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

Earlier this year the Energy and Policy Institute released an analysis of major campaign contributions for Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) candidates. The analysis found that Georgia PSC incumbents Chuck Eaton and Tricia Pridemore each received approximately two-thirds of their campaign contributions from people or companies associated with regulated entities such as Georgia Power. Challenging candidates received far fewer, if any, campaign contributions from such entities.

District 5 Incumbent Commissioner Tricia Pridemore
Photo Source: Georgia Public Service Commission

Questionable campaign contributions for Eaton and Pridemore slowed after the Energy and Policy Institute report but have still continued, according to the latest campaign finance records for the period ending June 30th, 2018. Challenger John Hitchins hammered Tricia Pridemore in the Republican primary over her cozy ties to Georgia Power and regulated entities. She hung on to win with 53% of the vote on May 22.

District 3 Challenger Lindy Miller
Photo Source: Campaign website

In the Democratic primaries, Lindy Miller defeated John Noel in the race to oppose Eaton, and Dawn Randolph defeated challenger Doug Stoner in the race to oppose Pridemore. Eaton ran unopposed in his primary, and Libertarians Ryan Graham and John Turpish did as well.

The remaining candidates advancing to the general election received campaign contributions totalling $311,673 in the most recent reporting period. The total cost of the 2018 Georgia Public Service Commission election cycle, as of June 30th, now stands at $1.249 million.

Eaton (R) Graham (L) Miller (D) Pridemore (R) Randolph (D) Turpish (L) Total
Amount Received
4/1/18 to
6/30/18
$15,050.00 $200.00 $249,403.00 $41,325.00 $4,400.00 $1,295.00 $311,673.00

District 5 Challenger Dawn Randolph
Photo Source: Twitter

From April 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018, approximately 23% of incumbent Chuck Eaton’s contributions and 40% of incumbent Tricia Pridemore’s contributions of $1,000 or more were associated with a regulated entity. Only 3.4% of Lindy Miller’s contributions during the same period were associated with a regulated entity, and Ryan Graham, Dawn Randolph, and John Turpish did not receive any contributions associated with a regulated entity.

Associated with a Regulated Entity? Associated with Southern Company? Eaton Graham Miller Pridemore Randolph Turpish Grand Total
No No $10,000 $160,900 $9,500 $1,000 $181,400
No Total $10,000 $160,900 $9,500 $1,000 $181,400
Unclassified – Small Donors Unclassified – Small Donors $1,550 $200 $80,003 $15,225 $3,400 $1,295 $103,173
Unclassified – Small Donors Total $1,550 $200 $80,003 $15,225 $3,400 $1,295 $103,173
Yes No $1,000 $1,000
Yes Unknown $2,500 $2,500
Yes Yes $3,500 $5,000 $16,600 $23,600
Yes Total $3,500 $8,500 $16,600 $27,100
Grand Total $15,050 $200 $249,403 $41,325 $4,400 $1,295 $311,673

Influence of Large Donors?

District 3 Challenger Ryan Graham
Photo Source: Twitter

Eaton, who has served on the Commission since 2006, relies on large donors to a greater extent than do any other candidates. Eaton received $15,050 in the most recent reporting period, 90% of which came from contributors who donated $1,000 or more. Miller, Randolph, Graham, Turpish, and Pridemore both received substantially more funding, in percentage terms, from small dollar donations.

District 5 Challenger John Turpish
Photo Source: Campaign Website

Southern Company-related lawyers from Troutman Sanders continue to support incumbents. Troutman attorney Charles Palmer donated $1,000 to Commissioner Chuck Eaton. Palmer’s bio on the Troutman Sanders website states he engages in “general representation of electric utility companies.” As a commissioner, Eaton has been a reliable vote to allow Georgia Power to continue charging customers for its over-budget expansion at Plant Vogtle. Pridemore was appointed by Gov. Deal in February of this year.

Methodology

The Energy and Policy Institute analyzed contributions to each Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian candidate for the Georgia Public Service Commission to check for ties to regulated entities.

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.

To view the original source data and EPI’s classification of each contribution, please visit: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1mhbY2F9xjEn_n3qbBwMNv9QCG8M-fM9WOg6I0Nzphx4

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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