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BY Brandon Rittiman | Originally Posted on ABC10

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A plate of dinner at Napa County’s award-winning French Laundry restaurant starts at $350, but dining there during the pandemic cost Gov. Gavin Newsom quite a bit more than that.

It was an unforced political error that immediately put Newsom on defense from the appearance of hypocrisy for going against his own COVID safety advice to Californians.

Newsom apologized profusely for the dinner. He was only human, he said. And it was a birthday party for “a friend that I’ve known for almost 20 years.”

The friend was lobbyist Jason Kinney, who shared more than a meal with the governor.

The two men shared an interest in PG&E.

Newsom had inserted himself as “broker” of PG&E’s plan to exit bankruptcy. Bankruptcy documents show the company offered to support the plan only if its terms were “acceptable to the Governor’s Office.”

Kinney ran a lobbying shop, Axiom Advisors, which landed a major client in PG&E’s bankruptcy: a committee of companies to whom PG&E owed money.

They included obscure outfits like The Davey Tree Expert Company, but also major interests like Deutsche Bank, the IBEW 1245 union, and NextEra Energy Inc.

Axiom advisors said it “met periodically with the Governor’s office” in a $400,000 fee statement filed in bankruptcy court. Kinney was listed as performing 31.5 hours of billable work.

The plan delivered for Kinney’s clients. They got cash “paid in full” plus interest.

The deal was done four months before he and the governor sat down for their now-infamous dinner.

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