For Immediate Release: Friday, October 21, 2016
Consumers for Smart Solar sanitized tweets, facebook posts to cover up relationship
October 21, 2016 — In the wake of leaked audio confirming that the political action committee behind the anti-solar Amendment 1 ballot initiative deliberately aimed to deceive Florida voters, that group has sanitized its online record of ties to the utility-funded think tank caught in the recording.
Since Thursday, Consumers for Smart Solar, the utility-funded political action committee behind Amendment 1, has deleted at least seven tweets and eight Facebook posts which referenced the James Madison Institute (JMI)’s support for Amendment 1, as reported in the Miami Herald today.
“The utility-funded group behind Amendment 1 seems to be allergic to telling the truth. The utilities can try to delete this scandal right out of existence, but there’s no amount of ‘jiu-jitsu’ that can hide the fact that Amendment 1 is an attack on solar power, pure and simple,” said David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute.
Since the recording was released by the Center for Media and Democracy and the Energy Policy Institute, the James Madison Institute has tried to walk back what its Vice President said in the recording, claiming he was speaking before an “unfamiliar, national audience.” But as the Miami Herald reveals, Sal Nuzzo in fact has deep ties to the State Policy Network.
“This wasn’t Sal Nuzzo’s first time at SPN and this was no mere slip of the tongue,” said Nick Surgey, Director of Research at the Center for Media and Democracy. “Sal Nuzzo is a senior staff member for JMI, caught boasting to his peers about misleading voters. It could not be more appropriate that it is sunlight pouring in that is revealing this campaign for what it really is, a utility-backed attempt to block the development of solar in the Sunshine State.”
New revelations include:
- In response to the leaked audio of JMI Vice President of Policy Sal Nuzzo’s boasting of Amendment 1 backers’ deceptive strategy, Consumers for Smart Solar spokesperson Sarah Bascom stated then that the utility-funded JMI “does not speak for our effort.” But the utility-funded PAC had in fact been sharing JMI’s voter guide, which was supportive of Amendment 1, on their social media platforms since at least August of 2016. In fact, on October 17, the day before the Miami Herald first reported the leaked audio of Nuzzo, Consumers for Smart Solar tweeted out JMI’s guide three times throughout the day; all three tweets have since been deleted.
- JMI executive director Robert McClure said in a statement that “At an event with an unfamiliar, national audience, Mr. Nuzzo generalized his commentary and misspoke in reference to JMI partnering with Consumers for Smart Solar in any capacity.” But the Miami Herald reported today that Nuzzo had been present at the same State Policy Network conference in 2014.
- McClure has refused to comment on whether the utility industry or its supporters have funded JMI prior to its conducting the research supporting Amendment 1. However, research proves that JMI has accepted funding from Southern Company subsidiary Gulf Power, one of Florida’s four large utilities and a major financier of Amendment 1.
JMI has also accepted funding from the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, an anti-solar front group that is itself also supported by Southern Co. via its subsidiary Alabama Power.
- Gulf Power has sponsored JMI events in 2013, 2015 and 2016. PACE has sponsored at least one JMI event in 2016. Allan Bense serves as the chairman of JMI’s board of directors and is also a member of Gulf Power’s board. Stan Connally, the CEO of Gulf Power, also serves on JMI’s board. JMI has had a Southern Co./Gulf Power executive on its board dating back to at least 2004 when Susan Story, then-CEO of Gulf Power, joined the board of JMI.
The leaked audio is available at http://www.exposedbycmd.org/Florida-Solar-Amendment1-Audio.
Copies of the Consumers for Smart Solar deleted social media posts available on request.