Donate Today

The sex scandal du
jour--California state Senator Mike Duvall, a "family-values
conservative," boasting
into an open mike
during a hearing about his spanking, stamina and other
exploits with two female lobbyists--ought to broaden focus. Duvall is political
toast
--apologized, resigned. But what about Sempra Energy, the employer of
the one lobbyist who's been identified? What did the company know, and what
exactly is it expecting of its lobbyists?

Duvall is a
married, jowly, 56-year-old. And he's the ranking Republican on the Senate
Utilities and Commerce Committee. The lobbyist is described as "hot, blonde
and about 20 years younger."

Sempra is
California's third-largest public power utility. It's among the funders of luxury
overseas travel
for regulators and legislators. It won a fight with
the Sierra Club and other environmental groups over building huge new
utility lines
across the desert--ostensibly for solar power, but with no
bar on coal or other sources. Now it's front and center in a sex-and-influence
scandal in the state Legislature.

My bet is that
Sempra won't fire the lobbyist, identified
by name in the OC Weekly as Heidi Barsuglia.
Sempra might pay her to go
away with her lips sealed. Or bury her in a different job. But pardon me for
thinking this affair has nothing to do with passion and everything to do with
Duvall's committee assignment. In May, for instance, Duvall took Sempra's side
in opposing a bill to expand rooftop solar power.

Here's what Sempra
had to say this afternoon:

Sempra Energy takes very seriously any reports involving the
conduct of our employees. We are investigating this matter and the recent media
reports that named one of our employees. The employee has denied the
speculative media reports. Our investigation will be conducted to ensure not
only that our policies on employee conduct are strictly adhered to, but also
that our employee is treated fairly.

So is Sempra
investigating the media, along with its employee? This sure has a smack of
intimidation in the wording. And clearly Sempra wants to keep it all in-house,
with a tight lid.

The employee denied
what? The whole relationship, which unnamed Capitol staffers have described as
one of Sacramento's "worst-kept secrets," since the two were spotted
arm in arm at local events? There's plenty to discover in this story. I hope
the discoveries can get beyond the lewd to the legislative.