Lindsey Graham Helps Win Permits For $10B Nuclear Plant, Gets Rewarded With Cash

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

For years, the SCANA Corporation and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have enjoyed a mutually beneficial alliance. Graham backs the company’s nuclear power interests and the company provides him with campaign cash.

The level of symbiosis between the two became especially evident in recent weeks.

The $13-billion Cayce, SC-based energy company has long wanted a permit to build two new nuclear reactors at its Jenkinsville, SC, facilities. Graham, one of the Senate’s strongest supporters of nuclear power, actively backed their efforts.

In February, the U.S. Nuclear Research Commission voted to approve the country’s first nuclear reactor construction permits in more than 30 years. Graham celebrated it as “a major step on the road to a nuclear renaissance,” adding, “I am hopeful SCANA and [its state-owned partner] Santee Cooper will be the next in line to receive permits for Jenkinsville.” He reiterated the message on Twitter the next day.

On March 31, much to Graham’s delight, SCANA received its Jenkinsville permits. The South Carolina Republican boasted:

We worked for years to see these reactors approved and I’m very pleased this long-sought goal has finally been achieved. The construction of two new reactors will be an over $10 billion dollar project and represents one of the largest investments in South Carolina history.

Two weeks later, when Graham’s “Team Graham” Senate campaign committee filed its quarterly lobbying disclosure form, just one name appeared. SCANA Corporation, the committee revealed, had given the Graham $54,575 in bundled campaign contributions between January 1 and March 31 — raising money for him as he worked to secure their $10 billion project.

The Center for Responsive Politics ranks SCANA as Graham’s second-biggest source of campaign donations, dating back to his 1994 House of Representatives camapign. According to their tabulations, he received at least $37,725 from SCANA’s political action committee and at least $67,380 from SCANA employees over that time. Their support for Graham was relatively cheap, compared to the $260,000 the company reported spending on federal lobbying in the first quarter of 2012 alone.

A Graham spokesman reiterated Graham’s longstanding support for the nuclear industry — noting that he’s been called “the #1 pro-nuclear member” of the Senate — but did not address the industry’s campaign contributions. “Senator Graham has long pushed for a renaissance in nuclear energy. We are ecstatic that the NRC go-ahead was finally secured,” Graham’s communications director told ThinkProgress. SCANA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ties between these donations and the Senator’s efforts on the company’s behalf.

Graham claims that “the renaissance in American nuclear energy has begun.” Sadly, so has the renaissance of lobbyists bundling large amounts of campaign cash for those who back their interests.