San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 16th, 2011
At blackout hearings, big political donors questioned

The Texas Tribune

The power companies and execs at today’s hearing on the rolling blackouts this month were familiar faces to the senators asking the tough questions. Over the years, they’ve helped bankroll the lawmakers’ political campaigns.

Since 2000, in fact, power companies have donated at least $430,000 to members of the two Senate committees represented at today’s hearing: Business & Commerce and Natural Resources, according to a quick analysis of campaign data made public by the Texas Ethics Commission.

To perform the analysis, the Tribune searched for campaign contributions by political action committees, or PACs, and employees of companies testifying at the hearing. The analysis also included Energy Future Holdings, the power-generation firm formerly known as TXU.

Top Donors:

PAC Total
CenterPoint $1,258,969
Atmos Energy $874,194
Oncor $703,584
Chesapeake Energy $269,571
Luminant $76,578
Direct Energy $64,820
AEP Texas $18,500
Grand Total $3,266,215

The power companies don’t focus their financial attention on a select group of senators. The donations are part of about $3.9 million they’ve donated to political candidates and candidate committees during that period.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry, both longtime Republican officials in Texas, have received more than any other political figures during that time: $290,000 and $180,000, respectively.

Top Recipients

Senator Amount
Fraser, Troy * $105,468
Harris, Chris $46,018
Estes, Craig $30,000
Whitmire, John $28,750
Hegar, Glenn A. Jr. $27,350
Jackson, James M. ‘Mike’ $24,054
Carona, John J. * $23,500
Hinojosa, Juan ‘Chuy’ $23,250
Nichols, Robert Lee $18,000
Seliger, Kelton G. $17,500
Watson, Kirk P. $17,000
Van De Putte, Leticia $16,000
Eltife, Kevin P. $15,500
Duncan, Robert L. $15,300
Lucio, Eduardo A. Jr. ‘Eddie’ $15,000
Uresti, Carlos I. ‘Charlie’ $10,000
Deuell, Robert F. ‘Bob’ $2,000
Grand Total $434,691

* Committee chairmen

CenterPoint EnergyAubrey McClendon, chief executive officer at Chesapeake Energy, donated more than any individual employee: $120,000. donated more than any other political action committee: $1.2 million.

Much of that spending came from the companies’ own political committees, which pool funds from executives and other employees for political activity. (Direct contributions from corporations to candidates are illegal).

Of course, this type of regulated-donor activity isn’t unique to Texas, and the power companies would argue that their donations help fund rigorous campaigns that reward candidates who support their agendas. But it is worth noting.

Let us know if you have feedback or ideas for other data-related content, and be sure to follow @TribData on Twitter for updates.

MATT STILES reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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