List includes many of most powerful people in the Alabama business and politics, and a pair of national heavyweights as well
By Eddie Curran
Here, in no particular order, are some of good soldiers who’ve helped make the bogus case that Alabama Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn is a closet liberal in league with environmentalists.
Keep this in mind: Dunn wants to lower your monthly power bills. Those on this list are doing their part to ensure Dunn’s defeat in June, and remove the one threat to Alabama Power’s grip on the PSC.
1. Alabama Power and CEO Charles McCrary: Neither Alabama Power nor McCrary have made so much as a public peep against Dunn. But let there be no doubt: They hire the hit men, and are involved in every step.
If you don’t believe McCrary and the high-minded, community leader/churchgoing types in Alabama Power’s government relations department would behave in such a cowardly, rodent-like fashion, then you need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Naivete is not the name of their game, and it shouldn’t be the name of yours either.
2. Yellowhammer News/Cliff Sims: The conservative Internet website and its president and main writer have been on Dunn’s case for more than a year. Yellowhammer often uses photo-shop to create propaganda, not news. In the actual photo, which was on Dunn’s Facebook page, the only sticker on the car was the “Dunn” campaign logo. The others — AARP, and those of various environmental groups — were photo-shopped.
3. Speaker Mike Hubbard: Had the gall to summon Dunn to his office. Asked Dunn to come alone. When Dunn arrived, Hubbard told Dunn he needed to back off and take it easy. Then several Hubbard aides read statements Dunn had made in the media, questioned him, and took notes. If they thought that would intimidate Dunn, they got it backwards.
4. Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross: Montgomery lobbying/political consulting firm whose clients include Hubbard, Alabama Power, and the Southern Company.
Emails reported elsewhere on this site show the firm works closely with Sims and Yellowhammer, and has paid for services rendered to Yellowhammer. Among other things, the emails show the firm’s role in a script for a video in which Twinkle Cavanaugh and Jeremy Oden were to be portrayed as the “good guys” and Dunn as one of the “bad guys.”
5. Alabama Coal Association/Drummond Coal: Alabama Power and Big Coal are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Alabama power politics. The coal association and its membership companies, like Drummond, sing in unison with Alabama Power.
For example, the power company can’t donate to PSC candidates, but coal companies can and do. Commissioners Twinkle Cavanaugh Jeremy Oden? Bankrolled by coal money. That’s political code for the Alabama Power Seal of Approval of a PSC candidate.
Terry Dunn just gets ashes and switches. No donations, just propaganda and lies. The Coal Association’s 17-minute film, “Behind the Mask”contains subtle digs at Dunn. In November, Coal Association President George Barber wrote an op-ed for the Al.Com papers in which he blasted AARP for “its treatment of Alabama Power.” A month later, in another Al.Com op-ed, Barber lashed out at Dunn, linking him with anti-coal environmentalists.
“Considering Terry Dunn is a life long politician who first ran as a Democrat for Alabama Senate in 1994, I should have expected as much,” Barber wrote.
Life-long politician? Dunn, to my knowledge, has run for office twice — in 1994, when he lost, and 2010, when he won a spot on the PSC. His re-election bid is his third race. He’s held elective office for a whopping three of his 54 years.
In 1994, Richard Shelby and far too many current Republicans to count were Democrats. Dunn switched over at about the same time as Shelby. Dunn has been a delegate at the Republican National Convention twice and an alternate delegate another time.
If all Dunn cared about was winning elections, the last thing he’d do is buck Alabama Power and the huge money people Barber represents.
6. Attorney General Luther Strange: When PSC commissioners Twinkle Cavanaugh and Jeremy Oden refused Dunn’s request for formal rate hearings, Dunn wrote Strange to ask the attorney general to order rate hearings on Alabama Power, Mobile Gas, and Alagasco. As AG, Strange has the authority to order such hearings.
Strange issued the above statement. It reflected that he cares more about Alabama Power than Alabama People.
7. JobKeeper Alliance: Montgomery-based non-profit formed in 2012. Lone employee: Patrick Cagle, a political consultant and son of a long-time former Alabama Power executive. Of Dunn’s critics, perhaps none is more strident and ugly than Cagle and JobKeeper.
He and JobKeeper have also been very active on behalf of Alabama Power’s sister company, Mississippi Power — writing op-eds and buying radio and newspaper ads in the state next door.
An AP story out of Mississippi recently quoted Cagle saying he was “not a front for Southern Company or anyone else.” We hereby invite Cagle to prove he’s not a front by disclosing from where JobKeeper gets its money.
Not holding our breath.
8. PACE/Lance Brown: As established beyond any reasonable doubt elsewhere on this site, the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) is a front group run by the Montgomery-based political consulting firm Matrix LLC. That firm, and its founders, have long provided services of an undetermined nature for Alabama Power.
PACE’s approach is gentler than JobKeeper, to which it shares ties. Like JobKeeper, it’s also been active in Mississippi on behalf of Mississippi Power. PACE even paid for a high-dollar Birmingham lawyer to participate in the PSC hearings and mimic the Alabama Power party line.
It too is a non-profit, and no more likely to dislcose its funding than JobKeeper.
The head of PACE — former Matrix employee Lance Brown — wrote a piece on the PACE website called, “Game is Up on Terry Dunn’s charade.”
The slick, well-paid power company sycophant wrote that Dunn’s “actions in the case of Alabama Power clearly show that this was never about utility profits or protecting customers.”
“Rather, it was about a personal political agenda. Dunn was acting on behalf of Dunn, stealing a page from George Wallace’s populist playbook to stir up the public. How can we tell? The speed with which Commissioner Dunn pivoted from ‘concerned public servant’ to ‘candidate for re-election’ would make any observer’s head spin. It’s a shallow game that we all know. Let’s hope Alabamians are smart enough not to play along.”
PACE, talking about shallow games. Can you say: Pot, kettle, black?
9. Chip Beeker: One of three — three! — Republican challengers to Dunn in the June primary. Beeker is getting help from the Swatek firm, and thus Yellowhammer News. When declaring his candidacy, he said the following to that august publication:
“If we are going to win this battle, it is important that we elect a PSC commissioner who is willing to take action now, not one like my opponent, Commissioner Terry Dunn, who is content to serve as the liberal environmentalists’ tacit enabler.”
Beeker is such an Alabama Power toady that he let the next guy on the list host a fundraiser for him.
10. Southern Company lobbyist Haley Barbour: Barbour was a a major Southern Company lobbyist before becoming governor of Mississippi. He promptly resumed the position after leaving the governor’s office.
In October, a certain publication (OK, Yellowhammer News) reported that Barbour would be coming to Alabama to host a fund-raiser for Chip Beeker. Cliff Sims’ scoop was sourced as coming from “a source close to the Beeker campaign.”
Swatek, Azbell, Ross & Howe does work for if not secretly operates and funds Yellowhammer. It has contributed at least $6,000 in services to the Beeker campaign, and also provides political consulting and lobbying services to Alabama Power and the Southern Company.
The Wild Guess here is that the Swatek firm was Yellowhammer’s secret source.
And why did such a big-dog like Barbour come to Alabama to raise money for one Republican against another in a friggin’ state PSC race? According to Yellowhammer’s “source,” Barbour “offered to host the fundraiser after becoming aware of Dunn’s ties to environmental groups.”
Thus, Haley Barbour makes our list.
11. Karl Rove: This man who needs no introduction and Dunn have beach homes near one another in Florida, and have met. As a result of getting to know one another, and perhaps as well Dunn’s rock-solid Republican credentials, Rove endorsed Dunn in 2010.
In October Rove came to Alabama to speak to a Republican group in Tuscaloosa. According to a story in Yellowhammer under Cliff Sims byline, Rove said during that visit that he regrets his 2010 endorsement because he’s become “concerned about the relationships (Dunn) is building with out-of-the-mainstream, anti-coal environmental groups.”
Rove told Yellowhammer that he hopes Alabamians elect someone other than Dunn in the 2014 elections. Amazing, isn’t it: Dunn’s connections to environmentalists — despite being non-existent — are known by the likes of Karl Rove.
12. Twinkle Cavanaugh: The PSC’s president is a political ally of Hubbard’s and has long professional ties with members of the Swatek firm. Behind the scenes, she’s part of the team plotting his political destruction by falsely linking him to anti-coal environmentalists.
Cavanaugh religiously cites the party line — fear of environmentalists as excuse for not holding rate hearings or bringing Alabama Power’s stratospheric rate of return down anywhere close to national norms.
13. Steve Flowers: This list was in the making before Flowers announced that he would join Beeker and Jonathan Barbee in running against Dunn. He was on the list before his announcement, and the snotty things he said about Dunn when he tossed his hat in the ring sealed his spot. (Note: Since this was written, Flowers ended his run for the PSC.)
Flowers is a former legislator who writes a state political column run by small papers throughout the state. Last January, the self-proclaimed “premier political journalist and commentator” in Alabama stuck it to Dunn in one of his columns. It included this choice paragraph:
“It appears that Mr. Dunn may be a closet Obama Democrat. He recently took up the mantle of a group of national liberal environmental extremists and offered up a plan to revise a rate structure set up decades ago to keep Alabama utility rates low. His fellow PSC members quickly thwarted Dunn’s liberal agenda. Many Obama Democrats lauded Dunn’s exploits. Neither his fellow PSC members nor the Republican business community were impressed.”
That bit of ugliness earned you, Steve Flowers, a place on the list.
14.The Alabama Political Reporter: This is the semi-Democratic or in any event pro-AEA version of Yellowhammer News. While “APR” and is editor Bill Britt can’t hold a candle to Yellowhammer in the Dunn-bashing category, they’ve done their little part.
Britt published one of Patrick “Jobkeeper” Cagle’s tirades on Dunn and authored a smarmy piece last year with the headline, “Cavanaugh Takes High Road on Commission Dispute.”
Dunn, by contrast, is apparently taking the “low road” by trying to get Alabama’s PSC to hold formal rate hearings for its utilities — as occurs routinely in other states.
The piece concluded thusly:
“Cavanaugh says she is proud of the work the Commission does but is unhappy with the spectacle that Commissioner Dunn has made. She indicated that Dunn’s motives may be not as pure as have been portrayed by some in the media, but she would prefer to take the high road than engage in the name calling that has become a part of Dunn’s communications with the press.”
I believe what Britt’s saying is that Cavanaugh took the low road but got mixed up and called it the high road. Or maybe he got mixed up. Hard to tell.
15. 60 Plus: The Washington-based “conservative alternative to AARP” showed up, as if out of nowhere, to participate in last year’s PSC meetings devoted to Alabama Power. 60-Plus VP Matthew Kandrach donned a cheearleader outfit at one of the meetings and led the crowd in, “Two Bits, Four Bits, Six Bits a Dollar, everyone for Alabama Power, Stand up and Holler!”
Well, maybe not, but the effect was the same.
In op-eds and other media, the organization that questionably claims to have 80,000 senior members in Alabama has blasted away at Dunn, applying the well-worn script — connections to left-leaning enviromental groups, and Obama references in every other sentence.