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Bill of Sale: Nuclear Industry PACs Gave Millions to Congress, Coleman a Top Recipient

Clean Water Action Alliance of Minnesota * Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action * Public Citizen

May 20, 2003

Bill of Sale: Nuclear Industry PACs Gave Millions to Congress, Coleman a Top Recipient

Nuclear Provisions in Energy Bill Demonstrate Influence of Corporate Campaign Contributors

WASHINGTON, D.C.— As the U.S. Senate debates a comprehensive energy bill (S.14) that features unprecedented subsidies to promote commercial nuclear power, an analysis of nuclear industry campaign contributions suggests that energy policy is for sale in the halls of Congress, public interest groups said today.

Among senators receiving the most money from nuclear industry political action committees (PACs), U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) ranks eighth, according to a report released today by Public Citizen. Coleman took $87,250 over the past three election cycles. U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) largely financed his own campaign and received no PAC contributions from nuclear companies.

The president’s industry-endorsed energy policy, unveiled in 2001, drew attention to the inappropriate coziness between the Bush administration and energy industry executives. According to the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Political Action Committees (PACs) affiliated with oil and gas companies and electric utilities – the main beneficiaries of the Bush energy policy – gave more than $17 million to congressional campaigns in the 2002 election cycle alone. And PAC contributions are just the tip of the iceberg. CRP calculates that total contributions over the same period from these energy interests (including individual and “soft money” contributions) were nearly $45 million.

Like the energy bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 6), energy legislation now before the Senate is larded with giveaways to these lucrative industries, at the expense of consumers, taxpayers and the environment. In particular, the Senate bill provides substantial subsidies to promote the construction of new nuclear power reactors. For instance, one provision authorizes government loan guarantees and power purchase agreements to finance up to half the costs of reactor construction, which could leave taxpayers liable for an estimated $30 billion.

“Minnesotans are well-acquainted with the problems that nuclear power presents,” said Diana McKeown, energy program coordinator with the Clean Water Action Alliance of Minnesota. “The current dilemma over nuclear waste storage is bad enough; proposals to construct new nuclear reactors are sheer folly.”

Added Beth Fraser, public policy director of Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action, “This vote will give Minnesota’s senators a chance to prove that they put the interests of their constituents above those of their contributors. We urge Senators Coleman and Dayton to reject the energy bill, based on what’s best for our communities and the environment.”

Public Citizen’s analysis of nuclear industry PAC contributions to members of the current Congress highlights this industry’s egregious influence on lawmakers. The new report examines PAC contributions from companies that own or operate nuclear power plants to current House representatives in the 2002 election cycle, and to senators of the current Congress in the past three election cycles. The report is based on PAC and individual member filings with the Federal Election Commission, compiled by CRP. Among the report’s findings:

  • Nuclear PAC contributions to current U.S. senators and representatives from Minnesota totaled $131,000 in the 2002 election cycle.
  • Overall, nuclear PACs contributed more than $5.8 million to the House and Senate campaigns of members of Congress in the 2002 election cycle. Current members of the Senate received more than $3.2 million from these nuclear PACs over the past three election cycles.
  • Topping the list on the receiving end is Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who took $145,499 from the nuclear industry in the past three election cycles. Landrieu was the lone Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to vote for S.14.
  • The 23 members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee took almost half a million dollars from nuclear power plant PACs in the 2002 cycle, and close to $1 million over the past three election cycles – nearly one third of the total Senate receipts.
  • While Democratic members topped the list in both the Senate and the House, Republicans, on the whole, were the primary beneficiaries of nuclear industry PAC money. In the 2002 election cycle, nuclear PACs contributed nearly $3.8 million to Republicans, almost 65 percent of the total amount of their contributions. Democrats, on the other hand, received about $2 million from those PACs, roughly 35 percent of the total.
  • Doling out the most generous contribution was nuclear energy giant Exelon, which gave $588,044 to various members. Second to Exelon was Southern Company, whose PAC shelled out $488,000 for the electoral campaigns of senators and representatives. Exelon runs 17 nuclear power reactors (the largest fleet in the nation) and is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to apply for a permit to construct a new reactor. Southern Company owns seven reactors.

“Politicians insist that their votes are not for sale, but the anti-consumer, anti-environment and fiscally irresponsible nuclear provisions in Senate energy legislation will test the loyalties of many members,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Rather than pandering to the interests of nuclear industry executives, lawmakers should reject this energy bill and instead work toward forward-looking policy that promotes safe, clean and affordable energy.”

To view the full report, please click here.