Hot Waste, Cold Cash: Nuclear Industry Campaign Contributions to Federal Candidates in the 2002 Election

Nov. 1, 2002

Hot Waste, Cold Cash: Nuclear Industry Campaign 
Contributions to Federal Candidates in the 2002 Election

Report Traces Nuclear PAC Contributions
in Competitive House and Senate Races

WASHINGTON D.C.— In the 2002 election cycle, the nuclear industry doled out more than $1.5 million to federal candidates in competitive races, according to a report released today by Public Citizen.

The sizable contributions from nuclear power plant owners and operators suggest that the outcome of these competitive races could have a dramatic effect on nuclear policy over the next two years. The nuclear industry is desperately seeking to secure a primary role in energy policy discussions and pushing an aggressive legislative agenda for such things as subsidies to build new nuclear reactors and more money for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear dump.

“The many pet projects of the nuclear industry require a political blind eye to their many environmental, economic and safety problems,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Voters in the upcoming election should consider whether campaign contributions will jeopardize the candidates’ commitment to policies that point toward a safe energy future.”

Using Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Public Citizen analyzed contributions from certain political action committees (PAC) to major party candidates in 76 House races and 17 Senate races during the 2002 election cycle (November 2000 to October 2002). The contributions came from nuclear power plant owners and operators and three leading trade associations in which many of them are members: the American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute. Among the report’s findings:

  • Exelon, the biggest U.S. nuclear operator, made the most contributions to federal candidates in competitive races, followed by Entergy. Exelon and Entergy are both participants in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 program, which puts tax dollars toward the subsidized construction of new commercial reactors.
  • Among candidates in competitive House races who received more than $20,000 from nuclear PACs, Rep. Charles Pickering (R-Miss.) received the most PAC money, followed by Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.), Tom Latham (R-Iowa) Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), Michigan Secretary of State Candice Miller, Karen Thurman (D-Fla.), Robin Hayes, (R-N.C.), Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), Chet Edwards (D-Texas), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Edward Whitfield (R-Ky.), Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), Charles Bass (R-N.H.), and Clay Shaw (R-Fla.), all incumbents.
  • Among candidates in competitive Senate races who received more than $20,000 from nuclear PACs, Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) received the most PAC money, followed by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Elizabeth Dole, Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Rep. John Sununu (R-N.H.), Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and former Rep. Jim Talent of Missouri.
  • Among incumbents in competitive races, only six representatives and one senator received no contributions from nuclear PACs: Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.).
  • The top incumbent recipients among House and Senate candidates sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively. These committees are key for legislation relating to energy policy.
  • In the races analyzed, nuclear contributions favored Republicans over Democrats by a ratio of 3-to-1.

To read the report, click here

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