S.B. 179 is moving forward. That bill would allow utilities to give contributions to political candidates other than PSC candidates.
Oh the horror that utilities will finally be on equal footing with realtors and others!
I was skeptical at first because the bill puts a lot of prohibitions on EMCS, and I’m a huge fan of EMCs after working for the NRECA for a year. But, it appears that the prohibits serve only to prohibit EMC funds, which are member funds at that, from funding a PAC. EMCs are rather unique entities.
Jay Bookman, in his rather silly op-ed, in the AJC called out this legislation, writing:
Georgia’s longtime law banning campaign contributions by utilities and their employees is another effort to avoid “regulatory capture.” But Senate Bill 179 — sponsored by state Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) — would weaken its effect by allowing utility executives and employees to give to all political campaigns except PSC candidates. It would also change the crime of illegally donating to PSC candidates from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Well, where to begin? First, Mr. Bookman wrote about how everything happens in dark rooms behind closed doors now. Of course it does. The utilities are not allowed to lobby via campaign contributions like anyone else can, so they go behind closed doors. Allowing this to come into the light will actually improve the situation.
Come on, do you really think that contributions are not now surreptitiously being made?
Utilities are always the bullies because we want cheap power without paying for the infrastructure. We now have the opportunity, if we’re so inclined, to go after politicians taking money from utilities, but we should somehow be against it because the transparency it would create is as bad as the back room deals the current system has already created?
Likewise, and here is a key point, Georgia is the only state that has the present prohibitory scheme. In other states, utilities are not discriminated against in campaign finance laws. Sure the present scheme makes for a great populist platform, but it is also wrong.
Let the utilities make contributions like everyone else, from realtors to lawyers to doctors to pay day loan operators, and encourage them to come out of the dark filled rooms as a result. Every other state has done so.