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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Solar campaign scrubs social media sites after leaked audio



The political committee behind Amendment 1 on solar energy has scrubbed from its social media platforms nearly every reference to the James Madison Institute after revelations that the group’s policy director bragged in a leaked audio recording that the utility industry is using the amendment to deceive the public into thinking it is a pro-solar initiative.

Consumers for Smart Solar, a political committee financed primarily by the state's largest utilities, had prominently displayed a favorable voters guide prepared by JMI on its web site, and in most of its promotional materials for the last several months.

But nearly all references were deleted after the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reported that JMI’s policy director, Sal Nuzzo, was recorded calling the amendment “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they [pro-solar interests] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”

He said JMI was asked by Consumers for Smart Solar to conduct research into a rival attempt by solar advocates to end the ban on third-party leasing of solar panels because JMI represented “the adults in the room.” He described the subsequent utility-backed constitutional amendment as “political jiu jitsu” used to persuade voters to support restrictions on the expansion of solar by presenting the proposal as a pro-solar initiative.

The admission, made to a conference of conservative groups in Nashville Oct. 2, contradicted the pro-consumer message the utility-financed group has been pushing. It also confirmed to opponents that the amendment was designed to undercut attempts to allow third-party sales of rooftop solar equipment in Florida.

Consumers for Smart Solar spokesperson Sarah Bascom attempted damage control and denied the group ever coordinated with JMI to provide research to advance their position. JMI President Bob McClure told the Herald/Times on Wednesday that Nuzzo “misspoke” while speaking to an “unfamiliar, national audience.”

Consumers for Smart Solar on Thursday removed at least seven Tweets and eight Facebook posts referencing JMI, according to cached files collected by the energy watchdog group, Energy and Policy Institute and its ally, the Center for Media and Democracy. Story here. 

[Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2016 3:41pm]


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