ROBICHEAUX: Fact-Checking That PSC Election In Surburban NOLA

There is one guarantee in elections. Inevitably someone will post ads, air television commercials or run radio spots that outright lie. In that Public Service Commission election in which Eric Skrmetta is running against a host of challengers, that’s precisely what we’re seeing.

Things have gotten crazy enough that one of the challengers, Richie Sanderson, who owns a couple of small telephone companies the PSC regulates (meaning that he would likely have to recuse himself and create a 2-2 split on the PSC every time it voted on matters involving phone service), is running this…

When you have Republicans running ads featuring Edwin Edwards, you know that things have become strange. Particularly among Sanderson and the other trailing candidates, who are engaged in chucking things at Skrmetta and hoping something will stick.

Sanderson is even accusing Skrmetta’s wife of stealing his yard signs, which is demonstrably false and will probably get him sued for defamation.

Skrmetta, who picked up the endorsement of The Hayride along with practically every other conservative, business and Republican organization in Louisiana, isn’t just being attacked from Sanderson – several different challengers have jumped in.

It’s no surprise.

Skrmetta is running far ahead of his Republican challengers in polling and might be able to break 50 percent in the primary despite the race having seven candidates in it. And, for a challenger, taking aim at any residential charge – much less the utility bill – is an easy, mindless political target. But let’s break down what is being said about Skrmetta:

He Took Campaign Contributions From Companies The PSC Regulates

Eric’s opponents claim that because he has taken campaign contributions from utility companies, he must be in the pockets of the utilities. Well, if that was true you’d be able to prove the PSC is helping utilities screw their ratepayers.

And it turns out the easiest way to dismiss this charge is to point to Louisiana’s distinction of having the lowest rates in the nation.

How could Eric have reduced rates which means reducing utility companies’ profit, and yet, feather the nest of big utilities?

Eric brought our rates to the lowest in the nation by being tough on the very people who contributed to his campaign. He stopped the age-old practice of allowing ratepayers to pay the costs of Executive Benefits for utility companies’ top brass. He held companies accountable for the storm cost losses that the Commission believed could have been avoided. And he forced some utility companies to build new, more efficient power plants to replace outdated, expensive coal plants.

So, the argument that Skrmetta is out there helping utilities make more money just doesn’t add up. He’s helped them in the sense that he’s fought against stupid “green energy” fantasies that would feather the nests of crooked leftist enviros and solar and wind crony-capitalists and in so doing let the market sort out how Louisiana could get energy in the cheapest way possible, but that’s hardly favoring utilities over ratepayers.

We should also note that former State Representative Kevin Pearson, who is being funded largely by a PosiGen, a shaky solar-panel company with an axe to grind against Skrmetta and the Commission, is the primary challenger attacking Skrmetta on contributions. A cursory look at past campaign finance reports shows that Pearson took tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and political action committees who had business before the legislature. What’s good for the goose, should be good for the gander. Right, Kevin?

Skrmetta Is Getting Greased By Lobbyists

In one television attack on Skrmetta, funded by Posigen’s CEO and convicted felon Thomas Neyhart, the commercial accuses Skrmetta of wanting to take meals and gifts from lobbyists. Fact is, Skrmetta has not taken one gift or meal from lobbyists since entering office. Not one. But Skrmetta did point out, as a lawyer, that prohibiting what Commission employees could do in their off-time was likely not constitutionally sound. That one statement by Skrmetta was stretched into the bogus attacks against him. One look at Eric Skrmetta’s campaign finance report proves that the Commissioner has consistently paid his own way to promote lower rates, better efficiency, and more reliable service. He doesn’t need free stuff from lobbyists – he makes his own money.

Skrmetta Likes To Kill Beautiful Animals In Africa For Free

One of the attacks against Skrmetta is that he has gone on safari. But the ad blatantly lies about Skrmetta’s financing of his safari adventure. Records presented by Skrmetta prove that Skrmetta, and Skrmetta alone, paid for his safari excursion. Eric Skrmetta is a proud Pro-2nd Amendment advocate. He enjoys hunting and fishing, and still makes time to promote and support every major Republican initiative. One of his challengers, Kevin Pearson, voted for more than $1 billion in new taxes, but has the gall to attack Skrmetta for flaunting Republican values.

In 2004, as president of the Louisiana chapter of Safari club international, Eric, seeing the onslaught of anti-hunting propaganda in the United States, Eric worked with his organizations leadership and the Louisiana wildlife Federation and Eric authored the initial constitutional amendment that guarantees the right of each Louisiana citizen to hunt trap and fish. His foresight on this issue allowed the public to vote and the matter was successfully approved and it is part of our constitution. Eric‘s commitment to the individual freedoms of the citizens of Louisiana has gone on for many years, well before his individual commitment to public service.

Article 1 §27. Freedom to Hunt, Fish and Trap

Section27. The freedom to hunt, fish, and trap wildlife, including all aquatic life, traditionally taken by hunters, trappers and anglers, is a valued natural heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people. Hunting, fishing and trapping shall be managed by law and regulation consistent with Article IX, Section I of the Constitution of Louisiana to protect, conserve and replenish the natural resources of the state. The provisions of this Section shall not alter the burden of proof requirements otherwise established by law for any challenge to a law or regulation pertaining to hunting, fishing or trapping the wildlife of the state, including all aquatic life. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to authorize the use of private property to hunt, fish, or trap without the consent of the owner of the property.

Added by Acts 2004, No. 927, §1, approved Nov. 2, 2004, eff. Dec. 7, 2004

There are actually some even dumber things out there. We might have to revisit this and debunk even more of them.

The point to all of this is don’t believe everything you hear in political campaigns. Challengers who are far behind might just be using the old political Hail Mary strategy – “When in doubt … lie”.



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