Goats, elephants and elections

Prop 16 is PG&E’s cynical effort to eliminate competition

“Pacific Goats and Elephants shall be given a monopoly on the sale and distribution of goats and elephants” begins a February post by Daily Kos blogger “Gangster Octopus.” “Any public entity wishing to [sell or distribute goats or elephants] can only do so by [a two-thirds] vote of its jurisdiction.”

The entity represented here is PG&E, the utility giant that is attempting, via Proposition 16 on the June ballot, to wipe out competition for the future sale and distribution of power in California. The utility’s “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” would make it nearly impossible for publicly owned utilities—such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and 70 other public utilities that are owned by local governments—to expand their terrain by requiring that a two-thirds vote be obtained for approval.

Proposition 16 is entirely created by PG&E, which wrote the measure and funded signature collection for it following an expensive 2006 campaign to keep SMUD from expanding into Yolo County. The expansion measure lost with 49.6 percent of the vote after PG&E spent as astounding $11 million fighting it.

The Yes on Proposition 16 campaign boasts $15.5 million in donations so far—all from PG&E itself. And get this: The utility’s CEO, Peter Darbee, told stockholders recently that the ultimate price tag may be a whopping $35 million. (Compare this to the opposition, which has so far raised $26,000!)

Proposition 16 is a preposterous attempt by a corporate giant to buy the right not to compete. Here’s hoping California’s voters see it for what it is.