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Politics & Government

Political spending by Consumers Energy questioned

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In the past four years, Consumers Energy gave $43 million to a political lobbying group, Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy, according to research by the Energy and Policy Institute.

That's a huge sum for a utility to spend on political activity -- as much as the entire electric utility industry spent on federal campaigns since 2015.

Matt Kasper of the Energy and Policy Institute found that the lobbying group failed to disclose all of the money to the IRS.

But he says it's clear what a lot of it's being used for: To help elect opponents of two legislators that Consumers wants out of office -- Gary Glenn and Tom Barrett.

"We almost did a double take to make sure, is this really what's happening?" he says. "But it is."

Both Barrett and Glenn favor competition in the energy market.  

Officers with the lobbying group did not respond to requests for interviews. The Michigan Secretary of State, which oversees campaign spending, says it has not received a complaint about Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy.

Consumers Energy, which is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors, says the money it gave to the group came from shareholders, not customers. In a statement, the company says:

Consumers Energy stands for the people of Michigan. As a good corporate citizen, we are engaged in the political process, welcome constructive dialogue and support pragmatic policies that are focused on safe, reliable, and affordable energy for Michigan, and we support organizations that provide education and advocacy related to such policies.

But shareholders aren't very happy about the spending. Close to half recently voted to force Consumers to disclose its political activities.

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