Sempra’s organic influence

Lorena Gonzalez, depicted as happy in a field of greens (is any politician not?)
  • Lorena Gonzalez, depicted as happy in a field of greens (is any politician not?)

It was off to the virtual organic farm earlier this year for a crew of California Democratic legislators being wooed by San Diego–based Sempra Energy, not always known for its love of nature.

According to the giant utility’s report of first-quarter lobbying activity, Assembly Democrats Lorena Gonzalez, Cristina Garcia, and Luis Alejo each got a free meal valued at $115 at Grange Restaurant & Bar, noted for costly organic food delivered direct from the fields. Democratic senator Ricardo Lara got a $6.75 beverage. The restaurant in downtown Sacramento’s Citizen Hotel across from the capitol counts on nearby growers including Full Belly Farms, Riverdog Farm, and Capay Organics for fresh fare.

Last November, the Sacramento Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson hailed Grange executive chef Oliver Ridgeway. “I’m now convinced that Ridgeway is one of Sacramento’s most skilled chefs and that the current three-star rating is no longer an accurate reflection of what Grange is all about,” the Bee critic raved. “A high-profile hotel restaurant has to have a steak on the menu, but Ridgeway doesn’t make his predictable. It’s an oversized grass-fed New York cut from Storm Hill ($42), a multifarm cooperative similar to Niman Ranch.”

Keeping with the “farm to fork” theme that is currently the rage among California legislators dining out on lobbyists’ dimes, Sempra took Democratic assemblyman Henry Perea to a $20 feeding at Hock Farm on L Street, where “the menu constantly changes with the season and availability of local produce, paying homage to the region’s rich history of agriculture,” according to its website.

Meanwhile, for its legislative inducements, cell-phone giant AT&T stuck mainly with free tickets to golf in Monterey and sports and entertainment events at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena. Andrea Gutierrez, legislative director for Republican assemblywoman Marie Waldron, got two passes to a Kings game worth $192 on March 1; Democrat Alejo went to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament on February 15 with an admission and parking pass worth $150. His field representative Javier Gomez also attended. On March 14, Jayme Burkhalter, a legislative aide to Assembly Republican Brian Jones, got three tickets to Marvel Universe Live, a “mind-blowing live-action arena experience, featuring the greatest Marvel super heroes and villains,” which AT&T valued at $411.78.

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