New nuclear plant builder a major Washington player


The company benefiting from today’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision to approve the construction of the first new nuclear plant in the U.S. in over three decades is an influential powerhouse in Washington.

Southern Company, a power company based in Atlanta, has spent $130 million lobbying the federal government since 1998, ranking 17th among all organizations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last year, the company spent nearly $13 million on lobbying, including in-house efforts and hiring 14 outside firms.

The company’s political action committee, its employees and their family members also donate generously to federal candidates’ campaigns. Of all organizations, it ranks 95th in such giving since 1989. Nearly 70 percent Southern's more than $10 million in campaign contributions has gone to Republicans.

In the 2010 election cycle alone, Southern Co., which operates plants in Georgia and Alabama, aggregated $900,000 to candidates, ranked fourth among electric utilities, according to CRP.

In that cycle, and in the current election cycle, the company's investment in the election of members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the NRC, has trumped other committees. The panel members have raked in nearly $200,000 from the company in the past two cycles. By contrast, the Senate committee responsible for overseeing the NRC, the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, has not enjoyed much of a windfall at all.

Soon after the news of NRC's approval approval broke, the chair of the Energy and Commerce panel, Fred Upton, R-Mich., hailed the decision, saying it will “help to create 5,000 jobs at the site, including 800 permanent, good-paying jobs.”

Upton’s campaign fund is the second biggest recipient of money from the power company’s PAC, employees and family members this cycle, receiving nearly $16,000. The other top recipients are fellow committee members Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and John Barrow, D-Ga.

Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., also praised the move. The Democratic chair, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., had not released a statement at the time of publication.

The congressman whose district will benefit from these new jobs, Tom Graves, R-Ga., who was sworn in by special election in 2010, is also in the top echelon of Southern Co.’s beneficiaries. He has received nearly $16,000 in the past two cycles from the company’s PAC, employees and their family members, according to CRP.

Overall, the company has showered cash on Georgia’s delegation. The state’s two sitting senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, are both among the top ten recipients of Southern's largesse, according to Influence Explorer.

In this election cycle, of the 26 members of Congress who have brought in at least $5,000 from the company, ten of them are from Georgia.