- A Louisiana public interest group has issued a report recommending the state reconsider the political contributions allowed between regulated utilities and regulators, arguing the practice has lead to “regulatory capture” where monopoly service providers wield too much power.
- According to the Alliance for Affordable Energy, over a six-year period five regulated utilities gave almost $200,000 to commissioners at the Public Service Commission (PSC). In Louisiana, unlike many states outside the South, utility regulators are elected positions and not appointed by the governor.
- While the group is advocating to restrict political contributions from regulated providers, utilities note that their campaign contributions are legal and that the state's electricity rates remain among the lowest in the nation.
The Alliance for Affordable Energy wants Louisiana to better align its campaign laws with nearby states like Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, which ban contributions from a regulated utility.
The group points out that Entergy, Cleco, SWEPCO, Atmos and CenterPoint have all made political contributions in recent years, collectively totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, including almost $90,000 in contributions after elections. Between 2009 and 2015, the five utilities gave $195,000 to support incumbent commissioners' campaigns.
“Electric and gas utilities have a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy and regulatory decisions and without a proper legal structure in place, these utilities spend a troublesome amount of resources attempting to gain the policy outcomes that best suit their shareholders,” the group wrote.
Entergy responded in a statement to the Times-Picayune, saying the contribitions come from employees independently or through the company's "employee-run political action committee." Either way, the utility said its contributions "strictly adheres to state and federal campaign finance laws."
Among the report's recommendations, the Alliance wants the state to prohibit utility contribtions to regulatory candidates, expand open meeting laws, adopt standards of open-mindedness for regulators, and have the Louisiana State Legislative Auditor examine the commission at least once every five years.