Political Power Lines: Running at Full Capacity Exelon and PSEG Political Donations & Lobbying Expenditures 2001 through April 2006 A Report by New Jersey Citizen Action June 7, 2006 New Jersey Citizen Action 400 Main Street Hackensack, New Jersey 07601 201.488.2804 Political Power Lines: Running at Full Capacity Exelon and PSEG Political Donations & Lobbying Expenditures Introduction With the price of electricity, natural gas, home heating oil and gasoline soaring, our state and national energy policies are being hotly debated. The media reports record profits for the energy industry while consumers find themselves stretched beyond their means just to afford the cost of driving to work, heating their homes and turning on the lights. The proposed acquisition of New Jersey’s largest gas and electric utility, Public Service Electric and Gas by the Exelon Corporation has broad implications for consumers on the one hand and energy executives and shareholders on the other, and is currently under review by state and federal regulators. It is no secret that industries are not shy about lobbying and making political donations to policymakers to influence decisions that impact their industries and corporate bottom lines. It is an understatement to say they have vastly greater resources to spend than the average working family when it comes to influencing decision makers. This report examines the amount of money Exelon and PSE&G, (including their parent companies and or/subsidiaries), spent between 2001 and the first quarter of 2006 on lobbying at the state and federal level and on political donations to New Jersey state and federal representatives and political party committees. Between the years 2001 and the first quarter of 2006, these two corporations spent $23, 215,440.58 lobbying on the state and federal level. During this same period they doled out an additional $795,340 in state and federal political donations to New Jersey representatives and state and federal political party committees. $122,750 was also donated to various industry political action committees, which in turn made contributions to New Jersey federal and state representatives and political party committees. The PSE&G Buy-Out Bid
In December 2004, the Chicago based Exelon Corporation announced it was engaged in a friendly takeover of New Jersey’s largest electric and gas utility, Public Service Electric and Gas. If approved, this swallowing of one big utility by an even bigger one would create the largest utility in the United States. The new entity would serve 7 million electricity customers across three states (Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and 2 million gas customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This super utility would have assets estimated at over $70 billion, with approximately $26.9 billion in annual revenues and $3.2 billion dollars in net earnings1 The company would have the largest generation portfolio of electricity generating facilities in the U.S and strengthen its position as the largest nuclear power operator in the country. The deal, which is now estimated to be worth $16 billion dollars2, has already proved quite lucrative for PSE&G shareholders and top executives. As of January, 2006 seven PSEG executives had cashed in stock options worth more than $54 million, just since the deal was
announced in 20043. Last year Exelon CEO John W. Rowe alone realized $17.7 million dollars from the exercise of his stock options4 Shareholder profits are up as well, with Exelon leading the pack as the industry’s most profitable company. But there is a catch. This concentration of so much generating capacity within one company creates market power, allowing it the ability to profitably maintain prices above competitive levels for a significant period of time, artificially boosting wholesale electricity rates which in turn increase retail prices. The ability of a single company to control the market can lead to price gouging of consumers. Exelon’s buy-out bid of PSEG is a bad deal for all consumers-- residential commercial and industrial. If the deal is approved as proposed, the implications are enormous. A recently filed legal brief by the NJ Attorney General, Zulima Farber, representing the staff of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, states that this deal would cost New Jersey consumers $2.3 billion more dollars a year than we are currently paying for electricity, already some of the highest rates in the nation .5 Because of the sheer enormity of this acquisition and the implications for rates, coupled with the way electricity supply is now bought and sold under our deregulated market structure, the deal will impact all of New Jersey’s consumers, not just those served by PSE&G. The acquisition will also result in New Jersey job losses and again, according to experts at the Board of Public utilities, will not improve the reliability of utility services. Attorney General Farber, The NJ Public Advocate Ronald Chen, NJ Citizen Action, Public Citizen, the NJ Public Interest Research Group, the Sierra Club-NJ, the NJ Large Energy Users Coalition, and Retail Energy Supply Association and others have all called on the Board to reject the buy-out bid as proposed. Given that the very notion of this proposed merger is contrary to current energy policies, (as discussed below), putting competition and the welfare of dozens of wholesale and millions of retail electricity consumers squarely at risk, why then would state and federal regulators and law makers even consider approving the deal? Background on Energy Deregulation Policies
In 1999, in response to high and seemingly ever rising electricity rates, the New Jersey legislature, with much support from the utility industry, deregulated the electric industry, passing the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act (EDECA, N.J.S.A. 48:3-49 et seq.). For decades prior to EDECA, power companies were regulated by the state. They owned their own electricity generating stations, their own transmission lines and they sold their services to residential consumers and businesses. In return for their monopoly ‘franchise,’ utilities were obligated to provide safe and reliable service at reasonable rates to all consumers in their territory. Utility rates were based on the actual costs to provide the power, plus a reasonable rate of return for the utility’s shareholders. Proponents of EDECA declared that deregulation, by eliminating utility monopolies and creating competing suppliers through free market forces would drive down energy prices in New Jersey. The law states that it is the policy of New Jersey to:
1. Lower the current high cost of energy, and improve the quality and choices of
service, for all of the State’s residential, business and institutional customers, and thereby improve the quality of life and place this state in an improved competitive position in regional, national and international markets
2. Place greater reliance on competitive markets, where such markets exist, to
deliver energy services to consumers in greater variety and a lower cost than traditional, bundled public utility service
3. Ensure universal access to affordable and reliable electric power and natural gas
4. Provide diversity in the supply of electric power throughout this state
EDECA gave New Jersey utilities a whole new regulatory structure that allowed them to separate billing for power and the distribution of that power. As a result, PSE&G, (and other utilities), formed new corporate structures. While the distribution of electricity and gas is still handled by PSE&G, it now operates under a parent group, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG). The generation of power is now handled by an unregulated entity, PSEG Power, a large independent power producer in the U.S. with three main subsidiaries: PSEG Fossil, PSEG Nuclear, and PSEG Energy Resources and Trade. Despite policy makers belief that deregulation was the answer to high electric rates, in practice it has thus far failed the vast majority of New Jersey consumers. For residential customers in particular, there is no competition or choice in the retail electricity market and rates have not gone down. Indeed rates have climbed over the last several years and PSE&G customers are just now feeling the pinch of the most recent 14% increase in electric rates. And Rates will rise again next year as this year’s electricity auction resulted in a 55% price increase over 2005. The NJ Basic Generation Service Auction is the state’s default mechanism to insure adequate supplies of electricity for NJ consumers in the absence of competitive markets. This procurement process however, and unlike our prior system of regulation, is not transparent and neither ratepayers nor regulators know if the price being paid is based on the actual cost to generate that power. The acquisition of PSEG cannot go forward without the approval of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, a Board comprised of five (5) Commissioners, nominated by a governor and approved by the NJ Senate. To approve the buy-out, the BPU must be satisfied that the proposed acquisition is in the public interest and produce positive benefits for New Jersey ratepayers. The proposal also needs the approval of other effected state utility commissions, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). On July 1, 2005 the FERC approved the acquisition without conducting a single day of public or evidentiary hearings. On May 31, 2006 the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission also approved the merger, finding that Exelon is capable of operating and decommissioning the nuclear plants currently owned by PSEG. The Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice must also review the filing and has yet to issue an opinion. Perhaps part of the answer as to why regulators and other policy makers have already or may decide to support Exelon’s drive to become the biggest utility in America, (and
second largest in the world), despite the fact that the very notion of such a plan is contrary to a policy of more competition in the industry not less, lies in the enormous sums of money these corporations spend on lobbying and direct political contributions as part of their program to influence energy and utility ratemaking policies at the state and federal level. Lobbying Expenditures
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, www.opensecrets.org, together, Exelon and PSEG, and their subsidiaries, reported spending $21,053,170 on federal lobbying related activity from 2001 through 2005: Table 1: Exelon and PSEG Lobbying Expenditures Reported at the Federal Level
Year Exelon PSEG & Subsidiaries Subsidiaries
$13,404,170 $7,649,000 $21,053,170
NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission reports, posted at www.elec.state.nj.us, reveal that both companies also spend a considerable amount on lobbying activities here at home:
Table 2:Exelon and PSEG Lobbying Expenditures Reported at the State Level Year Exelon PSE&G Generation
$161,844.78 $2,000,425.80 $2,162,270.58 From 2001 through 2005 Exelon and PSEG, and their subsidiaries have spent $23,215,440.58 lobbying at the state and federal level and there seems to be no end in sight. . In New Jersey, the introduction of Exelon as a new lobbying partner for PSEG, increased overall expenditures by 30% from 2004 to 2005.As these figures reveal, the deep pockets of these two corporate giants are being well utilized to carry their message to the halls of Congress in D.C., the
corridors of Trenton’s Gold Dome and to the offices of regulatory staffers at the state and federal level.
Both Exelon and PSEG have Political Action Committees (PACs), through which they make political donations to representatives and political party committees. PSEG’s Federal PAC is called PEGPAC and its New Jersey PAC is called PSEEXEC PAC. Exelon’s federal PAC is named EXELONPAC. Exelon does not have a state PAC in New Jersey, yet, although it does make some donations to state party committees through its federal PAC. Between January 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004, EXELONPAC was the 25th largest corporate PAC in the country, spending $439,297. For the current 2006 election cycle, EXELONPAC has already spent $1,328,221, and the cycle isn’t even over yet. In addition to their PAC giving, various corporate executives and other employees and board members, (who through their compensation packages and stock options have much to gain by energy policies that favor the industry), also donate to selected representatives and party committees. Finally, both companies and executives donate to energy industry PACs who in turn donate to candidates, elected representatives and party committees.
For the purposes of this report we examined contributions to New Jersey state and federal representatives, state and federal party committees and industry PACs, (and their respective donations to NJ officials and parties). Information was gathered from reports filed with both the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and the Center for Responsive Politics. Reports are available at www.fec.gov, www.elec.state.nj.gov. and www.opensecrets.org.
From 2001 through April, 2006, PSEG, Exelon, (and their subsidiaries), and individual corporate executives, employees and board members donated $795,340 to New Jersey state and federal representatives and political party committees, (see Tables 4 – 4n). From 2004 to 2005 contributions increased overall by 39%. Generally, the increase is due to higher donations at the federal level, not a surprise given that federal energy and regulatory policies now play a much larger role in regulating corporate utility transactions and rate setting. Between 2001 and 2005, political donations at the federal level increased by 334%. Between 2004 and 2005 the increase was 56%. And in just the first quarter of this 2006 election year, ExelonPAC has donated $45,000 to federal party committees, already 82% of what it contributed in all of 2005.
While both corporations spend huge sums of money on lobbying and political contributions, the significant increase in political donations to New Jersey representatives comes from Exelon, again no surprise as the company is seeking to become New Jersey’s largest utility. Tables 4a-c describe contributions made by ExelonPAC to NJ’s federal and state representatives. Between 2001 and 2004, ExelonPAC and its employees donated $13,000 to New Jersey state and federal representatives. In 2005, these contributions jumped to $56,000, a 330% increase over the total for the previous 4 years.
Citizen Action also reviewed contributions made by Exelon and PSEG to industry PACs that in turn make contributions to New Jersey representatives and state and federal campaign committees. Tables 5 -5a list the contributions made by ExelonPAC and PEGPAC to the Electric Power Supply Association PAC, the American Gas Association Political Action Committee (GASPAC) the Nuclear Energy Institute Federal PAC and the POWERPAC of the Edison Electric Institute. Between 2001 and the first quarter of 2006 the Exelon and PSEG federal PACs and various corporate employees donated $122,750 to these industry PACs. These industry PACs in turn donated $102,700 to New Jersey representatives and federal political committees during the same period. Table 3: Top Ten NJ Recipients of Exelon/PSEG Political Contributions*
1. NJ Democratic State Committee $61,750
8. NJ Republican State Committee $17,625
* Includes donations from Company Executives
Corporate political giving clearly has strategic goals. As detailed above, the top recipient of Exelon and PSEG’s largesse is New Jersey’s Democratic State Committee. Democrats control the State Assembly, the State Senate and the Governor’s office. The second highest recipient is Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senator Lautenberg sits on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, (which deals with nuclear energy, nuclear safety, clean air and climate change). Representatives Pallone and Ferguson both sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Exelon and PSEG are spreading their money among those elected individuals and party organizations that have the ability to influence their corporate bottom lines.
The fight over the Exelon/PSEG buy-out bid is about the meaning of energy deregulation and a fight over what’s good for consumers vs. what’s good for shareholders and corporate energy executives. New Jersey law requires that our policy makers and regulators balance these interests and insure that New Jersey ratepayers have access to reliable service at reasonable rates. Energy companies are clearly profiting from the deregulation of energy markets while consumers have yet to realize the promise of lower prices. There is no doubt, given the millions of dollars they are spending on lobbying activities and political contributions that energy companies believe they have much to gain by aggressively influencing state and federal policymakers. Regulators and the representatives who appoint them must see through the massive corporate lobbying expenditures and lavish political donations and remain true to their mission of protecting the public interest.
1 “Meet Mr. Nuke”, CNNMoney.com, May 15, 2006 and Briefs filed on behalf of the Staff of the NJ Board of Public Utilities, April 26, 2006.
2 The original $12 billion purchase price of PSEG is now valued at $16.2 billion. “Exelon Merger Criticized”, Chicago Tribune, May 13, 2006
3 “PSEG Execs Opt for Riches”, Newark Star Ledger, January 29, 2006
4 “Exelon CEO Realized $17.7 Million From Options Exercises in ’05,” CNNMoney.com., May 23, 2006.
5 In the Matter of the Joint Petition of Public Service Electric and Gas Company and Exelon Corporation for Approval of a Change in Control of Public Service Electric and Gas Company and Related Authorizations: BPU Docket No. EMO505020106, OAL Docket Number: PUC-1874-05. See Initial Brief on Behalf of the Staff of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, April 26, 2006, page 52.
New Jersey Citizen Action is the state’s largest citizen watchdog coalition representing 60,000 family members and 100 affiliated senior, labor, tenant, faith-based, neighborhood, women’s , environmental, civil rights and civic organizations.
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