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FERC Should Launch an Investigation Into PJM’s Use of Ratepayer Fees to Make Secret Political Contributions

March 12, 2018

FERC Should Launch an Investigation Into PJM’s Use of Ratepayer Fees to Make Secret Political Contributions

Public Citizen Submits Additional Filing to Commission After Exposing Utility Firm’s Lobbying and Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should order an investigation into utility firm PJM’s political expenditures, Public Citizen and other interest groups said in a letter to FERC today.

Public Citizen on Feb. 20 filed a complaint against PJM, the country’s biggest utility, for making nearly $460,000 in political contributions, paid for through customers’ utility bills, without disclosing them to stakeholders or ratepayers.

PJM claimed that the donations to the Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association were membership fees, but Public Citizen argues that the associations are pervasively partisan political organizations whose status under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code as well as their own mission statements confirm that their primary purpose is influencing state gubernatorial elections.

Public Citizen also points out that the contribution form for a business “membership” in the Republican Governors Association makes clear that such “membership” payments are nothing more than political contributions in exchange for access to and influence over officeholders, not fees for educational services or to participate in a neutral policy forum.

In addition to launching an investigation under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act, FERC should initiate a hearing to determine the justness and reasonableness of PJM’s external affairs expenditures and the lack of voting rights for public interest groups in the utility’s stakeholder process.

“For too long, FERC has failed to closely monitor the massive administrative expenses of America’s private Regional Transmission Organizations,” said Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen’s Energy Program director. “Our investigation documenting hundreds of thousands of dollars in political expenditures using ratepayer funds now requires FERC to conduct a full investigation and hearing of these abuses.”