"No wonder they are silent about huge utility bills."
State Treasurer John Perdue today released details of the contributions from big utility companies that have gone to three of his opponents in the governor's race in March even as the Public Service Commission (PSC) was raising electric rates yet again.
"No wonder they are silent about the big utility bills that are brutalizing seniors and small businesses," Perdue said. "They would rather cash big checks from the big utility companies than stand up for the people of West Virginia."
Perdue's campaign began airing new television commercials today putting a focus on the new money accepted by Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and House Speaker Rick Thompson.
One spot, Bigger Problem, focuses exclusively on utility rates and is running in the central and southern part of West Virginia. The second spot, New Problems, is running in the north-central and northern parts of West Virginia where there is also significant concern about out-of-state workers taking jobs away from West Virginians on the Marcellus Shale.
All three of Perdue's commercials contain video of Tomblin, Thompson and Tennant along with the amount of money the candidates have taken from big utility companies. Tomblin has accepted $7,000 from utility companies. Thompson has received $10,000. Tennant has taken $3,500. Thompson and Tennant each received a $1,000 contribution during March. Tomblin received $800.
"Consumers can't trust these candidates to stand up to the big utility companies," said Kyle Gott, spokesman for Perdue. "It is the height of arrogance for these candidates to accept new contributions from the big utility companies even as the PSC raised rates even higher."
Last week, Perdue started a statewide petition drive calling on the Public Service Commission to freeze current utility rates (gas, water and electric) until January 1, 2012 until he can propose legislation to reform the PSC. To date, more than 1,000 people have signed the petition, Gott said.
"As I travel around the state, it is clear that these utility rate increases are hurting just about everyone, including our seniors and small business owners," said John Perdue. "We will be taking these petitions to every stop we make around the state and will hand them over to the PSC so they can hear from real people, not high paid corporate spokespeople," Perdue said.
Tennant was the first of the candidates to receive her contribution from American Electric Power's political action committee on March 1, 2011. Thompson reported his contribution was received on March 15th. Tomblin jumped on the AEP bandwagon on March 15th when he reported a contribution of $807.79. There is no explanation offered as to why Tomblin only received $807.79.
AEP is the parent company of Appalachian Power. The parent company reported making a profit in 2010 of $1.2 billion.
Residents can sign a virtual petition on Perdue's website, located at www.JohnPerdue.com or at his campaign headquarters at 608 Virginia Street. Perdue's two-minute television spot will also appear on the website on Thursday after it airs statewide.
Perdue said he is considering three legislative options to reform the PSC:
1. Give the Governor the authority to appoint the Consumer Advocate instead of being appointed by PSC commissioners;
2. Expand the consumer's representation on the PSC by increasing the number of commissioners from 3 to 5;
3. Require utility companies to give back refunds if they make too big of a profit.
"The PSC commissioners are required to balance the need of the companies with the consumer's ability to pay," said Perdue. "That clearly hasn't been the case in the past few years."