VT Democrats Refuse Campaign Contributions From Entergy

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(Host) Vermont Republicans and Democrats have a different philosophy when it comes to campaign contributions from energy companies.

Democrats have refused to accept money from Entergy, the company that owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. But they did benefit from contributions from a developer of a wind project in Vermont.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Last year and early this year, Entergy’s political action committee opened up its checkbook to help the Vermont Republicans.

It wasn’t big money by national standards. According to campaign finance reports filed this month, $2,000 went from Entergy to the state GOP at a fundraiser last summer. And the company gave another three thousand dollars to the Vermont House Republican PAC. That money can then be donated to individual candidates.

Erik Mason is the executive director of the state Republican Party, and he says Entergy’s support is welcome.

(Mason) "They employ hundreds of Vermonters with high-paying jobs. And the party certainly doesn’t tell individual lawmakers how to vote."

(Dillon) Vermont is the only state that gives is Legislature a say in the re-licensing of a nuclear power plants. Lawmakers have so far refused to clear the way for Yankee to operate for another 20 years after its license expires in 2012.

The Vermont House Democratic campaign – which doles out money to Democratic candidates – returned a check from Entergy last year. East Montpelier Democrat Tony Klein explains.

(Klein) "One of the reasons that I would suggest that the House Democratic caucus doesn’t take money from Entergy is that the $2,000 or $2,500 that we would be permitted to accept from them is not worth the aggravation factor that would result from that.

(Dillon)  Other energy companies and their lobbyists give to both parties. But Vermont Democrats and their related political action committees got more from wind energy companies and their owners than the Republicans. For example, First Wind, which hopes to build a large wind project in Sheffield, donated $1,000 to the Democratic House campaign, and another $1,500 to the Senate Victory Fund, which helps Senate candidates. A separate Democratic PAC, called the Senate Leadership Committee, also received $1,000 from First Wind.

First Wind’s Sheffield project is being challenged in environmental court. That court fight – and lobbying from utilities – prompted the legislature this spring to pass a bill to streamline permit appeals for wind energy developments.

Tony Klein chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He says wind developments are far less controversial than re-licensing a nuclear power plant.

(Klein) "You know the reality of it is, I don’t have to tell anybody… , you need a certain amount of money to make politics go. It’s really about weighing the benefits to the liabilities."

(Dillon) Klein says Democrats also have a long-standing policy of not accepting contributions from tobacco companies.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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