Green Energy Buys Itself a Legislature

By Steve Haner

Virginia’s anything goes campaign finance environment allowed its dominant electric utility and a green energy political action committee to jointly bankroll the November 8 Democratic steamroller in the state.  The amounts they spent amounted to a six-fold increase compared to four years ago, the last time the House of Delegates and State Senate were both on the ballot.

Two massive donors, giving far more than any other companies or special interest groups, are Dominion Energy Virginia (almost $13 million) and Clean Virginia Fund, a state-level political action committee (more than $10 million). Clean Virginia has received most of its funding from a Charlottesville hedge fund magnate, Michael Bills. 

Four years ago they gave a combined $4 million, and this time it was closer to $24 million.  Why?

Four years ago there was no Virginia Clean Economy Act, no mandatory renewable energy percentages in state law, no mandate to stop the sale of new gasoline vehicles in lockstep with California. Four years ago, Dominion’s $9.8 billion (or more) ocean wind project was still in the planning stages and hadn’t filed for regulatory approval. Now the massive project is underway, one of the few in the U.S. still on track, due to its favorable state regulatory environment.

All of those net-zero pipe dreams are completely safe from legislative interference for another General Assembly cycle. Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s decision to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon tax probably hangs on the 2025 governor’s race, unless a court strikes it down first. As for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, Youngkin is a major supporter anyway.  It was an issue in New Jersey but never Virginia.  

The green energy money flowing into the Virginia elections didn’t stop with Dominion or Clean Virginia, of course.  The League of Conservation Voters spent another $4 million directly.  Mr. Bills’ spouse has her own millions and directly donated almost another $5 million.  Smaller industry PACs and players added to the total, and the issue motivated many individual donors.  And Virginia’s porous election laws leave much political activity unreported.

Four years ago, the largest sum Dominion gave to any individual candidate was $82,500.  This time around, so far, 15 candidates received more than $250,000 from it, and the highest amount donated was almost $700,000. That went to an unopposed Democrat who will now be the new Speaker of the House.  Clean Virginia’s largest donations exceed $600,000, including to two Democrats who won two of the most watched Senate seats.

The campaign messaging usually touched on energy issues only tangentially and was never the focus of major advertising dollars.  In part, that was because no candidates really took the contrary position and challenged any of Virginia’s green energy legal structure, except from some mentions of the electric vehicle mandate and vague complaints that incumbents had voted to increase energy costs.

The voters were not hearing about energy and were instead bombarded with messaging on the Democrats’ key social issue, abortion. It is fair to claim green energy paid for many of those ads. But the money trail reveals this was an election about energy policy after all. The reform agenda that could have been part of the discussion was lost. 

While Dominion and Clean Virginia often disagree over regulatory issues, on many issues they are closely aligned. If any serious effort is put forward now to repeal or amend the Virginia Clean Economy Act, both will lobby against ending the net zero targets. Both are keen for electric vehicles and will work to protect that mandate. Both strongly support Dominion’s offshore wind development and rapidly growing fleet of solar farms.

Dominion’s money is fairly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Clean Virginia over its years of giving has provided 98% to Democrats.  So Dominion did fund some of the Republican messaging and has far more influence with Republicans than does Clean Virginia. In some key races, Dominion’s money was on one side and Clean Virginia’s on the other.  That way the ultimate winner would be beholden to at least one of the entities when the push came on a future bill.  All bets were covered. 

A $24 million investment in keeping the legislature compliant and obedient makes perfect sense once you realize the billions and billions of dollars the transition to wind, solar and battery will extract from Virginia’s residential and business ratepayers over the next decade. Dominion and Clean Virginia both understand return on investment.

This is the biggest mistake offshore wind developers in New Jersey and New York made, the ones that in recent weeks have backed out of various offshore wind deals. They failed to take the additional step of buying themselves a friendly legislature to write the procurement rules. Of course, those states both have campaign contribution limits in their laws, an inconvenience not faced by Dominion Energy or Clean Virginia

4.6 22 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joseph Zorzin
November 12, 2023 3:43 pm

Four years ago they gave a combined $4 million, and this time it was closer to $24 million. Why?”

Hand out millions- get back billions. Nice rate of return!

Rud Istvan
November 12, 2023 3:46 pm

in my opinion, this should not be here. Hard to tell who has been bought off, but no matter what you expose yourself to NYT v Sullivan liability for positing.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rud Istvan
November 12, 2023 4:32 pm

Why, for suggesting that politicians have been bought off? Not sure I follow. Tell us more about “NYT v Sullivan liability”.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 12, 2023 9:59 pm

I think Rud is referring to this:

The decision held that if a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit is a public official or candidate for public office, not only must they prove the normal elements of defamation—publication of a false defamatory statement to a third party—they must also prove that the statement was made with “actual malice“, meaning the defendant either knew the statement was false or recklessly disregarded whether it might be false.

~ New York Times Co. v. Sullivan

Reply to  Redge
November 13, 2023 9:55 am

And that SCOTUS decision allowed all the MSM to continue to publish Russia disinformation for the 4 years of TRUMP”S! administration. Without that activist decision, there would be no need for correcting Google search collusion, facebook silencing, twitter falsehoods from “fact checkers” since all those spouting leftist falsehoods against conservatives COULD STILL BE SUED for their lies for cause, to damage the right politicians and scientists.

One of the most damaging “freedom of speech” precedents ever.

If you only needed to prove they KNOWINGLY lied, there would be a lot less money in the hands of Bezos and other Democrat supporting oligarchs.

Would love to see a class action suit against all the leftist MSM for slander go to the SCOTUS and see Sullivan overturned and and massive judgement and requirement of retractions from them all. It will never happen, but dream I do.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
November 12, 2023 5:04 pm

The best defense to a defamation claim is the truth. Not sure what you are suggesting, but the claims do not appear to be untruthful on the face of it.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
November 15, 2023 7:53 am

Rud ==> Should have been clearly labeled Opinion — but very much doubt that it could possibly be actionable under Sullivan. Haner simply points out the massively increased donations to election campaigns with the context of interests in legislative action that benefit the donors.

November 12, 2023 3:54 pm

Those with the big bucks shall have dominion over you and all those around you….and the Big Green message shall be heard by you…and all around you… nation….under the Green….for the Green….forever….and ever.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  antigtiff
November 12, 2023 4:32 pm

money talks- always has always will

David Wojick
November 12, 2023 3:54 pm

This is certainly revealing: “…the highest amount donated was almost $700,000. That went to an unopposed Democrat who will now be the new Speaker of the House.”

Not helping fund a campaign, there being none, just buying influence. I take it there is no election finance law saying you have to spend the money getting elected or return it. Graft is seldom this obvious.

My heart goes out to Virginia.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  David Wojick
November 13, 2023 4:57 am

“Not helping fund a campaign, there being none, just buying influence.”

Pretty blatant.

Reply to  David Wojick
November 13, 2023 10:01 am

In Virginia, when a politician “retires” he/she gets to keep all the leftover campaign funds.

See Hillary Clinton Cronies giving $800,000.00 to McCabe’s wife’s campaign, a DIRCECT cash payment the HIM.

November 12, 2023 4:21 pm

Last year I bought a ground mounted solar power system worth half my year’s salary out of fear of Dominion’s energy prices going up even more. Looks like that’s going to pay off. To paraphrase Trump, I know it’s a scam because I used it too.

J Boles
November 12, 2023 5:01 pm

Story tip – The Earthshot Prize: Urgent Optimism & Action to Repair the Planet

This was on PBS here in Michigan tonight, I did not see much of it, after I realized Price William must have flown from London to Singapore to attend the awards banquet and concert. On the list of nominees were some pretty mundane achievements in green technology, all of course use FF to work.

J Boles
Reply to  J Boles
November 12, 2023 5:03 pm

“The Earth is at a tipping point. We face a stark choice: either we continue as we are and irreparably damage our planet, or we remember our unique power as humans and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve.

People can achieve great things. The next ten years present us with one of our greatest tests – a decade of action to repair the Earth.”

Prince William

Founder and President

Reply to  J Boles
November 12, 2023 5:43 pm

a decade of action to repair the Earth.””

So.. more and more environment destroying wind turbines… wonderful…

… just what the world needs !!…. NOT !!

Reply to  bnice2000
November 14, 2023 4:06 am

How many wind turbines are there on royal estates? How about some wind turbines at Windsor Castle. Or how about covering Buckingham Palace with solar panels. Maybe if Prince William wants to give a lead he could follow the idea of that French fellow – 4 flights per person per year (or was it per lifetime?).

November 12, 2023 5:27 pm

I love the “Like This” section that follows the article and links to a September 14, 2023 article where Dominion is telling the state of Virginia that there is no way that they can accomplish Net Zero (VCEA) targets and still supply reliable electricity. They continue that they have to bring on at least 3GW of natural gas fired plants which sends the eco-communists into a psychotic fit.

Amazing that Dominion tells the State to pound sand, then literally buys the most influential politician in the Virginia legislature. No connection whatsoever!

The Democrat politicians will lay cover for Dominion to act against the demands of the Party’s fringe elements.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  AWG
November 13, 2023 5:01 am

And the Democrats just took control of both the House and Senate in Virginia, apparenly thanks to the abortion issue.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 14, 2023 4:13 am

Ohio has voted to put permission to kill unborn babies into its Constitution. Virginia, so it is said, voted to keep legal the killing of unborn babies. It’s much safer in some parts of the USA to be an animal or a tree than to be an unborn baby. There was a big too-do recently in the UK when a sycamore tree next to Hadrian’s Wall was cut down but little is made of the 200,000 unborn babies killed in England and Wales each year.

November 12, 2023 6:03 pm

Even more harm to ratepayers and businesses are the $Billions for the ADDITIONAL running generators to provide 24/7/365 electric service.
When the electric prices climb, the industrial base will contract and the jobs will go away.
Utilities are participating to save their jobs…it’s the regulators and legislators that have to be held accountable.
Virginia…you’ve been snookered.

November 12, 2023 6:32 pm

So, it wasn’t about abortion? huh…But,but,but that’s what MSM reported. Thanks to Clean Virginia and Dominion Energy, Virginia now has a drug felon as the Speaker of the House!

Smart Rock
November 12, 2023 7:10 pm

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Richard Page
Reply to  Smart Rock
November 13, 2023 4:28 pm

There is and many in Virginia will be appalled when they receive a lump of coal instead of the expected present in a month and a bit’s time.

Stephen D Haner
November 13, 2023 5:39 am

Replying to Mr. Istvan, in truth this article is a compliment to the wise investments these donors have made. How much they gave is fact. That they are the largest corporate and non-party PAC donors this year is fact. That they turn around and have aggressive legislative agendas or regulatory agendas is fact. That individual politicians receiving such large amounts of money are influenced by it is debatable, but the evidence is strong.

It doesnot add up
November 13, 2023 11:52 am

I’ve been trying to find out what sort of deal Dominion has for its wind farm. Presumably they have the right to soak Virginians for any cost they incur. At $9.8bn for 2.6GW as reported way back in 2021 it’s expensive at over $3.75m/GW – North Sea wind farms have been around £2.75m/GW for some while now. But since 2021 costs have escalated sharply. You have to imagine this project is not immune, not least on financing costs.

Will the banks say no? I imagine there is political risk if it turns out to be very costly.

Stephen D Haner
Reply to  It doesnot add up
November 14, 2023 5:45 am

That may help you a bit. It is the only project in the US financed as a traditional power plant, with ratepayers on the hook by law for all the costs plus a profit margin (9.7% currently.) Our regulatory body has placed a cap on where the ratepayer liability ends, but when push comes to shove Dominion will get what it needs. And if the project is cancelled ratepayers cover the stranded costs.

Verified by MonsterInsights