Campos blasts PUC’s Peevey for gifts and travel

Assemblywoman Nora Campos sent a scathing letter to Public Utilities Commission President Mike Peevey late Monday, taking him to task for accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and travel from industry-backed nonprofits and special-interest groups since 2007.

Mike PeeveyPeevey reported these gifts and trips in his statements of economic interests, filed with the state as required by law. But Campos, D-San Jose, criticized Peevey for not giving a full explanation of the trips.

“While foreign travel for public officials is legitimate and can offer unique opportunities for gathering knowledge, the sheer number and length of your trips are clearly outside of the bounds of reasonableness and undermine the spirit of the rule that permits such trips,” she wrote.

Campos wrote that reports of Peevey’s alleged exorbitances come amid widespread criticisms of the PUC for cultivating “a terribly lax safety culture” and “cozy relationships with industry officials.” The PUC also has created programs without proper legal authority, engaged in questionable contracting and ethical activities, made significant budget mistakes, and more, the lawmaker charged.

Nora Campos“This latest controversy cements my belief that the time has come for you to reform the culture you have enabled so that the PUC can restore the public’s confidence. People must know that there are real changes being made,” Campos wrote. “But it must begin with an understanding that the public’s skepticism grows when the top PUC official is accepting lavish trips and gifts from the very utility industry the PUC is charged with overseeing.”

Peevey and a PUC spokesman didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment Tuesday.

Peevey first was appointed to the PUC by former Gov. Gray Davis in March 2002; former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in December 2008 reappointed him to another 6-year term, to which the state Senate confirmed him a year later.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.