FRIENDS OF PEC TO MEMBERS: Corporate and Political Interests Attempt to Sway Pedernales Electric Co-op Directors Election

The-Future-Of-ElectricityPolitical groups and energy company affiliates are actively interfering in the director elections for the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, a non-partisan group known as Friends of PEC charged today.

“Running our billion dollar co-op should be about good business, good service, and low rates – not about partisan gamesmanship, and certainly not about giving control to any political party,” said Friends of PEC chairwoman Shirley Beck.

Friends of PEC said it has obtained evidence that private energy company executives from Houston and Midland are trying to influence the outcome of the PEC elections, and appear to be spending tens of thousands of dollars to elect certain candidates.

In addition, the group charges that highly partisan Republicans are bringing an unhealthy political focus to heretofore non-partisan PEC elections – one example being a county Republican Party Resolution offering a partisan litmus test for the election, and endorsing a slate of candidates.

Recent postcards sent to members tout a slate of “conservative” candidates Paul Graf (Dist. 6) and Amy Akers (Dist. 7). The postcards are from Texans for Affordable Electric Rates, a project of the American Reform Coalition, which claims to support consumer education, economic health, and the “overall wellbeing of the American family.”

A look at their websites reveals that these groups don’t appear to be doing anything other than trying to influence the PEC election. The president of the board of directors, John Michael Wilshusen, is also president of an energy consulting company that operates in Dallas and Midland. The secretary of the board is Alan Morgan, vice president of Remora Oil Company, based out of The Woodlands.

Why would these corporate interests bankroll PEC Board of Directors candidates? Generally, candidate Jeff Barton and incumbents Cristi Clement and Larry Landaker have campaigned for diversifying the co-op’s energy sources, and to take advantage of record breaking low current pricing of Texas-based solar and wind technologies.

Another organization, called Texans for Low Cost Power (TFLCP) is promoting Mark Axford (Dist 1), Paul Graf (Dist. 6) and Doug Kadjar (Dist. 7). Kadjar is an officer of the Hays Constitutional Republicans, and Axford’s wife, Trixie Bond, is a Republican precinct chair. TFLPC seems to be a vehicle for tea party and libertarian activists on the right wing of the Republican Party who argue that PEC directors should be elected based on their commitment to the Party and a commitment to abandon the co-op in favor of for-profit retailers.

If customers want lower rates, deregulation isn’t the answer. The Nueces County Electric Cooperative is the sole example of a deregulated electrical co-op in Texas and both its rates and those of newly introduced for-profit retailers are higher than those at PEC. Nueces County charges about $142 for 1,000 kilowatt hours, compared to only $116 for the same amount of energy from the PEC.

Friends of PEC, an officially registered not-for-profit, non-partisan organization, has endorsed Barton and incumbents Cristi Clement and Larry Landaker. The Friends of PEC board is made up entirely of longtime co-op members.

“We sent each candidate a questionnaire, invited every candidate to respond, and we’ve even published the responses of the candidates we endorsed on our website (http://friendsofpec.org/our-candidates/questionnaire-responses/), so everyone can see for themselves their qualifications and their positions,” Beck said. “We don’t ask candidates what political party they identify with, and we don’t care. In fact, we are actively against ‘Washington style’ partisan campaigning.”

Clean Water Action also endorsed candidates based on written candidate questionnaires, which all candidates were invited to submit. The questions focus on the PEC’s programs for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and on the water-energy nexus. Unlike wind and solar, coal and gas-fired power plants require enormous amounts of water to function. The questionnaire and answers received can be found on its web page: http://cleanwater.org/feature/vote-now-pec-election.