Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why your Texas electric bills might be high

Houston KPRC 2 News found the Texas house member in charge of regulating electricity having a big fund raising party thrown for him by the Texas electric industry - video. Transcript - partial here:
King is the chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee that oversees legislation effecting electric companies and in a perfect position to help thousands of you who continue to call us about problems with your electric bills. But after repeated calls and e-mails to his Austin and Weatherford offices over several months, King never called us back.

Back to that party some 300 miles from King's North Texas district and the voters who elected him.

We found a veritable "who's who" of the energy industry donating anywhere from $250 to $5,000 to support King. Just to drop a few names -- Phillip Ricketts, former member of the PUC, now an attorney for a group of electric companies, and James Grace, James Barkley and David Searle, all energy attorneys with ties to CenterPoint.

"I think it's potentially a problem," said University of Houston Political Science professor Brandon Rottinghaus.

He says while this type of fundraising is not illegal, it should be top of mind for voters concerned about their electric bills.

"Consumers are going to have to make their own choices about what kinds of influences are being had there," said Rottinghaus.

It's no secret the lion's share of the money in King's campaign coffer comes from the electric industry. We told you in November that King received more than $80,000 from electric industry insiders. The latest reports show between August 2007 and the end of January, he's collected another $114,000 from people in the industry.

But it's not just cash.

CenterPoint's Rozzell also generously gave King two tickets to the 2004 Super Bowl in Houston. Campaign finance reports show Rozzell spent $876 on King and King's son during the game.

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