BOSTON — Constellation Energy Group, the Baltimore-based Fortune 500 power conglomerate, is using its generating capacity to produce serious political wattage.
The group is becoming a major national political player through generous campaign donations and this week is providing free electricity to the Democratic National Convention.
The power to the Fleet Center, estimated at $10,000, is being provided as an in-kind donation to Boston 2004 Inc., the convention host committee, said Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs Paul Allen.
A Constellation subsidiary, Constellation NewEnergy, is providing the convention with all of its power from renewable sources and is spending about $30,000 on events such as a luncheon for the Maryland delegation and a reception for the Congressional Black Caucus during the four-day quadrennial gathering, Allen said.
Constellation Energy, the parent company of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., supports Republicans and Democrats alike.
The corporation’s political action committee has contributed $37,000 to Democratic candidates and the same amount to Republicans this election cycle, according to campaign finance records provided by Political Money Line, a political watchdog group. Maryland candidates from both parties have received $26,000 of the contributions.
The company donated an additional $38,500 to other political action committees and will supply power to the Republican National Convention in New York next month.
Corporate money plays an ever-increasing role in political fund raising, particularly in national conventions. Corporate donations account for 61 percent of funding for this year’s conventions, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, a non-profit group affiliated with George Washington University.
“At this point corporate voices are being heard loud and clear,” said Paul Herrnson, director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland.
Allen said conventions give politicians a unique opportunity to hear what is important to their constituents, and Constellation is proud to count itself as a major business constituent of Maryland. Constellation Group is the parent company of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
Since deregulation of the energy industry in the last several years, Constellation has made itself into a major national presence with power plants in 11 states. It now provides power to more than half the Fortune 500 companies, as well as the Fleet Center in Boston, where the Democratic Convention is being held.
Now nearly a $10 billion company, it is the second largest in Maryland behind Lockheed Martin.
The company has used its assets to raise its profile, particularly in Maryland, in arenas outside of politics too.
Last year it donated $25,000 to a non-profit organization to fund government-sponsored events surrounding the Preakness Stakes horse race, for which Constellation President Mayo Shattuck III gained the chance to play a round of golf with Ehrlich, as did fellow donors from the Orioles, Harkins Builders and others.
It is also spending $500,000 to be the title sponsor of the Volvo Ocean Race’s stopover in Baltimore and Annapolis, the first of only two stops the boat-racing route will make in North America, and it is also the title sponsor for the PGA golf tournament at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley.
Herrnson said that by funding major events that have no direct influence on legislation, corporations hope to be seen as part of the team. When issues relevant to the company come up, government officials will look to these corporations as part of the legislative team, he said. – 30 – CNS-7-27-04