Key points:

  • Several utilities have announced a pause in PAC giving in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol on January 6.
  • Southern Company and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association are among utilities that have not announced a change, despite their PACs being top contributors to the 147 members of Congress who voted to overturn the results of the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
  • The PAC of Southern Company’s subsidiary Alabama Power contributed $25,000 to the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which appeared on a list of groups who participated in organizing the “March to Save America” event that preceded violent attack.

Several of the nation’s largest utility companies have joined other corporations to announce a pause in their political action committee (PAC) contributions in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6. Some of the utilities and trade groups who have given the most in contributions to the members of Congress who sought to overturn the presidential election results, however, have not announced any changes to their contributions policy.

The storming of the Capitol building occurred as Congress was formally certifying the final electoral college vote, and was incited by lies spread by President Donald Trump and many Republican officials about the integrity of the presidential election. When the Senate and House of Representatives reconvened later that day, 147 Republican members of Congress voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. An EPI analysis published earlier this week found that utilities and their trade associations’ PACs contributed over $6.8 million in the past three election cycles to the 147 politicians. 

Duke Energy and Exelon – two companies that were among the top utility PAC contributors to the 147 politicians – confirmed with EPI that they are evaluating their PAC activity and instituting a pause to some degree.

Other utilities have not announced policy changes to their PAC giving, including three of the sector’s four largest donors to the 147 members of Congress, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Southern Company and its subsidiaries, and NextEra Energy.

Statements made by utility companies:

Utilities that have paused PAC giving

At least 11 utilities and a trade association have told EPI or other media outlets that their PAC contributions are on hold, including: Ameren, American Electric Power, CenterPoint, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Edison Electric Institute, Edison International, Exelon, FirstEnergy, NRG Energy, and Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG). 

Duke Energy said, “We’re taking this very seriously and pausing all federal political contributions for 30 days. During this time, we’re evaluating Duke Energy-supported candidates’ values and actions to ensure they align to our values and goals. The way members of Congress conducted themselves in this critical time will be an important consideration in future support.”

Exelon’s statement read, “Like most Americans, we were extremely disturbed by what we witnessed at the Capitol last week and the events leading up to it, and will take this opportunity to conduct a thorough review of our political contributions and PAC activity. While we conduct our review, we will not be making contributions to lawmakers who voted to contest the outcome of the election.”

NRG Energy told E&E News that it will suspend PAC contributions to the 147 members of Congress who attempted to undermine the election results for one election cycle.

Utilities that have not announced a change in PAC contribution procedures

Other utilities released statements that condemned the violence but did not announce a pause or a clear end of financial support to the 147 politicians.

NRECA’s CEO Jim Matheson released a statement on January 7. He said, “Mob violence is never OK, but is especially repugnant when designed to achieve political ends. America’s electric cooperatives are focused on the prosperity, health, and quality of life in the communities we serve … Together, we will continue working to build bipartisan consensus and promote vibrant communities and a vibrant democracy.”

NRECA’s PAC was the top contributor to the 147 members of Congress among all utilities and their trade associations, with contributions of $1.3 million in the past three election cycles. NRECA’s budget derives from dues paid by its members, which are the nation’s electric cooperatives. Since cooperatives have no investors or shareholders, the money they send to NRECA comes directly from their member-owners. While the PAC is made up of many individual donations from cooperative employees, Matheson himself along with several cooperatives have contributed thousands of dollars to the NRECA PAC, according to a review of its contributors in the FEC database.

NRECA did not respond to EPI’s inquiry to understand if changes have been made to PAC giving in the aftermath of the Capitol attack.

Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, found that NRECA’s PAC was among the top 15 of all corporate PAC giving to the 147 members of Congress who sought to undermine the election results. AT&T, Koch Industries, and Raytheon Company were several of the corporation PACs that contributed slightly more than the NRECA PAC. 

Other utilities that have made statements but not announced a pause include PG&E, Xcel, and Vistra. Dominion, Entergy and NextEra have not responded to a request for comment from EPI, and do not appear to have made any public statements about its PAC giving to members of Congress who sought to undermine the election outcome or more broadly.

NextEra ranked fourth in EPI’s analysis of PAC donations to the members after NRECA, Southern and Duke. EPI also found that NextEra has been the largest utility donor to the Republican Attorneys General Association in recent election cycles.

RAGA had originally appeared on the website of the “March to Save America,” the Trump event that preceded the violent attack on the Capitol, under a “Coalition Partners” section. The website later took out RAGA and added the “Rule of Law Defense Fund” (RLDF) under the “Participating in the March to Save America” section. 

PG&E told E&E News that it will be conducting “listening sessions” with its PAC members to determine what to do next, and Xcel Energy said, “We will assess future contributions to members of Congress and the impact of recent events on a case-by-case basis.” Vistra told E&E that its PAC provided the contributions to the 147 politicians “based on information available at the time” and it continuously considers “new positions or facts before any new donations are made.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute told EPI that it “is currently looking into our PAC contributions in consultation with our member companies,” which includes many utilities, universities, and other corporations. 

The American Public Power Association (APPA) told EPI that its PAC “supports federally elected officials who uphold the priorities of the community owned public power utilities that serve more than 49 million Americans. As a relatively small PAC, POWERPAC takes all disbursements very seriously and holistically evaluates recipients, and will continue to do so going forward.” APPA has about 1,400 public power utility members, and its PAC receives contributions from public power employees, including Nashville Electric Service’s President and CEO Decosta Jenkins, Jacksonville Energy Authority’s interim-CEO Paul McElroy, and Arlen Orchard, former CEO of Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

The American Gas Association has not announced any changes to PAC giving or responded to a request for comment from EPI.

Alabama Power’s Contribution to the Rule of Law Defense Fund

The Alabama Power Company Employees Federal PAC contributed $25,000 to the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) in April, 2020. 

RLDF is the 501(c)(4) wing of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).

EPI had previously reported that the Edison Electric Institute provided $50,000 to RLDF between 2014 and 2016, and that a 501(c)(4) “dark-money” non-profit exclusively funded by American Electric Power provided $150,000 to RLDF in 2018 and 2019, but Alabama Power’s contribution had not yet been reported. EEI told EPI that “EEI made a decision in 2016 to stop funding RLDF.” 

No other utility PACs appear to have contributed directly to RLDF at any time.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall currently leads RLDF and is on the executive committee of RAGA. The Democratic Attorneys General Association and the Southern Poverty Law Center have both issued statements condemning RAGA and RLDF. Margaret Huang, CEO and president of the SPLC Action Fund, also has called for an independent investigation by the Alabama Ethics Commission and Alabama Bar Association into Marshall’s leadership of RLDF, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.

Southern Company told EPI that “We are constantly evaluating our efforts to ensure they are informed by those ideals and adhere to the uncompromising values we follow as a business – honesty, respect, fairness, integrity and the value of diversity. We will discontinue support for any official or organization that does not act in a manner consistent with these values.” 

Southern Company did not respond to a follow-up question from EPI asking for greater specificity of whether it was specifically making any changes or evaluations in response to the events of January 6th or the efforts by members of Congress to undermine the outcome of the presidential election.

Adam Piper, the Executive Director of RAGA and RLDF, resigned on Monday from both groups. 

Posted by Matt Kasper

Matt Kasper is the Research Director at the Energy & Policy Institute. He focuses on defending policies that further the development of clean energy sources. He also focuses on the companies and their front groups that obstruct policy solutions to global warming. Before joining the Energy & Policy Institute, Matt was a research assistant at the Center for American Progress where he worked on various state and local policy issues.

10 Comments

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