Austin: Energy Monopolies Responsible for Winter Storm Failures Flood Politicians with Cash

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

By Sandra Harris

After the Texas Legislature failed to deliver any major reforms to the industry at fault for the collapse of Texas’s power grid during the winter storm earlier this year, top politicians received significant increases in donations to their campaigns from energy monopolies and their executives. Monopoly media outlets revealed this week that in some instances, the energy industry more than doubled the amount of campaign funds given to Texas governor Greg Abbott and other politicians compared to what they’d given in prior legislative sessions.

Popular Women’s Movement set up a service tent in East Austin

While elected officials are not allowed to receive campaign donations during legislative sessions, the fundraising period reopens for a short period in June. After the first legislative session ended this year, top energy companies and their executives donated $497,000 to politicians or political groups between June 21 and June 30. In this period in 2019, the same sources gave $207,000. Contributions came from major electric transmission and distribution companies, including Calpine, Centerpoint, NRG Energy, Oncor, and Vistra, which distribute energy primarily generated from oil and other fossil fuels.

Oil, gas, and other energy executives boosted the campaigns of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott, who is up for reelection in 2022. Patrick received less than $500,000 from the energy industry in 2019, but $1.3 million in 2021. Greg Abbott received more than $4.6 million from oil and gas interests in 2021, including a boost of $1 million (compared to a regular donation of $250,000 since 2014) from billionaire Kelcy Warren, cofounder of a pipeline company that made $2.4 billion from the winter storm after many of their competitors were knocked out of service.

During the legislative session, politicians touted the passage of legislation which will ostensibly require power companies to prepare for extreme weather, but the bill has no timeline for when improvements need to be made and no guidelines for enforcement. Chris Paddie, the legislator who sponsored the bill in the House, received less than 10 percent of his campaign contributions from the energy industry in his prior two terms, but this year, the energy industry is the source of 88 percent of his total campaign donations. The Senate bill’s sponsor, Charles Schwertner, received only 3 percent in campaign contributions from the energy industry after the 2015 legislative session, but in 2021, these contributions made up 32 percent.

In response to the justified anger of the people after the capitalist-caused disaster, Texas politicians feigned outrage against officials at ERCOT, a non-profit entity that manages and operates Texas’s electrical grid. Once the governor made administrative changes to remove and appoint new officials to ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission (which oversees ERCOT), politicians moved on without implementing any major changes to the Texas power grid. The ruling class directly profited off of the disaster they caused, which killed over 200 people earlier this year. In return, they have rewarded the politicians who were accomplices in this greed-fueled tragedy.

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