Tampa congresswoman Kathy Castor asks feds to investigate FPL

Castor asked questions about FPL’s use of dark money and other issues raised in recent news reports.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor speaks to a crowd during a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor speaks to a crowd during a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published July 29, 2022

TALLAHASSEE — A longtime Tampa Democratic congresswoman has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, over its use of dark money and reports that it sought to manipulate elections and coverage in its favor.

“Generally, electric utilities should operate in the public interest and it appears that FPL and its officers use dark money, pressure campaigns and illicit, and possibly illegal, activity to disadvantage the citizens of Florida,” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor wrote in a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

In recent months, FPL has been the subject of news headlines after leaked documents, reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Times Union and Miami Herald, showed how political consultants tied to the company have used a network of nonprofit groups to secretly back candidates in numerous Florida races and hire private investigators to tail reporters.

Records also showed how FPL secretly took over a Florida news website — which aims its content directly at Tallahassee decision-makers — to bend news coverage in its favor.

Related: Firm working for FPL took control of news site, let execs influence coverage, records show

Months of headlines documenting these findings recently led one investment firm to downgrade its assessment of the electric utility’s parent company, NextEra Energy.

Castor said the news reports were “very troubling” and asked the DOJ to investigate.

“Numerous public corruption scandals involving electric utilities across the country have resulted in federal public corruption criminal and civil probes, and it appears that such oversight is needed in Florida now,” Castor wrote in her letter to Garland.

Castor also raised concerns that customers may be footing the bill for FPL’s activity, and said “huge sums of secret political spending by FPL” should be scrutinized by federal investigators.

“How much more are Floridians paying unnecessarily? Why has FPL so adamantly fought against lower cost clean energy? Floridians deserve answers to these questions, and an honest examination of these reports of very troubling actions by FPL, its CEO and officers,” she wrote.