LONG BEACH (coup2k.com) April 7, 2001 -- In Thursday's Action Alert, "Mandatory Minimums" for BBBR Resistance Fighters, The Diva neglected to mention her response to a true tale of corporate political meddling run amok -- one which played a role in securing the Republican presidential nomination for you-know-who.
I forgot to mention one of my darker moments in consumer activism:
Living in California, where consumers were the deregulation guinea pigs for the nation, I had the option to pick a private company to deliver my electric service. I chose Green Mountain Energy. They talked a good game. They sounded green. They sounded like my kind of company. I thought that by choosing them as my provider, I would be doing a positive thing.
Then the 2000 primary campaign began in earnest, and there was that very company's owner and founder, going through shell organizations, spending wads to buy big advertising and 'issue advocacy' ads for you-know-who.
I was LIVID.
Turned out all this guy cared about was his bottom line, and deregulating would help him... So...
Well, by now you all know how dereg turned out in California. (My electric bill shot from $150 a month last spring to $600, and I don't even have central air! I raised holy hell, let me tell you, but it didn't do a bit of good.)
Where was I? Oh, yes. So, I was watching TV that spring, and there was the owner of Green Mountain Energy, on CNN (I think), talking to the anchor, explaining how his spending millions of dollars to run pro-Bush ads made perfect sense, because BUSH IS A FRIEND OF THE ENVIRONMENT!
(I'm from Texas, for the love of Bill, so that is one lie I would never fall for in a trillion years... Not in a bazillion-gazillion years, come to think of it.)
So, I jumped up and down and screamed and vented for a few minutes -- excellent aerobic activity -- until I calmed down enough to dial the phone. Then I called up the customer service line for Green Mountain. I had to hold for hours (I'm not exaggerating) waiting for a CS rep, because California consumers whose bills were skyrocketing were calling in to find out what in the hell they were supposed to do... What if they couldn't pay? Who has an extra few hundred dollars a month lying around? Could they charge it to their credit card? Get an extension? Pay it out on an installment plan?
So, while I was holding, I got to listen to their recorded message, the one that said it was not THEIR fault that electric prices had gone stratospheric. Please go to their website and read all about it. Yada, yada, yada...
I almost had to start aerobi-venting again...
Anyway, after a holding for a few hours, and switching from my cordless (which ran out of juice), to my other cordless (which ran out of juice), to my hands-free corded headset phone (which I had to take off because it was interfering with my pacing and swearing), to my regular old desk phone...
The rep came on the line. I was polite to him. Scary polite. I explained that I needed to cancel my service as soon as possible, please.
He started in with the spiel about the prices not being their fault, and I stopped him COLD. I told him that I wasn't canceling my account over THAT. I asked him if he was aware that the owner of HIS company was just on TV, explaining his reasoning for being a Big-Bush-Backer-Benefactor and Ad-Sugar-Daddy. I asked him if he knew that his BOSS was on TV saying that Bush would be a Great Environmental President.
He said, and I quote, "Uh-oh." Then he said something to the effect of, "Then it's gone public. Let me see if they have put something up on the website addressing this..."
He came back on the line to tell me that the company would have an explanation online soon. I informed him that there was no acceptable explanation. I told him that I was amazed, their customer base being what it was, that more people weren't calling to cancel their service, like I was.NEXT: Carl's Letter to Alice, and to America
Then he said, and I will never forget this, that they were losing customers left and right. (My feeling was, it was probably mostly left...) "It's a 'Code 39'," he said. That was the code, he explained, that CS reps were told to enter on the account screen of clients calling to cancel their accounts in response to the political activity of the company's founder on behalf of Bush.
So, I 'Code 39'-ed Green Mountain that very day. And within just a few days, Wyly was in the press again, taking back his earlier threats to spend even more money during the General Election campaign, attacking Al Gore.
So, maybe 'Code 39'-ing the company did some good. Not enough good, as it turns out, to outweigh all the bad that happened on November 7th and after... But it's the thought that counts, right?
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