The Empowerment Alliance

The Empowerment Alliance is a 501(c)(4) dark-money group aligned with the gas industry. The group was launched in September 2019 to promote the gas industry. TEA’s then-executive director Matthew Hammond previously worked as president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and a lobbyist for Chesapeake Energy.

In 2021, The Empowerment Alliance (TEA) established the Affordable Energy Fund PAC that then spent over $1 million dollars on election mailers and digital ads supporting Republican candidates in Ohio ahead of the 2022 general election.

The Empowerment Alliance’s Year in Review 2021 report said the Affordable Energy Fund PAC “would run parallel to the education and advocacy efforts of TEA.” The report identified key 2022 and 2024 election swing states as new TEA targets, including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. 

TEA supports increasing exports of methane gas, also known as natural gas, the driving factor in the rising costs of gas used for home heating and generating electricity in the U.S. TEA, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads since its launch in 2019, regularly attacks renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

TEA’s first annual report to the IRS, which covered the year 2019, identified longtime Ohio political fundraiser Brooke Bodney as the group’s president, and attorney Eric Lycan as its treasurer. TEA did not identify any other officers identified in its annual report.

Lycan is a Republican operative and lawyer based in Kentucky who has been involved in a long list of Super PACs and dark money 501(c)(4) organizations. In 2019, Lycan was also the treasurer of a separate 501(c)(4) called Generation Now Inc., which last year pleaded guilty to racketeering. Generation Now secretly received approximately $60 million in bribes paid by FirstEnergy to influence the now-indicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and secure lucrative ratepayer-funded bailouts for FirstEnergy through the enactment of House Bill 6. Generation Now’s president Jeff Longstreth pleaded guilty to racketeering in 2020. 

Generation Now’s only publicly available annual report to the IRS, which covered the year 2017, listed Bodney as a fundraiser for the organization. Generation Now’s federal tax-exempt status was automatically revoked earlier this year for not filing a Form 990 for three consecutive years. 

Lycan and Bodney have not been named or charged in the federal criminal investigation into House Bill 6.

American Gas Association documents identified Entergy as a supporter of The Empowerment Alliance

Documents from a 2020 meeting of the American Gas Association’s Executive Committee identified Entergy as an AGA member involved in The Empowerment Alliance. Entergy is an electric and gas utility that operates in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. A map included in the documents identified Texas, where Entergy operates, as one of TEA’s target states.

Entergy was also a client of the lobbying firm HDMK until the end of 2018, according to federal lobbying reports. Terry Holt, a partner at HDMK, was the spokesperson for TEA when the group launched in 2019. The Empowerment Alliance did not appear in Entergy’s corporate political contributions reports for 2019-2021, which are publicly posted online and include contributions to 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups. 

The Empowerment Alliance attacks wind and solar projects

TEA’s “How to Run On Energy” election guide includes a “Guide to Understanding the Impacts of Wind and Solar Projects” that is clearly aimed at stoking opposition to renewable energy projects. The election guide also includes numerous bullet points with anti-renewables messages, some citing special interest groups like the Heartland Institute that have received funding from the fossil fuel industry and long opposed wind power in Ohio.

The Empowerment Alliance’s Ad Spending

Utilities continue to stall and limit climate action by funding front groups to spread climate misinformation and false solutions to solve the crisis through advertising on social media networks.

Using data from the Meta Ad Library API and existing code from Brown University, EPI created a tool to expose the amount utility front groups are spending on advertisements about social issues, elections, or politics across Meta technologies, along with the specific regions the advertisements target.

Posted by Energy and Policy Institute