Home > Uncategorized > In Another Attack On Renewable Energy, NJ Spotlight Calls Corporate Front Group A “Nonpartisan Research Group”

In Another Attack On Renewable Energy, NJ Spotlight Calls Corporate Front Group A “Nonpartisan Research Group”

Spotlight’s Credibility Being Shredded As They Parrot Corporate Propaganda

Garden State Initiative, Led By Gov. Christie’s Chief of Staff, Has Ties To Wall Street And Right Wing Think Tanks

[Update below]

I’ve become increasingly disgusted by NJ Spotlight’s coverage of energy, climate, and environmental issues.

Today’s story by Tom Johnson is so over the top and misleading that it demands a response

I’ve written numerous critiques of the coverage by Jon Hurdle, so won’t mention that today.

Many energy stories by Tom Johnson repeat exaggerated and typically fact free claims about the purported high costs of renewable energy, with rare or no mention whatsoever of the benefits (as avoided costs) of climate chaos and pollution, or the huge subsidies to fossil fuels.

Never mentioned is the quasi-monopoly corporate power over energy production, transmission, distribution and the corporate capture and essential privatization of “regulation” (e.g. PJM is a private corporate entity, with little transparency, no public participation, and no public accountability)

Readers are never informed of the associated corporate profits and investor rates of return. Ditto the the role and profits of Wall Street finance, Bond Counsel, and consulting firms.

The notion of public power is virtually taboo – despite the fact that energy co-operatives and publicly owned power are significant features in the history and current national energy picture (I’m now reading Dennis Kucinich’s new book “The Division of Light and Power” which provides incredibly important historical material on corrupt corporate energy behavior – a review of the relevance of that for today’s climate and energy policy forthcoming here).

The framing of these stories relies on false narratives and implicit ideological biases (pro-market, pro-business, anti-regulatory, anti-government) and the sources cited are often similarly biased and their conflicts of interest are rarely if ever disclosed.

These issues are subtle and often well disguised, because Tom Johnson is a veteran journalist who knows how to manipulate readers and how to dodge the wrath of the people who pull Spotlight’s strings (i.e. donors, WNYC Board, PSE&G, etc).

But today’s story was overt propaganda and beyond the pale and hence must be responded to.

Let’s start with the headline:

The “non-partisan” claim is factually false and the “price on clean energy” is misleading.

Specifically, repeating the “non-partisan” headline lie, the NJ Spotlight story goes even further and describes the Garden State Initiative thusly:

A nonpartisan research group has called on the Murphy administration to put a hold on approving key components of its Energy Master Plan until the public learns the likely price tag and what it will cost ratepayers to transition to a clean-energy economy.

Let me untangle the several lies in that one opening paragraph. (each false or misleading phrase is in boldface)

1. The “Garden State Initiative” is not a non-partisan group.

The President of GSI is Regina Egea, who served as Chief of Staff to former Republican right wing Governor Chris Christie.

NJ Spotlight clearly knows and has reported that and also knows that Ms. Egea was implicated in the Christie Bridgegate scandal. 

Readers should know all that too and not be told that this Report is produced by some objective and independent research outfit in search of truth or promoting the public interest.

2. What the GSI produces can not be described as “research”.

The “Reports” that GSI produces are corporate propaganda.

The Board of Directors of GSI is all corporate, Wall Street finance, hedge funds and real estate, with links to right wing think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, and right wing backed initiatives like the Charter Schools movement.  Per Sourcewatch:

The Manhattan Institute (MI) is a right-wing 501(c)(3) non-profit think tank founded in 1978 by William J. Casey, who later became President Ronald Reagan‘s CIA director.[1] It is an associate member of the State Policy Network.

The GSI bio’s reveal the Manhattan Institute’s corporate agenda and propaganda methods:

The [Manhattan] Institute has expanded its work with civic leaders in New York and across the country to promote free-market solutions to urban policy problems.

Board member Tom Healy was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration (another partisan affiliation as well an ideological and corporate agenda).

Bob Hugin was part of “Choose NJ” the controversial political group linked to Gov. Christie (another partisan affiliation that certainly was not doing “research”).

Take a look at the bio’s of GSI Board members.

Now take a look at the “Reports” issued by GSI.  They can not be characterized as “non -partisan” or “research”.

They are all right wing attacks on government. They all reflect corporate economic and ideological interests and advance Republican partisan interests. The policies they advocate would impose a discredited right wing austerity policy on the people of New Jersey.

3. “until the public learns”?

Use of that language implies that the GSI promotes transparency, public participation, accountability and democracy and that the public “learns” of the context and relevant facts, when just the opposite is true.

This GSI group and its agenda are all about stealth, dark money, and disguising corporate interests in a way to subvert democracy and advance corporate interests.

We recently learned exactly how that game is played with candid admissions from the mouth of Exxon’s own lobbyist.

4. “price tag on what it will cost ratepayers”

There are several misleading dimensions buried in this language.

First, it implies that it is non-controversial and appropriate to put a price tag on everything and that price is all that matters. That premise effectively would commodify human life and the environment. Those premises are at the core of what is known as Neoliberalism, which is an ideology.

Second, ratepayers are just one faction involved in the issues surrounding transition to renewable energy. There are the interests of taxpayers, consumers, non-market participants, the public interest, and the integrity of public health and environment.

Third, the costs and implications of climate chaos are totally ignored. Any costs to ratepayers are only relevant in relation to the benefits to ratepayers, as well as benefits to society and the environment as a whole. There are short and long term benefits and avoided costs that are far more significant than short term ratepayer costs.

5. “clean energy economy”

The issues at play are not limited to a transition to a “clean energy economy”. Economy” is a narrow construct.

The renewable energy transition is about far broader issues, including, democracy, society, and the environment.

Again, the narrow focus exposes the Neoliberal corporate ideology that is operating and becoming increasingly transparent.

In light of these egregious fact errors and Spotlight’s promotion of misleading propaganda, I just fired off this email to NJ Spotlight co-founder John Mooney:

John – TJ’s story today describes the Garden State Initiative as a “nonpartisan research group”.

The President of GSI is Regina Egea, Gov., Christie’s Chief of Staff. The other employees have Republican and corporate backgrounds.

The Board is corporate, Wall Street finance, and links to Manhattan Institute, a right wing ideological front for billionaires.

Please tell your readers who these people are.

An ask TJ to report on the costs of climate chaos – costs of renewables are only relevant in context of “benefits” (avoided costs). He keeps reporting misinformation.

Your credibility is being shredded.


[Update – a knowledgeable reader takes me to task:

You missed the point! The same groups people supported the nuclear subsidy – they have zero credibility on consumer issues.

Ouch! I didn’t go there because Spotlight did mention the nuke subsidy in their story – but, as this reader notes, Spotlight did not point out the hypocrisy and lack of credibility issue. ~~~ end]

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