A winning strategy to dupe voters

Why should north Alabamians care about Alabama Power rates?

Because those rates are a symbol of how easily state politicians dupe voters.

The three members of the Public Service Commission hold statewide elected offices. Their role is to ensure Alabama Power does not abuse its state-created monopoly by overcharging ratepayers.

That role, of course, requires a healthy tension between the regulators and the regulated. The people of Alabama effectively have said Alabama Power can have its monopoly, but rigorous overview is needed to ensure rates are as low as possible.

The Mobile Press-Register — whose subscribers are within Alabama Power’s service area — on Sunday published a careful report concluding that, even though Alabama Power can produce power less expensively than its sister company, Georgia Power, it charges much higher rates for residential and commercial customers.

A simple explanation for the disparity is that Alabama Power-affiliated political action committees contribute massive amounts of money to politicians in the state.

That’s not a complete explanation, though, because it takes more than campaign money to win an election. It takes votes. If clear-eyed voters understood Alabama Power’s influence on state officials and believed that influence was inflating rates, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh and Commissioner Jeremy Oden — who this month rejected a formal review of the monopoly’s rate structure — would have short-lived political careers.

While Alabama Power rates have little impact on north Alabama, Cavanaugh’s response to accusations — that she was more cozy with the utility than with the consumers who voted for her — followed a common strategy.

The proposed rate review, she said, was a plot by radical environmentalists. It was part of President Barack Obama’s plan to undermine coal production. It would involve “fancy San Francisco lawyers” in the process.

She did not bother to explain how a simple rate review — part of PSC’s job and proposed by a Republican commissioner who opposes Obama policies — had any connection to these horrors, because she does not believe voters require an explanation. She is convinced she can push the hot buttons — environmentalists, Obama, lawyers — and Alabamians will reflexively support her.

Politicians throughout the state use the same strategy. The state GOP agenda released last week was little more than an anti-Obama rant. If voters despise Obama enough, state politicians figure, they won’t pay attention to bad policies that invariably help corporate contributors while hurting a struggling state.

Most Alabamians oppose Obama’s policies. That’s fine. The problem is that Cavanaugh and others have figured out they can get away with anything, as long as they bash Obama in the process.

A healthy suspicion of government is laudable. By fixating on Obama, though, voters are giving state government a free pass.



Filed under Alabama politics, Environment, Obama

2 responses to “A winning strategy to dupe voters

  1. hughmorg

    Oden is new to his seat. Twinkle, 2 years hence, will run for and win the AL Lt. Gov. post. Her campaign strategy will be the same thing that has served her well in this backward state: Obama-bashing and allied themes. She may, in 6 years, be our governor. Maybe by then I’ll be dead or living in Oregon or New Zealand. There are parts of New Mexico that are quite nice. Full disclosure: I own common stock in the Southern Company, the parent of both Alabama Power and Georgia Power. Maybe I should buy stock in a coal company, too. Twinkle is their friend, too.

  2. hughmorg

    Eric, RE Twinkle’s explanation of why she and Oden nixed a formal Ala. Power rate review, published in the DecDaily alongside your 2nd comment on the subject: Do you think she actually wrote that? Is she that capable? I wanted to share ALL of her flaming rhetoric, catch phrases, and pejorative language with liberal friends who reside elsewhere, but I haven’t had the time. And as you asked, “Where did coal come from?” What does coal in Alabama have to do with a fair rate review, something which is her commission’s primary legal responsibility to oversee, and which hasn’t been done in, what, 30 years. Was her explanation written by Charles Krauthammer or Cal Thomas or some other right-wing-nut, or a power- or coal-company lobbyist? Maybe it was written by someone else, originally about another subject, and adapted and modified by her or some of her staff to address the PSC issue.

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