By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—A former Mobile Press-Register reporter turned private investigator recently sent an email to Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, questioning why he was meddling in the affairs of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
In a series of nineteen questions, one-time investigative reporter, Eddie Curran, questions Hubbard about his involvement in attempts to discredit PSC commissioner Terry Dunn.
Curran has published a series of videos on a website called “Is Alabama Power Behind the Mask,” accusing a number of individuals and organizations of working in concert to destroy Dunn’s reputation.
But, it is the person of Speaker Hubbard at which Curran takes perhaps his most deadly aim.
Curran, in the guise of questions, accuses Hubbard of working to paint Dunn as a radical environmentalist, because he dares question the rates Alabama Power receives for its services.
The PSC is the state authority that oversees the rate of return that certain utilities may receive for their services.
Curran asks Hubbard, “Would you disagree with this statement: The real purpose in portraying Dunn as an environmentalist [is an attempt to discredit] him in the eyes of conservative voters, who in general do not consider themselves environmentalists?”
These and other questions asked—to solicit a predetermined response—are leveled at the Speaker in rapid fire.
Hubbard became a target of Curran’s investigation after Commissioner Dunn told him of being called into the Speaker’s Office for what amounted to a dressing down.
Curran says that Dunn thought he was going to a private meeting with the Speaker only to be ambushed by Hubbard and his staff.
The most poignant moment of the meeting was when according to Dunn, the Speaker told him he was taking his job too seriously. Dunn and Curran take this to mean Dunn was to back off his call for utility rate reviews.
Curran said on his website that he became “very angry,” when he learned how Dunn was being portrayed as a environmental extremist because he questioned the rate of return that utilities were allowed under the PSC formula.
“There were times when I just could not believe it was true, what they have done, what they continue to do, to Terry Dunn. It revolted me, and from that, came inspiration [for the video series],” said Curran.
Curran says he began his investigation when he was hired by the Mississippi group, Bigger Pie Forum, to investigate those who were making disparaging statements about the group and its founders. But it was Dunn’s story that grabbed Curran’s attention.
In his telling of Dunn’s saga Curran points to what he believes are shadow groups whole or partially paid for to promote a specific agenda.
In his email to Hubbard, Curran specifically questions the Speakers ties to Cliff Sims, and Yellow Hammer News. Rumors of Hubbard’s ties to Sims and his blog have been constant since the sites inception two years ago. Hubbard’s Chief of Staff Josh Blades has privately referred to Yellow Hammer as “Our dog whistle.” Meaning that when the Speaker needed to call “the base” to action, Yellow Hammer was who they used.
Yellow Hammer has repeatedly tied Dunn to radical environmentalists, saying that Dunn has become their “leading voice on the PSC.”
Yellow Hammer recently reported that former Bush strategist Karl Rove, regrets he supported Dunn in 2010, saying, “I regret it because I’m concerned about the relationships he’s building with out-of-the-mainstream, anti-coal environmental groups.”
Curran sees a coordination between Sims’ Yellow Hammer and Speaker Hubbard.
An email was sent from Currran to Yellow Hammer’s Cliff Sims but that has not been made publicly.
Curran in his reporting also calls attention to Hubbard $144,000.00 a year contract the utility provider SEAGD.
Curran asks Hubbard, “To your knowledge, has Terry Dunn, while in office, negotiated any consulting agreements similar in any way to the $144,000.00 per year economic development/consulting contract that you had with the Southeast Alabama Gas District?
Do you believe you would have received this contract if you were not the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives?”
Here Curran questions the ethical relationship between Hubbard and the utility provider, but he goes one step further when he asks Hubbard, “Though you clearly don’t know Terry Dunn well, do you believe that Dunn is the sort of public official who would enter into such an agreement or, rather, that he would find such an arrangement ethically untenable?”
Curran seems to see a wide ethical gulf between the actions of the Speaker and those of Dunn.
Curran gained notoriety for his reporting on former Gov. Siegelman. The reporter turned private investigator has been mostly quiet after writing his book about the Siegelman affair.
His return to writing now would appear to have a clear hero in Terry Dunn and a villain in Mike Hubbard.
Curran Letter to Mike Hubbard,
Speaker of the Alabama
House of Representatives
Note: Hubbard’s chief of staff informed me that the speaker would be replying to my questions. However, it never came.
Attn: Mike Hubbard
Alabama House of Representatives
cc: Josh Blades and Rachel Adams
Dear Rep. Hubbard,
Earlier this week I did an in-depth video interview with Terry Dunn on a number of subjects related to criticisms of him as a result of his efforts to hold formal rate hearings regarding Alabama’s regulated utilities, including Alabama Power.
I will, shortly, be publishing a web-site that will include, among other things, that interview. I will also publish my questions to you and your responses.
Dunn recounted an incident that I thought interesting and am therefore contacting you to get you response to what he told me, or your account of the meeting, and related matters.
He told me that he was invited to your office to meet with him. He told me that he was asked not to bring any staff. He told me that he believed the two of you would be meeting privately.
Dunn told me that he was surprised that several members of your staff attended the meeting. He said members of your staff read from newspaper stories in which Dunn was quoted. He said members of your staff took notes during the meeting.
He did not say that you mentioned any utility. However, he said you told him he was taking his job too seriously and that he should back off.
1. Do you deny that you or a member of your staff sought the meeting?
2. Do you deny that you or a member of your staff requested that Dunn come alone?
3. Why did you seek a meeting with Terry Dunn?
4. What did you say to Terry Dunn during that meeting?
5. Do you deny that members of your staff attended the meeting?
6. Do you deny that members of your staff participated in the meeting, including reading comments from newspapers and/or quotes that Terry Dunn had given?
7. Do you deny that members of your staff took notes during the meeting?
8. Have you participated in efforts to recruit candidates to run against Terry Dunn?
9. Do you approve of the well-known efforts to portray Terry Dunn as a liberal who has close ties to the environmental community?
10. Have you in any way participated in these efforts?
11. Obviously you are aware of the efforts as they have been widespread. Would you disagree with this statement: The real purpose in portraying Dunn as an environmentalists as a means of discrediting him in the eyes of conservative voters who in general do not consider themselves environmentalists?
12. Are you aware of any evidence that Dunn’s views and his policy considerations are in any way related to “environmentalism”?
13. Do you think Terry Dunn is wrong to question Alabama Power’s rate of return, which is the highest of any electric utility in the country and far above the national average?
14. Would you agree that a decrease in Alabama Power’s rate of return — say, to 11.5 percent, still above the national average — would result in lower power bills for Alabama citizens and small businesses in the state?
15. If you oppose efforts to lower the company’s rate of return, please explain why.
16. Please describe your relationship with Cliff Sims and Yellowhammer News. Do you or any affiliated companies have any investment or ownership in Yellowhammer?
17. To your knowledge, has Terry Dunn, while in office, negotiated any consulting agreements similar in any way to the $144,000 per year economic development/consulting contract that you had with the Southeast Alabama Gas District?
18. Do you believe you would have received this contract if you were not the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives?
19. Though you clearly don’t know Terry Dunn well, do you believe that Dunn is the sort of public official who would enter into such an agreement or, rather, that he would find such an arrangement ethically untenable?
I look forward to your responses. I tried to reach Josh Blades yesterday and asked for a return call but did not receive one. I intend to publish these questions on the web-site, and hope to also be able to include your responses.