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Puget Sound Energy ups its spending to fight PUD effort

Puget Sound Energy has thrown major money behind its effort to fight the creation of new public utility districts to take over the power company's territory on Whidbey Island and in Jefferson and Skagit counties.

A review of campaign financing records on file with the Public Disclosure Commission shows that the Bellevue-based utility company has significantly increased its cash contributions to the anti-PUD groups “Whidbey Consumers for Affordable Energy,” “Skagit Committee for Reliable & Affordable Energy” and “Jefferson County Citizens Against Prop 1." Puget Sound Energy has now contributed more to more than half a million dollars to the three campaigns.

The three campaigns are run by Seattle-based strategist firm Strategies 360, and the trio has been fighting attempts in the three counties to start locally-owned and operated utilities.

Puget Sound Energy gave another $95,000 to “Whidbey Consumers for Affordable Energy,” according to the Public Disclosure Commission documents filed Sept. 22. That’s on top of the $50,000 that the company donated last month, for a total of $145,000, plus $505 in staff time.

Puget Sound Energy tossed another $170,000 to the “Skagit Committee for Reliable & Affordable Energy,” for a total of $230,000, plus about $400 in in-kind staff time.

The $95,000 contribution was made on Sept. 16 and reported to the state on Sept. 22.

And Puget Sound Energy added another $100,000 to “Jefferson County Citizens Against Prop 1,” for a total of $140,000, plus $510 in-kind donations.

Dave Metheny, campaign director of “People For Yes on Whidbey,” the group trying to create a Whidbey-based power company, was critical of the amount Puget Sound Energy has devoted to its campaigns.

“That's more than $515,000 for the bogus grassroots groups to fight the real grassroots efforts,” Metheny said.

“Then there is what Puget Sound Energy is spending on its new 'image' advertising, the new customer service offices in Port Townsend and Freeland, new community reps, and other efforts directly related to the campaign,” he added.

While Metheny continues to stress that the Puget Sound Energy’s counter effort is nothing more than an artificial creation by a political strategist firm, some critics have said the “People For Yes” itself is not a grassroots organization, considering that it has accepted most of its funding from the Washington Public Utility Association, a public utility trade organization based in Olympia.

With the most recent contribution, Puget Sound Energy and “Whidbey Consumers For Affordable Energy” is able to outspend “People for Yes on Whidbey PUD” by a 10-to-1 margin.

The group that started the push to create a PUD on Whidbey has raised only $16,983, according to its latest filing with the Public Disclosure Commission on Sept. 9.

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