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Reid Gardner Generating Station is removed from the electric grid on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of contributions from top players in Nevada’s electric market poured into campaign coffers throughout 2017, ahead of a major 2018 ballot question and a critical time for Nevada’s energy ecosystem.

An analysis by The Nevada Independent of campaign finance reports released in January indicated that energy companies and related businesses spent more than $345,000 on candidates for political office, more than 11 months before the 2018 midterm election.

But that hefty sum is dwarfed by the $900,000 contributed primarily by just two companies to groups backing a ballot question that would amend the state constitution by “deregulating” Nevada’s electric market structure and open up retail competition.

If the ballot measure passes, lawmakers will be required to take up the weighty task of retrofitting state law around electric utility providers and preparing for the transition to retail choice within their 120-day legislative session, lending more importance to which lawmakers are in office in the coming years.

NV Energy, the state’s primary electric utility and longtime power player in state politics, gave political candidates and PACs $180,000 throughout 2017, including $67,500 directly to state lawmakers.

Of the 38 lawmakers receiving campaign contributions from the utility, 25 are Democrats and 12  are Republicans (Democrats control 37 of the 63 seats in the Legislature). The biggest recipient was Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, who took in $7,500 from the utility. Democratic state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson took in $5,000 from the utility, and also received a $5,000 contribution from the utility to his Atkinson Leadership PAC.

The utility’s biggest recipient overall was the Nevada State Democratic Party, which received $20,000 from the company. Gubernatorial hopeful Steve Sisolak received $10,000 from NV Energy — the only announced candidate for governor to receive contributions from the utility.

In October, Sisolak said he voted for the Energy Choice Initiative — which the utility has increasingly opposed —  in 2016 but was withholding judgement in 2018, given his concern that several hundred NV Energy employees could lose their jobs if the ballot measure passes, as well as general concerns about approving the change via constitutional amendment. All other major gubernatorial candidates have said they support the ballot question.

The utility, which has signaled more of a desire to push back on the ballot initiative than it did in 2016, is spending more than it had at this point in 2015 — it reported spending $146,500 toward political candidates throughout that year, including $37,000 toward state lawmakers.

Southwest Gas, the state’s primary natural gas provider, reported giving political candidates $100,650 throughout 2017, including $55,250 to legislators. It reported contributing $94,000 to candidates and PACs over the same period of time in 2015.

Top recipients included Frierson and Atkinson, who both received $10,000 contributions from the natural gas company, with Republican state Sen. James Settelmeyer receiving $6,500 from the company. Overall, 11 Republicans and 9 Democrats in the state legislature took donations from Southwest Gas through the year.

It also only gave to one announced candidate for governor, contributing $7,500 to the campaign of Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt. The company also gave $5,000 to Republican Attorney General candidate Wes Duncan, while not contributing to his likely Democratic opponent, state Sen. Aaron Ford.

Ormat Nevada, a major geothermal company with projects in Nevada, gave $8,500 to nine lawmakers in 2017. The company gave legislators a total of $63,000 through the 2016 election cycle.

Rooftop solar installer SolarCity, which gave lawmakers $82,500 in 2015 and 2016, gave four legislators $4,000 through 2017.

Energy Choice

Two groups promoting passage of a ballot question that would fundamentally shift Nevada’s energy market reported taking in more than $900,000 in 2017, primarily from two businesses.

Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices — the PAC supporting passage of Question 3, the Energy Choice Initiative — reported receiving $335,100 throughout 2017, including $235,000 from a separate PAC called “Energy Choice Nevada” and $100,000 from Valley Electric Association, the Pahrump-based electric cooperative that’s publicly backed the ballot initiative.

The Energy Choice Nevada PAC took in more than $802,000 over the calendar year, which almost entirely came from two familiar sources — the Las Vegas Sands ($600,000) and data center giant Switch ($200,000).

Outside of the $235,000 the PAC gave to Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Sources, the two organizations reported spending money on a variety of consultants, lobbyists and clean energy groups, including:

Since 2016 when the ballot measure was launched, the Sands has contributed $2.35 million, followed by $1.7 million given by Switch and $100,000 contributed by Valley Electric Association. Casino giant MGM Resorts also donated $10,000 to the ballot question in 2016.

No Handouts to Billionaires Committee, the PAC opposing the ballot question and funded by chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, didn’t report any spending in 2017.

NV Energy: $180,000

  • $20,000 to Nevada State Democratic Party
  • $15,000 to BizPAC, associated with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber
  • $10,000 to Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak
  • $7,500 to Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D)
  • $5,000 to the Assembly Democratic Caucus
  • $5,000 to Atkinson Leadership PAC, associated with Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D)
  • $5,000 to Senator James Settelmeyer (R)
  • $5,000 to Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson
  • $5,000 to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo
  • $5,000 to Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D)
  • $5,000 to Nevada Mining Association PAC
  • $5,000 to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson
  • $3,500 to Senator Becky Harris (R)
  • $3,500 to Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore
  • $2,500 to Senator Aaron Ford (D)
  • $2,500 to the Assembly Republican Caucus
  • $2,500 to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R)
  • $2,500 to Battle Born Nevada PAC, associated with Republican state Senator James Settelmeyer (R)
  • $2,500 to Assemblyman Chris Brooks (D)
  • $2,500 to Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D)
  • $2,500 to Growth & Opportunity PAC, associated with the Assembly Republican caucus
  • $2,500 to North Las Vegas City Councilman Isaac Barron
  • $2,500 to Assemblyman James Oscarson (R)
  • $2,500 to Lieutenant Governor candidate Kate Marshall (D)
  • $2,500 to Assemblyman Keith Pickard (R)
  • $2,500 to North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black
  • $2,500 to Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton (D)
  • $2,500 to Senator Tick Segerblom (D)
  • $2,500 to Assemblyman Steve Yeager (D)
  • $2,500 to Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D)
  • $2,000 to former North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Anita Wood
  • $2,000 to Henderson Mayor Debra March
  • $2,000 to former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers
  • $2,000 to Assemblyman James Ohrenschall(D)
  • $2,000 to North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee
  • $2,000 to Senator Julia Ratti (D)
  • $2,000 to Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony
  • $1,500 to Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Seroka
  • $1,000 to Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Chris Edwards (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Dina Neal (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Edgar Flores (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R)
  • $1,000 to Senator Joe Hardy (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman John Hambrick (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman John Ellison (R)
  • $1,000 to Henderson City Councilman John Marz
  • $1,000 to Senator Joyce Woodhouse (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle (D)
  • $1,000 to Senator Nicole Cannizzaro (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson (D)
  • $1,000 to Attorney General candidate Wes Duncan (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman William McCurdy (D)
  • $1,000 to Senator Yvanna Cancela (D)
  • $500 to Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey
  • $500 to Sparks City Councilwoman Charlene Bybee
  • $500 to former Las Vegas City Council candidate Kelli Ross
  • $500 to Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung
  • $500 to Reno City Councilman Paul McKenzie
  • $500 to Sparks City Councilman Ron Smith

Southwest Gas: $100,650

  • $10,000 from Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D)
  • $10,000 from Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D)
  • $7,500 to Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R)
  • $7,500 to Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D)
  • $7,500 to Senator James Settelmeyer (R)
  • $5,000 to Home Building Industry Political Action Committee
  • $5,000 to Assemblyman James Oscarson (R)
  • $5,000 to Attorney General candidate Wes Duncan (R)
  • $4,000 to Senator Becky Harris (R)
  • $2,500 to Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R)
  • $2,500 to Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D)
  • $2,500 to Henderson Mayor Debra March
  • $2,500 to Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson
  • $2,500 to North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee
  • $2,500 to Assemblyman Steve Yeager (D)
  • $2,500 to Clark County Commission candidate Tisha Black
  • $2,400 to Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore
  • $1,500 to Assemblyman Chris Brooks (D)
  • $1,500 to Assemblyman James Ohrenschall (D)
  • $1,500 to North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black
  • $1,500 to Senator Nicole Cannizzaro (D)
  • $1,500 to NV First, a PAC associated with Republican Senator Heidi Gansert (R)
  • $1,000 to former North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Anita Wood
  • $1,000 to Senator Becky Harris (R)
  • $1,000 to former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers
  • $1,000 to North Las Vegas City Councilman Isaac Barron
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman John Ellison (R)
  • $1,000 to Henderson City Councilman John Marz
  • $1,000 to Senator Joyce Woodhouse (D)
  • $1,000 to former Assemblyman Paul Anderson (R)
  • $750 to Assemblyman Chris Edwards (R)
  • $750 to Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel (D)
  • $750 to Assemblyman John Hambrick (R)
  • $500 to Assemblyman Al Kramer (R)
  • $500 to Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury
  • $500 to former Las Vegas City Council candidate Kelli Ross

Ormat Nevada: $8,500

  • $1,500 to Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D)
  • $1,000 to Senator Becky Harris (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Chris Brooks (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Keith Pickard (R)
  • $1,000 to Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D)
  • $1,000 to Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton (D)
  • $500 to Assemblywoman Dina Neal (D)
  • $500 to Assemblywoman Heidi Swank (D)

International Brotherhood Electrical Workers Local #357: $8,024.99

  • $2,003.57 to Lieutenant Governor candidate Kate Marshall (D)
  • $1,003.57 to Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D)
  • $1,003.57 to Boulder City Councilman Cam Walker
  • $1,003.57 to Senator David Parks (D)
  • $1,003.57 to Senator Yvanna Cancela (D)
  • $1,003.57 to Senator Mo Denis (D)
  • $1,003.57 to Henderson Mayor Debra March

Solar City Corporation: $4,000

  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Chris Brooks (D)
  • $1,000 to Senator Heidi Gansert (R)
  • $1,000 to Assemblyman Justin Watkins (D)
  • $1,000 to Senator Patricia Spearman (D)

Disclosure: MGM Resorts, Switch, NV Energy, Debra March, Steve Sisolak and Sheriff Joe Lombardo have donated to The Nevada Independent. You can view a full list of donors here.

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