Top utilities are spending a lot of money to elect Republican governors

Utilities also gave far more to elect Republican attorneys general.

Electric utility companies are donating generously to Maine Gov. Paul LePage and his fellow Republican governors at the Republican Governors Association. CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Electric utility companies are donating generously to Maine Gov. Paul LePage and his fellow Republican governors at the Republican Governors Association. CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The nation’s leading electric utility and their affiliated companies, along with top utility executives, contributed more than four times as much money to the Republican Governors Association in the first six months of 2017 than to the Democratic Governors Association, according to a new report.

Governors can have a significant impact on the activities of utility companies in their states, whether it is appointing members to state regulators commissions or developing energy policy. Most recently, Republican governors in Maine and Indiana played important roles in impeding the growth of clean energy in their states, UtilitySecrets.org, a joint project of the Energy and Policy Institute and the Center for Media and Democracy, stated in the report.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed a bill that shreds incentives for rooftop solar, delivering a blow to solar installers and their customers. In Maine, lawmakers failed to override Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) veto of a solar bill aimed at boosting rooftop solar growth. The actions by the Republican governors were supported by the electric utilities in the state.

There are two gubernatorial elections in 2017 and 36 in 2018. Twenty-six of these seats are currently held by Republicans. With West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s recent switch to the Republican Party, the GOP now holds 34 governorships, an all-time high for the party.

The results in the large number of gubernatorial elections in 2018 will likely play a role in how the United States goes about cutting carbon dioxide emissions, according to a report released last week by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed in the Center for American Progress.)

“For the United States as a whole, however, meaningful action on climate change will require expanding the map of states actively involved in curbing carbon pollution and preparing for its effects—as well as ratcheting up current actions and commitments,” the report stated. “A change in leadership in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan to one with a strong focus on reducing carbon pollution would send a clear message to the White House and the rest of the world that American voters support climate action.”

In its report, UtilitySecrets.org found that electric utilities, their affiliated companies, and their executives contributed $1,154,355 to the Republican Governors Association in the first six months of 2017, compared to $286,427 donated to the Democratic Governors Association.

Fifteen companies surveyed by UtilitySecrets.org contributed money only to the Republican Governors Association. Five companies or associations — Dominion Energy, PSEG Services, Southern Co., Xcel Energy, and the Edison Electric Institute, the electric utility industry’s leading trade association — contributed money to both the Republican and Democratic governors associations. Only PSEG Services donated more to the Democratic Governors Association than to the Republican Governors  Association, and only Xcel Energy donated equal amounts to the two groups.

Only one utility, Puget Sound Energy, contributed solely to the Democratic Governors Association. The company serves 1.1 million electric customers and 800,000 natural gas customers in Washington state, a state that has had only Democratic governors over the past three decades.

“It’s pretty clear the utilities have an agenda and Republicans have been more welcoming to help with that agenda compared to Democrats, which can explain the difference,” Matt Kasper, research director at the Energy & Policy Institute and author of the report, said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress. “And now with Trump in office, corporations that give to these national organizations not only get access to the state leaders, they can get access to the leaders in the executive branch.”

Utilities also donated $271,575 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, and $65,450.00 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association over the same period, according to the report. Republicans are hoping to defend 18 attorneys general seats in 2018 and pick up additional seats, including the 2017 attorney general race in Virginia.

UtilitySecrets.org gathered their data from filings detailing expenditures and funders recently submitted to the IRS by the governor and attorneys general associations.