FPL CEO, other execs dine at White House – on their own dimeby Dara Kam | October 9th, 2009
FPL Group CEO Lew Hay and three other chief executives broke bread with President Barack Obama yesterday in the president’s private dining room.
But taxpayers needn’t worry about picking up the tab for the Hay and the bosses of Amazon.com, Kraft and Eastman Kodak.
The Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Williamson blogged that the four chiefs whipped out their credit cards at the end of a sandwich and salad luncheon “for the same price as the going rate outside the walls of the White House.”
It was the third Dutch-treat lunch hosted by the president at the White House, Williamson reported.
Obama’s no-free-lunch policy is meant to reflect the administration’s harsh view of coziness between elected officials and special interests.
That attitude is also reflected in Florida’s gift ban laws that make it illegal for legislators or their staff from accepting goodies of any sort – including meals, beverages and even after-dinner mints – from lobbyists or for lobbyists to give them.
Former Senate President Tom Lee pushed the 2005 lobbying law that also requires lobbyists to disclose how much money their clients pay them. The Florida lobbyist association challenged the law, and after losing several rounds in court so far, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to find it an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.
FPL executives should be quite familiar with scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest.
Florida Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of Hay’s FPL Group, is in the midst of several rate cases clouded by suspicions of coziness between the Juno Beach-based utility’s executives and the regulators that set the rates.
Last month, the Public Service Commission’s lobbyist Ryder Rudd resigned after revealing he had attended a Kentucky Derby party at Florida Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of FPL Group, vice president Ed Tancer’s Palm Beach Gardens home. Rudd, who had a hand in several FPL rate cases pending before the commission, quit after an internal investigation could not prove he had done anything wrong.
Last week, Gov. Charlie Crist effectively fired two sitting utility regulators who were questioned about potential ethics violations.
Public Service Commissioner Katrina McMurrian, whose term ends on Dec. 31, walked off the job after Crist passed her over for reappointment. She was criticized for being a panelist at an energy conference and going to a dinner that FPL executives also attended.
PSC Chairman Matthew Carter, also bypassed for reappointment, put his aide William Garner on paid administrative leave after news reports showed that Garner had exchanged secret BlackBerry messages with an FPL lawyer.
Check out this post for more PSC intrigue.