American Thinker Scoops The New York Times
We never miss a chance to pay all due regard to the New York Times and what has become over the years (unprintable). But every once in a while, during slow summer days when editors of the paper are perhaps are on vacation, a story slips in that surprises us because it is not cheerleading for Democrats and Barack Obama in particular. One of those rare events happened this week, when the Times finally got around to noticing the close crony ties between Exelon, the Chicago-based utility giant, and Barack Obama.
From Eric Lipton:
Early in the Obama administration, a lobbyist for the Illinois-based energy producer Exelon Corporation proudly called it "the president's utility." And it was not just because it delivers power to Barack Obama's Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago.
Exelon's top executives were early and frequent supporters of Mr. Obama as he rose from the Illinois State Senate to the White House. John W. Rogers Jr., a friend of the president's and one of his top fund-raisers, is an Exelon board member. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's longtime political strategist, once worked as an Exelon consultant, and Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor and Mr. Obama's former chief of staff, helped create the company through a corporate merger in 2000 while working as an investment banker.
With energy an increasingly pivotal issue for the Obama White House, a review of Exelon's relationship with the administration shows how familiarity has helped foster access at the upper reaches of government and how, in some cases, the outcome has been favorable for Exelon.
White House records show that Exelon executives were able to secure an unusually large number of meetings with top administration officials at key moments in the consideration of environmental regulations that have been drafted in a way that hurt Exelon's competitors, but curb the high cost of compliance for Exelon and its industry allies.
In addition, Exelon, which provides power to more than 6.6 million customers in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia, was chosen as one of only six electric utilities nationwide for the maximum $200 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department. And when the Treasury Department granted loans for renewable energy projects, Exelon landed a commitment for up to $646 million allowing it, on extremely generous financial terms, to finance one of the world's largest photovoltaic solar projects.
The paper took note that Obama's War on Coal plays directly into the corporate hands of Exelon. Much of its electricity is derived from nuclear power plants.
The administration's tightening of clean air rules was a particular boon, since it took aim at Exelon's main competitors - coal-burning power plants in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions. In 2010, Exelon estimated it would earn an extra $400 million annually because the regulations would force dozens of coal-burning plants to close.
Those miners and assorted other workers who depend on the coal industry may no longer be working in the shafts, but they are getting the shaft -- courtesy of Barack Obama and the zealots he put in charge of the EPA and the Department of Interior.
The story identifies various Obama bundlers with close ties -- or employee relationships -- with Exelon. Its recently retired leader, John Rowe, had more White House visitors than any of the executives of leading utilities who were dependent on coal to power their generators.
Exelon worked with key Obama officials to actually toughen and accelerate the implementation of rules that would hurt the coal industry and harm competition in the electric generation industry -- all to the benefit of Exelon, which could then charge higher prices. Conversely, when there was a proposed rule dealing with water regulations (nuclear power plants take in and then discharge water once it is used to cool nuclear reactors), Exelon was able to derail implementation of the rule.
I uncovered much of this history last year in "Crony Capitalism and Obama's Anti-Coal Crusade" at American Thinker -- a piece that also took note of the role of David Axelrod in boosting Exelon's profits through a devious maneuver (few do devious better than the "Axe"). Years before Obama became president, David Axelrod ran a firm that specialized in creating astroturf groups. These are fake "grassroots" groups that are actually formed and funded by corporations or wealthy people such as George Soros. The astroturf group Axelrod created for the corporate predecessor of Exelon (Commonwealth Edison, a company once headed by the father of Bill Ayers) had the guise of being a citizen's group that argued in favor of allowing the giant utility to boost its rates, justifying its call for a rate boost by arguing that it would make power more reliable.
What citizens group calls for higher utility bills? A fake one funded by giant corporations and created by David Axelrod.
All to boost the fortunes of a utility company on the back of the citizens of Illinois (in another context, the 99%).
Crony capitalism -- alive and well in the swamps of Cook County and the august halls of the White House.
Nice of the New York Times to take note -- years too late.