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Energy Companies Ramp Up Political Spending, Bill Writing

January 25, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This piece from The Hill isn’t really shocking. We all know that when Congress takes up legislation that affects a certain industry, that industry increases their donations to members of Congress, particularly those who wield a lot of influence over the legislation they are concerned with.

The article explains, for example, that “the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which represents for-profit electric utilities, spent around $10.5 million in 2009 to lobby Congress,” the year they began seriously pursuing climate change legislation. “That was more than a 40 percent increase from the $7.5 million the group spent in 2008.”

But what is shocking — or, at least, what should be shocking — is that these lobbying groups actually have a seat at the legislation drafting table.

EEI played a critical role in drafting what became the House climate bill, which squeaked by a floor vote last June but has since stalled in the Senate.

The trade group helped to craft the formula for the distribution of valuable pollution allowances that companies can trade to meet their emissions reductions targets.

The “formula for the distribution of valuable pollution allowances” in the House’s climate change bill (H.R. 2545) that EEI helped craft happens to direct a significant chunk of the cap-and-trade allowances (approx. 25%) directly to polluters, and for free. The giveaways that EEI helped put in the bill will ultimately mean billions less for households that may need help defraying increased energy costs that they might see under the bill. And the money that is allocated in that section for helping consumers is channeled through utility companies, though the bill contains a loophole that basically takes away any assurance that consumers will ever actually see the money.

Time for some transparency in lobbyist-lawmaker relations?

Related: Lobbyists Writing Legislation

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