The Heat Is Online

Dirtiest Utilities Deliver $6.6 Million to GOP

Utilities Have Helped Bush, GOP

Industry has donated $6.6 million since 1999. It also got relief from costly pollution laws

The Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2004

WASHINGTON  The 30 companies that own most of the dirtiest power plants in the country, and their trade association, have raised $6.6 million for President Bush and the Republican National Committee since 1999, and were given relief from pollution regulations that would have cost them billions of dollars, according to a new analysis.

Ten utility industry officials were so good at fundraising for the president that his campaign named them Rangers for bringing in at least $200,000 or Pioneers for bringing in at least $100,000, according to the analysis by Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, and the Environmental Integrity Project, an environmental watchdog organization.

Collectively these 10 people have raised more than $1.5 million since 1999.

"It is no coincidence that a wholesale assault on the Clean Air Act is taking place today," said Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer.

Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, said it was a "classic" story about the role of campaign contributions in Washington. Utility industry officials faced aggressive enforcement actions by the Clinton administration requiring them to install expensive pollution controls at coal-fired power plants.

Clemente said he thought the officials' strategy was to "help elect an industry-friendly president, fill federal regulatory posts with former utility executives and lobbyists, and hire a small army of lobbyists and lawyers connected to the new president to engineer regulatory changes."

But the Republican National Committee dismissed the report as "partisan politics" because the president of Public Citizen, Joan Claybrook, has donated $450 to the campaign of presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, and liberal billionaire George Soros, has donated generously to Public Citizen.

"Unfortunately there appears to be a partisan agenda here that makes one question whether their true concern is the environment," said Christine Iverson, an RNC spokeswoman.

Once in office, the Bush administration overhauled a key Clean Air Act rule, making it much easier for power plants to make major renovations and increase pollution without installing modern pollution controls.

The utility industry, however, rejected the notion that it was getting a break. The Bush administration has proposed new policies that would require the industry "to reduce key pollutants by two-thirds over the next decade and a half," said Dan Riedinger, spokesman for Edison Electric Institute, a trade group that represents most electric utilities.

"Those are the biggest reductions ever not specifically mandated by Congress  that's a hell of a payback," he added sarcastically.

For their study, the two interest groups used federal data to identify the 50 biggest polluting plants for each of three pollutants  sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, haze and health problems; mercury, which is linked to birth defects in children; and carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming.

Relying on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that tracked campaign donations, the interest groups then focused on the donations from the 30 companies that own most of the plants on those lists, and the Edison Electric Institute.

The industry's donations pale next to other groups, such as lawyers and lobbyists. Nonetheless, the utility industry has succeeded in its effort to get credit from the Bush administration for what it has given, according to the report.

Before the 2000 election, Edison Electric Institute President Thomas Kuhn urged utility officials to use the industry's tracking number when making donations to Bush's 2000 campaign. "It does ensure that our industry is credited," he said.

The utility industry donated almost $4 million to Bush and the Republican National Committee in the 2000 campaign, when campaign finance rules allowed large donations from corporations and individuals. Even under the tougher new campaign finance rules, the industry has donated $2.6 million so far in the 2004 campaign, the groups' analysis found.

Bush has raised a record $184 million as of the end of March, with much of the money coming from the Rangers and Pioneers through a nationwide network of business executives, lobbyists, lawyers, and others. The campaign has named 208 Rangers and 303 Pioneers.

 

ENERGY COMPANY CONTRIBUTIONS

Here are the top 10 contributing companies from the utility sector to the Bush administration and Republican National Committee for the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Executives from these companies were among the top fundraisers for the president.

Donor Total donation Ranger/Pioneer* Status

 

FirstEnergy Corp $865,877 Anthony Alexander Pioneer '00, '04

Southern Co. $807,062 Dwight H. Evans Ranger '04

TXU $754,898 Erle A. Nye Pioneer '00,'04

Dominion $679,105 -- --

Centerpoint Energy $539,900 David McClanahan Pioneer '04

(formerly Reliant) Don Jordan Pioneer '00

Ron Letbetter Pioneer '00

Cinergy Corp $431,722 Jim Rogers Pioneer '04

Exelon $404,856 -- --

Edison Electric Inst. $348,750 Thomas Kuhn Pioneer '00,'04

Dynergy Inc. $311,382 -- --

Edison Int'l $192,291 Stephen E. Frank Pioneer '00,'04

* Rangers are those who raised at least $200,000; Pioneers raised $100,000 or more.

Source: Public Citizen's analysis of Center for Responsive Politics data through

April 30, 2004