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

Nebraska Sierra Club * Public Citizen

May 20, 2003

Bill of Sale: Nuclear Industry PACs Gave Millions to Congress, Hagel 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 Citizen said today.

Among senators receiving the most money from nuclear industry political action committees (PACs), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) ranks sixth, according to a report released today by Public Citizen. Hagel took $91,000 over the past three election cycles. U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) received $13,750 from nuclear companies over the same period.

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.

“According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Cooper Nuclear Power Station near Brownville, Neb., is one of the most poorly managed in the country,” said Clyde Anderson, chair of the Nebraska Sierra Club. “We urge Senators Nelson and Hagel to oppose the energy bill, which would increase nuclear risks, and focus instead on promoting renewable sources of energy, especially wind generation.”

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 Nebraska totaled $76,333 in the 2002 election cycle alone.
  • 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.