By R. Lee Currie Jr.
McClatchy’s recent eye-opening investigative reporting on Duke Energy’s lavish campaign contributions intended to influence elected state lawmakers should alarm conservatives, moderates and liberals alike — for it’s a tale of chronic abuse of corporate power at the expense of millions of financially-strapped consumers.
Duke Energy is not merely one of many voices seeking to shape state policy. Instead, it’s a regional financial behemoth with richly-rewarded executives and lobbyists that is largely shielded from competition by its favored status as a regulated legacy monopoly.
When Duke Energy was founded in 1904, North Carolina had about 2 million residents, less than one-fifth our state’s population today. Charlotte was a small city of about 50,000 people. Segregationist Democrat Charles Aycock was governor. Republican Theodore Roosevelt was president. Work was just beginning on the Panama Canal. It would be another decade before John F. Kennedy’s parents married or World War I began.
Fast-forward more than a century. According to McClatchy’s undisputed reporting, dominant Duke Energy now doles out millions of dollars a year in campaign contributions and lobbying fees to influence state and federal energy laws to its financial benefit, filling the coffers and bending the ears of powerful lawmakers in both major political parties.
I’m a proudly conservative Republican wondering why it’s conservative for Republicans who purport to prize competition to do the bidding of a government-subsidized monopoly with such extraordinary power, if you will, over ordinary people’s lives.
It seems to me that it’s long past time for an efficient North Carolina energy market that prioritizes consumers and competition over corporate executives and well-heeled lobbyists.
We should back consumers. I’m far from alone in this view. A recent statewide energy-policy poll shows that conservative N.C. voters support more clean energy for several principled and practical reasons.