In the wake of the Miami Herald’s revelation of audio tape proving that Florida’s utilities have pursued a campaign to trick people into thinking that their Amendment 1 is “pro-solar,” a new wave of media interest has focused on a key question: who is funding Amendment 1?
The answer, as Energy and Policy Institute and many others have repeated numerous times, is Florida’s big utilities: $17 million of the $22 million funding the group behind Amendment 1, “Consumers for Smart Solar” (CSS), have come directly from Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power, and Tampa Electric. Almost all of the other $5 million has come from front groups funded by utilities and oil and gas interests.
In the new wave of media coverage, Mike Vasilinda, a reporter from local TV network WJHG, asked CSS spokesperson Matt Carter how many consumers had actually contributed to CSS. Carter said “I don’t have that information Mike, but it’s readily available.”
Carter’s right! That information is readily available at the Florida Department of Elections. Vasilinda looked, and astutely noted that only 12 of the contributors to CSS have been actual flesh-and-blood consumers.
As we’ve tracked CSS’ funding for months, that made us wonder: who are those 12 consumers? Well, it turns out that at least 11 of them either are employees of CSS, work for or live with consultants of CSS, or work for two of the fossil fuel and utility front groups that have donated millions to CSS. They are:
- Zach Tatum gave $5.00 on July 31, 2015. He works for Front Line Strategies, which runs the non-profit “Floridians for Government Accountability,” which has given $96,750 to CSS.
- Matt Moehler gave $25.00 on that same date, and also works for Front Line Strategies.
- Valerie Gatlin gave $5.00 on that same date, and also works for Front Line Strategies. Garrett Ifland gave $5.00 and listed the same home address.
- Lori Hutto gave $5.00 on that same date, and also works for Front Line Strategies, at least as of April.
- Abigail MacIver gave $25.00 on July 28, 2015, and is the VP of Operations at PACE, an anti-clean energy front group funded by subsidiaries of the Southern Company, which owns Gulf Power, one of Florida’s four monopoly utilities and a major funder of CSS. PACE has itself given $226,000 to CSS.
- Apryl Marie Fogel gave $25.00 on July 30, 2015, and is the VP of Operations at the 60 Plus Association, a front group funded by the Koch Brothers which has itself contributed $1,440,000 to CCS. 60 Plus also seems to have funded robocalls supporting Amendment 1.
- Dick Batchelor gave $100, Matthew Carter gave $50, Screven Watson gave $25, and Jim Kallinger gave $25. All four work for CSS directly.
All those donations happened within a week of CSS first opening its doors, and likely aimed to convince anyone checking the financial disclosure data that CSS had any consumer support.
Of the over $22 million CSS has collected, the grand total of contributions donated by actual real-life, independent “consumers” clocks in at… $10. Donated by one, lonely supporter.
CSS has nothing to do with consumers. They’re certainly not for solar. Maybe it’s time for CSS to change its name? They could try “Utilities and Front Groups For Monopoly Profits.”