It’s no secret that the nuclear power industry gives money–lots of it–to candidates running for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, especially incumbents.
In the ten-year period from 2003 through 2012, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) gave a total of $2,006,624.74 to Congressional candidates, an average of about $200,000 year–including non-election years. In the first half of 2013, a non-election year, NEI put up an additional $132,000 for Congressional campaigns.
During that same ten-year period, anti-nuclear organizations gave a grand total of zero to Congressional candidates.
What does NEI want for its money? The answer, of course, is power. Power, access to Congressmembers, influence over legislation. That means not only support for particular bills, but the ability to block anti-nuclear legislation from ever seeing a hearing, much less a committee or floor vote. It means the ability to help write legislation, to insert that key phrase that can mean millions of dollars in new revenue for nuclear utilities, or perhaps an equal amount in reduced costs. It means the ability to not only set the agenda when it comes to nuclear power, but to see that agenda enacted.
It’s easy to see from the chart below, which shows the key committees and positions NEI’s largest cash recipients hold, that NEI is directing its largest checks to those with the greatest ability to ensure NEI’s agenda moves ahead. That only makes sense.
That the nuclear industry isn’t always successful in its goals–and it isn’t, the anti-nuclear movement has won some clear victories in Congress over the years–doesn’t mean their money has been poorly spent. The industry has won far more than it has lost in Congress.
Below is the NEI’s Top 20, those 20 Senators and Representatives who received the most money from NEI from 2003-2012. The information was taken directly from NEI filings with the Federal Election Commission and was compiled by NIRS’ volunteer Adam Chimienti, who did a stellar job.
It’s important to remember that NEI is just one of many nuclear entities that contribute to Members of Congress. Nuclear utilities also contribute, often heavily, and most have as many–sometimes even more–lobbyists working daily on Capitol Hill than NEI itself. There are also reactor manufacturers, fuel cycle companies, radioactive waste companies, and a few more trade groups as well. The total amount of nuclear money going into Congress runs into the millions per year, every year, year after year.
To repeat: the total amount of anti-nuclear money going to Members of Congress is, and has been, zero. While there have been contributions from environmental groups, like League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and Sierra Club, and contributions from the renewable energy industry and its trade organizations, none of that money has been to explicitly promote a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system. And with LCV’s Board now chaired by Nuclear Matters spokesperson Carol Browner, there is no confidence that LCV will support anti-nuclear candidates in the future.
We’ll talk more about this issue, and offer a modest proposal, in GreenWorld this week.
Rank Name Amount Key Committee/Position
1. Steny H. Hoyer MD-5 $36,000 House Minority Whip
2. Peter J. Visclosky IN-1 $35,000 Appropriations
3. Joe Barton TX-6 $32,750 Energy (Chair)
4. *Ed Towns NY-10 $26,595
5. **John D. Dingell MI-15 $26,500 Energy (Former Chair)
6. Fred Upton MI-6 $26,000 Energy
7. James E. Clyburn SC-6 $25,265 Asst. Democratic Leader (#3 Dem in House)
8. Lisa Murkowski AK-Sen $21,500 Energy (Ranking Minority Member)
9. John A. Boehner OH-8 $20,000 Speaker of the House
10. *Blanche Lincoln AR-Sen $20,000
11. John Barrow GA-1 $19,000 Energy
12. *Jason Altmire PA-4 $17,695
13. **Dave Camp MI-4 $17,000 Ways and Means (Chair)
14. *Frederick Boucher VA-9 $16,172
15. Richard Burr NC-Sen $16,000 Finance
16. ***Christopher S. Murphy CT-5 $15,500 Energy (in House)
17. Rodney Frelinghuysen NJ-11 $15,500 Appropriations
18. *Chet Edwards TX-17 $14,000
19. *John Spratt SC-5 $13,322
20. Mary Landrieu LA-Sen $13,500 Energy (Chair)
*no longer a member of Congress
**retiring after the current Congressional session
***now a U.S. Senator
Update, 1 pm, May 7. The industry’s Exelon-funded Nuclear Matters astroturf organization just announced that former Senator Blanche Lincoln (#10 in NEI campaign contributions) has signed on as their latest spokesperson. Coincidence? Hardly.
May 7, 2014
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