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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Group adds up Pam Bondi's financial ties to opponents of Clean Power Plan

The liberal advocacy group, Americans United For Change, is out with a new report highlighting the financial ties between Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and other Republican attorneys general, and the oil, gas and utilities industries as they fight to block enforcement of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

According to calculations by FollowTheMoney,org, the report says Bondi collected $26,350 from the energy industries in the 2010 and 2014 election cycles. A closer look by the Herald/Times however, shows the figure is much higher - at least $75,000 just for the 2014 cycle. (The figure could potentially be hundreds of thousands more if donations to shadowy pass-through groups were required to be disclosed.)

Bondi joined with 23 other states, including a handful run by Democratic governors, and last year filed a lawsuit against the EPA to block the implementation of a rule by Environmental Protection Agency. The August rule revised the Clean Power Plan to impose the first-ever carbon limits on power plants. It required a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants by 32 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels, and is aggressively opposed by the oil, gas and utility industries. 

Bondi and others argued that the EPA rule lays out an "unrealistic" timeframe to cut carbon emissions by 2030 and would "require the use of costly and unproven technologies." (Here are the goals for Florida, according to the EPA.)

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the implementation of the plan in February but the lawsuit continues. Meanwhile, a recent poll by Bloomberg Philanthropies -- run by the former New York mayor who supports the EPA rule -- found that 73 percent of Florida voters support the Clean Power Plan. 

Now, Americans for Change claims that the legal officers who were opposing the rule were doing it not to help their constituents, but the advance the agenda's of the utility, oil and gas industry. 

"Republican attorneys general are doing the bidding of their polluter donor friends rather than working on the people of their state,'' said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans for Change in a media call on Thursday. The group says Republican AGs collectively received $4.7 million from opponents of the Clean Power Plan. "If you ask me, that's pretty damning."

Judging by their calculations in Florida, the numbers are likely low. Bondi's political committee, Justice for All, shows that in her 2014 election alone, she received $50,000 from Florida Power & Light and $25,000 from Sunshine Gas Distributors. But even larger donations could be masked by the business groups and associations that operate as pass-through to shield donors from disclosure.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, for example, for which FPL is a member, gave Bondi $110,000 in her last election and gave another $20,000 this year. Associated Industries of Florida, which also includes FPL as its member, gave her $10,000. Then there is the Washington-based Republican State Legislative Committee, a political committee formed to collect donations from corporations but shield them from disclosure. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, the 527 RSLC gave Bondi a whopping $550,000 in 2014. Its contributors collected $7.7 million from energy, oil, gas and utility companies, including $1 million from Koch Industries, $408,000 from Duke Energy, and $193,000 from NextEra Energy -- the parent company of FPL.

Another giant contributor to Bondi in her re-election bid was the Republican Attorneys General Association. RAGA gave her $100,000, which almost matches the amount NextEra gave RAGA - $102,470. She became chair of the group just weeks after her re-election. 

Bondi said last October that the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan is not a partisan push and includes several Democrat-led states. 

"None of this is political," she told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. "This is about protecting consumers and power bills."

Meanawhile, other states -- including those led by Republican governors -- are moving ahead with their own limits on carbon emissions, said Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters. 

For example, Oregon, California and Vermont have committed to having 50 percent of their energy from clean power sources by 2030 and Maryland's Republican Gov. Lawrence Hogan recently signed legislation to commit that state to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent. 

"All across the country, states are taking action but a number of attorneys general are blocking progress,'' Holland told reporters on a media call. "States that choose to not move forward will be left behind."

[Last modified: Thursday, June 2, 2016 2:36pm]

    

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