Since the beginning of the year, the Gulf Power Company has contributed more than a quarter of a million dollars to mostly conservative PACs and candidates, including controversial figures like Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis — who is running against Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, a black man — has been criticized for what some call racist comments. In an Aug. 29 television appearance, DeSantis encouraged Floridians not to “monkey it up” by electing Gillum.
Two weeks later, on Sep. 13, Gulf Power gave $10,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC as well as another $3,000 directly to DeSantis’ campaign via its “Responsible Government Committee of Gulf Power” PAC.
While Florida law prohibits utilities from contributing directly to candidates, Gulf Power and other utilities skirt that law by contributing to candidate-specific PACs and/or by establishing PACs of their own that can then give to candidates directly.
Gulf Power has also made campaign contributions to Ashley Moody ($7,500) and Matt Caldwell ($8,000), the Republican nominees for Florida Attorney General and Commissioner of Agriculture. Of the 33 candidates to whose campaigns Gulf Power has specifically contributed this year, 31 are Republicans and two are Democrats.
But the company’s largest political contributions this year have been to conservative political action committees: $107,500 to the Associated Industries of Florida PAC; $52,500 to the Florida Jobs PAC; $32,500 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee; $15,000 to the United Conservatives PAC; and $2,500 to the Treasure Florida PAC.
Gulf Power increased rates in July 2017 but then cut rates in April of this year after tax cuts championed by President Donald Trump went into effect. In May, NextEra Energy — the parent company of Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility — announced they would acquire Gulf Power from Southern Company in a $6.4 billion transaction.