Chip Beeker, the Big Mules’ lap dog?

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Remember Eddie Curran? Love him or hate him, he’s a writer who, when he senses a political snake in the grass, will assail it as relentlessly as a honey badger attacks a cobra. During the administration of former governor Don Siegelman, Eddie was an investigative reporter for the “Mobile Press Register” and wrote so many articles about questionable goings on involving Siegelman and his cronies that the governor ordered his staff and cabinet members to cease all communications with any employees of the Mobile paper. Eddie’s book, “The Governor of Goat Hill,” detailed the findings of his investigations, and some believe his stories resulted in the criminal prosecution and ultimate downfall of Siegelman.

Mentioned in the book was a questionable warehouse construction project that Opelika resident and former Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, C. C. (Bo) Torbert Jr. was appointed to investigate. In a critical report, Torbert wrote that he had “substantial questions as to the propriety” of the project, which was cancelled, much to the chagrin of those who stood to gain financially if the project was approved and undertaken.

Curran is now interested in the runoff between Chip Beeker and sitting Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn for place No. 2 on the commission to be held on July 15. As some may recall, Dunn wanted the PSC to conduct formal public hearings on rates being charged by Alabama Power Company and natural gas suppliers, but the other two commissioners, Twinkle Cavanaugh and Jeremy Oden, were opposed.

More recently a controversy about  Beeker’s candidacy made the news last October when it was revealed that Haley Barbour, an influential Mississippi politician and lobbyist for Alabama Power’s parent, the Southern Company, was coming to Birmingham to hold a fundraiser for Beeker. Curran, in an article titled, “Mr. Dunn Goes to Montgomery,” states that Mike Fields, a member of the State Port Authority and instructor at Shelton State Community College, heads a nonprofit that has funded “Dunn-bashing groups JobKeeper Alliance and Partners for Affordable Clean Energy” to the tune of $205,000, and that Fields in 2013 was paid “between $10,000 and $50,000” by Alabama Power Company as a consultant.

PACE in 2013 ran an ad attacking Dunn, stating, “In recent days groups such as the Southern Environmental Law Center, AARP, Alabama  Environmental Council and the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Air Pollution have led the public to believe PSC Commissioner Terry Dunn is fighting for consumers and not for environmental interests.”

Beeker’s supporters include ALFA, Manufacture Alabama, the Alabama Coal Association, the Alabama Retail Association and the Home Builders Association of Alabama. Others supporting and/or opposing Dunn, directly or indirectly, are alleged to be Dr. Charles Steele, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Matrix LLC, a secretive lobbying organization. Steele’s organization has received substantial contributions from APC.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Michael Sznajderman, media coordinator for APC, denies that the power company has been involved, directly or indirectly, in the PSC race. Beeker accuses Dunn of being “a meek lapdog for the environmentalists’ agenda.”

After reading Eddie Curran’s revelations, I am led to believe that it is more likely that Beeker is the meek lapdog, who takes his marching orders from the Big Mules. Decide for yourself. Curran’s web-site is http://mrdunngoestomontgomery.com/.

Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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