The giveaway is the two-thirds vote requirement, which is poison to any attempt to enact public policy in this state. Rather than backers persuading a majority of voters to favor a policy, it means that opponents merely have to muster a tiny minority to kill it. The two-thirds vote requirement for passing a budget or enacting taxes in Sacramento has bequeathed us permanent fiscal gridlock and a $20-billion deficit, so PG&E knows exactly how mortal a weapon it can be.
And it's not as though CCAs are so easy to set up -- not one has yet gone into operation in the state in the seven years since the enabling legislation was passed. But PG&E may wish to make sure there's no breath in the body.
"PG&E has infinite sums of money to manufacture their own story," says Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco supervisor involved in setting up that city's CCA, which hopes to start delivering green power sometime next year. "But its clear goal is to kill all competition. That's reprehensible."
Is there any way to wrest the initiative process out of the claws of corporate interests? Here's a suggestion: Any time a corporation contributes more than 50% of the original funding for an initiative campaign, the campaign's TV advertising should be limited to shots of its CEO explaining directly to the camera exactly what his company expects to gain from it. At least then the voters will be able to judge the sincerity of its commitment to civic virtue.
Of course, it would probably take a ballot initiative to enact such a rule. We could call it the Taxpayers Right to See the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing Act. I may start gathering signatures today.
Michael Hiltzik's column appears Mondays and Thursdays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, read previous columns at www.latimes.com/hiltzik, and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.