"The guy is a right-wing ideologue and he doesn't belong in a regulatory body that's supposed to be impartial and protect the consumers, which he's not doing," said Henry Eckhart, a commissioner in the 1970s who now represents utility consumers. "This is just one of a few things that have been objectionable."
Ashley Brown, another former commissioner who now directs the Harvard Electricity Policy Group, said checking ideology at the door is one of the first things he teaches at new-regulator trainings.
"You're never going to remove politics from electricity, but the reason we have regulators is to reduce the politicization of the sector," Brown said. "Part of a regulator's mission is to have filters on what ideologues say, to make deliberative, thoughtful decisions that are fact-based and consistent with the law."
Snitchler's 2011 appearances at American Legislative Exchange Council events continued a pattern of regular attendance at ALEC meetings. At them, lawmakers may be lavishly entertained by corporate sponsors without publicly reporting many of the meals, cigars, drinks and other perks they receive.
Ohio House emails list Snitchler as an exchange council member and an attendee at another four of the group's events in 2009 and 2010, when he was a state representative. The documents were obtained by ProgressOhio, a liberal policy group, through a public records request and provided to The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for the legislative council said the organization does not confirm the names or attendance records of members.
As a lawmaker, campaign finance reports show, Snitchler accepted more than $25,000 in contributions from corporations, political action committees and associations involved in the electricity, natural gas, telephone and transportation sectors he now regulates. That included $9,500 from FirstEnergy Corp. and $1,000 from AEP.
After joining the Public Utilities Commission, Snitchler was prohibited from taking gifts of any kind from the utilities he regulates.
Karg said Snitchler dropped his ALEC membership after leaving the House, but a House spokesman said Snitchler's membership for the 2011-2012 legislative session was never revoked. It remained in effect through December.
Karg said Snitchler's 2012 financial disclosure form, which hasn't yet come due, will show no further ALEC meetings.