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Duke Energy Uses ALEC to Attack Climate and Clean Energy Laws in Pay-to-Play Politics

In the lead up to this fall's Democratic National Convention, polluter giant Duke Energy has offered a $10 million loan. Good thing, since Duke CEO Jim Rogers has taken the lead on the remaining fundraising for the DNC and is now being criticized for doing a shoddy job of it amid his controversial takeover as CEO following a big merger with Progress Energy.

Lost amid this dramatic transition is Duke's ironic role in the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC is the infamous corporate bill mill that connects notably-conservative state lawmakers with lobbyists, PR agents and other representatives of companies ranging from Koch Industries to Phillip Morris to Pfizer. ALEC's agenda spans across Big Business priorities, creating template state laws that serve to deny climate change science, privatize schools, protect killers (as with the Trayvon Martin "castle doctrine" legislation) and disenfranchise voters through Voter ID laws.

Voter ID laws that Democrats call "suppressive," an ironic contrast to Duke's $10 million line of credit to the DNC.

Duke Energy is heavily invested in ALEC in several ways. Duke sponsors ALEC's meetings, dedicates its staff to help oversee ALEC's state operations, and consistently operates in ALEC's anti-environmental task force, a who's-who of polluters and apologists attacking clean energy legislation that Duke purportedly supports. Here's an overview of Duke's notable role in ALEC:

  • Duke pays heavily for ALEC's operations--they have spent $116,000 on ALEC meetings since 2009, including $50,000 for ALEC's May 2012 meeting in Charlotte, NC where Duke is headquartered (Charlotte Business Journal). This well exceeds the top annual ALEC membership fee of $25,000.
  • Duke representatives Chuck Claunch and Bonnie Loomis are liaisons to ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture (EEA) task force, which ghostwrites state laws attacking regional climate programs, controls for hazardous coal ash storage, renewable energy standards, EPA enforcement of clean air and water laws, and numerous other polluter handouts written and approved by the oil, coal and public relations companies in the EEA task force's filthy roster.
  • Progress Energy's Kathy Hawkins and Jeanelle McCain are also involved in ALEC's EEA task force, further bloating Duke's influence within ALEC now that Progress is part of Duke Energy.

Duke has told the press that it doesn't agree with all of the EEA model bills, specifically attacks on renewable energy and reductions in greenhouse gases. This is deceitful, since such laws are at the core of ALEC's anti-environmental task force and have constantly evolved to match changes in political trends. If Duke doesn't support the purpose of this task force, then why is it offering up Duke stafff and money beyond its ALEC membership dues?

Beyond Duke's active participation within ALEC's anti-environmental task force, Duke has also positioned its operatives in two states to help oversee further fundraising and recruitment for ALEC.

Duke and ALEC in South Carolina

Duke's South Carolina Regional Director Chuck Claunch was handpicked by ALEC's State Chairmen in South Carolina to help fulfill their obligations to recruit new ALEC members, raise money, and other responsibilities detailed in ALEC's own IRS tax filings [PDF p.36]. Since Mr. Claunch is also part of ALEC's anti-environment task force, it's possible he helped create model bills that became South Carolina law. Also acting as a private sector co-chair in South Carolina is Progress Energy's Jeanelle McCain, another member of ALEC's anti-environmental task force. With the Duke-Progress merger now made official, it is unclear how Mr. Claunch and Ms. McCain may shift roles, or if Duke's influence in South Carolina is expanding through ALEC.

Known ALEC South Carolina legislators who work with Duke and other polluters in ALEC's EEA task force:
  • Rep. Dwight Loftis
  • Rep. Nelson Hardwick
  • Rep. Bill Sandifer
  • Rep. Jeffrey Duncan

Working alongside ALEC's State Chairmen in Indiana (Rep. David Wolkins and Sen. Jim Buck) is Duke's Vice President of Government Affairs, Julie Griffith. Beyond the numerous contradictions detailed in this blog, perhaps Ms. Griffith would like to explain her role in ALEC, a notable front for the tobacco industry, and her position as chair of the executive leadership team of the American Lung Association. That and her political work for a company that causes lung damage from coal pollution. Just as in South Carolina, Rep. Wolkins and Sen. Buck chose Duke's Julie Griffith to help them oversee ALEC's operations in Indiana, primarily fundraising. Known ALEC legislators in Indiana who have been part of ALEC's EEA (Energy/Env/Ag) task force:
  • Rep. David Wolkins (EEA task force chair, 2011 ALEC legislator of the year, ALEC State Chairman in IN)
  • Rep. Wesley Culver
  • Rep. Brian Bosma
  • Rep. Heath Van Natte

ALEC: Duke Energy partners with Koch Industries, Exxon, Peabody, Heartland, ACCCE, Art Pope...

While over 25 companies have dropped ALEC, including Walmart, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, John Deere, Dell and numerous others, Duke continues to staff and fund ALEC alongside ExxonMobil, BP, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy, and other major polluters to dismantle state environmental protections across the country. 

So even though Jim Rogers says we should wean off of foreign oil, Duke conspires with multinational oil companies to attack climate solutions.

Typical.

The oil majors are only one example of Duke's secretive partnerships that contradict its statements on climate change and sustainability. ALEC's EEA task force includes operatives from climate science denying groups like the Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, and the John Locke Foundation, all of which have enjoyed support from the billionaire Koch brothers and North Carolina political overlord Art Pope.

By participating in ALEC's anti-environmental task force, Duke continues to partner with representatives of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a front group that Duke abandoned in 2009 when ACCCE's aggressive lobbying against national climate legislation became an obvious conflict of interest (and when ACCCE was caught up in a scandal involving fraudulent letters to Congress opposing climate legislation). Let us not forget that national climate legislation in 2009 essentially became a handout for major polluters like Duke who helped write the legislation.

Greenpeace recently released a new report detailing a Clean Energy Roadmap for Apple, highlighting progress Apple has made in using clean energy sources for its Cloud data centers while stressing that Apple is still far too dependent on coal-burning utilities like Duke Energy for its energy. While Greenpeace calls upon Apple to help shift the energy market in a cleaner direction, we are also asking Duke Energy to make a dramatic shift away from dirty coal, especially from destructive mountain top removal mining. Responding to Greenpeace, Duke Energy told CBS, "In North Carolina, we are allowed to buy non-mountaintop coal as long as the cost is not higher than conventional coal supply. Even if we wanted to pay more, we couldn't because the state mandates it."

Come on, Duke--you gave money to 115 of the 170 North Carolina legislators elected in 2010 and spent $19 million on federal and state political contributions during that election cycle alone. You are wrapping up your scandalous merger into the nation's largest utility company. If Duke wanted to strike down a mandate to use coal from the most destructive sources available, they could do it. Instead, Duke plays to its major strength: using clean PR to hide the dirty money it spends to hold our air, water and climate hostage with outdated, 20th Century energy.

Amid the sudden ouster of former Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson and conflicts with ratepayers in multiple states, Duke already has plenty to be embarrassed about. Using ALEC to partner with the world's worst corporate citizens and climate science deniers gives Duke's other shames a run for their money.

In the name of transparent democracy, Greenpeace challenges Duke to disclose which ALEC model bills they have supported at ALEC meetings, whether by vote or through Duke sponsorship. Better yet, Duke should join the 30 companies and organizations who have cut ties with ALEC and its poisonous role in American politics.

Jim Rogers

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