Dominion Power turning customers’ bills into politically connected donations
Virginia residents have been billed tens of thousands of dollars to pay for donations the state’s most powerful electricity company has made to politically connected charities, according to company records obtained by The Associated Press.
Recent Dominion Resources Inc. donations subsidized by customers include a $10,000 gift to a college that was solicited by a powerful state lawmaker who is also the school’s paid fundraiser, and a $40,000 donation to a tort reform group that pushed for business-friendly legislation with the help of a longtime Dominion lobbyist, the records showed.
Adding the cost of certain charitable contributions — though not lobbying expenses — to electricity consumers’ monthly bills is legal under longstanding and little-noticed regulatory rulings. The practice is not unique to Virginia, though it’s barred in some states. Dominion, the state’s largest electricity utility, has passed well over $1 million dollars in donations onto consumers in recent years.
The situation roils some current and past state officials.
“Why should captive ratepayers, who have no option to get electricity from another company, be compelled to fund the charitable choices of a company?” said former Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. “Leave the ratepayers their money, and let them make their own charitable choices.”