DTE Energy says no to proposal making political donations more transparent

DTE has rejected a proposal to be more transparent about political donations.

Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has brought up the money utilities spend in lobbying efforts, for example, calling the current standards "deficient" mainly because they can influence public policy and rates.

"I think because DTE has a monopoly on energy services that’s not equitable, so if we don’t have a choice then give us voice," said Alicia Edwards, DTE customer.

DTE Energy told FOX 2 that a recent proposal to its shareholders increasing the transparency of the political contributions it makes was unnecessary, and therefore, a majority of shareholders voted it down.

"The public should have a choice when it comes to anything companies do, when it comes to political contributions," said another customer.

"I could have predicted this was going to fail, because when this vote was going to happen, there was nothing in it for the shareholders," said Dr. Chris Kobus. "There’s no reason for them to be more transparent than is required by law."

Kobus runs Oakland University’s Clean Energy Research Center.

Hilary Golston, FOX 2: "Does DTE make a reasonable argument that they are already covered by state and federal law so there was no need for this additional protection?"

"Yeah, why would they go above and beyond the law," Kobus said. "It’s like asking either individuals or companies why aren’t you paying more than the minimum amount of tax every year."

That seems to be a core tenant of DTE’s position. They’re acting within the law.

DTE's Pete Ternes sent a statement reading in part:

"The company’s lobbying activities are subject to regulation by the state and federal government including requirements to provide disclosures of certain state and federal lobbying expenses. DTE not only complies with all applicable state and federal laws in this area, we believe our disclosures currently exceed the requirements."

"If individuals want more disclosure, shouldn’t that be something the legislature can handle," said Kobus. "If consumers have a problem with DTE being a monopoly, again that was put into law in 2008, the legislature can change that."

FOX 2 contacted Attorney General Dana Nessel's office to see if there was a reaction to the proposal but did not receive a response by deadline.