These 5 Lawmakers Have Taken The Most Cash From Dominion Energy

November 15, 2018
 Democracy  Virginia

How much does it cost to get access to craft and re-craft legislation that hurts consumers and rakes in profit as the country’s fifth largest utility? Here’s how much Dominion Energy has paid these five legislators.

Dominion has been the biggest corporate campaign donor in Virginia over the past 20 years, but it has been a significant player in Virginia politics since at least the 1970s. Dominion’s political expenditures have successfully pushed an agenda that benefits the company’s bottom line. As former Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said of the company’s political activity:

“Dominion’s investing. It’s paid off handsomely.”

The Top Five Virginia Recipients Of Dominion Campaign Cash

From 1998 to mid 2018, Dominion’s political action committee (PAC) and employees contributed over $10 million to Virginia state candidates. The ample campaign generosity is bipartisan: 86 percent of Virginia legislators have received Dominion-affiliated campaign cash. Of the $2.7 million funneled to Virginia’s current lawmakers, 25 state legislators received more than half of the largesse and the top five recipients received nearly one-third of its contributions.  

Top 5 Virginia Recipients of Dominion Campaign Cash, 1998-2018

Incumbent and party State legislative body and district Dominion PAC contributions Dominion employee/ individual contributions Total Dominion contributions
Richard L. Saslaw (D) Senate District 35 (Fairfax) $255,500 $18,750 $274,250
Terry G. Kilgore (R) House District 1 (Wise County) $171,391 $25,250 $196,641
M. Kirkland Cox (R) House District 66 (Chesterfield County) $106,611 $42,110 $148,721
Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R) Senate District 3 (Hampton Roads) $92,990 $22,550 $115,540
R. Creigh Deeds (D) Senate District 25 (Charlottesville) $104,450 $5,850 $110,300

SOURCE: Food & Water Watch analysis of National Institute for Money in Politics data.

Dominion also has generously backed and courted Virginia’s governors — of both parties, including $50,000 to Governor Ralph Northam’s inaugural committee. It has lavished gifts, entertainment and trips on legislators and officials. Between 2008 and 2016, the company spent over $430,000 on meals, cocktails, sporting events and hunting trips, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.

These gifts included $122,000 for taking legislators to Washington Redskins games and $47,000 hosting legislators at a Georgia quail hunting plantation. Fortune magazine called the Gillionville Plantation an “obscenely expensive” hunting resort. Virginia State Senator Thomas “Tommy” Norment, one of the top five recipients of Dominion campaign cash, went to Gillionville several times but he also served as the Chairman of the Virginia Commission on Electric Utility Deregulation and sponsored at least two of Dominion’s legislative initiatives.

Dominion Energy Reaps The Benefits Of Its Investment In Politicians

Dominion exercised its political power to repeatedly reshape Virginia’s electric utility regulation over its key subsidiary Virginia Power — each time adjusting the rules to benefit Dominion while driving up electric bills for consumers. It also has thwarted popular and progressive energy measures. For example, Dominion ensured that utilities (like its subsidiary Virginia Power) would be gatekeepers for community-based solar projects instead of allowing churches, apartment complexes or other community organizations to develop and benefit from their own solar projects.

But electricity deregulation — and various iterations of re-regulation over coming years — was the big legislative prize for Dominion as the company rode the late-1990s wave of state electricity deregulation. When that deregulation failed to deliver the benefits that Dominion promised, the company promoted a series of changes to Virginia’s utility law that confounded regulatory oversight and ensured that its allies in the legislature had the final say over utility regulation. In the end, Dominion’s efforts created a system of such light regulatory oversight that in 2017 Goldman Sachs referred to Virginia as “one of the top state regulatory environments for utilities.”

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Climate Catastrophe Is The Ultimate Price Consumers Are Paying For Dominion’s Profit

As Dominion expands its sprawling network of fracked gas investments like pipelines, power plants, export terminals and fracked gas drilling, it is turning a blind eye to the scientific community’s warnings to rapidly shift away from fossil fuels for the survival of humanity of the planet. Instead of shifting investments into renewable energy (almost none of its Virginia Power utility capacity comes from solar or wind — 0.3 percent), it is doubling down on its fossil fuel footprint — including the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline running from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina. This agenda exacerbates the risk of catastrophic climate change that puts Americans and the world in grave danger.

“Dominion’s stranglehold over politics, energy, and infrastructure in the state of Virginia is a travesty to democratic values,” said Jorge Aguilar, Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director. “Such a legacy of pollution continues to threaten communities with major fracked gas infrastructure, climbing climate emissions, and controversial projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Cove Point export terminal, power plants and electric transmission lines. It is up to our elected officials to halt dirty fossil fuel development and flip the switch on dirty energy by committing to rapidly shifting to 100 percent clean renewable energy now.”

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