While it is widely understood that corporations get a good return on investment for the money they spend on political influence operations, it is rare for them to openly brag about how lobbying dollars translate into public subsidies and profit. In a presentation obtained by PAI, one lobbyist did just this, boasting about the returns one of his clients, Exelon, obtained as part of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s controversial nuclear power bailout.
In 2016, the New York State Public Service Commission approved a controversial bailout package for three nuclear power facilities, putting ratepayers on the hook for billions of dollars in subsidies to Exelon. At the time, critics complained that the deal simply amounted to a massive giveaway to the well-heeled and politically-connected company. A presentation to the 2017 UpstreamPA oil and gas industry conference from environmental-regulator-turned-lobbyist Michael Krancer appears to validate those concerns.
In his presentation, Krancer, who was a lobbyist for Exelon in Pennsylvania during the time of the New York State deal, detailed exactly how well Exelon made off in New York State in a slide titled “Is Politics Profitable?”
The slide, which features a photo of a nuclear power plant alongside a vortex of $100 bills, compares the $610 million Exelon invested in the Fitzpatrick nuclear plant, plus lobbying and public relations, to the value of the 12 years of public subsidy the company obtained, $5.7 billion.
The return on investment for Exelon’s political messaging in New York State? Over 750% according to Krancer.
Krancer’s presentation is notable for the frank language he uses to explain to potential clients how spending on lobbying and public relations translates into corporate profit.
Governor Cuomo supported the Exelon bailout despite widespread opposition, arguing that the bailout was necessary to meet carbon reduction goals and to save jobs at the three plants. Despite long advocating the closure of Entergy’s Indian Point plant, Cuomo said that subsidizing the Exelon facilities was necessary “unless we’re willing to go back to candles.” James Denn, a spokesman for the New York State Public Service Commission said that characterizing the bailout as a windfall to Exelon was “simply the latest in an attack by groups who are desperately straining their critiques to fit an anti-nuclear agenda.”
Krancer’s account of the bailout to seems to indicate that even if the Cuomo administration truly bought into the messaging around the subsidy as a last-resort necessity, the corporation viewed it as a bonanza of public dollars for their private benefit.
The March 2017 presentation focuses on tactics that the oil and gas industry can employ to overcome popular opposition to extractive projects, what Krancer calls “political risk.” In his talk, he advised his audience to “work in the ‘fear’ space” and to “help your friends or they won’t be your friends for long,” a possible allusion to political campaign spending.
Krancer is the former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Under former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, Krancer’s DEP oversaw the early years of the Marcellus Shale fracking boom with an extremely pro-drilling attitude. Krancer once notoriously said as Pennsylvania’s top environmental regulator, “at the end of the day, my job is to get gas done.”
After Corbett was unseated in 2014, Krancer joined the law and lobbying firm Blank Rome where he immediately began representing fracking industry clients. Since 2016, Krancer has led a lobbying shop called Silent Majority Strategies first registered alongside Republican strategist Keith Naughton.
Silent Majority’s sole current client in Pennsylvania is JKLM Energy, an oil and gas drilling company owned by Terry and Kim Pegula, the billionaire owners of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres major league sports teams and major donors to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. The firm has also represented Graymont, a mining company with interests in Pennsylvania and New York, and on the federal level it represents Fountain Quail Energy Services, a fracking wastewater treatment company.