“[T]he Good Ol’ Boy system is still in force, where the lobbyists run the show.
…It was literally 80 people. It was more than I expected. I knew it was a large crowd, but it was literally 80 of the 110 people in the room.
My response was, this was what ratepayers across South Carolina were up against,” Fanning said.
From the News and Reporter Online Chester:
By Brian Garner
January 18, 2018
As a former educator, State Senator Mike Fanning (Dist. 17) is used to teaching lessons and has probably even resorted to object lessons that dramatically illustrate a point. He apparently still knows how, because he dramatically illustrated a point to a room full of nuclear lobbyists at the State House during the Senate’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Project Review Committee earlier this week. Sen. Fanning talked with The N&R by phone about the point he was making and why he made his point the way he did.
Fanning provided some background about the potential deal with Dominion Energy, who has offered to buy SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G, for $14.6 billion, but with some major contingencies attached.
“Dominion walked in the door with a gun to our heads. They walked in a little cocky and a little arrogant, which doesn’t surprise me, because the folks in SCANA are the same way, but they walked in as if they were the only game in town, take it or leave it, and giving us the full-court press. They said in effect, ‘If you don’t take this deal, SCANA is going bankrupt and you will need to do something tomorrow,” he said.
At the Gressette Building meeting earlier this week, Sen. Fanning asked the lobbyists or anyone else who was being paid by any of the energy companies to stand and be recognized. Three-quarters of the room stood.
“That,” Fanning said, indicating the army of lobbyists and energy company execs “is what the people of South Carolina, the ratepayers, are up against. Right here.”
There were two things that Fanning wanted to point out during that meeting, he later said in the interview, “You’ve got SCANA, a massive power player, teamed up and said to the ratepayers: ‘You will pay billions of dollars for reactors.’ And they did. Now we’ve got Dominion walking in the door and telling us: ‘You will not stand in the way of us taking over SCANA.’
“And it was just that big corporate bully vs. the average citizen.”
Fanning said when he arrived at the Gressette 105 room, the largest Senate meeting room that holds 100-120 people, the room was packed. When he looked over the crowd, it looked like the vast majority of the people in the room were lobbyists for large energy concerns.
“It bothered me that once again, the full-court press was on where they’re going to dangle $1,000 (which is the rebate Dominion said ratepayers would get back if the deal goes through) and they’re going to put the full-court press on and then hire 18 lobbyists (including former S.C. Governor Jim Hodges).
Why would former Governor Hodges be sitting on the front row unless it was to leverage power to get us to make the deal?
“And I’m not knocking him – he is a person that earns a living, and that’s his job. Having said that, there was a sense of bullying, ‘We are the big dog and you’re going top take our offer or else.”
Fanning said this was what the common man in this entire issue has been up against for the last 10 years.
“Nine straight rate increases, where we don’t have a chance to say ‘Whoa, slow this down’ and after the rate increases, the company walking away, and after the company walks away, our rates are still high, and then Dominion walks in the door and says ‘We’re still going to keep the rates higher than they should be,” he said.
Secondly, Fanning recalled he ran for office because he was opposed to the “Good Ol’ Boy” system in state politics, saying that was what gets in the way of genuine policy reform that could positively represent the regular citizens in the street. The Good Ol’ Boy system was in evidence when he looked across the sea of faces in the meeting, Fanning said, including former legislators and former governors who are now lobbyists for the energy companies.
“When I looked over the audience and saw that, I wanted to be able to paint a picture of this David vs. Goliath, Regular-Man-Versus-The-Energy-Machine. The only way I could think to do that was to have them stand up,” he said. Then the former educator proceeded to teach the day’s lesson.
“I was very cautious not to tip my hand as to why I was asking them to stand up. I said ‘We have a great crowd today. We want to recognize all that were here and all the folks that were interested in our energy problem. In fact, if any of you are here today and have received any money or are in any way connected with a utility company, an energy company or a power company, (and I named the names) would you please stand and be recognized.’ It was literally 80 people. It was more than I expected. I knew it was a large crowd, but it was literally 80 of the 110 people in the room.
“My response was, this was what ratepayers across South Carolina were up against,” Fanning said.
He said he wasn’t disparaging the people who were doing their jobs, but many times, people say ‘You are government. Make this right.”
“I wanted to call attention that the Good Ol’ Boy system is still in force, where the lobbyists run the show. The reason we are in this mess (and the General Assembly did pass the Base Load Review Act) but it was lobbyists for SCANA and Santee-Cooper that worked with the law firm to draft the BLRA and hand it to legislators (who then didn’t give it the due diligence they should have – I’m not taking the legislature off the hook at all) but it was started by lobbyists for nuclear power industries in South Carolina wanting to get this done,” he said.
“And here we are trying to get out of the deal, and we are once again being pressured by big-time lobbyists wanting to get something done,” he pointed out.
“The other reason you want to paint a picture is because Dominion Energy has been doing a very effective job of painting their picture. We are getting ready to get into House primary elections, where every member of the House is up for reelection and right before people file, Dominion unveils a deal that says ‘We will cut a $1,000 check to every single constituent in your district. Please feel free to oppose the deal and tell your people you’re going to keep them from getting a $1,000 check.’
“It was brilliant, and it is hard for us to explain why taking a $1,000 is bad. My point was (Dominion) had painted a vivid picture of themselves as the cowboy with the white hat on the white horse coming to save the day, with a $1,000 check for everybody there. That visual imagery was what we were trying to hold back to keep folks focused on what was really good for themselves and the state, long-term. I needed to paint a picture of who is really in the white hat and on that white horse. Are these folks doing this because they woke up one morning and said ‘We want to sacrifice our lives for the betterment of South Carolina?’ Or were they there because they see profit value?” Fanning asked.
That question has yet to be answered.
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Comment on Twitter below the post from “Brandon Smithwood”
“man, oh, man, his PAC is going to be hurting this cycle.”