The nation’s investor-owned utilities have been quick to help Republican governors and attorneys general maintain and expand their control of state capitals, according to a review of mid-year campaign finance filings.
Utilities, along with several of their executives, have contributed $1,154,355 to the Republican Governors Association in the first six months of 2017, while donating $286,427 to the Democratic Governors Association.
Utilities have so far donated $271,575 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, and $65,450.00 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association over the same period.
The RGA, DGA, RAGA and DAGA recently reported their mid-year Form 8872 to the IRS, which detail expenditures and highlight funders. The spreadsheet below highlights the investor-owned utilities and their trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, that have donated.
There are 36 gubernatorial elections in 2018 (two races are in 2017: New Jersey and Virginia), and the Republican Party is hoping to defend 26 states while working to expand its highest number of Republican-controlled governorships in U.S. history. As for attorneys general races, RAGA hopes to defend 18 seats in 2018 and pick up additional seats, including the race in Virginia.
As the races progress, the candidates will receive help from their respective national organizations.
UtilitySecrets.org obtained audio from a 2016 RAGA fundraiser that featured Republican Attorney Generals Patrick Morrisey (West Virginia), Sean Reyes (Utah), and Tim Fox (Montana). The brief speeches made by the public officials highlight why utility companies are donating to these organizations, and how the candidates coordinate with each other and their national organizations.
Patrick Morrisey (emphasis added):
[0:00-0:44] As many of you know over the last year, year-and-a-half, we’ve really been focusing a great deal on a lot of the EPA litigations, but we’ve also made some real fundamental changes to the State of West Virginia. I think, if I look around the room and I see the various industries represented here today, those in the financial services industries, healthcare, energy, across the board I think people used to look at West Virginia and maybe want to run in the opposite direction in terms of the business climate there, but through our office and some of the changes in the legislature, we’ve really been able to I think start turn things around …
[1:20-1:53] Now I will tell you, I really am grateful for your help and I’m appreciative of it going, because while things have gone well, as you know, we helped lead the charge against the president’s Power Plan, obtaining the stay. In West Virginia, that’s as good as you can do. When you’re fighting for coal miners and their families, we’ve had so many layoffs in the last few years, if you can get a stay of the President’s top initiative that matters. If you can get a stay of the Waters of the United States rule, that matters. …
[4:55-6:09] So it’s been a good run, but the only way I get to stay is through your incredible generosity, so thank you all for coming today. Thanks for your support and if you haven’t written a check, I’d be grateful if you could, if you have already maxed out, if you would consider talking to some of the executives and people that you know, I would be appreciative of it. While I think people say, ‘Morrisey is fine, he is in West Virginia, Obama’s [inaudible] approval rating is 25 percent,’ I do have a very rich opponent and while we match up very well on the issues, you know it helps to have a little bit more in the way of resources in order to counteract some of those TV buys. So your help really makes a difference.
So I’m grateful to be here today with all my colleagues who are up, General Fox, General Reyes, and obviously you know about the great leadership of Chairman Schuette, he’s really done a wonderful job since taking over RAGA recently. It’s good to see a lot of friends today, and I want to thank everyone again for coming to the Greenbrier. You guys have fun? Well thank you very much. Appreciate it, and look forward to seeing everyone over the next couple days.
Attorneys general have played a vital role in helping utility companies advocate for their positions, particularly over EPA regulations, as detailed by Attorney General Morrisey’s speech at the fundraiser.
RAGA’s website also highlights some key victories for Republican AGs in 2016, many of which affect utility companies:
- “Republican attorneys general led the fight against President Obama’s overreaching, illegal EPA regulations, resulting in the Supreme Court to halt implementation of Obama’s signature climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan.
- Republican AGs have also fought against several examples of executive overreach, including: Obamacare, the EPA’s “WOTUS” rule; power plant mercury rules (Michigan v. EPA); Bureau of Land Management’s fracking rules; Expansion of background checks for firearms purchases; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prairie chicken designation; Denial of Keystone XL Pipeline permit; and the EPA “Sue and Settle” Strategy.”
Governors play a crucial role for utility companies in their own states. Republican governors in Maine and Indiana have made news over the past few months for their roles in singing anti-rooftop solar legislation (Holcomb in Indiana) and vetoing pro-solar legislation (LePage in Maine). Both laws were priorities for the state’s large utilities.
In most states, governors appoint people to the agencies that regulate utilities’ business operations.
Furthermore, a recent report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund finds that the 2018 gubernatorial election is going to critically important for the country if it wants to make meaningful action at cutting carbon dioxide emissions
“For the United States as a whole, however, meaningful action on climate change will require expanding the map of states actively involved in curbing carbon pollution and preparing for its effects—as well as ratcheting up current actions and commitments… A change in leadership in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan to one with a strong focus on reducing carbon pollution would send a clear message to the White House and the rest of the world that American voters support climate action.”
Action to curb pollution in the states highlighted in the report would affect utility operations.
American Electric Power (AEP), Duke Energy, and NextEra Resources have combined contributions totaling $574,413 to RGA, while not contributing anything to DGA. Eleven additional utilities donated to RGA and not DGA, as did Thomas Farrell, CEO of Dominion, and Nick Akins, CEO of AEP.
Other utilities, like Southern Company, and the utility trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, donated both to DGA and RGA, but at significantly different levels. Only Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) donated more to DGA than to RGA, and only Xcel Energy donated equal amounts to RGA and DGA, while Puget Sound Energy, a utility in Washington, donated only to DGA.
As for RAGA, (which is again in the news after the Center for Media and Democracy filed a lawsuit against Utah Office of Attorney General Sean Reyes for his refusal to turn over emails and other documents detailing his dealings with RAGA and its partner organization, the Rule of Law Defense Fund) the largest utility funders in the first six months of 2017 are Southern Company, EEI, and NextEra – each at $50,000. EEI and NextEra contributed half that amount to DAGA.
An additional eight utilities donated to RAGA, of which Dominion was the only one to also donate to DAGA.
Attorney General Sean Reyes (Utah) and Tim Fox (Montana) were also recorded thanking the corporate funders of RAGA so they can get re-elected and continue their work.
Attorney General Tim Fox:
You might ask yourself why would you want to get involved in an attorney general race in Montana. While I know you all love Montana, and you love its people, you can not only make a difference in those types of cases that I just mentioned, but when we collaborate and get together [inaudible] with Patrick Morrisey and push back against the federal government, or get together and write a letter to the federal government or whatever it is, we make a difference when there is 27, 28, 29, 30 or more attorneys general; people listen, people watch, and it makes a difference. So thank you for supporting each of our attorneys general in RAGA, and thank you for supporting me. You won’t go broke, and it’ll be one of the best investments you’ll ever make. So thanks very much. God bless you.
Attorney General Sean Reyes:
[4:40-5:09] If you have checks for us, I’m taking Missy to the Supreme Court but Alan will be here and Erica can help us out as well. Anyway, again thank you all so much for your support. Really really appreciate it. Just remember that when you are writing those big corporate checks, you’re standing there with me in the ring of a bunch of gangbangers from fifth grade, that’s how I feel with you. I love you all. God bless you. See you later.