Fortune 500 energy and utility company Southern Company contributed $1 million to dark money group One Nation in 2020, according to a disclosure posted on the corporation’s website. One Nation is closely aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. During 2020, the group poured more than $20 million into the Senate runoff election in Georgia, where Southern Company is headquartered.
Despite spending millions of dollars on elections, One Nation does not disclose its donors. This keeps the public in the dark about which corporate and other interests are really behind the attack ads they see on TV.
Southern Company’s disclosure of the contribution adds to the list of known corporate and industry supporters of One Nation. CVS, Aflac and Nationwide Insurance are also known to have made large contributions to the group last year. Nationwide’s contribution was made during the Senate runoff races in Georgia, just days after the company made contributions to the Republican candidates in those races.
One Nation has raised money from the energy sector before. Andeavor, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute have each supported the group with million dollar grants in past years. This is the first time that Southern Company has disclosed giving to One Nation, but it’s not its first contribution to a dark money group. In 2017, the company gave $1 million to a new political nonprofit called America First Policies, which was formed to boost President Trump.
One Nation is organized as an IRS section 501(c)(4) organization, a type of “social welfare” organization commonly referred to as a dark money group when it engages in electoral activity. It’s called that because it can spend millions of dollars on politics, either by contributing to super PACs or running political ads itself, without disclosing any of its donors.
One Nation has poured more than $100 million into elections over the last three election cycles, mostly in the form of contributions to a super PAC with which it shares office space, staff and leadership.The super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), spends to elect Republicans to the Senate, and both groups are aligned with Senate Republican leadership. Steven Law, who serves as the top officer for both groups, is McConnell’s former chief of staff.
One Nation was heavily involved in supporting then-Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the two January Senate runoff elections in Georgia. During December 2020, One Nation gave $22.465 million in anonymously-sourced contributions to SLF. The super PAC then spent tens of millions in the two races. Its contributions made One Nation SLF’s biggest donor over that period by far.
It’s impossible to tell whether Southern Company’s contribution to One Nation was raised to support the Republican candidates in that race, but company executives would likely not have objected to supporting them. Loeffler is a former board member for the company’s largest subsidiary, Georgia Power. Separate from Southern Company’s corporate donation to One Nation, company executives kicked in nearly $60,000 to Loeffler and Perdue.
The very small number of One Nation donors that have been found or disclosed suggests that the known influence of corporations on our elections—mammoth as it is—is just the tip of the iceberg.