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Why Energy Bills Are Sky-Rocketing In Florida

DeSantis is embroiled in another major corruption scandal, and Floridians are paying the price.

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Video produced and edited by Jordan Zakarin and Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is at the center of yet another major political scandal. DeSantis appointees have allowed the state’s largest power company Florida Power & Light to increase Floridians’ utility rates by billions, all while the power company runs a vast effort to buy Republican control of the state. Below is a full transcript of the video.

Alissa Schaffer: There’s a huge political scandal unfolding across Florida that’s almost too outrageous to believe, even for Florida.

[News clip]: One of the most powerful power companies in the country…

[News clip]: Planted candidates in Senate races across Florida.

[News clip]: Political committees with dark, untraceable money.

[News clip]: Spying on a local journalist.

[News clip]: The latest utility bill from Florida Power and Lightis through the roof.

Alissa: This scandal involves millions of dollars in corporate money, billions of dollars in corporate revenue and profit, and reaches all the way up to Governor Ron DeSantis, roping in the vast majority of the state government along with him.

Alissa: Florida Power and Light, or FPL, is the biggest power company in the state, serving approximately 12 million people. FPL is also one of the biggest political spenders in the state, and that is how FPL has been able to gouge working class Floridians over $1.5 billion in rate increases over the next couple of years.

[News clip]: Get ready to pay more for your power.

[News clip]: Florida Power and Light customers across northwest Florida say they’re worried about their bills.

[News clip]: Like right now, my bill is $569 for this month. That’s not a late payment. That’s an actual payment.

Alissa: And FPL can’t blame these high bills on inflation, because the company also leads the nation in shareholder and executive profit.

Alissa: Many of FPL’s political contributions are shuffled through shady LLCs and big business PACs.

Alissa: But even just from the public numbers, we know that FPL has spent over $18 million on political campaigns in Florida since the 2018 election cycle. And it’s probably a lot more than that.

Alissa: 2018 was a blue wave across the nation. But here in Florida, thanks to millions of dollars from FPL, Republicans were able to secure a stronghold on the state, putting Governor Ron DeSantis in the governor’s mansion and securing a supermajority in the state legislature.

Alissa: FPL also spends millions on lobbying to make sure that that company gets more than its money’s worth from DeSantis and the legislature.

Jason Garcia: Here’s the crazy thing. Florida Power and Light isn’t getting what it wants just by making millions of dollars in campaign contributions and leveraging its political connections.

Jason: Investigative journalists across Florida have uncovered a web of deceptive election schemes with consultants for Florida Power and Light at the center of it all.

Jason: For instance, back in 2019, FPL’s CEO, a guy by the name of Eric Silagy, was furious with a Democratic state senator from Miami named Jose Javier Rodriguez. He was an environmentalist.

[José Javier Rodriguez]: You know, I’ve been working on consumer issues, clean energy issues about FPL my entire time in the legislature.

Jason: After Rodriguez filed yet another solar power bill that Silagy didn’t like, Silagy personally emailed his lobbyists and told them to make Rodriguez’s life a living hell. And that’s exactly what FPL’s paid consultants did.

Jason: They provided the money for what’s become known in Florida as the ‘ghost’ candidate scandal. 

[News clip]: Growing list of investigations into ‘ghost’ candidates.

[News clip]: A scheme to run sham candidates in three Senate races.

Jason: These FPL consultants and other Republican operatives ran hundreds of thousands of dollars through dark money organizations to advertise these random people who had been put on the ballot as spoiler candidates, allowing the Republicans to swoop in and win all three races.

Jason: They did this to Jose Javier Rodriguez with a guy named Alex Rodriguez. 

[News clip]: Looking for Alexis Rodriguez.

[News clip]: Alex isn’t here.

[News clip]: Hours after this visit, we learned that was Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez got 3% of the vote. 6300 plus voters.

Jason: Jose Javier Rodriguez lost his reelection by 32 votes. Some of these same consultants were involved in yet another spoiler candidate scheme that helped Republicans win a fourth seat in 2018. 

Jason: That’s four Senate seats in four years. And Republicans now control a four seat majority in the Florida Senate.

Alissa: FPL is supposed to be governed by independent experts at the Florida Public Service Commission.

Alissa: But guess who appoints those commissioners?

Alissa: Yep.

Alissa: Governor Ron DeSantis.

Alissa: So, Ron DeSantis, who did not forget how the Republicans came into power, was more than happy to appoint friends of FPL to that commission.

Alissa: In 2021, the commission gave FPL permission to increase monthly bills by over $1.5 billion over the next couple of years.

Alissa: Not only that, but FPL is also allowed to charge customers more if the price of energy continues to go up. And that’s exactly what’s happening right now.

Alissa: DeSantis also signed a law that allows FPL to charge customers even more for the cost of storm-proofing the infrastructure.

Alissa: Now, the sponsors and supporters of these pieces of legislation, they’re all at the top of FPL’s political contribution list.

Alissa: Shouldn’t there be somebody who oversees all of this, somebody who can wave a red flag when it starts to get out of control?

Alissa: Yep.

Alissa: That person is supposed to be the office of public council. 

Alissa: Unfortunately, Governor Ron DeSantis and the state legislature, after taking millions of dollars from FPL, passed new legislation that forced out what had been a good public counsel and replaced it with a former utility lobbyist.

Alissa: Yep.

Alissa: A former utility lobbyist is the one who is in charge of holding FPL accountable.

Jason: And FPL is continuing to spend millions of dollars on this year’s elections in Florida, from the race for governor to legislative seats around the state.

Jason: And these elections will have enormous consequences for Florida’s energy and climate future.

[News Clip]: Has Florida Power and Light crossed the line? Some are saying the public really doesn’t know who they’re doing business with.

Videography by Andres Rivera

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