Will $2.7 Million in Campaign Contributions Mean Higher Electric Bills for Consumers?

For Immediate Release: December 3, 2013
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Will $2.7 Million in Campaign Contributions Mean Higher Electric Bills for Consumers?
Columbus — Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a study today showing that Ohio’s four electric utility companies have made political campaign contributions totaling nearly $2.7 million since May, 2008, most of which went to Republican legislators and officeholders who are strategically positioned to pass a bill giving the companies a nearly $4 billion windfall at the expense of Ohio consumers.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), SB 58 would gut Ohio’s existing energy efficiency and renewable energy laws, and could receive a Senate vote as early as tomorrow. It is opposed by a broad coalition of business, environmental and consumer groups, including the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA), the Ohio AARP, and the Ohio Office of Consumers’ Counsel.

The OMA characterizes the bill as a “huge giveaway” to electric utilities — which a study from Ohio State University estimates would be nearly $4 billion over the next 12 years. The OSU study also projects that nearly 6,500 fewer Ohio jobs would be created if SB 58 is enacted. Meanwhile, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel estimates that passage of SB 58 “could cause “4 million Ohio households to pay an additional $528 for their electric bills.”

According to the IO analysis:

  • From May, 2008 through June, 2013, Ohio’s four electric utilities (First Energy, AEP, Duke Energy and Dayton Power & Light) contributed nearly $2.7 million to political parties, office-holders and candidates who either play a role in regulating the energy industry or who have a leadership role in deciding what legislation receives a vote in the General Assembly. Over half of that amount —$1.37 million — went to individuals who are current members of the state House and Senate.
  • The overwhelming majority of these contributions (81%) went to Republicans, who received over $1.1 million of the $1.37 million total given to lawmakers.
  • First Energy of Akron — widely considered to be the SB 58’s main champion — was the largest single corporate contributor, accounting for nearly $700,000 in campaign contributions to current legislators.
  • Because campaign contributions given or received after June 30 will not be reported until January 31, 2014, the total amount given by the utility industry is likely to be far higher than this Report suggests. Since July 1, at least 127 additional fundraisers have been held by current members of the General Assembly. Donors, recipients, and dollar amounts raised are unknown.

Said IO President Janetta King: “Nobody wants to believe Ohio legislators can be bought. Nobody wants to think the Ohio General Assembly would put the interests of utility companies over the interests of consumers. And certainly no one wants to contemplate losing 6,500 jobs at a time when Ohio ranks a dismal 44th in the nation in new job creation. But we’ll find out when Senate Bill 58 comes up for a vote.

“It defies belief that First Energy and the other utilities are handing out millions in campaign contributions simply to support ‘good government.’ If that were the goal, they wouldn’t be concentrating their largesse on the legislators who are best positioned to pass a law that will put an extra $4 billion in their corporate pockets.

“The bottom line is that if the utilities win, Ohio consumers lose.

“So the question is simple: whose side is the General Assembly on? Will they stand up for the people they were elected to represent? Or will they roll over for the utilities that are filling their campaign coffers?”

View the report: Rate of Return: What Will Ohio’s Utilities Get for Campaign Cash?