Goldschmidt's Shell Game 

PUD Opponent Buys PGE for Himself!

With more plot twists than a John Grisham novel, the continuing drama surrounding PGE's ownership became even stranger this week. Early Tuesday morning, Enron, the parent corporation of the utility company, announced they would sell PGE to an investment group headed by none other than Neil Goldschmidt--former Portland mayor, Oregon governor and, most recently, the loudest opponent to a public buyout of PGE.

Over the past several months, PGE has rebuffed a purchase bid from city hall and shouted down an attempt by a citizen's group to buy the utility company. Earlier this month, with a $2 million campaign, the utility company steamrolled over a grassroots campaign to form a People's Utility District (PUD). At the forefront was Goldschmidt, who wrote several editorials against public ownership. But at no time did Goldschmidt disclose that he and fellow businessmen had something up their sleeves--namely, to buy the company themselves.

On Tuesday morning, Enron posted a press release on their website announcing their intention to sell PGE to Oregon Electric Utility Company LLC for $2.35 billion--roughly the same amount of money offered by the City of Portland a year or so ago. The deal must still be approved by a bankruptcy court in New York and the Oregon Public Utility Commission; a process that may take as long as a year.

"It is very suspicious that Goldschmidt was paid by PGE [to run a campaign against the PUD]," said Nancy Newell, who works with the Oregon Public Power Coalition, the group that pushed for a PUD. Although details are not known, it's suspected that during the same time Goldschmidt was writing editorials in the Oregonian, he also was courting Enron in order to purchase PGE.

Proponents for the PUD remain steadfast that public ownership is the best option for PGE. "It's the same old formula," said Newell, explaining that high salaries and bonuses for management are the same ingredients that have kept Portland electricity rates high.

Ironically, the announcement came the same day the Oregonian wrote a news story reporting that city-ownership of PGE could drop costs by 10 percent.

Just before noon on Wednesday, Erik Sten and mayor Vera Katz hosted a hastily arranged press conference. Both appeared calm about the news, saying the process still has a long way to go before being complete.

"I don't think that we're done yet," Sten reported, pointing out that there have already been two signed deals to purchase PGE which have fallen through.

Mayor Katz said their model of public ownership--that the city has spent a reported $800,000 on--remains viable. She then concluded the press conference with a good news/bad news report, saying the proposed purchase by Goldschmidt was "more positive than the worst-case scenario."

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