State PUC Chief Works Dinner for Lobbyist

CPUC President Peevey is too cozy with the companies he regulates

One of the first things the head of the California Public Utilities Commission did upon returning from his recent Swedish energy junket with utility bigwigs was serve as master of ceremonies for an industry-sponsored retirement dinner for Southern California Edison’s chief lobbyist.

Commission President Michael Peevey’s backslapping gig for Bruce Foster, whose duties over three decades included lobbying the state agency for favorable treatment for his company, raised eyebrows among some who think the commission already looks like an industry lapdog.

“It seems like poor judgment on his part, frankly,” said Mark Toney of the consumer watchdog group The Utility Reform Network. “But Peevey is a grown-up and makes his own decisions.”

We should note that Toney was among those at the invitation-only affair, held last Wednesday at San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club. So were a number of energy company officials and the utilities commission’s general counsel, Frank Lindh.

It’s not like there’s a lot of distance between the state commission and the utilities it’s charged with regulating. Lindh’s last job was as an attorney for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and Peevey himself knew lobbyist Foster from his days as a senior executive at Southern California Edison.

Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said Foster’s retirement party was paid for by SoCalEd, PG&E and San Diego Gas and Electric Co.

Members of the PUC and other government agencies, however, paid $150 apiece.

That’s in contrast to the trip commission officials took earlier this month to Sweden to learn about energy conservation. The Swedish government paid for Peevey’s trip, and a nonprofit with industry ties picked up the tab for some other commission employees.

Peevey did not return our calls seeking comment about the Foster dinner. But Terrie Prosper, a commission spokeswoman, said Peevey had paid $300 for tickets for him and his wife, state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge (Los Angeles County).

Prosper said Peevey had agreed to be master of ceremonies at the event because “he was asked to do so and (because he has known) Mr. Foster for more than 25 years.”

Speed read: As investigations go, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón’s look into the possible improprieties of the “Run, Ed, Run” mayoral campaign has to be one of the shortest on record.

It took all of one day after Gascón picked up the case for him to announce there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant a criminal probe.

In an unusual move, Gascón’s rivals in the D.A.’s race – Sharmin Bock, David Onek and Bill Fazio – issued a joint statement, saying, “His flat-out refusal to conduct a thorough investigation (of possible campaign finance violations) calls into question the very integrity of the district attorney’s office under his leadership.”

They also noted that Gascón confidants Rose Pak and former Mayor Willie Brown, as well as Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang, were all involved in the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign.

We called Gascón’s office to find out just how many hours prosecutors had spent on the investigation, how many people they had interviewed and which outside agencies had been contacted – none of which was covered in Gascón’s announcement.

“We have nothing to add to our Friday statement,” said D.A.’s spokesman Seth Steward.

Hold the train! Should be quite a busy couple of days for BART’s beleaguered directors – starting with today’s special hearing to review BART’s decision to cut cell-phone service in underground San Francisco stations on Aug. 11 to stop protesters from organizing.

On Thursday, agency insiders tell us, BART directors will reconvene behind closed doors for a second interview with their leading candidate to run the agency, former Federal Transit Administration deputy Grace Crunican.

We’re told BART Director James Fang balked at moving ahead with Crunican’s appointment. He reminded fellow directors that they had spent only an hour interviewing her and said they needed to get to know her better.

Raiders repeat? The 49ers are pulling out the stops to prevent a repeat of Saturday night’s crowd mayhem – not that they should have too much trouble this week.

The fact is, no one is expecting anywhere near the crowd – nor the attitude – for the game with the Houston Texans that showed up for last week’s Battle of the Bay against the Raiders.

And what a battle it turned out to be.

“Bad as they were, the numbers only tell part of the story,” said Police Chief Greg Suhr. “We recorded 70 ejections, but a lot more people just got tossed out.

“Sometimes we’d break up a fight,” the chief said, “and rather than press charges, the guy would say, ‘I just want to get out of here.’ “