On propositions, big money talked but didn’t win
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Well, here is heartening news: Despite spending a combined $62 million, PG&E and Mercury Insurance‘s bids to buy their own state initiatives went down in flames at the polls Tuesday.
PG&E, as you know, spent more than $46 million on Proposition 16, which would have required local governments to obtain 2/3rds voter approval before establishing a public utility along the lines of the Marin Clean Energy program. The Marin program is designed to provide consumers with a conduit for receiving electricity from renewable resources, and an alternative to PG&E’s supply. PG&E had told its stockholders it planned to spend up to $35 million pushing Prop. 16 in the belief that it would be cheaper to win the statewide initiative than to fight each Marin-style local effort one by one.
Until, of course, voters see through your charade. Might be a good time for enterprising shareholder rights advocates to start challenging the wisdom of a utility spending so much of its shareholders’ money — and running 31% over budget — to push bad public policy.
On the insurance front, Mercury spent nearly $16 million trying to persuade voters that Proposition 17 was good for consumers, when in reality it would have let insurance companies charge consumers exorbitant fees if they have a lapse in coverage. Like trying to buy fresh policies after dropping insurance while in military service, going car-less in areas like San Francisco with good mass transit systems, or periods of unemployment in which people stop driving for economic reasons.
Like I said, it’s heartening to see that voters didn’t buy what those two corporations were selling. Or, rather, what they were trying to buy — their own special pieces of public policy.