keeley, the Boulder Creek Democrat and speaker pro tempore who has introduced legislation that would allow California to buy electricity through long-term contracts with power plant owners.

Campaign contribution records show that PG&E Corp. made two donations totaling less than $2,500 in December. PG&E spokesman Ron Low said the company suspended political contributions in December as part of its cash conservation efforts.

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