By Melanie Sloan
Sloan is a former federal prosecutor and past executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. She currently works as a political consultant in Washington, D.C.
Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s former attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate, has been selected by the Trump administration to lead the President’s controversial immigration program, at the Department of Homeland Security.
As he takes on this new role, to better understand Cuccinelli’s values, it is worth looking at what he has been up to in Virginia.
Recently, a new campaign to deregulate Virginia’s electricity markets, got underway and announced that Ken Cuccinelli, had joined their coalition.
It is surprising that Cuccinelli — a once-favored political candidate of the Koch Brothers for his support of dirty fossil fuels — agreed to front for an organization devoted to an environmentalist cause to increase the use of renewable energy in Virginia.
Cuccinelli joined the Virginia Energy Reform Coalition, which consists of groups on both sides of the political spectrum — united around a push in the state legislature to deregulate Virginia’s electricity markets. Or, in other words, take away Dominion Energy’s right to be the sole provider of electricity in the Commonwealth.
The rationale, according to pro-deregulation supporters, is that creating competition for Dominion Energy, will incentivize new energy companies to enter Virginia and scale up the use of clean, renewable power and offer ratepayers lower prices.
In the press release announcing this new group, Cuccinelli is quoted: “Shrinking the control of the government-imposed electricity monopoly means more citizens’ control, more choices, more innovation and lower prices….”
Included in the “choice” and “innovation” is clean electricity produced by wind and solar. But it’s no surprise he doesn’t mention the actual environment, because Cuccinelli has been a leader in the movement to deny the existence of climate change.
When Cuccinelli was attorney general, he subpoenaed Michael Mann, a former University of Virginia professor and climate scientist, to bolster a civil lawsuit accusing Mann of fraud, under the pretense that Mann — part of a global cabal of climate scientists — manipulated data to create the illusion of global warming. Hence, when Mann applied for federal grants to fund his research, he was attempting to defraud the government.
After a Virginia judge ruled against Cuccinelli’s ridiculous subpoena, Mann told the Washington Post: “It is a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically-motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests.”
While Cuccinelli was unsuccessful in his efforts to prove climate scientists are conspiring to fool the planet into believing in climate change, there is a great deal of actual fraud associated with deregulating electricity markets.
A press release issued by the Massachusetts Attorney General explains: “Citing aggressive sales tactics, false promises of cheaper electric bills and the targeting of low-income, elderly, and minority residents, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued a report calling for an end to the competitive electricity supply market for individual residential customers in Massachusetts.”
Regrettably, Massachusetts’ experience with electricity deregulation isn’t an aberration. Attorneys General in both Illinois and Connecticut have issued similar statements about the preponderance of shady power companies.
Maybe why Cuccinelli agreed to take this new role as an environmental advocate, before he decided to join the Trump administration, is because he recently joined North Carolina lobbying firm Kairos Government Affairs, clients of which include renewable energy companies that might financially benefit from electric deregulation in Virginia, North Carolina and other states.
So, it’s curious that progressive groups have joined the Virginia Energy Reform Coalition, placing them in league with an avowed climate change denier. Unless Cuccinelli has suddenly become woke on the climate crisis, something is amiss. Though Cuccinelli will leave this coalition – to lead Donald Trump’s aggressive campaign against immigrants — Virginians should be suspicious of this new supposed environmental group that thought Cuccinelli was a good fit.