Citizens for Electioneering Michigan’s Energy

Big Political Spending By Electric Utility Raises Concerns

If you think that government unions should be prohibited from taking members’ money to spend on political ads those members disagree with, you may also object to Consumers Energy shareholders’ money being used for political ads supporting Consumers’ agenda. Which, among other things, includes outsourcing electricity generation to other states.

I have no objection in principle to the idea of cost effective outsourcing. I mention it because the inaptly named “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” has been fear mongering about outsourcing Michigan electricity supply jobs in a blitz of radio and television ads. Most of the funding for that electioneering came from Consumers Energy.

Consumers Energy points out the campaign ad money did not come from customers.

“Our contributions to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy came from the company in the form of non-customer, shareholder dollars. In other words, funds driven from our shareholders – people buying stock – and not from customer bills.”

As if this makes any difference. As TOC has noted previously, money is fungible. The money they used for political purposes could have been used to defray costs, increase shareholder dividends, mitigate rate increases, or invested in capital projects. Instead, it was used in a crony capitalist scheme to maintain and extend its government granted monopoly status – upon which their stock price largely depends.

Remember Consumers election spending next time they ask you for a donation to their solar projects, or their Green Generation wind program, or offer you a discount for letting them take control of your air conditioner.

Consumers’ political activity should be severely constrained, as befits a company operating with a government granted commodity monopoly.

Update, 5:09PM. I’d forgotten these details from 2014:

In November 2014 the MPSC approved a settlement agreement authorizing Consumers Energy to recover $9,752,187, with interest, in deferred major maintenance expense.

Deferred MAJOR MAINTENANCE expense? And they have a government guaranteed 90% market share? And they put $43 million into political advertising in this time frame?

That’s one way to ensure profit margins stay in double digits.

Citizens for Enervating Michigan’s Economy II

There are a few lobbyists styling themselves “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” who are hammering the radio with political ads criticizing legislators who support expanding energy choice. CEME is, in fact, dependent for funding upon Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy. These guys have been around for awhile, so their pedigree is clear:

Touting A ‘Looming Energy Shortfall,’ Utility-Connected Nonprofit Spent $7.4 Million Last Year (2015)

The $4-Million Push To Influence Michigan Energy Law (2015)

Utilities spend $1.6M to influence Michigan energy policy debate (2015)

Michigan Big Energy firms working together to steer legislation to fatten their profit statements (2015)

Consumers Energy confirms affiliated PAC donated to Rep. Gary Glenn’s election opponent (2018)

Consumers Energy contributed $43.5 million over four years to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy (2018)

Utilities-backed dark money group sparking energy debate in Michigan This article describes ““Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future,” which is just another front for the same lobbyists. (2015)

One of the current ads claims that opposing energy company plans is the same as “outsourcing Michigan jobs” in the utility industry. Well, it might be true that there would be fewer Michigan utility jobs. However, job creation should not be a utility company’s prime objective. They should reliably deliver electricity at reasonable rates. Which means no featherbedding.

Besides that, they don’t tell you they are in favor of outsourcing electricity generation in order to help meet Michigan’s ill-advised* renewable energy goals; This Michigan Utility Is Planning Your Energy Future: “[Consumers Energy] expects to rely heavily on electricity from out-of-state generators by 2040.” Lots of Michigan’s energy is planned to be purchased from other states, while Consumers’ own solar arrays will cover “between 25,000 to 35,000 acres by 2040.”

They neglect to mention that they lobby furiously to eliminate energy supplier choice (now capped at 10%), dramatically increasing costs for public schools. See also; Consumers Energy-funded group running ads against electric choice/deregulation

TOC mentioned “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” in 2014, when they were last found trying to increase your electricity costs by opposing consumer choice in electricity supply. They ran deceptive advertising then. They are doing it again.

Lobbyists have a First Amendment right to petition the government. I think you should have a balanced view of their agenda, and who these “citizens” are working for.

According to Consumers Energy’s spokesperson Katie Carey, “Our contributions to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy came from the company’s general funds and were not reflected in utility customer rates.” Well, since money is fungible – and could have been used to reduce rates, or pay dividends – I’m skeptical.

*Oh, by the way, here’s how windmill power worked out for Ontario: Ontario Wind Turbines

Citizens for Enervating Michigan’s Economy

“Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” opposes competition among Michigan’s electricity suppliers. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has some thoughts on CEME’s recent misleading ad campaign. (The ad can be viewed from that link, if you aren’t aware of it.)

A new commercial is attempting to make Michigan residents fear electricity deregulation.

It claims that Texas “decided to experiment with deregulating their electricity,” and subsequently, prices “shot through the roof” and “blackouts threatened communities.” It then tells that a proposed bill in this state that would “deregulate Michigan’s electricity.”

Not exactly…

For starters, state policymakers are not considering electricity deregulation. The cited legislation — Rep. Mike Shirkey’s House Bill 5184 — merely lifts the cap on the portion of consumers who would be able to choose an alternative electricity provider (other than the one assigned to them by Michigan’s current monopoly system). The electricity market in Michigan would remain just as regulated as it is now. The state would still control which utilities could operate and would continue to regulate rates, among other things…

[T]he average residential retail price of electricity in Michigan increased faster than Texas’s over the last decade and remains significantly higher. Texas’s rates were about eight cents per kilowatt hour in 2000 and about 11 cents in 2013. Michigan’s rates were about 11 cents per kilowatt hour in 2000 and increased to almost 15 cents in 2013, the highest in the Midwest region and 11th highest in the nation.

Where has CEME been for the last 10 years, when we needed them?

Ask yourself who benefits from the 10% Michigan cap on electricity competition: You, or DTE and Consumers Energy?

According to a National Association of Broadcaster’s form indicating who placed the ad (NAB Form PB-18), “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” consists of three individuals:

John Truscott
President/Principal at Truscott Rossman:

John Truscott is one of the foremost experts in public relations and politics in Michigan. When you need to develop a message, assemble a strategy, generate publicity or make a new connection, nobody does it better.

Howard Edelson:

[I]s campaign manager for the CARE for Michigan coalition and founder of The Edelson Group. In addition, Edelson is the past president of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and was campaign manager for the 2006 Granholm for Governor Campaign.

Formerly, Edelson was Director of Governmental & Regulatory Affairs CMS Energy Corporation (1995-2005); Chief of Staff U.S. Representative Bob Carr (1992-1995) and Field Director MI Democratic Party (1983-1984).

Rhoda Tinkham appears to be a retiree from Consumers Energy.

Just Words

Our President has subjected us to a wearing parade of oversights, sleights, and pettiness – at once vacuous and calculating – a tendency that seems to lay close beneath his intellectual patina. I say calculating rather than accidental because it has become impossible to imagine these blunders are not deliberate. This is insensitivity masquerading as cluelessness.

Large policy errors can be understood within the overarching sweep of an ambition to “remake this country,” but when the tiny things at the edges, the easy to avoid slips and smallness, continuously suggest that the clothes have no emperor, it is disquieting.

Some examples:

  • The DVD package, for the wrong region, he gave to Prime Minister Brown after returning a bust of Winston Churchill which had been in the Oval Office on loan from the UK.
  • The picture of the soles of the President’s shoes while he’s speaking to the Israeli Prime Minister.
  • Flipping the bird to Hillary. It’s the childish “I’m clever” grin and the crowd reaction that makes the case the gesture was no accident.
  • Calling the Poles and the Czechs in the middle of the night to tell them he was scrapping anti-missile deployment the next morning.

Sometimes he even acknowledges mistakes. President Obama actually apologized for jokes about Nancy Reagan “speaking with the dead” and comparing his terrible bowling skills with the Special Olympics. He “clarified” remarks about his grandmother being a “typical white person,” and tried to recast a comment about his opponents bitterly “clinging to their guns and religion.”

Most of these cannot be written off as accidental cluelessness. The most recent one surely resulted from a plan. You might argue the planning itself was uninformed by reality or responsibility, but it was premeditated: Our President’s first remarks on the shootings at Fort Hood.

All of TV breaks to cover his words, and he speaks for 2 minutes before mentioning the murders of American soldiers on a US Army post in what, at that time, had to be considered a possible terrorist conspiracy (and it was a terrorist attack, even if not an al-Qaeda conspiracy). Before even a nod of reassurance to Americans, who were only watching because of that attack, and before acknowledging the sacrifice of those American soldiers, President Obama thanks the conference organizers and Department of Interior staff. He gives a “shout out” to some Tribal Nations Conference delegate as a winner of a Congressional Medal of Honor (false, the President confused a military award with the Medal of Freedom, a civilian award). (Applause) Then he thanks the attendees and assures them, “[I]t’s not the end of a process, but the beginning of a process” (Applause) “…every single member of my team understands this is a top priority for us.”

At this point the President mentions himself in a clumsy segue from the cozy repartee; “…[B]eyond that, I had planned to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead, …but as some of you might have heard, there’s been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base [sic] …my immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and the fallen” Well, yeah, “immediate”ly after the implied apology for failing to deliver his “broader” wisdom on the “top priority” conference items. And all of you “might have heard” about it 2 minutes earlier if our Commander in Chief had had the sense to make that tragedy his immediate priority.

This is one more demonstration of tone-deafness on the part of the man himself, and it is an indictment of his advisers, by whose character and skill he invited us to judge him. None of them apparently thought the sole focus should be on murdered American soldiers.

Skipping the folksy, campaign style preamble is what a CinC would have done. A CinC would not have been seen to regard the death of American soldiers as a contretemps.

When our President did get to the shooting the words were right, but delivered in the trademark boring, affectless tones and cadence so in contrast to the soaring rhetoric on things he cares about.

Apparently, being a Community Organizer teaches one the square root of zero about leadership. The leadership qualities required at ACORN seem to be quite different from those required to lead America’s Armed Forces. Or the free world.

It’s what he’s tone-deaf about that’s worrisome.

Welcome to the Party, Mr. President

Mr. President, I am thrilled you have noticed the Tea Party movement. I know the day after nearly a million people attended Tea Parties across the nation Mr. Gibbs said you hadn’t noticed.

But, yesterday, in St. Louis, you said:

“Those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I’m not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we are going to stabilize Social Security.”

Mr. President, you do have a habit of attacking straw men. We definitely agree – I and think I speak for most of those demonstrating on April 15th – that a serious conversation is needed about all your grandiose plans. We wish we thought you weren’t serious, and we’re seeing now that you understand we are serious. Heck, even a serious soliloquy on your part would have been appreciated, so an invitation to dialog is a wonderful thing. I’ll start.

We need to start our serious conversation by recognizing that we cannot afford to add over $600 billion to spending on health care, as you, Mr. President have proposed. Your good intentions to save money this way are naive, and can only work through rationing. We should take a lesson from other countries where health care is “paid for” by the government and is, perforce, universally rationed. You never mention that when you speak of the “investment.”

I agree we must abandon the failed policy of employer subsidized health care ushered in during WWII. General Motors, for one excellent example, offered health care to its workers because the government let them deduct it, and because GM needed some way to attract and keep talented employees under federal wage and price controls. Government fecklessness was the beginning of this mess, and the beginning of the end for GM. We’ve learned nothing from the 3 obvious lessons above, or at least you haven’t. Offering government health care to fix this decades long corporatist problem will just make it worse.

Government already controls over half of all health care expenditures in this country, and that, and the accompanying regulations, are the biggest barriers to the competition that would help reduce costs. If you are successful in taking over health care it will become the single largest reason for doctors to quit being doctors – already an issue.

It is true that even with such massive government intervention there are entrepreneurs proving costs can be dramatically lowered. You propose to stop such innovation and replace it with scarcity managed by bureaucrats.

As to intentions, let’s take the instance of the increase in tobacco tax that is intended to fund SCHIP, children’s health care. This is a good intention, but the tax disproportionately affects lower income people and it will increase the cost of health care in direct proportion to the improvement in health of the people who live longer because they quit smoking. Better to let them pay for the cigarettes and for the health care entirely on their own.

To fix Social Security we must acknowledge that the general government has been lying and stealing, conducting a ponzi scheme, for decades, and that the reason Social Security is already insolvent is because government could not control its greed. Any private enterprise would be fearful of prosecution under RICO. Even in the face of this fact, your predecessor gave us the largest single entitlements increase in our history. You promise to quadruple his error.

You want to fix education by federalizing it and dumping in more money. By that measure Washington, D.C. should already have the most successful public education system in the United States. It is difficult to grant you the benefit of the doubt here due to your direct involvement in failed experiments in Chicago. To fix education we must turn it back to the States and allow experimentation, in vivid contrast to the recent shameful actions of your administration in canceling a successful vouchers program in Washington, D.C..

Addressing our energy future by doubling down on failed subsidization policies is simply perpetuating the corporate welfare scheme both your predecessors ran on behalf of the ethanol pirates. We should be encouraging private industry to build nuclear plants, and we should do so by repealing unnecessary regulation – which will also save the general government money. We should encourage windmills and solar in the same way, by getting out of the way. If they can’t make their way, so be it.

I must say I am happy to hear you’d like to have a serious conversation with the Tea Party movement, because I am really worried there won’t be any debate in Congress. As I’m sure you know the Senate Democrats voted yesterday, alone, to pass the outline of your $3.4 trillion budget. They are threatening to invoke reconciliation, which, as I’m certain you know from your many years as Senator, reduces the final vote required to pass a bill to a simple majority and limits debate to 20 hours. Even Senator Byrd finds this outrageous when it involves a budget bill. When that bill involves well over $3 trillion, any serious person must wonder if you even have a clue what that means.

I am disappointed that the world’s greatest deliberative body will probably have very little time in which to debate the implications of your unprecedented increase in spending and the effect your policies are likely to have on the quality of health care, the cost of energy, job creation, and the further mediocritization of American education your Faustian bargain with the NEA necessitates. If your plans for massive additional intrusion into the lives of American citizens by the general government come to fruition it will damage this country severely, perhaps irreparably. And that will hurt the whole world.

Mr. President, I heard you say you would prefer not to be forced by circumstances to be in the banking or automobile businesses and that you don’t want to expand government. Like many things you say this is quite clever and partially true, but it hides the real point. Why, indeed, would you be satisfied with ownership of a moribund automobile industry and the boring business of finance? After all, these things are small potatoes compared to the health care and energy industries, and are minuscule compared to future dividends promised by the federalization of the indoctrination industry. Sadly, your ambitions are not nearly so small as General Motors or Bank of America.

So, let me know, I’ll be there for a substantive discussion at your convenience. Maybe we can even touch on the concept of minority rights if you have time.