|ORGANIZATION ISSUES MONEY/POLITICS NEWS INDEX|
Electric utility contributions
Shari Weir, Consumer Issues Director
Laura Yeomans, Research Director
The Citizens Policy Center thanks the Joyce Foundation, George Gund Foundation, and Piper Fund for their support of this project to document campaign contributions from board members, political action committees and employees of electric utility companies to Ohio statewide and legislative candidates and parties. The findings and opinions expressed in this report are those of the Citizens Policy Center.
The Citizens Policy Center, a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization, is the research and public education affiliate of Ohio Citizen Action. The Center was founded in Cleveland in 1976 to conduct research and public education about issues affecting industrial states, recognizing that the industrial states were going through economic changes that would make obsolete much of the conventional wisdom about state and local public policy.
Laura Yeomans is the research director of the Citizens Policy Center. Patty Wise is the research department database manager who prepared the analysis in this report. For questions about the report, call Shari Weir at 1 (216) 861-5200. For questions about the data analysis, call Yeomans at 1 (330) 343-9588.
To obtain a printed copy of the full report, send a self-addressed $.55-cent stamped envelope to the Citizens Policy Center, P.O. Box 8, Dover, Ohio 44622.
© Citizens Policy Center
In 1997, the Ohio General Assembly began serious consideration of electric deregulation. In January 1998 Representative Priscilla Mead and Senator Bruce Johnson introduced comprehensive deregulation legislation. That legislation drew immediate sharp criticism from the state’s four investor-owned utilities. Utilities complained that they would be shortchanged on "stranded cost" recovery and that the market structure established in the bill to jump-start competition would unfairly take away their current captive customers.
In 1997 and 1998, the investor-owned utilities, through their board members, employees, lobbyists, and political action committees, contributed $604,235 to candidates for legislative and statewide office and to statewide political party committees. The utilities had two goals. First, they wanted to kill the Johnson-Mead legislation and influence lawmakers to write a bill more generous to shareholders – a bill that would shift all of the "stranded costs" to residential and business customers. Second, they wanted a bill that would undermine competition, ensuring that most customers would remain with their incumbent utility.
This study analyzes the contributions from electric utilities in Ohio to statewide and legislative candidates and state political party committees. It is based on the 1997-1998 candidate campaign finance reports computerized by the Ohio Secretary of State. Total contributions for each utility company are the sum of contributions from the companies' political action committees, lobbyists, employees and board members. In the summary charts parent company totals include subsidiary totals. For instance, FirstEnergy's total includes Ohio Edison and Centerior totals. Only contributions from lobbyists who work solely for a utility company are included here.
FirstEnergy, the utility demanding the most in "stranded costs" and the utility most vulnerable to real competition, contributed the greatest amount to candidates and parties, with total contributions of $209,970. FirstEnergy was the top electric utility contributor to Taft and to the House Public Utilities Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the committees now hearing proposed deregulation legislation.
Dayton Power & Light, whose residential customers would pay the second highest monthly surcharge for "stranded costs," was the second highest utility contributor, with contributions of $181,078. While the list of candidates receiving utility contributions is long, utilities strategically contributed the largest sums where they expect to be able to get the best results. Electric utilities donated $32,876 to the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee. FirstEnergy was the top utility contributor to the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee in 1997-1998, contributing $12,720 to the committee members overall. Electric utilities donated $23,850 to the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee and $6,300 to the Ohio House Democratic Caucus Fund.
Electric utilities donated $18,329 to the Ohio Senate Ways and Means Committee, which is scheduled to have the first major vote on the deregulation legislation this Spring. Electric utilities donated $3,700 to Senator Louis Blessing, chair of the committee, and $4,459 to the Ranking Minority Member Leigh Herington.
FirstEnergy was the top utility contributor to the Ohio Senate Ways and Means Committee in 1997-1998, contributing $7,500 to the committee members overall.
Electric utilities also donated $37,800 to the Ohio Republican Senate Campaign Committee and $5,200 to the Committee for a Democratic Majority.
Utilities gave the most money to Bob Taft’s gubernatorial campaign and to party committees. Taft received $114,258 from the utilities, while utility contributions to the party committees totaled $191,350. The utilities clearly sought to establish themselves as major campaign funders while at the same time mounting a clear legislative agenda.
As legislators and the governor move forward with electric deregulation, they will have to make choices about whether deregulation will benefit ratepayers (families and small businesses) or shareholders and whether a robust competitive market will emerge, over the protests of the existing monopolies. To produce savings for families and small businesses, electric deregulation must –-