To: Interested Reporters

From: Center for Media & Democracy; Energy & Policy Institute

Re: Special Interests Behind Anti-Solar Ballot Initiative Consumers for Smart Solar 

Date:  November 16, 2015

Consumers for Smart Solar is a utility and fossil fuel-funded campaign designed to confuse voters, attack the pro-solar Floridians for Solar Choice Ballot initiative, and protect the monopoly utilities. Consumers for Smart Solar is also backed by out-of-state front groups funded by the Koch brothers, or which do not disclose their sources of funding.

The utility-backed Consumers for Smart Solar would preserve the status quo, preventing homeowners or businesses from contracting with solar companies that can install solar for no upfront cost. 

The Floridians for Solar Choice initiative would allow citizens to purchase electricity from third party solar companies, not just the monopoly utilities. 

Electric Utility Companies Funding Consumers for Smart Solar:

  • Duke Energy, $355,000
  • Florida Power and Light Company, $595,000
  • Gulf Power Company, $380,000
  • Tampa Electric Company, $556,000
  • Powersouth Energy Cooperative, $30,000

Outside Groups Funding Consumers for Smart Solar: 

  • National Black Chamber of Commerce, $100,000
  • 60 Plus Association, $500,000
  • Energy & Social Justice Project, $15,000
  • Energy Equity Alliance, $1,000
  • Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, $126,000
  • Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, $50,000
  • Florida Faith And Freedom Coalition Inc., $150,000
  • Florida Council For Safe Communities, $20,000
  • Floridians For Government Accountability, $61,750
  • Let’s Preserve the American Dream, $500,000
  • Hispanic Council for Reform And Educational Options, $50,000
  • Checks and Balances, $289,965

Additional Background on Outside Groups

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) 

  • Since 1998, NBCC has received $800,000 from ExxonMobil. [Source:]
  • Since 2011, NBCC has received $25,000 from Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry trade association. [Source:]
  • NBCC is “funded primarily by fossil fuel energy companies, including Koch Industries…” Sponsors from NBCC’s Annual Meeting in August 2015 included: Southern Company’s Gulf Power, Koch Industries and its subsidiary Georgia-Pacific, Chevron, and American Chemistry Council. It is not known how much these companies contributed to NBCC. 
  • President & CEO Harry Alford wrote in a recent op-ed, “…a writer from USA Today wanted to know if the National Black Chamber of Commerce receives money from fossil fuel companies (coal, oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, etc.). That is a “no brainer.” Of course we do…” 
  • Funding is not transparent.

60 Plus Association

  • Received at least $34 million since 2010 from organizations financially backed by the Koch brothers, including at least $15.7 million from Freedom Partners. [Sources:,]
  • Received at least $258,000 from the American Petroleum Institute since 2008 [Source:]
  • Received secret funding in 2013 from Arizona’s largest utility, APS,  to run ads in Arizona opposing home solar. APS initially denied for months that they funded the campaign, before being exposed by reporting from the Arizona Republic. [Source: Huffington Post]
  • Funding is not transparent.

Partnership For Affordable Clean Energy (PACE)

  • PACE is funded by the dark money groups Partnership for Alabama Leadership (PAL) and Vote Alabama (Vote AL). These two groups are connected to Southern Company’s Alabama Power through Matrix, LLC, which is an opposition research and lobbying firm providing political consulting services to Alabama Power. The head of PAL, Mike Fields, is on retainer as a consultant to Alabama Power, being paid between $10,000 and $50,000 annually for several years.[Sources: Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; Mr. Dunn Goes to Montgomery; ibid.]
  • PACE is also directly linked to Matrix, LLC. The firm paid PACE Director Lance Brown’s salary in 2009 and 2010 while he was also serving in his role at PACE. And, Matrix employees have provided services to PACE. [Sources: Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; Energy & Policy Institute]
  • PACE is a primary player in anti-solar campaigns in the southeast. In Georgia, Lance Brown has appeared at rallies supporting Americans for Prosperity (AFP) positions against the EPA and solar energy. AFP’s erroneous claims about solar in Florida earned a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact. [Sources: PRWeb; AFP; PolitiFact]
  • Funding is not transparent.

Energy And Social Justice Project Inc.  / Energy Equity Alliance, Inc. 

  • Both Energy and Social Justice Project (ESJP) and Energy Equity Alliance (EEA) are connected to Net Communications, a public relations firm run by Julia Johnson. Johnson was a former Public Service Commissioner and in 2013 was paid nearly $400,000 to serve on the board of two major utility companies (First Energy and Northwestern Utilities). [Source: Forbes]
  • Net Communications has been retained for public relations campaigns by the utility industry and worked for ExxonMobil. [Source: The Intercept]
  • ESJP’s website was registered by David Honig, who was the Executive Director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) and is also the founder of EEA. [Sources: CitizenAudit; Huffington Post]
  • Joe Gibbons, who is the Chariman of EEA, “makes around $60,000 a year as a “public policy advisor” for Akerman LLP, the Miami-based power-broker law firm. Previous Akerman clients include Florida utilities, including the local powerhouse Florida Power & Light.” [Source: Broward Palm Beach New Times]
  • Funding is not transparent.

Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

  • Trustees includes Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC, a joint venture of Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy to build a 515 mile natural gas pipeline to deliver natural gas to Florida Power and Light and Duke Energy of Florida. [Source: Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce]
  • Member of DC-based National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)-project Partnership for a Better Energy Future. NAM funders include the Koch-backed Freedom Partners ($1.17 million in 2012). Southern Company, the Georgia-based parent company of Gulf Power, is represented on the NAM board of directors. [Sources:,]
  • Funding is not transparent.

Florida Faith And Freedom Coalition, Inc.

  • Florida affiliate of Faith and Freedom Coalition. [Sources:,]
  • Faith and Freedom Coalition President Ralph Reed runs Century Strategies, which has worked for multiple “large energy concerns,” according to its website. Faith and Freedom Coalition is itself a major client of Century Strategies. 
  • Reed announced the formation of Faith and Freedom Coalition at a rally sponsored by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, at which Reed was the master of ceremonies. [Sources:; Alternet]
  • Funding is not transparent.

Florida Council For Safe Communities 

  • Recently hired McGuireWoods LLP to represent their petition to the Florida Supreme Court against the original pro-solar ballot initiative.  [Source: Florida Supreme Court]
  • McGuireWoods LLP’s clients in the past 2 years have included the following utility and fossil fuel companies: America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings, ExxonMobil, Southern Company, American Petroleum Institute, and Xcel Energy. [Source: OpenSecrets]
  • Funding is not transparent.

Floridians For Government Accountability

  • Non-profit run by Florida Public Relations firm Front Line Strategies, LLC. [Source: 2013 IRS tax filing]
  • Front Line Strategies recent clients include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Bondi is a major opponent of the pro-solar Floridians for Solar Choice Ballot initiative. [Source: FLS press statement]
  • Jim Hart, President of Floridians For Government Accountability, is a former Duke Energy executive. [Source: Duke Energy
  • Funding is not transparent.

Let’s Preserve the American Dream

  • A 501c4 social welfare organization, which was previously named “Associated Industries for America’s Future” in 2013. [Sources: 2013 IRS tax filing, 2014 IRS tax filing]
  • In its September 2015 filing, Consumers for Smart Solar reported a $200,000 contribution from Let’s Preserve the American Dream PAC. Ryan Tyson, Executive Director of the PAC told Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald that this was an error by Consumers for Smart Solar, and that it should actually have been reported as a contribution from the 501c4 group with the same name. Since then, the filing has changed to Let’s Preserve the American Dream for a total of $500,000. [Source: Miami Herald]
  • The funding for the 501c4 is not disclosed, but its PAC is required to report its funders. The PAC received $10,000 from Florida Power and Light in June 2015, $5,000 from Floridians United for our Children in February 2015 and $6,000 from Floridians for a Stronger Democracy. [Source: Florida Department of State]
  • The leadership of Let’s Preserve the American Dream, Tom C Feeney (President) and Ryan Tyson (Executive Director), are also President and Vice President respectively of Associated Industries of Florida. [Associated Industries of Florida]
  • The Associated Industries of Florida Political Action Committee, has received a total of $156,500 from Florida Power & Light in 2015. It has also received $100,000 from Floridians for a Stronger Democracy in April 2015, a group which has itself received $50,000 from Duke Energy in February 2015 total of $100,000 from Florida Power and Light [Source: Florida Department of State

Checks and Balances for Economic Growth

  • Consumers for Smart Solar reported a $289,965 contribution from Checks and Balances for Economic Growth.
  • Checks and Balances for Economic Growth is a 501c3 social welfare organization based in Washington, DC, which was previously named “Institute for Science and Politics, Inc” from 2004 to 2007. [Sources: 2004 IRS tax filing, 2007 IRS tax filing, 2013 IRS tax filing]
  • The original incorporators of Institute for Science and Politics were Alan Dye, Douglas Macdonald and Heidi Abegg from Webster Chamberlain and Bean, a law firm specializing in non-profit law that has advised fossil-fuel funded clients such as Heritage Foundation and ALEC. The group’s mailing address is at the law firm. [Sources: 2008 Articles of Incorporation Filing, Heritage 2007 IRS Filing, 2013 ALEC IRS Filing]
  • Checks and Balances for Economic Growth ran tv ads in Ohio in 2012 attacking U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and President Barack Obama, claiming they were harming coal mining jobs through regulation. [Source:
  • Funding is not transparent

Hispanic Council for Reform And Educational Options

Posted by Gabe Elsner

Gabe Elsner is the founder and executive director of the Energy & Policy Institute. He is a thought leader on defending policies from attacks by incumbent energy interests and his work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Daily Mail, The Australian, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, and National Public Radio. The Energy & Policy Institute’s work has protected dozens of public policies that support the growth of the clean-tech industry.

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  1. […] & Policy Institute previously revealed that Consumers for Smart Solar is funded by utilities and front groups seeking to prevent changes […]


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