How utility companies use charitable giving to influence policy
The nation’s 10 largest utilities — including Duke, Dominion and Pacific Gas & Electric — spent about $1 billion on charitable giving from 2013 to 2017, partly “to manipulate politics, policies and regulation in ways designed to increase shareholder profits, often at the expense of low-income communities,” the Economic Policy Institute wrote.
In many cases, the community leaders who benefited from those donations testified to government regulators and legislators in opposition to renewables, or in support of unpopular proposals like rate hikes. Nonprofits initially apply for grants, and in some cases utilities have stopped funding groups that oppose their agenda.
“It’s a strategy of divide and conquer,”said Johanna Bozuwa, co-manager of The Democracy Collaborative. “They’re taking people that have shared struggles and pitting them against each other, and that’s something we see in communities most affected by utility infrastructure.”