PG&E's far-reaching influence even links it to San Bruno explosion investigators
Stern, of the Center for Governmental Studies, said PG&E contributions to organizations affiliated with members of the Independent Review Panel did not necessarily raise a red flag. "Sure it has some impact, but not in terms of disqualification. That's off the table as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I have 15 members on my board of directors. I would never say that because we got a grant worth $200,000 from PG&E that that would affect my board member ruling on a PG&E matter," he added, speaking hypothetically.
As members of an advisory group rather than public officials, he noted, the panelists would not be in violation of any conflict-of-interest rules. "Certainly there's always a question of bias and appearance of impropriety. And the question is, how extensive is it? It's a whole bunch of different factors. It's all gradations. There is no rule on this, obviously, but it's an appearance question, and whether or not the appearance looks like they're going to be biased." At the end of the day, he added, the question would be settled by "looking at the final results and seeing what the final results say."