Citizens for Electioneering Michigan’s Energy

Big Political Spending By Electric Utility Raises Concerns

If you think that government unions should be prohibited from taking members’ money to spend on political ads those members disagree with, you may also object to Consumers Energy shareholders’ money being used for political ads supporting Consumers’ agenda. Which, among other things, includes outsourcing electricity generation to other states.

I have no objection in principle to the idea of cost effective outsourcing. I mention it because the inaptly named “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” has been fear mongering about outsourcing Michigan electricity supply jobs in a blitz of radio and television ads. Most of the funding for that electioneering came from Consumers Energy.

Consumers Energy points out the campaign ad money did not come from customers.

“Our contributions to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy came from the company in the form of non-customer, shareholder dollars. In other words, funds driven from our shareholders – people buying stock – and not from customer bills.”

As if this makes any difference. As TOC has noted previously, money is fungible. The money they used for political purposes could have been used to defray costs, increase shareholder dividends, mitigate rate increases, or invested in capital projects. Instead, it was used in a crony capitalist scheme to maintain and extend its government granted monopoly status – upon which their stock price largely depends.

Remember Consumers election spending next time they ask you for a donation to their solar projects, or their Green Generation wind program, or offer you a discount for letting them take control of your air conditioner.

Consumers’ political activity should be severely constrained, as befits a company operating with a government granted commodity monopoly.

Update, 5:09PM. I’d forgotten these details from 2014:

In November 2014 the MPSC approved a settlement agreement authorizing Consumers Energy to recover $9,752,187, with interest, in deferred major maintenance expense.

Deferred MAJOR MAINTENANCE expense? And they have a government guaranteed 90% market share? And they put $43 million into political advertising in this time frame?

That’s one way to ensure profit margins stay in double digits.