Illinois’ major electrical and gas utility companies have donated thousands of dollars to candidates running to replace Lisa Madigan as the state’s attorney general.
The utility companies – Exelon and its subsidiary Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), and Peoples Gas – have had numerous battles with Attorney General Lisa Madigan over the years. When Madigan announced that she would not run for re-election in September after serving as the state’s highest legal officer since 2003, the companies pulled out their checkbooks in an effort to curry favor with her successor, hedging their bets by donating to multiple candidates from both parties.
ComEd donated $11,100 to Democratic AG candidate Jesse Ruiz’s political committee on December 12. Several days later, on December 18, Exelon also donated $11,000 to Ruiz. Ruiz received a $1,000 check from a ComEd attorney Yesenia Villasenor, and a $5,600 check from Exelon’s former chairman and CEO, John Rowe. Ruiz was on ComEd’s board of directors from 2006 through October 2017.
That same week, on December 21, ComEd and Exelon each donated $11,100 to Republican AG candidate Erika Harold. Besides the $94,000 Harold has received from the Illinois Republican party, the two separate donations by ComEd and Exelon have made the two companies the top donors to Harold’s campaign.
Later in the month, both ComEd and Exelon donated $11,100 to Democrat Nancy Rotering on the same day – December 27.
Exelon also donated $11,100 to another Democratic AG candidate, State Senator Kwame Raoul, on December 15. Two weeks later, on December 30, ComEd contributed their $11,100 to Raoul.
Raoul also received a $2,500 donation from a former ComEd executive, Charles Walls, on December 22, $1,250 from ComEd itself earlier this year – but the earlier ComEd contributions came before he declared his candidacy to replace Madigan. He also recently received a $2,500 check from another utility company, Ameren, on January 12.
Raoul, who has served as a legislator since 2004, has throughout the course of his career received $40,700 from ComEd, $15,900 from Exelon, $30,000 from Ameren, and $9,000 from Peoples Gas.
Peoples Gas, meanwhile, provided holiday gifts of $11,100 on December 29 each to Jesse Ruiz, Kwame Raoul, and Nancy Rotering.
All told, a total $122,100 has been donated by ComEd, Exelon, and Peoples Gas in the month of December to four out of the ten AG candidates – while those following the state race were on or nearing their holiday breaks.
The campaign contribution data comes from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Last week, when the eight Democratic candidates appeared before the Sun-Times Editorial Board, the campaign contributions were used as political attacks – along with the thousands of dollars Raoul has received from tobacco companies.
Madigan and her staff have frequently appeared before legislators and the Illinois Commerce Commission during rate cases and energy legislation debates. Her office website’s states that since she took office, “Madigan has secured over $2 billion in savings and refunds for Illinoisans in opposing the utilities’ rate increase requests before the Illinois Commerce Commission.”
If Madigan’s savings boasts are accurate, then it’s not easy to see why the utilities would want influence over her successor: those savings are coming from shareholders’ pockets.
Most recently, Madigan criticized ComEd’s 2016 efforts to lobby the Illinois legislature to pass a residential demand charge. “By subjecting consumers to demand rates, ComEd’s proposal could unfairly allow consumers to be charged more for using less,” Madigan said. “ComEd’s untested proposal would take away control and predictability in consumers’ bills and should be rejected.”
Madigan also was a vocal opponent of Exelon’s efforts to get a bailout from the legislature for its nuclear power plants until Exelon, ComEd and environmental and consumer advocates negotiated an amended bill, the Future Energy Jobs Act.
As for Peoples Gas, Madigan’s office filed a lawsuit in October against the gas utility company over an underground natural gas leak that has contaminated water wells in central Illinois. “Peoples Gas failed to meet its obligation to act in the best interest of residents by immediately evaluating the extent of the contamination and taking steps to stop its spread,” Madigan said. The lawsuit comes more than a year after Peoples Gas agreed to pay $18.5 million for withholding information from regulators over its gas main replacement program after Madigan launched an investigation in 2015.
Update: $11,100 is the maximum amount of money a corporation can give to a candidate, but the contribution limits for all AG candidates was waived.