Sun Tzu in The Art of War advises that the successful general ensures asymmetrically favorable resources accrue to him before he initiates battle. That’s what a leftist interest group attempts when it calls for selective restriction of free speech rights concerning Louisiana’s Public Service Commission.
Recently, the Alliance for Affordable Energy from New Orleans published reservations about the ability of members of the PSC to collect campaign funds from regulated entities. The group is best known for its strident agenda against large energy concerns that use oil, gas, or nuclear energy to generate electricity and its shilling for alternative energy concerns, cost-shifting for retail energy pricing, and that one of its former employees ran, unsuccessfully, twice in different districts for a seat on the PSC.
Its literature called the ability of regulated entities to donate “troubling” and pointed out that some states prohibited the practice of allowing this. While generally states may place limitations on amounts of campaign donations directly to candidates, unless there is a system of public financing in place that prohibits all donations, only regulated entities may have their ability to donate to campaigns denied while other interests do not face such a ban.
Louisiana is not one of these states, and wisely so. Such a law unjustly discriminates because it allows those interests opposed on ideology to continue to donate to candidates for regulatory bodies, just like the AAE and its financial supporters that comprise foundations long ago captured by leftist interests and solar installation companies, to exercise free speech rights while arbitrarily excluding the regulated industries. In fact, a review of the contributions to the former AAE employee that ran for a PSC slot, Forest Bradley-Wright, in his second campaign shows all solar installation companies that back the AAE financially substantially also were major contributors to his campaign.
If those interested in restricting freedom of speech on this issue actually meant it when they assert they oppose allegedly undue influence on commissioners, they would demand limits on what any person or entity that stands to benefit financially and directly from PSC decisions can give. For example, the PSC can regulate what rate power companies pay to those individuals that have solar power installations on their property when these generate excess power. These companies must accept excess power generated from these ratepayers – even as the ratepayers contributed nothing to the infrastructure that carries the power beyond their much smaller apportionment in their rates – and have to pay the rate determined by the PSC. A fair set of donor restrictions would embargo these individuals from donating as well, since their activities also are subject to regulation by the PSC.
Logically, that should be extended to, for example, solar installation companies as well. Just as rates regulated by the PSC for power companies take into consideration their capital expenditures, decisions of the PSC also affect capital budgeting decisions made by the solar installation companies. So why should they have the special privilege of donating to campaigns, as they did to Bradley-Wright’s, if power companies could not?
Indeed, that these companies can and did donate to campaigns like Bradley-Wright’s destroys the entire thesis that somehow regulated companies enjoy some kind of unfair advantage by donations. It also assumes that money buys commissioners’ votes, which not only arbitrarily reduces them to automatons (perhaps the biggest critic of power companies on the PSC, north Louisiana’s Foster Campbell, got a majority of his donations from regulated entities through the first two-thirds of his last electoral cycle), but also insults voters by implying they can’t make distinctions among candidates’ issue preferences.
This report issued by the AAE simply reveals its disingenuous, self-serving, and hypocritical motives. It’s merely an attempt to fool policy-makers into silencing its ideological opposition while allowing it free reign to spew its bias. Wise lawmakers should recognize the con job this group tries to snow them with, and thereby reject any attempt to enact a campaign donation ban that singles out a few potential sources of free speech while unjustly allowing others to escape a similar curtailment. Otherwise, the debate becomes completely rigged in favor of the hypocrites.