No other electric utility, nuclear plant operator or coal-burning company has given more money to politicians this year, or spent as much money on lobbyists, as has Atlanta's own Southern Co.
So far, Southern Co. has anted $2.6 million on lobbying this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The power company's subsidiaries (Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Southern Nuclear Operating Co.) paid lobbyists another $1.6 million, bringing the total to $4.2 million.
Southern Co. also leads all electric utilities in political campaign contributions, giving out more than $400,000 this year.
And of all the companies in the nuclear power industry, Southern donated the most in the 1999-2000 election cycle -- $1.5 million -- based on data released by the Federal Election Commission May 1.
The reason for all that corporate greasing is obvious.
The Bush/Cheney Energy Plan, which the House passed Aug. 2 and the Senate should vote on this week, will give away $38 billion in tax breaks and research funding to the oil, coal, electric and nuclear power industries. (The plan also allows for oil drilling in the Artic National Refuge, which is to Alaskan caribou what a Buckhead bar is to singles.)
Southern Co. spokesman Mike Tyndall says Southern Co. is lobbying for several energy-related bills in Washington these days, including the energy plan.
"We had supported this bill when it was introduced and we continue to support it," Tyndall says. "Southern Co. feels that it's a good plan. It calls for energy security, and a diverse fuel mix.
"There's no direct linkage [between Southern Co. and] the bill, but we are certainly an energy company and our philosophy is that of having a diverse fuel mix. There are some aspects in the way we run our business that reflect the way the energy policy is outlined as well. That's why we support it, because we feel it makes sense."
While there may not be a direct link connecting the energy plan with the handouts Big Energy is sure to receive, a new report, "Polluter Payday, How the Energy Plan Benefits Big Oil and Other Polluters at Taxpayer's Expense," released by the Georgia Public Interest Research Group, does track the companies that will benefit from the legislation, and how much those companies gave to politicians.
For instance, oil and gas companies would get $21.2 billion in tax incentives and subsidies, according to the report. The oil and gas industry gave $6 million in Political Action Committee and soft money contributions in 1999-2000 -- that's a return on investment factor of more than 3,500-to-1.
The coal industry and electric utility companies, such as Southern Co., will get $5.8 billion in tax incentives and subsidies.
Nuclear power plant owners and operators will benefit from $2.7 billion in tax incentives and subsidies. They gave $5.8 million in campaign contributions, and spent more than $48.1 million in lobbying.
The bottom line to all this is that the companies who'll benefit from the White House's enormous corporate welfare recorded $1.6 trillion in revenues in fiscal year 2000.
The energy plan "uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize profitable and polluting corporations, leaving consumers with little more than the side effects of a shortsighted and dirty energy policy -- more drilling, more spilling, more air pollution, more global warming, and more radioactive waste," says Georgia PIRG Advocate Jennifer Giegerich. "These giveaways to polluting industries would not only waste taxpayer dollars during tough fiscal times, but also would do virtually nothing to provide for America's energy needs."
On Oct. 22, Southern Co. CEO Allen Franklin, boasted to shareholders that, despite the economic recession and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, his company earned $8 billion so far this year -- that's $200 million more than it earned for the same time period last year.
The tax breaks and subsidies for the energy industry would cost Georgia taxpayers close to $1 billion over the next 10 years, the report says.
And talk about irony; remember that $300 tax refund we got earlier this year? PIRG estimates that the average cost per taxpayer of the Energy Plan would be $301.
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