With just a few weeks before the Illinois primary, ComEd, Exelon, and other utilities have increased their donations to several attorney general candidates, particularly Democratic candidates Kwame Raoul and Jesse Ruiz.
In the month of February alone, Raoul and Ruiz raised thousands of dollars from company PACs and executives at these regulated utilities. Raoul received an additional total of $29,900 from ComEd, Exelon, and Nicor, and $6,000 from Exelon executives, including CEO Chris Crane. As of March 16, Raoul had received an additional $11,000 from Ameren, and $2,500 from Illinois American Water – a regulated water utility that serves over 1 million customers in the state.
Ruiz, meanwhile, received a total of $18,900 from Exelon and ComEd, and an additional $7,000 from executives at the companies, including Crane. Former Exelon CEO John Rowe also donated $25,000 to Ruiz on February 21.
$9,000 of the $12,000 contributed by the Exelon executives occurred over a two-day period: February 8-9.
Peoples Gas, which had cut separate checks of $11,000 for Raoul, Ruiz, and Democrat Nancy Rotering on December 29, 2017, also contributed the same amount to Republican candidate Erika Harold on February 22.
The Energy and Policy Institute noted earlier this year how Illinois’ major electrical and gas utility companies, which have had numerous battles with Attorney General Lisa Madigan over the years, pulled out their checkbooks in an effort to curry favor with Madigan’s successor, hedging their bets by donating to multiple candidates from both parties. ComEd, Exelon, and Peoples Gas had contributed a total of $122,100 in the month of December.
As of March 16, $228,700 has been donated by utilities and current executives/attorneys of these companies.
Reporters and other AG candidates have pointed out the utility contributions on several occasions during debates.
On January 11 at a Chicago Sun-Times editorial board forum, Raoul called out Ruiz’s acceptance of Exelon contributions and his prior role on ComEd’s board. Sharon Fairley, the former chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in Chicago, responded by pointing out Raoul’s Exelon money.
Weeks later, Crain’s Chicago Business reporter Steve Daniels highlighted the contributions from Exelon and ComEd to Raoul, Ruiz, Rotering, and Harold. Daniels wrote, “Why did the utilities choose these candidates, and what do the companies hope to get for their money?” Raoul declined to comment while Ruiz and Rotering pledged their independence from the utilities.
Ruiz, who served on ComEd’s board for many years, noted how Attorney General Lisa Madigan had received contributions from the utilities but since “has earned a reputation as a fierce advocate and champion for Illinois ratepayers, and she has stood up fearlessly against every anti-consumer initiative. I will fight just as hard for Illinois consumers.”
Rotering told Daniels, “No one was as surprised as I was to get a call from (ComEd) to say they were contributing to my campaign.”
On February 4, two other Democratic AG candidates highlighted the Exelon, ComEd, and Peoples Gas money during a forum hosted by the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association.
State Representative Scott Drury said, “If we want to end this and clean up the state of Illinois, we need to elect officials who are serious about their duties and are not going to sit here and make up excuses for taking huge contributions from people.”
Sharon Fairley said, “Can I just reiterate: Give me a break. If this is what you do when everybody’s looking, then what are you going to do when nobody’s looking?”
Despite all the attacks for receiving utility contributions, Raoul and Ruiz have continued to accept the donations.
This blog was updated on March 16, 2018.