U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been a big supporter of South Carolina energy giant SCANA and its nuclear agenda since entering office back in 1994, and SCANA has been a big supporter of Graham in return. Now that SCANA has won approval for a $10 billion reactor project in the Palmetto State, a new report shows just how deep the relationship between the energy company and South Carolina’s senior senator runs.
ThinkProgress details how Graham helped push through SCANA’s request to build two new nuclear reactors at is Jenkinsville facility, boasting after the requests approval that he and SCANA “worked for years to see these reactors approved.” But all that political support came with a price tag, which SCANA was happy to pay:
Two weeks later, when Graham’s “Team Graham” Senate campaign committee filed its quarterly lobbying disclosure form, just one name appeared. SCANA Corporation, the committee revealed, had given the Graham $54,575 in bundled campaign contributions between January 1 and March 31 — raising money for him as he worked to secure their $10 billion project.
ThinkProgress reports that SCANA has been Graham’s second-biggest source of campaign donations since he entered Congress in 1994, giving the South Carolina Republican more than $37,000 from SCANA’s political action committee and over $67,000 from SCANA employees. Indeed, Graham remains proud of the deep influence being leveraged upon him by the energy giant:
A Graham spokesman reiterated Graham’s longstanding support for the nuclear industry — noting that he’s been called “the #1 pro-nuclear member” of the Senate — but did not address the industry’s campaign contributions. “Senator Graham has long pushed for a renaissance in nuclear energy. We are ecstatic that the NRC go-ahead was finally secured,” Graham’s communications director told ThinkProgress.
The floodgates are open
Of course, Sen. Graham isn’t the only South Carolina lawmaker working for SCANA’s interests in return for huge amounts of campaign cash. According to finance records collected by OpenSecrets.org, SCANA’s political action committee has shelled out over $216,000 to South Carolina’s congressional delegation over the past 10 years. The list doesn’t even count contributions from individual SCANA employees, but we’ve collected the top eight recipients below:
- Rep. Joe Wilson (R) $31,000
- Fmr. Rep. John Spratt (D) $28,500
- Rep. Jim Clyburn (D) $22,500
- Rep. Jeff Duncan (R) $20,000
- Sen. Jim DeMint (R) $18,500
- Fmr. Rep. Gresham Barrett (R) $17,500
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) $17,000
- Fmr. Rep. Henry Brown (R) $17,000
While Graham’s campaign piggy bank has certainly profited from SCANA’s patronage over the past decade, the list shows he’s not even close to the biggest recipient. SCANA seems to be spreading its influence among the Palmetto State lawmakers that are either more powerful or can help the company the most, and its recent legislative and regulatory victories shows that influence has paid big dividends for the energy giant in return.
Nor is SCANA the only special interest pouring money into South Carolina politics in order to maintain a monopolistic control over resources and services in the state. Campaign spending by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina dwarfs that of SCANA, with over $4.75 million being spent on lobbying by the health insurer in the past five years alone. Perhaps that helps explain why South Carolina Republicans have so vehemently opposed President Obama’s health care reform law?
With South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s unrepentant admission that such pay-to-play politics is “commonplace in the legislature,” and the subsequent endorsement of that fact this week by the House Ethics Committee, companies like SCANA and BCBS have no motive whatsoever to stop giving politicians barrels of campaign cash in order to fight for their business interests. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has turned what was once scandal-worthy into a simple fact of life, and the floodgates are open heading into the 2012 elections.