December 16, 2013 9:01:40 AM
I heard two interesting political figures speak last week: one state and one national.
Steve Renfroe is the governor's new appointment to the three-member Public Service Commission (PSC). Renfroe's appointment has been a hot topic because he is the swing vote on the controversial $5 billion Kemper power plant - the biggest construction project in the history of our state.
Renfroe, a former public relations official for Chevron, seemed to me an honorable, steady, pleasant man. Unfortunately, the Kemper disaster needs a proactive consumer advocate, of which Renfroe is not. Look to Renfroe to be a Kemper supporter, at least in the near term.
The problem with Renfroe is he is a public relations guy. PR guys are always defending the big companies when they get in trouble. That's what they do. When the newspapers start sniffing around, the PR guys run cover. Look for him to do the same for Southern Company. It's what he's done all his life.
At one point, Renfroe questioned why PSC commissioners couldn't meet in private behind closed doors to sort out complex issues. This seems like a stupid law, he said. Oh boy. This is not a good sign.
It's interesting how government regulatory agencies such as the PSC change over time. They start out protecting the consumer as they are charged to do. But over time they get co-opted by the very industries they are set up to regulate. I can remember studying this very issue in government class in college.
The Wall Street Journal, on its front page, called Kemper a "calamity." Webster's dictionary defines calamity as "a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering."
Kemper was proposed, pushed and built by the Southern Company. It is their disaster. They should pay for it. Not innocent Mississippi ratepayers. Southern should not be permitted to charge its customers 50 percent higher electricity prices than Entergy or TVA.
The federal official I heard speak was Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan at the Country Club of Jackson. Ryan was the U.S. vice presidential nominee in the 2012 election.
Ryan was in Mississippi to raise money for the 2014 congressional mid-term elections. He said the entire Obama fund-raising machine "about which I am intimately familiar" is now focused on taking back the U.S. House of Representatives.
I was a Ryan fan from the get go and my chance to talk one-on-one with him at length has made me even more so. He is smart, polite, humble, earnest, honest, hard working, fit, faithful, patriotic ... I could go on and on. I am just a huge fan. So sad that a young man like this is not immediately embraced by the American people.
No scandals. No divorces. No womanizing. No corruption. Just great honest American values.
The more Mississippians know Ryan the more they will like him. There was a priceless moment in which several Mississippi deer hunters were comparing big buck trail cam photos on their smart phones with Ryan.