Integrity Florida today releases a new research report, Power Play Redux: Political Influence of Florida’s Top Energy Corporations, examining the influence of Florida’s largest investor-owned utilities on Florida lawmakers and utility regulators.
The new report updates a 2014 report by Integrity Florida which examined the political influence of the state’s four largest electric utility companies: Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy (formerly Progress Energy), TECO Energy and Gulf Power.
In this new report, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has asked Integrity Florida to examine political spending by utilities in the election cycles that have occurred since the last report (2014 and 2016) while also looking at ways the utilities attempt to influence energy policy and regulators through lobbying expenditures.
The report examines how the Florida Legislature often sets its agenda and arrives at policies based on the desires of large political donors rather than the public interest.
Integrity Florida found that Florida’s four largest electric utility monopolies gave state-level candidates, political parties and committees more than $43 million during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. This means the utilities spent more than twice as much on political contributions during a four-year period than they spent during the prior ten-year period covered in the 2014 Power Play report.
This jump in contributions included over $20 million in contributions to advance a constitutional amendment during the 2016 cycles that critics said would limit rooftop solar expansion.
Utilities also continue to have an outsized lobbying presence in the Florida Capitol, employing more than one lobbyist for every two legislators. From 2014 through 2017, the four largest investor owned utilities spent more than $6 million on lobbyists to represent them before the Florida Legislature.
This report builds on a recent Integrity Florida research report, Florida’s “Public Service” Commission? A Captured Regulatory Agency, which documented the influence investor-owned utilities have over their main regulator, the PSC.
In response to the report’s findings, Integrity Florida offers a list of policy options for lawmakers to consider:
- Prohibit campaign contributions by regulated utilities to state candidates and political committees supporting or opposing state candidates.
- Customer expenses versus shareholder profits. Require disclosure when customers cover costs for political spending and lobbying through trade groups and associations.
- Political Committee reporting. Require more transparency by prohibiting transfers of money between political committees and clearly identifying in an easily searchable database those with ties to the committee.
- Lobby compensation reporting. Require legislative and executive branch lobbyists and firms to report the actual amount of compensation rather than a range as is currently required.
- Greater independence for the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). Because the Florida Public Service Commission is, by definition, a legislative agency and the Florida legislature sets budgets for the PSC and a committee selected by legislative leaders sends the governor a list of potential nominees to serve as Commissioners, greater independence is needed.