Nov. 21, 2003
Energy Bill Delivers Favors for Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers
New WhiteHouseForSale.org Report Tracks Giveaways to Elite Bush Fundraisers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Some of President Bush’s biggest backers stand to benefit directly from provisions in the energy bill that are as broad as the repeal of investor and consumer safeguards in the utility industry and as narrow as the construction of a shopping mall in upstate New York, according to a new report by Public Citizen posted today at WhiteHouseForSale.org.
The report examines two items embedded in the Energy Policy Act of 2003 (H.R. 6), a monster package of tax incentives and giveaways to the energy industry that has already cleared the U.S. House and is headed for a filibuster showdown in the Senate today. Among the special interests waiting with their hands out are Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers – those elite fundraisers who have bundled $200,000 or $100,000, respectively, for the president’s re-election campaign.
“This legislation is filled with subsidies and special favors for the corporate interests that collected big bucks for the Bush campaign,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “The White House gave those donors extraordinary opportunities to influence this bill behind closed doors – and it is no surprise that they’re getting what they want.”
Public Citizen’s new report, Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers Enjoy Energy Bill Booty(click here to view), highlights two initiatives – dramatically different in scale – that reward Bush’s rainmakers, their companies and industries.
Repeal of PUHCA
Repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), which was among the recommendations issued by Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force in 2001, would place an estimated $1 trillion in regulated electric power generation, transmission and distribution facilities for sale to the highest bidders without ownership or geographic restrictions.
Major utility companies and mega-investors have agitated for years against PUHCA, which protects utility ratepayers by preventing financial instability and mergers among power companies. Seven Bush Pioneers from the 2000 and 2004 campaigns represent companies that have pushed to get rid of PUHCA. In addition, three Rangers and three Pioneers work for lobbying firms that represent corporations trying to bury PUHCA.
Buried several hundred pages into the tax portion of the massive energy bill is a $2 billion tax break partly earmarked for the construction of DestiNY USA, the country’s largest shopping mall. DestiNY is the dream project of Robert J. Congel, a Bush Pioneer who insists he can’t build this giant “resort and tourist destination” – which would include 400 retailers and an indoor replica of the Erie Canal – without generous state and federal subsidies.
Promoted by Cheney’s energy task force, a “green bond” provision that could save DestiNY at least $100 million, was inserted during the conference over the energy bill – even though neither the House nor Senate had voted on it. The day after learning his pet project had made it into the final bill, Congel hosted a $200,000 fundraiser in upstate New York headlined by Cheney.
At every step of its creation, the energy bill was shielded from public view. The process began with Cheney’s secretive task force, which held dozens of meetings with industry insiders before releasing recommendations for a national energy policy. And it continued through weeks of closed-door conference committee sessions in Congress to which only Republicans were admitted.
“Senators and representatives sprinkled the bill with sweeteners for supporters, home-district businesses and colleagues whose votes they needed,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Lobbyists managed to insert favorable deals for their clients. And the White House used the energy legislation to deliver paybacks to the president’s fundraisers.”
“These outrageous giveaways are only the latest examples of the Bush administration’s pattern of granting access, appointments and favors to their wealthy corporate backers,” Claybrook said. “A vote against the energy bill is a vote against auctioning off our political system to the highest bidders.”
Public Citizen launched the WhiteHouseForSale.org Web site to track contributors to Bush’s 2004 re-election fund, particularly those dubbed Rangers and Pioneers for steering hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the campaign. The site also features an updated, searchable database of all 106 Rangers and 203 Pioneers named so far by the Bush campaign.