Press release: January 19, 2021

BREAKING: Senate Committee Votes Down Public Utility Money Ban



Diana Williams, Clean Virginia Communications Lead
[email protected], 540-836-8125

January 19, 2021

BREAKING: Senate Committee Votes Down Public Utility Money Ban
Senators vote again to allow contributions from the utilities they are elected to regulate

Richmond — In a 5-10 vote today, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee failed to pass the Ban on Political Donations from Utility Monopolies, SB 1236, introduced by Senator Chap Petersen. In response, Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore said, 

“Utility monopoly campaign contributions present a clear and unique conflict of interest in our political system. Today, Virginia legislators voted in their own interest to continue accepting money from the monopolies they regulate, rather than voting for their constituents, who have no choice but to subsidize those contributions through their utility bills. Virginia’s utility companies have donated nearly $20 million to Virginia legislators since 1996, with electric utility monopolies alone donating $16 million. In this period, Virginia residents have watched utility monopolies raise their bills and use that money to manipulate regulations in their favor.” 

SB 1236 would have banned campaign contributions from Virginia’s 60 public utility monopolies to candidates, campaign committees, and political committees. By outlawing contributions from regulated utilities, it would have swiftly ended the ability of Virginia’s utility monopolies to directly influence the same legislators tasked with providing regulatory oversight.

A majority of states, 28 in total, ban contributions from public utilities in some form while 22 states ban corporate contributions altogether. Yet, as Virginia continues to allow utility campaign contributions, it also continues to provide a favorable regulatory environment for its utilities, including weak oversight that permits these monopolies to overcharge customers and legally avoid issuing refunds. 

The final Senate Privileges and Elections committee vote tally is as follows: 

Senator Deeds (Chair):Yes

Senator Bell: Yes

Senator Boysko: Yes

Senator Dunnavent: No

Senator Ebbin: Yes

Senator Howell: No

Senator Mason: No

Senator McClellan: Yes

Senator McDougle: No

Senator Peake: No

Senator Reeves: No

Senator Ruff: No

Senator Spruill: No

Senator Surovell: No

Senator Vogel: No