While dark money giving to tax exempt groups is legal, a number of utilities have faced criticism for it. (The Guardian/Getty Images/Unsplash)
By Mario Ariza for Floodlight and the Guardian
US power companies have made political donations of at least $215m to dark money groups in recent years, according to a new analysis of 25 for-profit utilities, amid growing concerns around how they wield influence.
While dark money giving to tax exempt groups is legal, a number of utilities have faced criticism for it. In Arizona and Alabama, power companies faced blowback after they used dark money to aid the election of friendly regulators. In Michigan, regulators barred another company from using dark money entirely after it spent $43m on politics in just three years.
Sometimes, power company dark money giving hides illegality. In 2021 in Ohio, FirstEnergy Corporation pleaded guilty to using dark money groups to bribe politicians in exchange for bailouts.
In another instance of ethically questionable actions, Florida Power and Light (FPL) used dark money to interfere with ballot initiatives, and the elections of five politicians who in part aimed to tackle the high prices of electric bills and environmental and climate goals.
“We are captive payers. To be funding lobbying against clean energy and climate that customers actually want goes against the public interest,” said Jean Su, a senior attorney at environmental group Center for Biological Diversity.