Can utility monopolies buy state Senate seat? (Guest Editorial)

Editor, Advertiser:

When the campaign began for the state Senate seat representing Bay, Lapeer, and Tuscola counties, I was honored to receive Sen. Mike Green’s support and thought there’d be three major issues:

  • My opposition to the retiree pension tax, and Rep. Daley’s vote in favor of that tax.
  • My leadership in the campaign against Proposal 1, the $2 billion roads tax increase rejected by 85 percent of voters in May 2015, and Daley’s vote and public comments in favor of that tax.
  • My A+ grade and endorsement by the National Rifle Association in 2016, and the B-minus Daley received from NRA, without endorsement, when he ran against Sen. Green.

A new issue has emerged that’s maybe more important: is our state Senate seat for sale to monopoly utility bosses?

All those ads praising Daley or attacking me are paid for by Consumers Energy and/or DTE using corporate funds they take from our electricity bills to finance multiple “dark money” front groups located at the same street address near Lansing.

I serve as chairman of the House Energy Policy Committee. During my first term, monopoly utility bosses tried to eliminate the Electricity Choice program that allows a scant 10 percent of the electricity generated in Michigan to be bought from providers other than Consumers or DTE, who get the remaining 90 percent of the electricity market in their service areas by law, meaning most people are forced to buy from them at higher cost.

But 90 percent wasn’t enough. They demanded 100 percent, and I led the fight that stopped them.

What were the stakes?

Public schools alone have saved tens of millions of dollars under the Electricity Choice program – over $560,000 in Bay County, $1.5 million in Tuscola County, and $2.2 million in Lapeer County.

Those savings would have ended had I rolled over to monopoly utility bosses. Instead, I led the opposition. If elected to the state Senate, I’ll continue to lead.

That’s why they’ve spent $500,000 so far – money they take from our electricity bills – on ads propping up Daley’s campaign or falsely attacking me.

Under our current monopoly system, Consumers and DTE are also guaranteed a 10 percent annual profit by law, meaning they have tens of millions of dollars to spend trying to handpick and elect legislators who won’t threaten their monopoly control over electricity customers.

According to Crain’s Business Detroit, Consumers Energy’s PAC admitted it gave $2,500 to Kevin Daley’s campaign, but Consumers also gave $43.5 million since 2014 to “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” – a “dark money” front group run from a law office at 2145 Commons Parkway, Okemos – which ran ads opposing Electricity Choice and is now running ads attacking me for supporting Electricity Choice, which they falsely characterize as “outsourcing” Michigan jobs.

Utility bosses are funding another “dark money” front group, the so-called “Faithful Conservatives for Michigan,” also located at 2145 Commons Parkway. Its deceptive ads don’t mention energy, instead promoting Kevin Daley or falsely attacking me.

Notably, two other “dark money” front groups operated out of that same street address: “Save Michigan Roads,” which promoted the massive Proposal 1 roads tax that Daley supported, and “Michigan’s Voice,” which attacked Rep. Gary Howell’s campaign in 2016.

Because these most recent ads don’t expressly say “vote for” Daley, they’re legally paid for with corporate funds, the money that monopoly utility bosses take from our ever-rising electricity bills. And you wondered why your electricity bill went up this past winter.

I believe all electricity customers should be free to choose where we buy electricity, and that customer choice and competition will bring down prices for all of us.

Utility bosses don’t like that, since it threatens their big take. And they’re spending big bucks because, based on my track record, they’re afraid I might get it done.

Obviously, they’d prefer a state senator instead they know won’t threaten their monopoly.

When the smoke clears, the choice really is this clear: Kevin Daley and big money from utility bosses scheming to protect their monopoly power, or Gary Glenn and big savings for our public schools, savings I’ll keep working to extend to all electricity customers. I’d appreciate your vote Aug. 7th.

By Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Twp.

Chairman, House Energy Policy Committee

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