Harvey Rosenfield does not mince words when it comes to attacking the power companies that have profited handsomely under California's energy deregulation law.
In various interviews, the consumer activist has derided the firms as "pirates and bullies" and even "crooks" using "blackouts to blackmail the state."
Despite such rhetoric, a foundation that Rosenfield runs has invested in the nation's largest energy merchant, Houston-based Enron Corp. Documents from 1999, the most recent year available, show that the nonprofit Consumer Education Foundation owns 150 shares of Enron as part of a $4.6-million stock portfolio.
Rosenfield, who earns $100,000 a year as president of the foundation, said he was unaware of the stock because he is "out of the loop" when it comes to the organization's financial strategy.
"I just hand that over to the investment companies and frankly don't pay attention," he said. "Maybe I should."
Critics said it is inappropriate for someone crusading against deregulation to run a foundation holding shares in a company that promotes and profits from it.
"It's ironic but hardly surprising that Harvey is making money off deregulation," said Michael Johnson, a consultant who has opposed Rosenfield in past initiative battles. "But it really makes you wonder if he believes what he's saying or if he's just a demagogue."
Rosenfield said he doesn't see a problem with the connection: "It would be one thing if we were promoting arguments that could somehow benefit the portfolio of the company," he said. "But the stuff we're talking about--like seizing the company's assets--wouldn't help Enron very much."
During the last quarter of 2000, Enron's profits were up 34%. Rosenfield said he would "give some thought" to whether he needs an investment policy to exclude companies on which he comments.
The Consumer Education Foundation was established in 1998 with $5 million from an insurance lawsuit settlement. Rosenfield's work on energy is done on behalf of the separate Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.