Dick Batchelor is a former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives with more than 35 years of business and public affairs experience in Central Florida. Dick Batchelor was also a co-chairman of Consumers for Smart Solar – the campaign created to get Floridians to pass Amendment 1 on the 2016 ballot. It was funded to the tune of $20 million dollars by the monopoly utility companies in Florida: NextEra Energy’s Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Southern Company’s Gulf Power, and Tampa Electric. In addition to the utility money, the remaining millions of dollars have mainly come from organizations with close ties to utility and fossil fuel companies, such as the National Black Chamber of Commerce and 60 Plus Association.
Dick is also president of Dick Batchelor Management Group Inc., a Florida based consulting and lobbying firm. Dick Batchelor Management Group received a total of $148,019 from Consumers for Smart Solar from August 2015 through the 2016 election.
On election day in 2016, Consumers for Smart Solar’s Amendment 1 failed to reach the necessary 60% of the vote in order to pass. Polls showed that in September, 73% of voters were planning to vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 1. The final total was 4.5 million for ‘yes’ and 4.4 million for ‘no’ or 51%-49%. That’s a 22% drop in support over several weeks.
On October 18, Mary Ellen Klas for the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times reported on leaked audio obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute and the Center for Media Democracy. The audio catches a local utility-tied Florida think tank staffer essentially admitting Consumers for Smart Solar’s Yes On 1 campaign was a well-designed ploy. Consumers for Smart Solar went on to deny a connection to the James Madison Institute but was caught a few days later scrubbing their social media platforms of nearly every reference to the utility and fossil fuel-funded think tank.
On November 4, the Florida Professional Firefighters (FPF) withdrew their support for Amendment 1 – only after endorsing it in early October. Energy and Policy Institute reported that Screven Watson, a registered lobbyist for FPF, is on the board of Consumers for Smart Solar and has been a primary spokesperson in the press for the Amendment 1. Florida Division of Elections data showed that Consumers for Smart Solar had paid Watson $103,163 since August of 2015 for communications consulting.
The defeat was a major blow to the state’s largest investor-owned utilities.