This morning Democracy NC sent out a press release detailing the extent to which Duke Energy funded the Republicans Governors Association—which, of course, helps elect Republican governors like Pat McCrory, who is up for reelection next year—throughout the latter half of last year, just as McCrory, a former Duke executive, and Republican legislators were devising the state’s kid-gloves response to Duke’s coal-ash fiasco, in which Duke can now dump coal ash on wherever it gets state approval, even if the locals object, and the person who owns the land the coal-ash site is on may end up responsible for any environmental damage, not Duke. Neat.
So what is the going rate on McCrory’s environmental policy? A little north of $3 million, Democracy NC reports:
A new analysis of government records reveals that Duke Energy – the world’s largest private electric utility – began writing unusually large checks to the national Republican Governors Association while Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers debated how to respond to the company’s giant spill of coal ash sludge into the Dan River.
In four payments from June to December 2014, Duke sent the Republican Governors Association a total of $3,0
50,000 – more than 10 times its previous record donation to the RGA. Duke’s contributions made it the top corporate donor to the RGA in 2014 and the second largest donor, behind the $3.5 million given by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands.
Last election, the report continues, the RGA donated $5 million to McCrory’s campaign. Ahead of that campaign, in 2011-12, Duke gave the RGA a relatively paltry $377,000. This year, it seems, Duke is very heavily invested in Republican campaigns for governor. Duke is in six states following its merger with Progress Energy—Florida, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana—and of those, three have elections in either 2015 or 2016, and the other three had elections last year. That, Duke explained to the Charlotte Observer over the weekend, was the impetus for the company’s largesse:
Duke says its gives to both political parties to advocate for its customers and shareholders. It can’t dictate how the RGA uses its contributions, the company said.
Duke said contributions to the association increased as three Republican governors in its territory, which grew to six states in a 2012 merger with Progress Energy, ran for reelection in 2014. Five of the six legislatures are controlled by Republican majorities.
“This had nothing to do with anything about Dan River,” spokesman Tom Williams said. “We don’t supply funds on any individual issues. We typically mirror the nature of our service territories, which favor incumbents.”
See, just business as usual—supporting incumbents, five of whom are Republicans—no big deal. (For what it’s worth, McCrory’s spokesman told the Observer that he wouldn’t dignify questions about Duke’s influence-purchasing.) Perhaps. Or maybe, Duke really, really wants to keep Pat McCrory in the Governor’s Mansion, because Pat McCrory will be more beneficent toward them than Roy Cooper.