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Friday, February 25, 2011 - 10:37am

Utilities Could Fund Campaigns Under Bill

Updated: 3 years ago.
A Georgia state senator wants to lift a decades-long ban on political contributions by utility companies.

For 36 years, Georgia law has banned utilities from giving money to campaigns for state office.

This week state senator Don Balfour,R-Snellville, introduced a bill that would give utilities the same power to fund campaigns as other firms.

The only exception would be the utility-regulating Public Service Commission.

Those running for the PSC would continue having to turn down utility money.

Balfour says a recent court decision equates corporate campaign contributions to free speech.

"The Supreme Court of the United State just ruled last year that you can’t ban corporations from making contributions and based on that the current law is unconstitutional," he says.

Danny Orrock with the political watchdog group Georgia Watch says, if passed, the bill would give utilities too much power over state government.

"They already have monopolies; they have the power to take your land away from you through eminent domain," says Orrock. "They need our legislators now too?"

The bill’s supporters include Atlanta Gas Light and Georgia’s electric cooperatives.

Georgia Power, the state's largest utility, hasn’t officially backed it.