Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bombshell E-Mails Reveal IURC's Current Chairman As Cozy With Duke As His Predecessor

Gov. Mitch Daniels had to know these e-mails were coming. The question is why he hasn't removed Jim Atterholt as the Chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. I'm talking about new e-mails uncovered by the Star's John Russell that show Atterholt, like his predecessor, has a cozy relationship with Duke Energy's executives and personally lobbied the utility on its personnel decisions, including a candidate for the head of the giant utility's Indiana operations.

Indiana's top utility regulator sent a private email last year to a top executive at Duke Energy Corp., recommending "confidentially, just between you and me" that the utility hire his personal choice as president of its Indiana operations.
James Atterholt, chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, wrote that the hiring decision was "none of my business," but he hoped the company would consider his candidate, then a lobbyist for Duke.
The Indianapolis Star obtained the email, along with scores of others to and from Atterholt, in an open-records request and from other public documents. In addition to lobbying Duke on a personnel matter, Atterholt:
Met privately for lunch and dinner with Duke executives, including James Rogers, the company's chairman and chief executive, while the company had numerous issues pending before the commission.
Is characterized in an email by a Duke executive as giving his blessing to the company's controversial hiring of the commission's top lawyer and chief administrative law judge, Scott Storms.
Regularly sent warm notes to Duke executives, inviting them to call him "at any time" for help . . .

Atterholt's defense of his unethical conduct is incredibly weak.  "It is important to build relationships and to foster an environment where these views are respected and heard," he wrote in an e-mail to the Star. How could he possibly think he can keep an arm's length role as the head of the IURC if he's lobbying them to hire his friends in key jobs and dining with the company's executives? It's none of his business who the company employs, and he should know the only thing that can be read into his recommendations is that he will view the company's issues more favorably if they hire his friends for jobs at the utility. "I think it's another indicator of how flawed the system is," said Kerwin Olson, interim executive director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, a longtime critic of Duke and the IURC. "The line between a regulator and utilities is so blurred it's almost nonexistent."

For those of you holding out hope that the U.S. Attorney's office in Indianapolis is going to do anything about the fact that the utilities have the IURC in their back pocket, you can forget it. The Duke Energy folks have Joe Hogsett in their back pocket. Hogsett is good friends with Duke's CEO Jim Rogers and its former top executive, Jim Turner. They have supported his past political campaigns and he's not about to go after his good friends. That leaves Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. Yeah, don't hold your breath.

I hope John Russell has requested all of Carolene Mays' e-mails. Everyone knows she was appointed to the IURC as a favor to her uncle, Bill Mays, a political backer of Daniels who is a director for Vectren Corporation, among other things. You may recall that another Mays relative got busted by the SEC for insider trading while Mays was serving on the board of First Indiana Corporation because she got tipped off by someone about the bank's pending acquisition by M&I. Naturally, no criminal charges were brought in the case. Mays told the IBJ's Greg Andrews at the time, "You would be shocked by the number of people” he was asked by SEC investigators to identify from a list of people suspected of insider trading that he knew. “It reads like a who’s who of Indianapolis.” Mays also serves on Wellpoint's board of directors.

If you haven't figured this out yet, you don't get appointed to the IURC unless you are approved by the utility industry. That's been true under Republican and Democratic governors alike. Why the news media in this state has been so slow to come to that conclusion is anyone's guess.


Cato said...

This is how Indiana runs.

When will you stop being shocked by this?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Who says I'm shocked?

Marycatherine Barton said...

It has been two years since Jim Kouri published his analysis of personality traits common to two professions, done while he served as a vice-president of the Natl. Assn. of Chiefs of Police, and based on law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI's behavioral analysis unit.

These traits are: superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse, and manipulation of others.

Yes, he found that they are common to psychopathic serial killers and to American politicians. Please Indiana, stop voting for psychopaths.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Why, MB, that sounds just like Herr DOK-TOR Straub. He's a DOK-TOR, you know. And forces people to address him as such.
He's from New York, you know.

timb said...

Although I agree about the IURC being a bi-partisanship racket, I think Indiana's corruption, like Illinois next door, is because it's a one-party state. The Republican Party owns the State institutions (here, I'm looking at some good ol' boy like Jim Shella) and for years owned the typical watchdog (the Star under the Pulliams).

The solution to these problems is obvious here and elsewhere, don't let a party machine run your state or city. Corruption follows.

Oh, and utilities are always corrupt, no matter what

PS Let's hope you are wrong about Mr. Hogsett, but I doubt you are

Paul K. Ogden said...


I don't know why you say we have a one party state. That is demonstrably false. The Democrats her are weak, but they definitely offer competition and often elect U.S. Senators, U.S. reps and state wide elected officials.They also until recent had control of the Indiana House. Indiana is definitely not a one party state.

Hoosier in the Heartland said...

Politicians are grifters, no matter which political party.....

Unigov said...

As part of the Citizens Gas expropriation of the Water Company:

* The City transferred owbership of the Sewer Dept to a new chimera acting as holding company and political entity. State law does not permit this, the law is very specific.

* Morgan Stanley, which put together this deal and the Parking Meter Mess, used the ruse that the Water Company assets were Surplus Property in order to get around the legal requirement for open bidding on assets. Thus, Geist Reservoir itself was rendered 'surplus' under a law set up to facilitates the sale of mundane items like old computers and orange barrels among small towns.