By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
A special grand jury in Montgomery is targeting a variety of potential corrupt deals related to the Bellefonte nuclear plant near Scottsboro, several sources have told the Alabama Political Reporter.
The investigation into that possible corruption, led by Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, is drawing in some of the state’s top political and business figures, as the grand jury explores a number of alleged offenses.
Over the last two days, reporters for APR have witnessed the head of Alabama’s economic development office, the head of the state’s two-year college system, a former policy advisor to Gov. Robert Bentley, another Bentley advisor and his former chief of staff, and the former head of TVA all emerge from a grand jury meeting room in the Montgomery County Courthouse annex building.
Sources have told APR that while the investigation is casting a wide net in regards to deals that were being pushed by Bellefonte owner and Tennessee billionaire Franklin Haney, one of the primary focuses is a rumored deal that would have seen the State of Alabama dump taxpayer money into the Bellefonte plant in exchange for a deal that would have drawn in the state’s two-year college system and been billed as a “workforce development deal.”
That would explain the appearances before the grand jury on Wednesday of both Jimmy Baker, the chancellor of the state’s two-year college system, and Greg Canfield, the state’s Secretary of Commerce who negotiates many of Alabama’s economic incentive deals with relocating companies.
According to multiple sources, the AG’s office is exploring whether that specific deal, and numerous other deals related to Haney’s businesses and campaign contributions, benefitted elected and/or appointed state officials personally.
Haney has become a major player in Alabama politics over the last several years, dumping thousands in campaign contributions into the accounts of former Govs. Bob Riley and Bentley, and enjoying a nice payday from a Birmingham lease deal along the way.
Haney’s purchase of the Bellefonte plant confused financial analysts when he made it, given that TVA — which has proven fairly adept at generating nuclear power and constructed Bellefonte originally — determined prior to completing the plant that it wouldn’t be economically feasible to continue.
Still, Haney put up $22 million in 2016 to buy the plant and another $89 million at closing. A few weeks after making the deal, he deftly slid a cool $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural account — a donation that would appear to be out of place for Haney, who typically is a big supporter of Democratic candidates and PACs. It was widely speculated that Haney’s donation was meant to grease the wheels of regulatory agencies that would fall under Trump’s control as president.
Haney made his money in office buildings, roads and hotels, and like most self-made successes, he’s an optimist. He told the Chattanooga Free-Times last September that despite cancellations and a few setbacks, he believed his Bellefonte plant will be operational within five years and producing the cheapest power available in the area.