Close followers of Mississippi politics are probably aware of a public relations war between two non-profits, one from your state, the other from Alabama, and regarding Mississippi Power’s Kemper coal plant.
In one corner: JobKeeper Alliance, a Montgomery-based non-profit, and Patrick Cagle, it’s lone employee.
In the other: Bigger Pie Forum, a Mississippi-based nonprofit devoted to pro-growth economic policy in Mississippi.
I’m the “private detective” in the story. I will get there in a moment.
First, a little background.
Over the past two years, Bigger Pie and its volunteers have advocated the position that Mississippi Power customers should not have to bear any more of the financial burden of the budget-busting $5 billion Kemper plant and its experimental “coal gasification” technology.
Somehow, speculation permitted, JobKeeper and a connected Alabama group, Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE), got wind of Bigger Pie’s activities and injected themselves into this Mississippi matter.
JobKeeper has come at Bigger Pie with a multi-media onslaught, including but not limited to: large newspaper ads featuring a “smelly fish”; ads on talk radio and Facebook; mass emails to Mississippi’s elected leaders; numerous op-ed pieces by Cagle; even handbills and yard signs plastered throughout the Neshoba County Fair.
Cagle, incidentally, is the son of the long-time former head of security at Alabama Power. That company, like Mississippi Power, is a subsidiary of the Southern Company.
JobKeeper has spilled a lot of ink and spent a small fortune on a matter related to Kemper while saying next to nothing about the plant itself. Rates have already been hiked 15 percent as a result of the $5 billion mess. Mississippi Power wants to increase them more, to 22 percent — and ultimately more than that, argue Bigger Pie and others.
In August and again two weeks ago, Cagle penned op-eds in the Clarion-Ledger blasting away at Bigger Pie while skimming over Kemper.
Since the last op-ed, JobKeeper has put out, in succession, a press release, large ads in the Clarion-Ledger and Sun Herald, and a letter e-mailed to Mississippi lawmakers. Cagle charged that Bigger Pie was spending “public funds” on “a private investigator to attempt to intimidate our organization.”
He declared that “private investigators (were) accosting our organization.” I was identified as a political operative who had “knocked on doors, fired of accusatory e-mails, and cold-called” JobKeeper as well as its “affiliates.”
I realize this story would be more interesting if it involved breaking and entering, a hail of gunfire, even just one punch thrown. But alas, not.
Here is the far duller truth.
Bigger Pie did engage my services. They were concerned about the barrage of public accusations. They wanted to know who these people were.
I’m a former investigative reporter from Mobile who wrote many stories on Alabama politics. I now operate a one-person legal research business.
A pattern emerged early on — the targets of JobKeeper and PACE were people and organizations who posed a threat to the profits of Mississippi Power and Alabama Power.
I decided to focus on Alabama, home of both non-profits.
I learned that both groups have participated in a malicious, well orchestrated scheme to ruin Alabama Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn’s political career by branding him as a left-wing environmentalist. He is no such thing.
Dunn is a successful small businessman and three-time delegate to the Republican convention.
More to the point: He is the first commissioner in 30 years to question Alabama Power’s industry-leading rate of return, or allowed profit. Dunn is also the first to seek the sort of rate hearings that are routine in other states, including Mississippi.
The power company seems to control the state Republican Party, which is backing an opponent to Dunn in next year’s primary.
In fact, your former governor is coming to Alabama in less than two weeks to hold a fund-raiser for Dunn’s opponent.
That’s right: Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, lobbyist for the Southern Company, and one of the most prolific fundraisers in American history — is heading up a fund-raiser to help defeat a Republican incumbent in a state public service commission race.
No, the “accosting” by the private eye.
As part of my research, I went to JobKeeper’s office to review its tax return for 2012, the year of its formation. The returns of non-profits must be provided upon request.
Before entering, I knocked on the door of the building in which Cagle has an office. The receptionist said Cagle was out. Unaware of his sensitivity to such things, I called him.
He said JobKeeper’s return wasn’t yet available, due to an extension. He asked why I wanted to see it. Rather than lie, I told him I was working for Bigger Pie.
I asked a couple of questions, such as about who funds JobKeeper. He replied, reasonably, that he would answer questions from a reporter but not from an investigator for Bigger Pie.
I told him I understood but would be sending him some questions and intended to publish both the questions and responses on a website. He said he would review them and possibly respond.
The call ended amicably.
Here are two of the questions I posed to Cagle. (The letters and questions to JobKeeper and PACE can be read in their entirety at biggerpieforum.org.)
Why did JobKeeper become involved in the situation in Mississippi regarding Mississippi Power’s Kemper plant?
Would you deny that you have participated in public relations/political strategy sessions with employees and officers of Alabama Power (including Southern Company Services and Mississippi Power), as well as for consultants working on the company’s behalf?
JobKeeper’s response was to issue the above described press release, ads, and letter to lawmakers.
Bigger Pie did hire me. However, my findings regarding the Dunn situation alarmed me. I decided to pursue it as a journalistic effort. I have told Bigger Pie I will not accept payment from them. To do so would hurt the credibility of my hard work and my findings.
JobKeeper and PACE can preach holier than thou about jobs. But boil them down to their essence, and what they really stand for is destroying the reputations of anyone who dares object to efforts by Mississippi Power and Alabama Power to have their way at their respective public service commissions.
These heavily, if mysteriously, funded one-person associations (PACE doesn’t even have an office) injected themselves into the Mississippi debate for one reason: To attack Bigger Pie for urging the PSC to reject Mississippi Power’s request to unload more of its Kemper overcharges on some 186,000 mostly coastal residents and small businesses.
In Alabama, the real purpose of the effort to destroy Dunn politically is to ensure that Alabama Power’s profit margins remain sky high by removing the greatest threat to the 30-year status quo.
If you don’t believe that’s what this pair really stands for, contact them.
Ask JobKeeper’s Cagle and Lance Brown of PACE to provide their positions on Mississippi Power’s rate increase request.
Ask them if Alabama Power’s rate of return should be reduced to national norms, or even halfway down to the norms.
Ask them if they’ve ever participated in public relations/political strategy sessions with employees and officers of Mississippi Power, Alabama Power, the related Southern Company Services, as well as for lobbyists, consultants or lawyers working for any companies or entities in the Southern Company family.
For that matter, ask the above named power companies the same question, but regarding JobKeeper and PACE.
Cagle can be reached at [email protected] and (334) 354-0107.
Lance Brown of PACE can be reached at [email protected] and (334) 294-9673.
I’d love to hear what they say, or for that matter, any tales of involvement in the Kemper situation involving one of Alabama’s best known political consultants, Mr. Joe Perkins.
I can be reached at [email protected] and (251) 454-1911.
Eddie Curran is a former investigative reporter with the Mobile Press Register who now operates a one-person legal research business in Mobile. While licensed as a private investigator, he doesn’t own a gun, tail people, or engage in any work that even might result in physical harm to him. The web-site for his project is: isalabamapowerbehindthemask.com.