Though partisan gridlock is the political buzzword of the day, it's another kind of grid that's making political sparks fly in Michigan. There, two powerful utility companies — Consumers Energy and DTE Energy — control the lion's share of the electric grid and appear to be behind a new advocacy effort that coincides with the start of a new legislative session.
Publicly available television contracts — compiled by Political Ad Sleuth — show that a group called "Citizens for Michigan's Energy Future" (CMEF) has agreed to pay $120,000 for 444 ad spots on broadcast TV stations in that state since December of last year.
Organized as a "social welfare organization" under section 501(c)4 of the Internal Revenue Code, the nonprofit group is not required to publicly disclose its donors, as a political committee would.
According to the nonprofit's recent ads and a recent report commissioned by the two companies, the Great Lakes State is teetering on the edge of a major energy crisis: The dual specter of aging power plants and new, stiffer EPA regulations will lead to the shut down of nine coal-powered plants run by the two utilities companies. The added strain on the grid will transfer more cost and uncertainty to individuals and businesses unless legislators act quickly to pass a "comprehensive Michigan First energy policy in 2015" ensuring more state control of the power grid and the construction of more "baseload" power plants.