An Alabama utility regulator is funding his re-election campaign with a loan from his private farm, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants, despite the regulator’s frequent criticism of ‘federal overreach’ in his election campaigns.
Alabama Public Service Commissioner Chris “Chip” Beeker Jr. owns the Beeker Catfish & Cattle Farm. The farm loaned Beeker’s campaign $100,000 on May 10, 2022, according to campaign finance records for the Alabama secretary of state.
Beeker Catfish & Cattle Farm received a $45,600 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in April 2020, and the government had canceled $46,078 (including accrued interest) as of April 27, 2021, according to the PPP tracker from ProPublica.
Beeker’s farm has also received at least $120,883 in farm subsidies since 1995, 80% of which came in the years after his first election in 2014, according to the EWG Farm Grants Database.
Beeker has often criticized the federal government, including former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. He has made fighting the federal government a central part of his campaigns since at least 2014.
Beeker did not respond to questions from the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) about the grants.
Another entity from which Beeker derives revenue, Alabama Catfish Feedmill LLC, had $224,797 canceled through the PPP, as of November 5, 2020. The company does not list Beeker as an owner, but Beeker’s 2021 Declaration of Economic Interest filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission disclosed $10,000 to $49,999 in company earnings.
Other contributions to Beeker from coal interests, Alabama Power related manufacturers
Beeker’s campaign has only received four non-PAC contributions since the start of 2019, including his farm’s $100,000 loan to the campaign. Non-PAC contributions included $10,000 from JJ Kane, an auto auctioneer whose website listed him as a seller of used cars, trucks, utility and construction equipment from Alabama Power’s fleet; $5,000 from the Alabama Coal Cooperative, which supplies coal to Alabama Power’s EC Gaston plant; and $2,500 from George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama. Manufacture Alabama has supported Alabama Power’s positions on the Alabama Public Service Commission and the utility has been one of Manufacture Alabama’s funders, including as a “diamond sponsor” of the assembly annual group last year (the highest level available).
Beeker is currently running for re-election and will face Republican challengers Robin Litaker and Robert McCollum in the primary on May 24, 2022. No Democrats qualified for the race.
Phone records: Beeker rarely uses office phone, government cell phone
Phone records from the year 2020, obtained by EPI through a public records request, showed Beeker rarely used his desk phone and state-issued cell phone. Beeker only made one nine-minute phone call from his office that year, on August 24. nine minutes of use per month and on average less than one SMS sent per month.
Beeker did not respond to questions from EPI about how he communicates with key stakeholders and his constituents other than through his voice calls on his desk phone or government cell phone, or text messages. on this cell phone.
Each commissioner earns a salary of $103,490 per year.
Beeker’s Solar Lease Proposal Rejected by Alabama Ethics Commission
Beeker sought advice from the Alabama Ethics Commission regarding a possible solar lease on his farm, despite his stated preference for coal and gas. The ethics commission voted 3-2 in September 2016 to stop Beeker from entering into a deal with a solar company that would have paid him $225,500 a year and $5.6 million over 25 years. The solar company hoped to sell power to Alabama Power, an entity regulated by the Public Service Commission. Beeker’s attorney at the time said he was disappointed with the ruling.
Shortly after Beeker was elected in 2014, his son, Chris Beeker III, took a job with Steele and Associates, a utility staffing firm that lists Southern Company as a client, as reported for the first time. once Eddie Curran, a critic of Beeker and Alabama Power’s influence on the CPS. Chris Beeker III was appointed in November 2017 to serve as Alabama director of rural development for the US Department of Agriculture under the Trump administration.
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