Tag Archives: influence

4 of 5 incumbent GA PSC Commissioners accept massive utility campaign contributions

Could contributions produce influence? Neither of the incumbent Public Service Commissioners showed up for last night’s GPB debate, just as they didn’t show up for the previous weekend’s GIPL debate. Saturday the AJC examined the incumbents’ campaign finance and regulatory records, and let’s look a bit into how they’ve acted as regulators towards their biggest indirect contributors: Georgia Power.

Kristi E. Swartz wrote for the Augusta Chronicle or AP 21 July 2012, Donors to Georgia Public Service Commission members vested in decisions,

Four of Georgia’s utility regulators have accepted at least 70 percent of their campaign contributions from companies and people that could profit from the agency’s decisions, a review of five years of campaign finance records by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed.

The fifth member of the state Public Service Commission, Tim Echols, campaigned on the promise that he wouldn’t take money from employees or lobbyists for businesses regulated by the agency.

Even so, nearly one in five dollars in Echols’ contributions came from people or companies whose business is affected by PSC decisions, the review found.

Together, the PSC commissioners took in nearly $750,000 in the last five years, records show. Two of them — Stan Wise and Chuck Eaton — are seeking re-election this year to their $116,452-a-year posts.

Wise and Eaton would be the two incumbents who can’t be bothered to show up for debates. Doesn’t make them look very responsive to the people, does it? Who do they respond to, then?

A review of major decisions that have come before the PSC in the past five years shows utilities have received much — but not all — of what they have asked for.

Georgia Power donors

In the past five years, for example, Georgia Power’s rates have risen 24 percent, although they dipped in June. The PSC must sign off on the company’s rate changes.

Current and former employees of Georgia Power, its parent Southern Co. and its law firm, Troutman Sanders, poured $52,650 into the campaign coffers of four of the sitting PSC members.

A Georgia Power spokeswoman argued that including Troutman Sanders and other company vendors in an analysis of spending “is false.” But critics say including them is critical to capturing the full influence of the utilities on the PSC.

Influence like this? Melissa Stiers wrote for GPB News 19 July 2011, PSC Nixes Vogtle Cost Check,

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Private prison profits buying more laws to lock people up

Another report about money and private prisons (in addition to the ACLU’s Banking on Bondage), this one Public Campaign and PICO National Network, Unholy Alliance: How the Private Prison Industry is Corrupting Our Democracy and Promoting Mass Incarceration. It establishes that the “kids for cash” scandal, in which two judges accepted kickbacks in exchange for locking up juveniles, was just the tip of the iceberg.
Yet the reality is that private prison lobbyists regularly buy influence with state and federal officials, not only to win lucrative contracts, but also to change or preserve policies that increase the number of people behind bars. Private companies have made huge profits off the mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders, and are now turning their attention to increasing the detention of Latino immigrants—the newest profit center for the prison industrial complex. Ultimately there is no way to reverse the costly trend toward mass incarceration without reducing the influence of these companies and their money in our democracy.
Here’s another example David Donnelly wrote for Huffpo 17 Nov 2011, Private Prisons Industry: Increasing Incarcerations, Maximizing Profits and Corrupting Our Democracy,
Earlier this year in Louisiana, a plan by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) to privatize prisons narrowly failed in a legislative committee by a vote of 13 to 12. The 12 members of the House Appropriations Committee who voted to approve the prison privatization plan have received more than three times more money from private prison donors than the 13 members who voted against the plan, according to an analysis of data from the Louisiana Ethics Administration and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Gov. Jindal himself has taken nearly $30,000 from the private prison industry.
And of course in Georgia there’s HB 87, which isn’t really about excluding immigrants; Continue reading