PG&E blows its budget trying to preserve its monopoly
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
We’ve noted before the absurd amount of money Pacific Gas & Electric is dropping in its efforts to get Proposition 16 passed. That’s the ballot initiative coming up June 8 that would require two-thirds voter approval before a municipality could create a local utility. In essence, PG&E is trying to stave off competition by erecting a ballot hurdle for any local government that wants to create it own utility for its residents.
Well, they aren’t done spending yet. PG&E had estimated it would drop up to $35 million on the campaign. But it hit $44 million with a sudden infusion of cash — $9.5 million over the past few days — that the folks over at Capitol Weekly read as evidence that PG&E’s polling suggests voters aren’t buying the campaign (I haven’t seen any recent independent polls on the measure; if you know of one, add it to the comments section).
PG&E officials have said they went the initiative route because it would be cheaper than mounting local campaigns every time a municipality decides to try to set up a local utility, as Marin County is in the process of doing.
What does this mean for shareholders? Capitol Weekly dug into the annual report and found that PG&E warned the $35 million estimated campaign translates into 9 cents a share, a drop in the bucket for a company that posted a $1.22 billion profit last year.
But maybe a more significant measure is to match it against voter registration numbers. As of early April, there were just under 17 million registered voters in California. So PG&E has spent about $2.5o per registered voter.
That’s not exactly Meg Whitman-sized numbers — she’s dropped $68 million of her own cash in the governor’s race. But that’s still a boatload of money for a power company to spend to change the rule on basic majority-rules democracy.