Yesterday, Washington, D.C., community leaders called for a formal investigation into questions surrounding Mayor Muriel Bowser’s decision to flip-flop on her opposition to the proposed takeover of Pepco by Chicago-based Exelon.
On August 25, with the mayor’s backing, the D.C. Public Service Commission unanimously voted to reject the proposed takeover.
On October 6, the mayor announced an 11th-hour deal with Exelon to advance its acquisition bid.
At the heart of our call for an investigation is the question:
Why did the mayor change her mind?
Just days before she announced the backroom deal with Exelon, Mayor Bowser struck a $25 million sponsorship deal with Pepco to pave the way for the future DC United soccer stadium. The $25 million was used by the D.C. government to acquire through eminent domain part of the land that will be home to the new stadium. In return, Pepco may get to brand a street or small park in Southwest D.C. – a big check for seemingly so little in return.
But the appearance of pay-to-play politics and quid pro quo in advancing Exelon’s takeover of Pepco do not end there.
Public Citizen and its allies have started to connect the dots of the Bowser-Exelon-Pepco web of influence –
and have formally called on the District Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to “evaluate these two high-stakes situations to ensure that there was no impropriety, collusion, or unethical conduct of any kind.” Public Citizen and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network have also filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all internal correspondence between the mayor’s office, Pepco and Exelon regarding the controversial negotiations.
Not only does the mayor’s deal with Exelon still fail the public interest test, but it is also tainted by the appearance of corruption.
Meanwhile, Exelon and Pepco are spending big money in ad and lobby money to pressure the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) to reverse its rejection of the merger. The PSC recently agreed to review the Bowser-Exelon settlement deal on an expedited two-month timeline, including only one public hearing held during working hours on November 17.
This deal has never been about what’s good for District residents. As proposed, this takeover was about Exelon reducing the risk of its failing generation business with a stable revenue stream – provided by Pepco customers – and lining the pockets of Pepco shareholders. The question now is what has this deal become for the mayor and who else benefits if it goes through?
To answer that we need an independent investigation of the facts.
Allison Fisher is the outreach director for Public Citizen’s Climate and Energy Program