Contributors to the DGA are listed in disclosure reports that such tax-exempt, political fundraising groups — known as 527s for the section of the Internal Revenue Code under which they are organized — file periodically with the Internal Revenue Service. The DGA files its reports twice a year.
An analysis by The Baltimore Sun of the DGA report covering the first six months of this year showed that some companies on the list, including waste-to-energy firms, had issues before the governor and General Assembly during the 2011 legislative session. Others, such as the wind energy companies, will continue to have legislation before state lawmakers during the coming 90-day session.
Eight Maryland-based firms made their first contributions in at least three years to the DGA during the first six months of O'Malley's watch, together giving $187,000. Only one other state had more first-time givers: Illinois, home to Gov. Pat Quinn, the DGA's finance chairman.
Overall, most donations came from reliable DGA givers — companies with national reach and long records of supporting the organization. Many of these companies, including pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Hewlett-Packard, also give to the RGA. The average donation to the DGA in the first six months of 2011 was $27,373. The biggest was $265,000, from PhRMA, the trade group for pharmaceutical research companies.
Some companies with ties to Maryland were big DGA contributors long before O'Malley's tenure. GTECH, a technology company that won a $38.9 million state contract last year to create a monitoring system for Maryland slot machines, gave $100,000 this year. The company contributed the same amount in 2010 and 2009.
An analysis of DGA donations since 2009 showed 58 companies that gave money during the first six months of this year that had not previously done so. At least eight of them have business interests in Maryland.
Waste to energy
In the final weeks of the last legislative session, a bill steamed through the General Assembly to give new financial incentives for "waste-to-energy" plants. The legislation changed the law so garbage-burning would be on par with solar, wind and hydroelectric power as a renewable energy source.
Maryland law requires a certain amount of power to be generated from renewables, so the change makes the energy from garbage burning much more valuable.
O'Malley's Energy Administration "strongly supported" the legislation in the Assembly, but the governor has said he was personally torn. The environmental community argued that trash burning contributes to pollution, provides a disincentive for recycling and devalues other renewables such as wind.
O'Malley says he considered vetoing the legislation after the Assembly adjourned in early April. But on May 17, he issued a statement announcing that he would sign the bill into law. "The reality is Marylanders generate tons of solid waste each and every day," O'Malley said. "If there is no waste-to-energy facility available, these tons of trash are simply dumped into the landfills."
The same day, Albany, N.Y.-based Energy Answers International (which posted O'Malley's statement on its website) wrote a check to the DGA for $100,000. The company had never before given money to the DGA, according to IRS electronic records, which go back to 2000.
Today, the firm is in the process of building the Fairfield Renewable Energy Power Plant near Curtis Bay, a $1 billion facility that would generate energy by burning trash.
Energy Answers did not respond to emails requesting comment for this article. O'Malley denied any connection between the contribution and his decision, saying his signing of the bill was consistent with his previous support of waste energy. He said the timing of the contribution had to do with the May 21 Preakness, where the DGA had a tent for which it sought donations.
Two other energy companies involved with waste-to-energy plants in Maryland also supported the legislation and increased giving this year to the DGA. Waste Management, doubling its contribution of previous years, gave $20,000. The company owns Wheelabrator Technologies, which operates the RESCO waste-to-energy plant in Baltimore and is seeking state permits to build a plant in Frederick.
A Waste Management spokeswoman said the firm gave $10,000 more this year to sponsor a DGA energy conference in Cambridge that was attended by a number of governors.
Waste Management "does not base our contributions to the DGA or RGA on specific legislation that may occur in any one state," public affairs director Lisa Kardell said in a statement.
IRS records show that Covanta, another waste-to-energy company with interests in Maryland, gave $150,000 during the period, far more than it had previously. The company operates a garbage-burning plant in Montgomery County. It gave $100,000 to the DGA last year and $75,000 in 2009.