CenterPoint Energy and Atmos Energy are among the corporations listed as paid sponsors of a recent Texas GOP political convention where members formally approved a platform that calls for the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and included a series of anti-LGBTQ+ positions. Convention attendees also rejected the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Texas Republicans have led a right-wing surge in recent years, and the approval of their platform this month was widely seen as cementing their place among the country’s most extreme and anti-democratic Republican party units. CenterPoint and Atmos, fossil gas utilities headquartered in the state, have long relied on Republican leaders to support their fossil gas businesses.
Texas Republicans at the convention adopted a raft of social policy positions, including provisions that state being gay is “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” explicitly oppose gay marriage and “all efforts to validate transgender identity,” and call for the repeal of federal law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.
Texas Republicans’ recently adopted platform is not binding but it now serves as the guidepost for Republican candidates and officials in the state. CenterPoint and Atmos sponsorship of the convention lays bare the conflict between utilities’ well-worn political playbook and the diversity and inclusion commitments they now regularly advertise. The utilities also sell gas to customers in other states, including Minnesota, Colorado, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi and others.
Texas GOP ties contradict utilities’ public pledges
CenterPoint says on its website that it is “committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion … regardless of race, gender, color, sexual orientation, age, religion, or physical or mental disability, so they have an equal opportunity to thrive.” Atmos’ website says the utility is “strengthened by our diversity including race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, age, national origin, genetic information, disability, protected veteran status or other legally protected characteristics.”
In addition, CenterPoint highlights its commitment to racial equity principles, including to “identify specific and concrete ways to foster the advancement and success of underrepresented groups, institutions, and individuals” and to “promote the application of these principles within our spheres of influence.” The utility also last year launched an internal employee group for LGBTQ+ workers but declined to say whether that group was consulted about the GOP convention sponsorship in response to a question from the Energy and Policy Institute.
CenterPoint is scheduled to have a booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival on Saturday.
Last year, the utility incorporated basic workforce diversity goals into its executive compensation plan for the last fiscal year, structured not as a bonus but as a “downward modifier” that can reduce pay if executives miss benchmarks – an approach based on “the Company’s belief that advancement of the Company’s diversity, equity and inclusion objectives is an expectation, not a goal to be rewarded,” CenterPoint said in its 2022 proxy statement.
Atmos has been less specific, broadly stating that it strives for a workforce that reflects the communities it serves with a culture where all employees are accepted and respected. In its 2022 proxy statement, the utility said it values diversity among its board members but did not explicitly tie executives’ compensation to diversity and inclusion outcomes.
CenterPoint defends right-wing support
While both utilities have recently doubled down on their public-facing branding for diversity and inclusion initiatives, their support for Texas Republicans continues a tradition of backing officials and organizations with a reputation for undercutting those goals.
Earlier this year, CenterPoint was caught going back on its promise to stop giving money to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), a right-wing group tied to a robocall campaign that encouraged people to go to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 – a gathering that erupted into an insurrection. CenterPoint said soon after the insurrection that it would “not make any contributions to the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2021,” but filings show the utility gave $20,000 to RAGA in November and another $20,000 in December of that year. Atmos also gave to RAGA last year.
In an emailed statement on Thursday in response to questions from the Energy and Policy Institute, CenterPoint parroted language from its diversity and inclusion webpage.
“First and foremost, at CenterPoint Energy, we are committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion to support our colleagues, customers, contractors, suppliers and community members, regardless of race, gender, color, sexual orientation, age, religion, or physical or mental disability, so they have an equal opportunity to thrive.”
The utility then defended its decision to sponsor this month’s GOP convention, saying that it “is one of many sponsors of both the Democratic and Republican state party conventions in Texas.”
“We work with both parties in the states in which we operate because we seek bipartisan solutions to energy issues. And just like most people, we may not agree with all issues supported by the individual political parties, but on energy issues, we look to build consensus not division.”
CenterPoint declined to say how much it spent on the recent convention.
Atmos did not respond to a request for comment.