Friday night line | Arkansas Blog

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday night line

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 4:30 PM

The line is open. A couple of notes:

* OLD SCHOOL HELP IN FRENCH HILL CAMPAIGN: Blueblood political helpers announced today by Republican French Hill, the 2nd District congressional candidate. Names include the likes of Larry Walther, a retired phone company executive whose held political appointments under Gov. Mike Huckabee and President George Bush; tycoon Warren Stephens; some hands from past John Boozman and Tim Griffin campaigns, and Huckabee's daughter and her husband as consultants. Hint: Don't go to Huckabee camp for advice on talking to women about birth control.

* SPEAKING OF MIKE HUCKABEE AND THE WAR ON WOMEN:  Here's another good analysis of how many ways Mike Huckabee was off base with his spectacular birth control nonsense yesterday. Among them in this New York Times blog item (and please note my supplied emphasis):

* He personifies the government as Uncle Sugar, rather than Uncle Sam, presumably because of the *government’s resemblance to a pimp.

• He argues that Democrats “provide prescriptions” because they want women to believe they can’t control their libidos or reproductive systems without government assistance.

• It follows that Mr. Huckabee believes, or thinks women indoctrinated by Democrats believe, that birth control is a way of controlling both the “reproductive system” and the “libido.”

• Mr. Huckabee thinks it’s terribly condescending and insulting of Uncle Sugar to think women want birth control covered by their employers.

• On the other hand, he doesn’t think it’s condescending to suggest that women need the Republican Party to wage a war “for them.”

A lingering question: If a woman actively wants the government to compel her employer to cover her birth control, is she helpless?

One other nitpick: If an individual state, rather than the federal government, were to pass a contraceptive mandate, would that be condescending to women? Because as Bill Scher has pointed out, when Mr. Huckabee was governor of Arkansas he signed a law mandating that insurance plans provide contraception coverage. The law did not exempt church-affiliated organizations.

* GRASSROOTS GROUP FIGHTING SWEPCO: Save the Ozarks, the grassroots group fighting SWEPCO's proposed route for a high-power transmission line through the Ozarks announces a complaint filed with federal officials over allegedly improper political and other expenditures. Details follow. SWEPCO has well-oiled the political machinery in Arkansas, evident back when most major figures threw in with their pollution-belching coal plant in Hempsrtead County. Look for their PAC contributions in legislative campaign reports. Nothing like early money go win friends.

* SAM'S CLUB LAYOFFS:  The discounter has announced 2,300 layoffs nationwide, with about four per store. 

NEWS RELEASE: SAVE THE OZARKS

Martha Peine has filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) against American Electric Power (AEP). Peine alleges that AEP's subsidiary SWEPCO improperly charged their customers for thousands of dollars the company spent in lobbying, advertising, charitable contributions, and other non-transmission expenditures. Affected ratepayers are in portions of Arkansas and the other eight states in the Southwest Power Pool’s nine-state region.

Peine filed the Formal Challenge to American Electric Power Service Corporation’s 2013 Formula Rate Annual Update with FERC on Wednesday, January 22. Examining transmission rates, she discovered that AEP had improperly billed Arkansas ratepayers for general advertising and promotional expenses, charitable donations and related expenses, economic development expenskes unrelated to transmission, lobbying expenses, and other non-transmission expenses totaling $92,511. She has asked FERC to grant the challenge and order AEP to refund expenses wrongly passed on to ratepayers.

Peine said, “I was curious about how AEP/SWEPCO recovered expenses from ratepayers. Boy, have my eyes been opened! I found AEP improperly charged ratepayers for many items, like monitoring the Turk Plant construction. Its my understanding that Arkansas ratepayers are not supposed to pay Turk Plant construction costs.”

AEP/SWEPCO has already acknowledged over $16,000 in wrongful charges as a result of Peine’s efforts and has made provisions to credit ratepayers for this amount. However, Peine contends that an additional $95K was also wrongly charged to electric customers in their monthly bills and has not yet been refunded.

The total includes expenses such as a $3,230 private flight to Little Rock for SWEPCO President Venita McCellon-Allen to attend a luncheon honoring Collette Honorable, Chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) and a meeting with Senator Harrelson.

Other corporate expenses incorrectly charged to AEP/SWEPCO customers include the tab for lunch with Larry Smith, mayor of Cave Springs, and others in November 2012 while presenting a large check to the Illinois River Watershed Partnership for the development of a 30-acre watershed sanctuary at Cave Springs. Mayor Smith later gave testimony before the APSC supporting SWEPCO’s application for a CECPN to construct the Shipe Rd. to Kings River 345kV transmission line.

"Martha's work shows that investor-owned utilities like AEP/SWEPCO need stronger oversight and Arkansas ratepayers need stronger protection. Forty states have an agency designated by state law to represent the interests of utility consumers before state and federal regulators and in the courts. Why not Arkansas? Obviously the Attorney-General's Office is too overburdened," said Pat Costner, Director of Save the Ozarks.

SWEPCO has 30 days to produce its answer to the charges before the federal commission.

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