JMI director says staffer 'misspoke' about utility industry's misleading solar ballot strategy
The head of the think tank that provided research for a utility-backed solar amendment on the November ballot, said his policy director “misspoke” when he characterized the effort as a strategy to deceive voters into thinking the plan was a pro-solar amendment.
Robert McClure, executive director of the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, responded to to a report in the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that the policy director of JMI, Sal Nuzzo, admitted at a conference this month that the industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.
“At an event with an unfamiliar, national audience, Mr. Nuzzo generalized his commentary and misspoke in reference to JMI partnering with Consumers for Smart Solar in any capacity,” McClure said in a statement.
McClure said his organization never received funding from the political committee formed by the state’s largest utilities to oppose a solar-industry backed initiative and promote a rival amendment of their own. He said that “no one funds individual studies. People support our mission generally and we decide internally what topics we’re going to weigh in on.”
“JMI has never worked with or received funding from Consumers for Smart Solar,” McClure said in a statement. “We have released policy positions on both solar amendments and have publicly spoken on the pros and cons of each.”
McClure would not comment on whether or not the utility industry or its supporters provided financing for JMI before it embarked on the research that is now being promoted by the political committee financed by the utility industry, but he denied there was a link.
Nuzzo spoke to the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville on Oct. 2, and called Amendment 1, the proposal backed by the industry, “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they [pro-solar interests] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”
The hourlong audio recording of the event was supplied to the Herald/Times by the left-leaning Center for Media and Democracy and the Energy and Policy Institute. In it, Nuzzo claimed that it was the political committee that approached the think tank.
“So Consumers for Smart Solar came to JMI and said you guys are the adults in the room, you’re the ones that have access to the research, to the scholars, to the SPN, to a lot of the national organizations, we need some help because not only are they going to get the 700,000signatures to get it on the ballot, it’s actually polling in the 70 percent range,’’ he said.
Nuzzo then told the group that the utility-backed amendment was motivated in part by the popularity of the solar industry’s proposal and their ability to win the support of free-market advocates and local businesses interested in putting rooftop solar on their property. Story here.