The next time you pay your electric bill, you might look for a small box, asking if you want some of your dollars to go to charity.
You won't find one.
But every year, ComEd donates millions of its customers’ dollars to charities.
“I think it's totally unfair,” ComEd customer Terry Ryan said. “It's not right that I get stuck with a back bill like this.”
Ryan has been angry at ComEd ever since it stuck her with $950 in back charges. ComEd said her electric meter wasn't working right and they've gave her a payment plan to catch up.
But now she's even angrier after we showed her how her money could end up going to charities and foundations she's never heard of, like the "American Friends of the Czech Republic."
“I'm totally shocked,” Ryan said. “I've never heard of something like that.”
She might not have heard, but ComEd makes no secret of its charitable intentions. Its website lists some of its recipients, like the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Adler Planetarium.
But what FOX Chicago News showed Ryan was the full list, obtained from the Illinois Commerce Commission Records.
The list details some $6.3 million dollars in donations by ComEd, all of it coming from payments for your electric bills.
The list includes lots of well-known local non-profits, like the Chicago Symphony, which got $93,000, and the Rainbow Push Coalition, which got $25,000.
But it also includes some groups you might not be familiar with, like American Friends of the Czech Republic, based in Washington D.C. They got $7,000.
The same amount went to The National Association of Basketball Coaches Foundation, based in Kansas, and to The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, to which ComEd donated $207,000.
“Now, what do we have do with southeastern Pennsylvania?” Ryan asked.
Well, turns out, Com Ed is a subsidiary of Exelon. And an Exelon executive sits on the board of that United Way in Pennsylvania. In fact, when we cross-checked the names of Exelon and ComEd officials against the list of ComEd's donations.
FOX Chicago found more than $1 million going to charities with a connection to those officials.
For example, in 2009, ComEd gave $158,000 to the Lincoln Park Zoo. That same year, ComEd CEO Anne Prommiaggiore served on the Zoo's board of directors.
We can't say whether specific ComEd's officials steered donations to their favorite charities.
ComEd wouldn't do any interviews. The company only released a statement saying:
"We are proud that ComEd employees are on more than ninety boards in Chicago and Illinois, sharing their business acumen and professional skills with organizations that serve those in need."
Critics who recently lined up against ComEd's proposed rate increases say that no matter who chooses the charities, Com Ed customers shouldn't foot the bill.
“We think that the ratepayers, or consumers, should not have to pay for charitable contributions,” Windy Citizen’s William McNary said. “That should be an expense of the stockholders.”
In it's statement, ComEd also said its donations are allowed by state law and are reviewed and approved by the ICC, and they are an important part of good corporate citizenship. Critics, again, disagree.
“The best corporate citizenship that they can do is reliability of the delivery of electricity,” AARP’s Bob Gallo said. “As well as making sure that the rates stay as low as possible so folks can afford to pay their electric bills.”
Like ComEd said, the ICC does review these contributions, but only when ComEd comes in asking for a rate increase.
In fact, last summer the ICC refused to make ratepayers pay for that big contribution to that United Way in southeastern Pennsylvania, because it was too far from ComEd's service area.
Almost every other donation was approved.