SACRAMENTO, Calif — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is donating $26,000 worth of political donations she received from PG&E to charity after ABC10 raised questions about the power company’s history of committing federal crimes and sparking deadly wildfires.
Pelosi’s donation came during an ABC10 investigation of PG&E’s federal political spending, which found that 44 of California’s 55 members of Congress continued to accept political donations from PG&E even after the company was convicted of federal crimes.
Pelosi's campaign staff told ABC10 they had been working on a plan to donate the funds before ABC10 contacted them.
It's not uncommon for companies to donate to political campaigns. And it's also perfectly legal for a convicted felon — whether person or corporation — to donate campaign money. And perfectly legal for a politician to accept the money.
Pelosi is the most prominent California politician to divest herself of PG&E’s political contributions since ABC10 began reporting on the monopoly’s extensive efforts to influence politics.
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Campaign spokesperson Jorge Aguilar told ABC10 Pelosi was donating away the money because “utilities must be held accountable for mismanaged power shutoffs, minimize the extent of shutoffs to the greatest degree possible, harden the grid, and prioritize public safety and wildfire victims.”
Pelosi’s decision comes in contrast to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has repeatedly declined to answer ABC10’s questions about whether he will return the $208,4000 PG&E donated to help him win the governor’s office last year.
Newsom has insisted the funds don’t sway his decisions.
"If the suggestion is somehow I'm influenced by that, you're wrong," Newsom said recently during a press conference.
Thirty of the 55 California members of Congress continued to take PG&E donations in 2019, after wildfires blamed on PG&E equipment killed a combined 109 people. That list includes all five members of Congress who represent the districts where those 109 people died in six different fires that burned between 2015-2018.
The $26,000 figure from Pelosi represents all of the PG&E PAC money given to her since the company began serving a five-year sentence of probation for six federal felonies tied to the deadly San Bruno gas explosion.
“Contributions from PG&E to candidates are not ratepayer nor corporate dollars,” company spokesperson Brandi Merlo said in an email, adding that the power company’s PAC has a “long history of making fully disclosed contributions to a diverse array of federal candidates who are free to accept or redirect the funds as they see fit.”
Two of the other 44 California members of Congress who accepted PG&E money told ABC10 they will donate it to charity as well.
- Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, plans to donate the $30,000 she received to charity.
- Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, plans to donate the $3,000 he received from PG&E as well.
Pelosi’s staff told ABC10 the $26,000 of PG&E money she received would be donated equally to six fire-related charities: the United Way of the Wine Country’s Kincade Fire Fund, Redwood Credit Union’s Community Fund, the California Fire Foundation, the American Red Cross, Rebuild Paradise; and Rebuild North Bay.
(Editor's Note: This story has been edited to clarify the donation came after, but not necessarily as a result of ABC10's investigation. The Pelosi campaign says that donating the funds has been planned for some time. Two of the six charities confirmed to ABC10 that they revived the funds six days after ABC10 first contacted Speaker Pelosi's office.)
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