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Duke Energy wines & dines Obama's team for taxpayer handouts

As a large enegy corporation, Duke Energy doesn’t have problems obtaining access to powerful government officials that regular Americans could never enjoy. Earlier this year Duke loaned $10 million to Obama’s signature re-election effort, and the company’s political action committee and top executives have made $1.8 million in contributions to federal candidates since the 2008 cycle, with an additional $25 million spent lobbying the federal government over that same time period. That kind of money buys you access – for example, Duke’s CEO Jim Rogers – with the help of a certain large environmental group – railroaded climate legislaiton to make it more utility-friendly back in 2009.

But turning progressive climate legislation into a loophole ridden, grab-bag of handouts for Duke Energy is a cakewalk compared to what he’s been doing in Indiana. Local news reports document how Jim Rogers has been inappriropiratly lobbying state officials – namely the governor, Mitch Daniels, on a nearly $3 billion coal power plant boondoggle called Edwardsport. Duke has been trying to get state regulatory approval to have its 780,000 Indiana customers pick up the tab for this expensive facility. But becuase of mismanagement, fraud and other small details, that proposal wasn’t going so well. So Duke, armed with its nearly $300,000 in contributions to Indiana state officials in the 2008 and 2010 cycles, sought to influence the Governor.

You can read the internal Duke emails here. But what is really remarkable is how they document Jim Roger’s influence in Washington, DC. Not since Westar Energy has Public Citizen reviewed such juicy details of how a major energy corporation wines and dines powerful government officials. Literally. In a letter to his board of directors, Jim Rogers boasts that he and his top DC lobbyist Bill Tyndall “had lunch with Energy Secretary Chu and several of his key deputies, followed by a meeting with DOE Under Secretary Kristina Johnson, who heads the FutureGen project. We also had dinner with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and his Director of Policy and Strategic Planning, Travis Sullivan.” Now, this letter to the board was written in 2010, and since then Johnson & Locke have departed, but it just goes to show that corporations can take Obama’s team out to lunch and dinner, while the rest of us get taken to the cleaners.

-Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow me on twitter @tysonslocum