UPDATE (11/5/18) – Campaigns were required to file their final campaign finance reports before the election by November 1st, for contributions received through October 25th. The filings provided yet another glimpse into the prevalence of Southern Company affiliated campaign contributions.

Incumbent Republican Commissioner Chuck Eaton raised $24,700. $9,600 of that came from Troutman Sanders and its employees. Troutman is the lead legal firm that represents Georgia Power before the Commission Troutman Sanders also pitched in $4,100 to fellow Republican incumbent Tricia Pridemore.

Lindy Miller, the Democratic challenger to Eaton, continues to be a fundraising powerhouse raising $154,758 in less than 30 days from 407 contributors. Tricia Pridemore retook the fundraising crown from her Democratic challenger Dawn Randolph, who had out-raised her in the last reporting period. Pridemore raised $42,825 to Randolph’s $10,870.

The incumbents in the race for the Georgia Public Service Commission continued to attract campaign contributions from people and companies associated with entities regulated by the PSC, according to third quarter campaign finance filings.

District 3 Incumbent Commissioner Chuck Eaton
Photo Source: Georgia Public Service Commission

After ticking down in the second quarter, District 3 incumbent Chuck Eaton’s reliance on campaign contributions from people and companies associated with regulated entities doubled compared to his second quarter contributions, to almost 58% of his contributions. That’s similar to the level of support Eaton received from people and entities associated with regulated companies in previous quarters.

District 5 incumbent Tricia Pridemore’s contributions from people and entities associated with regulated entities fell significantly in the third quarter, from 40% to 16.4%. Libertarian and Democratic challengers in the races continue to receive substantially fewer campaign contributions from such entities.

District 3 Challenger Lindy Miller
Photo source: Campaign website

The Energy and Policy Institute previously released two analyses of campaign contributions of $1,000 or more for Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) candidates in the 2018 election cycle. To date, Republican incumbents Chuck Eaton and Tricia Pridemore both outpaced their opponents in receiving contributions from people or companies associated with regulated entities.

District 5 Challenger Dawn Randolph
Photo Source: Twitter

Democratic challenger Lindy Miller continues to be a fundraising powerhouse, pulling in $300,018 total in the third quarter, more than three times that of her opponent Eaton, who raised $103,051 total. District 5 Democratic challenger Dawn Randolph outraised Pridemore $47,240 total to $42,600 total.

% of Campaign Contributions Associated with Regulated Entities – District 3

June 30th, 2018 Filing Sept. 30th, 2018 Filing
Chuck Eaton (R) – Incumbent 23% 57.5%
Lindy Miller (D) 3.4% 7.4%
Ryan Graham (L) 0% 0%

% of Campaign Contributions Associated with Regulated Entities – District 5

June 30th, 2018 Filing Sept. 30th, 2018 Filing
Tricia Pridemore (R) 40% 16.4%
Dawn Randolph (D) 0% 0%
John Turpish (L) 0% 0%

Eaton received $29,000 in campaign contributions from people and entities associated with Southern Company. Pridemore received $5,000 in contributions associated with Southern Company. No Libertarian or Democratic candidate accepted money from people or companies associated with Southern Company, the parent company of Georgia Power.

Small Vs. Large Donors

Eaton’s fundraising effort relies heavily on contributions of $1,000 or more. Small donors, those giving under $1,000 in a reporting period, comprised 9.2% of the Eaton’s $103,051 raised on his September 30th report. Both Democratic candidates and Republican Tricia Pridemore, fared better with small donors.

Campaign Contributions from Small Donors – District 3

% of Campaign Contributions from Small Donors Total # of Campaign Contributions
Chuck Eaton (R) 9.2% 69
Lindy Miller (D) 46% 632
Ryan Graham (L) 100% 5

* Numbers represent September 2018 campaign finance report only

Campaign Contributions from Small Donors – District 5

% of Campaign Contributions from Small Donors Total # of Campaign Contributions
Tricia Pridemore (R) 37% 77
Dawn Randolph (D) 41% 113
John Turpish (L) N/A1 0

* Numbers represent September 2018 campaign finance report only
1. No contributions received during the filing period.

Ethics Complaint

Incumbent Commissioner Tricia Pridemore
Photo Source: Georgia Public Service Commission

The Georgia Ethics Watchdogs filed ethics  complaints against Eaton and Pridemore for their failure to report the campaign contributions associated with regulated entities on October 16th, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The complaint alleges that while it is legally permissible to accept campaign contributions from employees of regulated entities, the candidates must “identify” those contributions in their reports by checking a box on the form.

Pridemore stated that she was the one to report an error in the campaign finance system that did not allow candidates to follow the law, because the form was missing the necessary box to check. The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission confirmed that account when Deputy Executive Secretary Bethany Whetzel said, “We didn’t discover it until the Pridemore campaign notified us.”

Chuck Eaton, however, was incensed over the complaint: “This complaint is baseless. I have properly disclosed each and every campaign contribution my campaign received. For someone who describes himself as an ethics watchdog, I thought Mr. Perry would have actually understood the disclosure requirements. He can’t invent requirements the law doesn’t support. Because I believe the complaint is frivolous, I will seek my attorneys’ fees for responding.”

But Eaton, unlike Pridemore, did not identify any of his contributions from employees of regulated entities, even after the Campaign Finance Commission fixed the issue with the forms. The complaint alleges Pridemore also did not properly classify some her contributions even after the software glitch was repaired.

Tricia Pridemore’s September 2018 campaign finance report. Box checked for contribution associated with regulated entity. Chuck Eaton’s September 2018 campaign finance report. Box not checked for contribution associated with regulated entity.

Neither candidate has amended previous inaccurate campaign finance filings, as of the publication of this article.

Methodology

The Energy and Policy Institute analyzed contributions to each candidate (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian) for the Georgia Public Service Commission to check for ties to regulated entities. We analyzed contributions of $1000 or more due the number of contributions received.

Regulated entities are those which have business before the Commission, such as Georgia Power or AT&T. We counted the following as “associated” with a regulated entity:

  • Law firms and employees of law firms representing regulated entities
  • Lobbyists registered to represent regulated entities
  • Executives, employees, and retirees of regulated entities
  • Companies, and the people who work for them, with known financial ties to regulated entities or their affiliates
  • Corporations with no public profile that are owned by or associated with people from or representing regulated entities
  • Note: Some contributions were untraceable. EPI treated those as contributions as not being associated with a regulated entity.

Header photo source: Wikipedia

Posted by Daniel Tait

Daniel Tait is a Research and Communication Manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Prior to joining EPI, he was CEO of Energy Alabama, a non-profit advocacy organization. Daniel was named the 2015 International Young Energy Professional of the Year by the Association of Energy Engineers and acts as Vice President of the Association of Energy Engineers, Huntsville Chapter. He graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a degree in International Trade and Foreign Language.

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