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Friday, May 13, 2011 - 8:57am

Utilities Can Give To Politicians

Utilities will be allowed to contribute to political campaigns under a new law the governor signed yesterday. Watchdog groups are concerned the law poses a conflict of interest.

William Perry with Common Cause says the law is unethical.

"These companies are protected monopolies or they’re very heavily regulated by the state so giving them the opportunity to curry favor with elected officials by giving them campaign contributions just seems contrary to what the system should be," says Perry.

The law lets utilities contribute to lawmakers’ campaigns, but not to members of the Public Service Commission which regulates the monopolies. However, Perry says lawmakers heavily influence the industry as witnessed in their creation of the highly controversial law that lets Georgia Power precharge customers for its nuclear expansion.

Senator Jack Murphy who sponsored the campaign bill recalls that legislative process.

"I mean we had serious serious discussions; it was thoroughly vetted and I think that’s the difference," says Murphy. "Where when you have just five public service commissioners and you’re contributing to just five of them then that could be a conflict of interest."

Ethics watchdog groups are exploring a lawsuit.