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Press Release

Rep. Castor Introduces Bill to Ban Power Companies from Manipulating Elections, Misleading Voters

The “Ethics in Energy Act” would prohibit electric utilities from using ratepayer dollars to fund shady political activities in the wake of scandals

TAMPA, FL – U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14) introduced legislation to prohibit utility companies from using ratepayer dollars to fund political activities, including the use of “dark money” to fund “ghost candidates” and undermine the public interest.


Numerous scandals and criminal prosecutions across the country involving electric utility companies, bribery and the use of ratepayer dollars for political purposes demand action. In Florida, damning reports uncovered a well-documented scheme led by affiliates of Florida’s largest electric utility company, Florida Power and Light (FPL), to fund “ghost candidates,” hire private investigators to follow journalists and influence news coverage to mislead voters and influence the outcome of elections. In Ohio, a massive electric utility-led bribery scandal led to racketeering prosecutions surrounding illegal payments instigated by First Energy. And not to be outdone, Commonwealth Edison in Illinois agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve a federal investigation into bribery connected to the House Speaker. These utilities often are caught trying to halt the expansion of cleaner, cheaper energy like solar power.


“Electric utilities should be prohibited from using ratepayer money to bankroll their political slush funds. FPL used shady tactics and dark money to hijack elections, mislead voters and steal elections, and it is time for it to end,” said Rep. Castor. “In fact, the numerous public corruption scandals involving electric utilities across the country require federal action immediately. Utility companies should be operating in the best interest of ratepayers, not raising electric bills to bankroll deceitful political activities and block clean energy.”


Full text of the legislation co-sponsored by Representatives Sean Casten (IL-06) and Jamal Bowman (NY-16) can be found here.


After learning of the FPL scheme, Castor pressed for transparency and accountability to protect ratepayers unknowingly funding corrupt political activities and requested the U.S. Department of Justice investigate FPL.


"As Floridians bear the brunt of sky-high utility bills and our communities teeter on the edge of financial disaster with every climate-fueled storm and hurricane, the urgency of utility accountability and climate justice has never been more clear," said Jackson Oberlink of Florida for All. "Florida for All is proud to stand in support of this legislation."


“This important bill builds on state laws to protect ratepayers and hold utilities accountable for undermining public health, environmental justice and the renewable energy transition,” said Howard Crystal, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program. “It’s outrageous that corporate utilities use their customers’ money to lobby against the clean energy customers want. Consumers are already paying for the climate emergency through higher utility bills. They shouldn’t be unwittingly bankrolling utility trade groups that are working against a livable planet for their children.”


"Around the country, monopoly utilities are forcing their customers, many of whom can barely afford to pay their electric and gas bills, to chip in a little extra to subsidize their political machines. This legislation will protect people from being forced to fund efforts by utilities and their trade associations to push for policies that so often hurt families and slow down the transition to clean energy,” said David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a utility watchdog group.


“Monopoly utilities are using our money to fight our right to go solar,” said Anya Schoolman, Executive Director, Solar United Neighbors. “This has to stop. Fortunately, several states have passed laws to stop utilities from using customer money for political lobbying. It’s time to protect all consumers from utility corruption."


Supporting organizations include: 198 methods, 350 Bay Area Action, 350 Colorado, 350 Seattle, 350 Triangle, 350ma-Berkshires, Alliance for Affordable Energy, Animal Are Sentient Beings, Inc., Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, CASE Citizens Alliance for a Sustainable Englewood, Catalyst Miami, Center for Biological Diversity, Church Women United in New York State, Citizens Action Coalition of IN, Citizens Utility Board of Ohio, Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin, Clean Virginia, CLEO Institute, Climate Hawks Vote, Dana Investment Advisors,, Endangered Habitats League, Energy Alabama, Energy and Policy Institute, Environment America, Florida Conservation Voters, Florida For All, Florida Rising, Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association, GreenLatinos, Greenvest, GRID Alternatives, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), Interfaith EarthKeepers, Kickapoo Peace Circle, LaPlaca and Associates LLC, Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper, Long Environmental Alliance, Malach Consulting, Media Alliance, MI Air MI Health, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, New Jersey Tenants Organization, No Fracked Gas in Mass, PosiGen, Prosperity Works, Protect All Children's Environment, Public Citizen, Public Justice Center, Public Lands Project, Rábago Energy LLC, Récolte Energy, RESTORE: The North Woods, Rewiring America,, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, Santa Cruz Climate Action Network, SAVE THE FROGS!, Seneca Lake Guardian, Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment, Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Small Business Utility Advocates, Solar United Neighbors, Solar United Neighbors Action, South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership, Sowing Justice, Sungage Financial Inc, Suntility Electric LLC, Syracuse Cultural Workers, Terra Advocati, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Unite North Metro Denver, United for Action, US PIRG, Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance, Vernon County Energy District, Wasatch Clean Air Coalition, We Own It, We Want Green Too, WESPAC Foundation, Inc., Womxn From The Mountain