PUC candidates argue over TV ad, campaign donationsFiegen took exception to a McGovern TV ad, which has him saying Xcel Energy CEO Richard C. Kelly is paid $11 million a year while Xcel also gives him a “luxury private jet” for his use — “And you’re paying for it.”
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Two candidates for a South Dakota Public Utilities Commission seat sparred Monday over a TV ad pointing to the high salary of a utility company executive.
Republican incumbent Kristie Fiegen and Democratic challenger Matt McGovern also exchanged words over campaign cash Fiegen has received from a utility board member.
Fiegen, who was appointed to the regulatory panel in August 2011, is seeking a full six-year term. She is being challenged by McGovern and Libertarian candidate Russell Clarke.
Fiegen took exception to a McGovern TV ad, which has him saying Xcel Energy CEO Richard C. Kelly is paid $11 million a year while Xcel also gives him a “luxury private jet” for his use — “And you’re paying for it.”
Fiegen said only $50,000 of his salary comes from South Dakota Xcel customers. Most of his pay, more than $8 million, comes from unregulated sources of income, Fiegen said.
“Matt is playing cheap political tricks,” she said. “The ad is misleading.”
Fiegen said the PUC spends hundreds if not thousands of hours studying utilities it regulates, and denies any expenses it deems unnecessary or out of line.
McGovern said he stands by every word in the ad and sent a response listing a citation for each statement.
He also said Fiegen should stand up for her constituents.
“South Dakota ratepayers are paying for Xcel’s excessive CEO pay and wasteful use of private jets,” McGovern said in a response to questions from The Daily Republic. “ … Even if South Dakotans were only paying one penny toward an $11 million CEO payment or for private jets, it is too much.”
Fiegen said the PUC has kept rates down while other states have allowed increases that cost consumers money. She said implying the South Dakota PUC is not a champion of lower rates is unfair.
“We work so hard in South Dakota on this,” Fiegen said. “I take this very, very seriously.”
She said McGovern is an outsider who represents liberal politics out of step with South Dakota, while she is a “real South Dakotan.”
McGovern, grandson of the late South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, was born and raised in Wisconsin but eventually moved to Rapid City and now lives in Sioux Falls.
“Matt believes in government regulation, such as cap and trade, that would cost South Dakota ratepayers a 48 percent hike,” Fiegen said. “I believe in less government and less regulation.”
McGovern dismissed her charge that he is an outsider.
“I have deep roots in South Dakota, and I have South Dakota common sense to know that Xcel Energy doesn’t need another rate hike when they paid their CEO $11 million last year and are running a miniature airline for their executives,” he said.
McGovern also criticized Fiegen for certain campaign contributions she has accepted.
Dana Dykhouse, a NorthWestern Energy board member, gave Fiegen $4,000 in 2011, the maximum allowed by state law. She also accepted $1,500 from COTEL and South Dakotans for Quality Cable Television, a pair of political action committees (PACs) that represent telecommunications and cable TV companies.
“Every time I see one of her campaign signs, I wonder if one of the utilities paid for it,” McGovern said in a news release. “Commissioner Fiegen should sign the Clean Commission Pledge and return any contributions she already accepted from lobbyists or the utilities she regulates.”
McGovern issued the pledge this summer, saying he would not accept donations from anyone with ties to utilities regulated by the PUC.
Fiegen said Dykhouse, a Sioux Falls banker, sits on several boards, so to list him as a utility board official is misleading and unfair. She said she cannot by law take any money from the utility firms she regulates.