In summary

Newsom rejects PG&E’s reorganization plan. Dirty trick may have cost Pete Wilson’s stepson an Assembly seat. Sanders stumbles with endorsement.

Good morning, California.

So long, Raiders. Can’t tell you how much we’ll be rooting for you when you kick off next season in Vegas.

Newsom demands more from PG&E

Gov. Gavin Newsom surveys a home destroyed in the Kincade Fire
Gov. Newsom surveys Kincade Fire damage in October. (Photo by Bay Area News Group)

Casting more doubt on PG&E’s future, Gov. Gavin Newsom has rejected the bankrupt utility’s reorganization plan and called for a new board of directors consisting of a majority of Californians, but he did not challenge a proposed $13.5 billion settlement for fire victims.

  • Newsom, in a letter to PG&E Friday: “In my judgment, the amended plan and the restructuring transactions do not result in a reorganized company positioned to provide safe, reliable and affordable service to its customers.”
  • PG&E: “We’ve welcomed feedback from all stakeholders throughout these proceedings and will continue to work diligently in the coming days to resolve any issues that may arise.”

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali, overseeing PG&E’s restructuring, is scheduled weigh in on Tuesday.

To exit bankruptcy, the utility needs sign-off from Montali and the California Public Utilities Commission. The governor appoints commissioners.

PG&E can tap a state wildfire fund that would help it recover, if it exits bankruptcy by June.

Representatives of wealthy investors who hold PG&E stock control the board of directors now. Representatives of separate hedge funds that hold PG&E bonds seek control. 

Newsom made clear he cares little about the wealthy investors in either group:

  • “The state remains focused on meeting the needs of Californians including fair treatment of victims—not on which Wall Street financial interests fund an exit from bankruptcy.”

To read CalMatters’ explainers on PG&E’s bankruptcy, please click here, and here.

A $10 million dirty trick

Phil Graham and his stepfather, former Gov. Pete Wilson

Republican Phil Graham’s run for the California Assembly last year was derailed by a lie and a dirty trick that veered into illegality.

Graham, former Gov. Pete Wilson’s stepson, might have been the favorite to win the North San Diego County seat, but he went to a bar late one night as the primary election neared.

Lie: A patron, Nichole Burgan, filed a police report claiming Graham kissed her against her wishes. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department viewed surveillance video, and concluded Burgan lied. Burgan pleaded guilty to making a false statement.

Trick: Graham’s candidacy might have survived, except that someone paid to barrage voters in his district with 47,000 robocalls in which a woman’s voice claimed he  was “creepy.”

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission staff recommended a fine of almost $10 million against the robocall company, Marketing Support Systems, and its owner, Kenneth Moser.

Moser allegedly used technology that implied the calls were coming from a competitor, HomeyTel. 

Mystery: Moser won’t publicly reveal his client, but he told The San Diego Union Tribune: “I was simply the vendor hired to transmit someone else’s message. 

  • Upshot: Graham lost the primary. Democratic Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath won what previously was a Republican-held seat. State and federal investigations evidently continue.

Graham works for a radio network, and isn’t sure whether he will run again:

  • “It’s a difficult business. The public and voters were cheated out of the truth and they were misled, and I was cheated out of a possible win.”

Sanders stumbles on endorsement

Delegates at the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco snap selfies with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's once again seeking the party's nomination for president. Photo by Elizabeth Castillo for CALmatters
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in San Francisco

The California Democratic Party endorsed Assemblywoman Christy Smith’s run for Congress against Cenk Uygur on Saturday, a day after presidential candidate Bernie Sanders retracted his endorsement of Uygur.

Remind me: Uygur and Smith seek to replace Katie Hill, who resigned the Santa Clarita Valley congressional seat in October. Hill had an affair with a campaign staffer and became the victim of revenge porn.

  • On Thursday, Sanders endorsed Uygur, an online talk show host, saying he was a “a voice that we desperately need in Congress.”
  • On Friday, after hearing some of what Uygur voiced about women and others, Sanders retracted his endorsement.
  • Seeking to recover, Uygur announced he’d no longer accept endorsements. And he lashed out at Smith, calling her a “corporate Democrat.”

Fact check: Smith won her Assembly seat in 2018 when organized labor spent almost $500,000 in an independent campaign to help elect her and unseat Republican Dante Acosta. 

Builders, Realtors, agriculture interests and others spent $250,000 hoping to help Acosta retain his seat.

In her one year as a legislator, Smith aligned with Democrats on almost all major bills, though CalMatters’ analysis counted her as one of the less liberal legislators

She carried bills related to crime victims, mental health care, education, scholarships and community colleges, and voted against charter schools and for stricter gun control. 

Left unanswered: Why Sanders would endorse a guy running for a California congressional seat against a woman who had the endorsements of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein.

Commentary at CalMatters

Andrew Malcolm, author: California is  a special place. I’ve lived here by choice twice, nearly a quarter-century in total. I have no regrets about living here. And I don’t regret leaving here. As the neighbor said, “California’s not the same anymore.”

Dane Strother, Sacramento-based Democratic strategist: I’m in California to learn. I’m here to watch.  I’m here to work. I’m slowly not adding three hours every time I check the time. I’m grudgingly waiting for the walk sign. I have one professional chapter left to write in life, and the new drawings on the Etch-A-Sketch are of new friends and a place I believe in.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California voters and politicians tend to issue sweeping policy changes but then settle for half-a-loaf implementation.


Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights,, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up for WhatMatters here.

Follow me @danielmorain, like CalMatters on Facebook, and follow us @CalMatters.

See you tomorrow.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions:

Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.

Judy serves as hub editor of the California Divide project, a five-newsroom collaboration covering economic inequality. Prior to editing, she reported on state finance, workforce and economic issues. Her...