Florida’s Largest Loan Provider for improving the energy efficiency of homes and businesses spent $ 112,000 on state political donations in the weeks leading up to the election.
Ygrene Energy Fund, a California-based company, has made large donations since early October to predominantly Republican candidates and committees, according to state campaign finance records. His biggest donation during that time – $ 50,000 – went to the political committee of Governor Ron DeSantis, who is not running for re-election this year.
Ygrene is one of the many private companies in Florida that provide property rated clean energy financing. The so-called “PACE” loans are advertised as a way to help clients afford upgrades such as solar roof windows or weatherproof windows. A Tampa Bay Times A survey released last month found that programs often trap clients in debt.
The Florida Attorney General’s office is currently investigating Ygrene for his PACE lending practices. Ygrene surpassed $ 1 billion in PACE loans in Florida this year.
The company’s contributions this month represent more than a third of its political spending in Florida in 2020.
Among the politicians the company courted this month include Rep Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay – $ 11,000 paid to Fine and its policy committee; Senator Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne – $ 10,000 donated to her political committee; Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville – $ 5,000 donated to Fischer’s political committee and Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point – $ 5,000 donated to his political committee.
“I have a good relationship with the company because I come from the world of finance and understand the nature of their product and the pros and cons,” said Rep. Fine.
Fine, who is running for re-election this year, said he currently has no legislation or priorities planned for PACE programs.
When contacted by the Time Regarding the donations, Fine said he was unaware that Ygrene was under investigation by the Florida attorney general’s office. He noted that the donations the company had made to him represented a small percentage of his overall contributions.
Mayfield and Fischer did not return requests for comment. A representative of LaMarca’s legislative staff asked questions of his campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Ygrene’s check to the DeSantis committee was tied for the fourth biggest check the governor received this year.
It arrived two days after the Time published an article detailing the concerns of several Florida lawmakers regarding PACE programs and their desire for greater consumer protection. Currently, lenders are not required to ensure that a customer can afford the loan, and dozens of homeowners Time spoke with said sales representatives for the contractors who performed the work do not always disclose the financial details of the loans. Because the loans are in fact tax liens, customers can face foreclosure if they don’t pay their bill. Several Pasco County homes with PACE loans are being auctioned off by the government.
Representative Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, returned a $ 1,000 donation from Ygrene after reading the Time’ initial investigation, the newspaper reported.
“Ygrene does not comment on political donations,” the company said in a statement.
Since 2017, Ygrene has donated just under $ 900,000 to politicians in Florida. The bulk of its spending arose last year when the industry faced a pair of bills that would have required significantly more consumer protections for PACE loans.
Just over 70 percent of the $ 345,000 spent that year came after the pair’s first bill was filed. Both bills died without a full vote in either chamber.
His most significant contributions outside of the DeSantis committee include a check for $ 50,000 to the Florida Republican Party in February and another to the Florida Republican Party in 2018.
The Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is currently undertaking a process that could add greater consumer protection around PACE loans.
SUBSCRIBE TO ELECTION TEXT MESSAGES: Get voting information, updates and ask questions to political editor Steve Contorno about the candidates and the issues, directly via your phone.
ELECTOR’S GUIDE: Access Tampa Bay Times’ Know Your Candidates Guide on tampabay.com/voterguide.
HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT VOTING IN FLORIDA? WE HAVE THE ANSWERS: We’ve compiled information on early polling locations, postal voting rules and more.
MODIFICATIONS: State constitutional changes on the 2020 poll, explained.
CONVICTION FOR CRIME? Here are the Florida rules for registering to vote.
WHY BLACK VECTORS IN A CITY OF FLORIDA BEAT THE NATIONAL AVERAGES: The participation rate is 10% higher than the national average. This has been true for generations. Chester James Sr.’s story helps explain why.
POSTAL SERVICES CONCERNS: What’s the matter with the US Postal Service and should Florida be worried?
We’re working hard to bring you the latest election news in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to collect and update. If you are not yet a subscriber, please consider purchasing a print or digital subscription. Or Click here to donate to the Tampa Bay Times Journalism Fund.