Duke uses ratepayer money to buy political favor with Dems, GOP
[NOTE: This is the second in a series of revelations as our legal team reviews thousands of documents obtained in Duke Energy Carolinas’ new rate case.]
Durham, NC – Each year, Duke Energy charges North Carolina ratepayers for money poured onto groups representing both major political parties at the federal and state levels, according to documents obtained by NC WARN during the discovery phase of Duke’s current rate hike request.
Duke spent at least $1.2 million for political and civic “sponsorships” in the 12-month period that forms the basis for the current rate hike request, and is seeking approval to keep billing North Carolina customers over half that amount each year. This does not include far higher levels invested annually for lobbying, campaign contributions and targeted philanthropy designed to mute civic criticism, topics to be covered in upcoming segments of our “Burning the Public” series.
Politically oriented recipients of NC ratepayer money include the Democratic Governors’ Association ($168,160), the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee ($50,000), the Congressional Black Caucus ($27,875), the Republican State Leadership Committee ($25,000), and the controversial, conservative ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council ($20,000).
As widely reported last year, Duke gave national Democrats a $10 million line of credit for holding their convention in Charlotte, home city of Duke Energy, which now bills itself as the world’s largest corporate utility. News reports indicate Duke will not be repaid, but claims its shareholders will foot the bill. We are scouring the rate case documents to see if Duke is seeking to recover any of that money from customers.
It appears that charging ratepayers for currying political favor violates federal regulatory guidelines and Duke’s own internal accounting rules. We will press the NC Utilities Commission to throw the charges out.
Far more important: When did customers give Duke Energy – which enjoys monopoly control over its North Carolina market – permission to give any of their rate money to gain favor with political parties? And, as a monopoly without competitors, what is Duke buying with that money?