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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FPL's rate case pitch includes tactics aimed at Crist and commissioners



When Florida Power & Light's chief executive visited newspaper editorial boards across the state this month as part of a public relations campaign to win support for the company's $1.3 billion rate-increase request, he vowed to ``strive for transparency in everything we do.''

But sources and documents say that FPL is also working behind the scenes with hardball tactics that include using people inside and outside the company to investigate state utility regulators, challenge their impartiality and post negative comments about them and the governor on the Internet.

FPL strongly denies it is using secret tactics to help its case. Concerned that its rate case is in trouble, FPL has launched television ads, a new website -- -- written guest newspaper columns and made editorial board visits to push the message that the company has the lowest electric bills in the state.

But it is the behind-the-scenes effort, and using employee time to lobby the governor, that is troubling to some FPL employees, sources within the company said. FPL's negative effort -- which seems to pit the company against the commissioners who decide its fate -- does not appear to violate any laws but has caused dissent within its ranks.

Some employees say executives are blaming everyone -- the governor, Tallahassee politics and the media -- but themselves for the faltering rate case as they try to protect shareholder profits. The employees spoke to The Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times on condition their names not be disclosed.

``Most of my team see this as something of our company's own fault,'' said one FPL manager, who reported being among dozens of employees who were briefed on the plan orally to avoid a paper trail. ``We failed to appreciate the plight of customers and yet we still are seeking to raise their rates, all in the name of long-term investment, when it is our shareholders who will benefit from all of this. A lot of my employees are demoralized and embarrassed before our customers.'' Read full story here.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:09pm]


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