NRECA’s political action committee has raised more than $1.2 million in the first five months of this year for federal candidates who support electric cooperatives.
That’s about $60,000 more than the Action Committee for Rural Electrification, better known as ACRE®, received from January through May of last year, said Gabe Snow, ACRE’s director. The committee took in a record $4.2 million during the 2017-2018 election cycle.
ACRE has already begun contributing to federal candidates, who face primaries in the first half of next year followed by a general election in November 2020. The PAC has contributed nearly $458,000 so far to 217 candidates consisting mostly of incumbents seeking re-election, Snow said. ACRE expects to contribute to about 110 to 135 more candidates, for a total of 350 to 375 this cycle.
The contributions have been split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats so far, Snow said. Contributions to House candidates were split 50-50 between candidates of both parties, but more Republican Senate candidates got contributions because more of them are up for re-election this cycle, said Amy Lewis, ACRE’s deputy director.
ACRE also gives to both the Democratic and Republican House and Senate campaign committees, and it contributes to the leadership PACs run by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
ACRE does not contribute to presidential candidates.
“We consider ourselves nonpartisan,” Lewis said. “We don’t take party into account. We just look at whether they support electric cooperatives.”
Last year, 91% of congressional candidates supported by ACRE were elected to Congress. Those lawmakers are currently considering legislation that could have a big impact on co-ops, including bills to protect co-ops’ tax-exempt status and lower the pension insurance premiums they must pay to the federal government. Congress also is considering how much money to invest in expanding broadband service to rural communities.
The decisions about which candidates to support are made by ACRE’s steering committee, which is composed of Snow and select employees of the NRECA government relations staff. The steering committee consults with the corresponding statewide organizations prior to all contributions.
ACRE receives voluntary grassroots contributions—which average about $65 a year—from more than 35,000 eligible co-op employees, directors and consumer-members in 47 states, Snow said. In general, hourly employees are not eligible to contribute because of laws designed to prevent workers from feeling coerced by their bosses to give. However, those employees are allowed to contribute as consumer-members, Snow said.
About half of the money collected is returned to state PACs managed by the statewide associations to support candidates for state legislatures. The states with the highest number of consumer-members contributing to ACRE in the 2018 election cycle were Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. Ohio had by far the most, with nearly 6,000 co-op members giving a total of about $152,000. They made up more than half of the 11,000 co-op members who contributed to ACRE.
For electric co-ops, every election is important and everyone should exercise the right to vote and get involved in the political process, Snow said.
“It’s all part of our mission to provide safe, affordable, reliable electricity to our 42 million co-op members,” he said.
Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.
ACRE raises personal, voluntary contributions from NRECA’s eligible membership. Federal law prohibits soliciting contributions from individuals other than NRECA and member-systems’ eligible employees, boards of directors, consumer-members and the families of such individuals. Contributions from ineligible individuals will be returned. For more information on the ACRE program or eligibility to participate, please contact Gabe Snow, ACRE Director, at email@example.com or 703-907-5799.
Contributions to the NRECA Action Committee for Rural Electrification® (ACRE®) are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes. Contributions to ACRE are voluntary and will be used for political purposes. You have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. Federal law prohibits contributions from foreign nationals who lack permanent resident status. Any contribution guidelines presented are merely suggestions. You are free to contribute more or less than the suggested amounts, or not at all. NRECA will not favor or disadvantage anyone by reason of the amount contributed or a decision not to contribute.