FFM Bulletin 4/11/12

Serious Energy in serious trouble

The California-based company formerly known as Serious Materials is in “serious trouble” according to industry sources.  You might recall reading about Serious Materials/Serious Energy in a previous e-update.  Two years ago, they were the focus of a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) “crony capitalism” investigative report.

This week we learned from an article from Green Tech Media, the once booming startup that had become the “green-tech” darling of the Obama Administration, recently lost several key executives, including CEO Kevin Surace.

Our investigation looked at one specific Serious Materials executive: Former Vice President Robin Roy. Roy was married to Cathy Zoi, one of President Obama’s top appointees at the U.S. Department of Energy.  Our investigative research focused on that agency and her potential for a serious conflict of interest.   At the time, Cathy Zoi was overseeing $16.8 billion in green energy stimulus funds. Her husband’s company, Serious Materials (now Serious Energy), benefited substantially from those funds, even being singled out to receive over $500,000 in stimulus tax credits.  But the benefits didn’t stop there. Serious Materials also received extraordinary praise and attention from the Obama administration, who co-hosted a White House press conference featuring the president.  A Serious Materials plant also   received a personal visit from Vice President Biden at a high-profile news conference.
In January 2010, FFM worked with John Stossel and Fox News on an extensive exposé of Cathy Zoi’s potential conflicts of interest, featuring the findings of FFM’s investigation.

To watch the Stossel episode featuring the FFM investigation, click here

Freedom Foundation Report Results in Utility Ratepayers Receiving Refunds!

Thousands of CenterPoint Energy ratepayers will receive refunds after being overcharged on their heating bills under an experimental natural gas pricing system instituted two years ago by state regulators. The politically correct pricing program--designed to penalize ratepayers for using more than a pre-determined allotment of natural gas--was the focus of a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) investigation in April 2011.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) this week finalized a decision ordering CenterPoint to begin making adjustments to ratepayers’ bills for “problems arising from elongated billing periods.”  Precisely how many of CenterPoint’s nearly 800,000 Minnesota customers were overcharged and by how much still remains to be determined.

The development is the latest embarrassment for the “inverted block rate pilot program” drafted by environmental groups in collaboration with PUC regulators.  Under the program, the more natural gas a customer used, the more the customer had to pay for each unit of natural gas—a penalty for using more than the average ratepayer. Some critics have compared the system to “charging a Prius driver $2 per gallon for gasoline, while charging an SUV owner $5 per gallon.”  

The pilot program, however, backfired within months, turning into a public relations nightmare.  Hundreds of irate CenterPoint Energy ratepayers revolted over skyrocketing heating bills.  The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was deluged with complaints from the elderly, day care providers, large families, low-income individuals and even conservation-savvy customers over the financial impact this wacky experiment had on their heating bills during one of the coldest winters in recent memory.  The controversy led to the suspension of the pilot program and the 2011 Minnesota Legislature repealed the controversial provision from the  “Next Generation Energy Act.”

Click here to read the rest of our latest Accountability Alert.

Ramsey County Judge Strikes Down Dayton's Unionization

A Ramsey County District Court judge issued a ruling on Friday saying that the executive order issued by Gov. Mark Dayton last year authorizing an election of state child care providers is “null and void.”

According to Judge Dale Lindman, Gov. Dayton exceeded his authority because the order was an “unconstitutional usurpation of the Legislature's constitutional right to create and or amend laws” and violated the Separation of Powers doctrine.

“By Executive Order 11-31, the Governor is attempting to circumvent the legislative process and unionize child care providers by executive order rather than adhering to a valid legislative process,” Lindman wrote in his ruling. “In doing so, the Governor has improperly superseded the Legislature’s authority and violated the separation of powers clause as set forth in the Minnesota Constitution.”

Child care provider and plaintiff Hollee Saville was thrilled with the ruling, saying that all the time and effort child care providers have invested has finally paid off.

“We have rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. As child care providers and small business owners, we’re glad the judge ruled on the basis of the Constitution,” said Saville. “I’m thankful for all the providers and Minnesotans that have supported us in this effort.”

The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) first examined the controversial effort to unionize in home child care providers in June 2011 and has worked closely with several child care providers across the state.
To read our entire response to the welcome news from last week, follow this link.

Reminder: John Stossel tickets on sale

Emmy Award-winning journalist and bestselling author John Stossel will headline the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota’s annual dinner on Tuesday, April 17.  The topic of Stossel’s remarks will be “Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed,” which is also the title of his forthcoming book. The event will begin with a private dinner with Mr. Stossel followed by a general reception and, of course, his speech.

Tickets are now on sale to the general public. Pick them up here and be sure to share this opportunity with your friends and fellow conservatives.

For details on the event, please visit our website or stosselatffm.eventbrite.com to reserve your seats!

Note to candidates: Join our email list for the latest from FFM!
Are you or do you know a candidate running for the legislature or local office in 2012? If so, be sure to sign up for our mailing list to stay up to date on the latest issues facing our state and local governments. Also, candidates will be invited to special events and summer training sessions designed to help you better understand and communication free market solutions to some of the toughest issues facing our state. Visithttp://www.freedomfoundationofminnesota.com/signup to get started.


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