Radioactive Money 2004

Entergy Corporation describes itself as “the second largest nuclear generator in the United States. Among the ten units it owns and operates is the Indian Point nuclear facility in Buchanan, New York.

According to a joint study done by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, business has been very good for Entergy. Between 2001 and 2003, Entergy’s total profits were three billion, two hundred and seventy million dollars ($3,270,000,000). Through various fiscal adjustments, Entergy managed to lower their U.S. tax rates. In 2003, for example, savings from depreciation and “nuclear decommissioning cut $897 million in taxes. As a result, on the past three years profit of over $3 billion, the study shows that Entergy paid less than $44 million in corporate income taxes. That’s a three-year tax rate of 1.3%.

One of the uses to which Entergy has put this “radioactive money is contributing to politician’s campaigns. The company’s political action committee (ENPAC) has continued Entergy’s policy of spreading money to both parties, in large and small sums, for important and less prominent political races, on the local, state and federal levels.

According to the September 2004 data, nationwide Entergy has so far given $112,049 to federal Congressional candidates on the Republican side and $68,511 to the Democrats.

In New York State, this included $1000 a piece to Vito Fossella, a Republican from Staten Island who sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; John M. McHugh, a Republican from the upstate 23rd district who sits on a House sub-committee on energy policy; and John Sweeny, a Republican from the 20th district (that includes Dutchess County, bordering the Indian Point site) who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. The Democrat Gregory Meeks from the 6th Congressional district in Queens only got $500 from Entergy, but Democrat Edolphus Towns took $2000; Towns, from Brooklyn, is also a member of the House Committee on Energy and Finance.

On the State level, Entergy sent $1500 to the New York State Democratic Committee in January, adding $1000 to the Bronx County Democratic Committee and $600 to the State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. In February, they gave $1000 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee and gave the same amount, the next month, to the State Republican Committee. In May, another $1000 went to the State’s Republican Campaign Committee and to the Bronx County Democratic Committee (raising their total to $2000). Entergy contributed another $1000 this August to the State’s Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (for a total of $1600, so far) and another $250 to the Republican equivalent (for a total of $1250).

In individual donations, the State’s Republican Majority Senate leader Joe Bruno is the clear winner. Entergy donated $1000 to Friends of Joe Bruno this past February and, this September, tacked on another $2500 to his re-election committee. State Senator James Wright, head of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, has received $1600. Paul Tonko got $1000; Assemblyman Tonko is the head of the Assembly Energy Committee. Last but not least, New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer accepted $1000 from Entergy’s political action committee. Among the Indian Point issues that Attorney General Spitzer has a hand in investigating are: the feasibility of the evacuation plan, the practice of using river water to cool its generators (resulting in a large fish kill), and whether the nuclear plant is being safely managed.

While these are the larger political contributions that Entergy has made in New York this year, the cumulative total of small money donated to local campaigns is even larger and more pervasive. Some $25,000 has been given so far to nearly 60 individuals and companies in the state. These include the following list of political contributions (many of whom received “radioactive money in 2002 and 2003 as well):

State Senator Carl Andrews, minority whip, 20th district –$750

Councilman David Weprin, chairman Finance Committee, 23rd district–$500

Mayor Ernest David, Mt. Vernon–$250

Councilman Donald Bennett, Peekskill–$250

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, Mt. Vernon–$250

State Senator Carl Marcellino, Syosset–$350

State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, Queens–$250

Sheriff Carl Dubois, Orange County–$375

Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, Washingtonville–$250

State Senator Eric Schneiderman, Upper West Side and Bronx–$250

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion–$500

Assemblyman Jose Peralta, District 39–$250

State Senator Kevin Parker, Brooklyn–$600

Assemblyman Joe Morelle, Rochester–$350

State Senator Vincent Leibell, Putnam and Westchester–$350

Assemblyman Thomas Dinapoli, Great Neck–$400

Assemblyman Steve Kaufman, Bronx–$600

City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, Corona–$500

Orange County Executive Edward Diana–$300

State Senator Ruth Hassel-Thompson, Bronx/Westchester–$500

County Legislator George Oros, Westchester–$500

Assemblyman William Boyland, Brooklyn–$150

State Senator Dean Skelos, Dep. Majority leader, Rockville Center–$550

Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik, Flushing–$450

State Senator Michael Balboni, Mineola–$500

County Legislator Bob Astorino, North Castle/Mt. Pleasant–$250

Assemblyman Keith LT Wright, Harlem–$500

State Senator Ruben Diaz, Bronx–$475

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, Queens–$250

Councilman Eric Gioia, Queens–$500

Mayor Joseph Delfino, White Plains–$500

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Brooklyn–$500

Assemblyman Nick Perry, Kings County–$300

Councilman Joe Cerreto, Cortlandt Manor–$600

Assemblyman Herman Farrell, Harlem– $500

State Senator John Sabini, District 13–$250

Councilwoman Letitia James, District 35– $500

[Information on contributions from New York State Board of Elections financial disclosure report, as well as the Federal Election Commission.]

DANIEL WOLFF is a poet and author of the excellent biography of the great Sam Cooke, You Send Me, as well as the recent collection of Ernest Withers’ photographs The Memphis Blues Again. Wolff’s Grammy-nominated essay on Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers is one of the highlights of CounterPunch’s collection on art, music and sex: Serpents in the Garden.


Daniel Wolff‘s most recent books are The Names of Birds and Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913.