Watchdog: Consumers Energy spends millions in dark money to defeat legislators, limit competition
Reporters and activists have been piecing together information on a couple of political organizations funded by Consumer's Energy. Those organizations have been targeting politicians who support opening up the energy market in Michigan.
Matt Kasper, the research director at the Energy & Policy Institute, a watchdog group tracking big utility companies, joined Stateside to talk about what kind of political maneuvering his group has observed.
Listen above to hear where this money is coming from, what it's being used for, and why we should be paying attention.
Consumers Energy spokesman Brian Wheeler sent this statement in response to the revelations about their political spending.
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. Our contributions to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy came from the company in the form of non-customer, shareholder dollars.
*Clarification: We have changed the headline to reflect that the characterization of Consumers Energy's political contributions were those of the watchdog group, Energy & Policy Institute.
*This post has been updated on Monday, June 18th, at 3:45pm to include the following:
Consumers Energy responded to the interview above with concerns that it implied the company's political donations were unlawful. In an email sent on Friday, June 15th, spokesman Brian Wheeler wrote:
"The reality is that nothing illegal has taken place. It is typical for companies to close their books at the end of the year. When that happens, the company has a choice of when to transfer contributions. In this case, contributions were transferred early in the following year. As you might know, federal tax forms only capture contributions received by any nonprofit only within that tax year. If for example, the contribution formally arrived early in the next year, it would not appear on reporting forms until that appropriate tax year. You can see how my explanation is true within the reporting itself by Kasper. You can see the company reporting funds, and the following year those funds appear on Form 990 by the nonprofit."
Stateside has extended an invitation to Consumers Energy to discuss these concerns in an on-air interview.