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Friday, Feb 25, 2005

I was willing to give ICC Chairman Ed Hurley the benefit of the doubt, but I was wrong (and I should have known better, since he’s such a pawn of the utility industry).

In a scathing rebuke, Attorney General Lisa Madigan accused the state panel that polices utilities of breaking Illinois’ open meetings law and ordered it to quit letting power company executives pay for commissioners’ restaurant meals.

One of Madigan’s top lawyers this week informed Illinois Commerce Commission chairman Ed Hurley that it was possibly illegal for him to have let Peoples Energy executives buy his and another commissioner’s lunch last month, even though Hurley paid back the executive later.

Moreover, Madigan’s office said the lunch date violated the state’s Open Meetings Act because two of the ICC’s four commissioners were present. The office “strongly recommended” the commissioners undergo a special training session to brush up on public meeting laws.

Worst of all, Hurley still doesn’t get it.

“I’ve got to assimilate some of this information and determine appropriate behavior, I suppose,” Hurley said of Madigan’s letter. “But again, I don’t think we did anything so terrible.”

The governor’s appointments to the ICC are at the very heart of my problem with him. The contractor contributions, the manipulations, the Elvis posing… that’s all small stuff.

Almost nothing that state government does impacts more people directly than utility regulation. The undeniable fact that this governor has appointed blatantly utility-friendly tools to the ICC - who have then marginalized or ousted pro-consumer staff - completely undercuts his claims that he is a progressive reformer.

His last appointment of a total unknown was designed to please both sides. That wouldn’t have been a bad idea if the ICC wasn’t already so heavily weighted against consumers. He should have appointed a real reformer, like former state Sen. Patrick Welch. But Welch has been told that he was too consumer friendly for the governor’s taste.

Right now, there is only one ICC commissioner who is on the side of consumers, and he was appointed by George Ryan.

Governor Blagojevich should be ashamed of his record. He has flagrantly pimped for SBC, ComEd and Peoples Energy for two years straight. He ought to be held accountable.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Greg - Friday, Feb 25, 05 @ 10:07 am:


    Lynne Kiesling (I hope I got the html correct) at the Knowledge Problem indirectly addresses your sickened feelings.

    The problem isn’t so much politicians shaking down regulated industries, it’s the model of regulation that creates an incentive for politicians to shake down “utilities.”

    The public good model is obsolete — if it were ever the best way of regulating what were thought to be “natural monopolies.” If you cut the size and scope of government, you will have less sleaze in government. By promoting transparency, competition, private property rights, etc. you develop a regime — however imperfect — of markets that do a better job of providing services at lower costs.

    Lynne, who writes from Chicago no less, does a better job of explaining this than I do. I also know that she in the past has worked with Lt. Gov. Quinn on electricity regulation.

    The whole consumer vs. business paradigm is becoming obsolete. De-regulate properly, bring in competition and it becomes business vs. business seeking the good graces of consumers.

  2. - Pat Collins - Friday, Feb 25, 05 @ 12:51 pm:

    Speaking of P. Quinn, I wonder how much stomach he has left these days. Keeping quiet while Milorad does his thing must really be taking a toll on that guy’s health.

    Either that, or he has an excellent stress management system!

  3. - Anonymous - Sunday, Feb 27, 05 @ 1:03 pm:

    I guess that depends on what Greg means by “deregulated properly.” Total deregulation that establishes a fair playing field and protects the public good is a pipe dream.

    Why? Because no matter how you establish the rules of the game, human nature is that someone is going to try to cheat. The game needs a referee. In a simple game like boxing, one referee. In a complex game like football, many. In the energy game, with all of its complex financial relationships, you need an entire agency of referees.

    We’ve already experimented with the notion of a totally deregulated business environment in this country. It was great for business in the short term, but the public good suffered tremendously. I don’t think we want to go back to the days of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”

    Instead, lets look at better systems of selecting our regulators, like direct election of the ICC. In the mean time, a few editorials from the Tribune and other major papers demanding Hurley step down would be a good start on getting Blagojevich to clean up his act.

  4. - Anonymous - Sunday, Feb 27, 05 @ 3:37 pm:

    According to insiders at the ICC, Chairman Hurley has maintained cozy relationships with executives of the companies he is charged with regulating since his appointment and promotion to chairmanship by the governor. The People’s Lunch scandal is allegedly just one of many such lunches shared by the Chairman and utility lobbyists.

    But don’t take the insiders’ word for it - look no further than Hurley’s arrogant dismissal of Attorney General Madigan’s troubling findings that members of the ICC had violated state laws meant to protect the public interest. Hurley doesn’t seem to get the fact that he has finally become a massive albatross around Blagojevich’s neck.

    The governor pledged “reform and renewa”l in his first for the office, a re-election campaign is just around the corner and the long unpaid “campaign promises invoice” is about to come due.

    The majority coalition led by Hurley on Blagojevich’s ICC have consistently abandoned consumers in its rulings on utility issues and proven their allegiance to friends at abusive monopolies like People’s Gas.

    Bravo to the Tribune for its recent editorial regarding the Illinois Gaming Board fiasco and the need for a reshuffling of that regulatory deck. It is high time for the Tribune to lend ink, and its powerful voice, to a more serious issue: the need to dismiss Chairman Hurley from the ICC.

    If the governor is serious about keeping a pledge to “reform” - cleaning up the Commerce Commission is a great place to start. Better yet, a strong first-step would be ending Chairman Hurley’s anti-consumer reign at the ICC.

  5. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 14, 05 @ 11:13 am:

    Governor Blago’s indifference to the pro-utility ICC and its utility lap dog chairman is absolutely astonishing and is clear evidence of his empty promise to appoint pro-consumer commmissioners as part of his reform and renew state government pledge.

    Would the governor tolerate Hurley’s arrogance and abuse of power if Hurley were a holdover chairman from the previous administration? No way. Blago would have called a press conference and demanded the chairman’s resignation! Forget the press conference and news release…start governing by getting rid of the ICC chairman.

  6. - ole timer - Tuesday, Feb 6, 07 @ 10:32 am:

    There’s a switch, Rich. The Hairdo posts of your that I’ve looked at in the past seemed to blame Hairdo’s ’staff’ for the problems. Maybe you’re finally getting it that he’s at the root of this. Banish me if you will.

  7. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Feb 6, 07 @ 10:34 am:

    Ole timer, this post is two years old.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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