“Do you actively support efforts to reduce corruption in government?”
Of course, any candidate presented with that question will reply yes. What do you expect? “No, I’m quite passive about corruption in government. Live and let live.”
That was one of the softball questions on the Clean Virginia candidate survey form, which will be taking on added significance given the number of Clean Virginia-funded and endorsed candidates who were successful Tuesday. You can read the full questionnaire here, and potential 2021 candidates are advised to print it out and start a file on coming roll call votes.
Several very specific and profitable “asks” from the renewable energy industry were included, ending any doubt about a profit motive sharing space with other goals. The outlines of the 2020 General Assembly session take shape.
Clean Virginia reported donations of almost $371,000 in 2018 and 2019, including one $5,000 check to a Republican, Senator Amanda Chase. That’s why she held on! Its founder Michael Bills gave even more, none to Republicans. Apparently, a shorter list of candidates received the Clean Virginia endorsement, which you can explore here, with Tuesday’s winners helpfully noted already. (It got some wrong, by the way.)
There were two sets of issue questions on the document after the initial candidate information section one, and their significance was explained by political director Lizzie Hylton when she shared the document a few days before the election:
“….unlike a lot of other groups, we will fund candidates we do not endorse. For candidates who are only interested in our funding and not our endorsement (we’ve had several), we only require that they complete Sections I & II of the Questionnaire.”
Section one is just the candidate information. The section two necessary to qualify for funding focused on campaign finance and ethics and included the one which opened this post. It also asked if the candidate had accepted any funding from “Virginia utility monopolies,” owned any stock in “Virginia utility monopolies,” and would support a ban on “investor-owned utility” stock ownership by all legislators. Virginia now merely has a weak disclosure requirement and fuzzy rules on voting to benefit your stock value.
It went a bit further by asking if the candidates would support additional (but unspecified) restrictions on gifts to legislators, and an extension from one to two years for the prohibition on former legislators (it used the curious word “politicians”) from becoming lobbyists.
The real meat of the questionnaire is the longer, final section three, focused on energy issues and a bit more on ethics. On ethics, for the group’s endorsement, candidates had to take a position on prohibiting contributions from “public service monopolies,” prohibiting contributions from all corporations, “as has been done in 22 other states,” and then setting “reasonable limits” on contributions from others.
In an almost laughable contradiction, the candidates are first asked if they would support restoring in full State Corporation Commission authority over utility rates and projects, and then were asked if they “support legislative effort to legally mandate the construction of 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind power.” It would be dishonest or ignorant to answer yes to both questions, and it would be fascinating to know who did.
The companies that sell individual solar installations to homes and other users have long chafed over limits on net metering activities in a utility territory, and the candidates were asked if they would allow that to grow from 1% to 5% of a utility’s load or would vote to eliminate the caps altogether.
It also queried support for “legislation to eliminate all standby charges and fees for ratepayers who enroll in net metering, as net metering benefits all ratepayers…” To eliminate all such charges would be a blatant subsidy and cost-shift, qualified for the “corporate welfare” label in any other area of business.
Hostility to the current gas pipeline projects appeared as well, with one question asking about a “Damages and Injury Fund” to cover claims of physical or monetary harm. Do you think any lawyers smelling money might gin up some business for that? Would that be funded by ratepayers? Another question proposes to prevent ratepayer recovery on the pipelines without proof they meet “a real demand” and represent the “most cost-effective way to meet that demand.” Here comes a Supremacy Clause battle.
There was no question about creating additional retail choice options, either for residential or business electricity consumers. That high-profile 2020 legislative goal is fading fast, as indicated earlier by Governor Ralph Northam’s comments and perhaps based on a cold assessment of how it has worked out elsewhere.
Different people will have different answers on all those questions, and many of the ethics proposals have merit (if not clarity.) But if this energy legislative package is passed and signed, some companies and some ratepayers will gain financially and other will lose. Money in large amounts will change hands. This is just another business lobbying group seeking benefits for its supporters and restrictions on its competitors.There are currently no comments highlighted.