Florida deregulation petitioners smacked with new legal controversy

by | Jun 25, 2019

Citizens for Energy Choices, a political group that is already embroiled in controversy over a push to deregulate Florida’s utility structure, has now been slapped with accusations of breach of contract by a former vendor, Linjen Corporation. The new allegations prompted prominent Republican media strategist Anthony Pedicini to pour gasoline on what was already a raging public relations dumpster fire.

In a letter, obtained by The Capitolist, Linjen Corporation accused Citizens for Energy Choices of poaching managers from the company and hiring them to compete against Linjen in an effort to bolster CEC’s internal signature gathering efforts while undermining Linjen’s, even as Linjen was working toward the same goal on behalf of CEC. An attorney for Linjen wrote that the company may also seek damages from Citizens for Energy Choices for the breaches.

Pedicini pointed to the letter from Linjen as further evidence that the deregulation group’s effort, led by Infinite Energy co-CEO’s Rich Blaser and Darin Cook, are engaged in little more than a “sham” and that their deregulation push was little more than an effort to enrich themselves by deceiving Florida voters.

“This latest revelation of shady practices by Rich Blaser, his business partner, Darin Cook and their minion Alex Patton, strike at the heart of what everyone opposed to CEC and their amendment have been saying,” Pedicini said.  “No one should be surprised at the allegations.  Their entire effort has been a sham; a campaign of lies promising hard working people something that will never happen. Blaser and Darin Cook’s real goal is to enrich themselves by taking over Florida’s energy market at the expense of hard working Floridians.”

Blaser did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

Alex Patton, the executive director for Citizens for Energy Choices, the group backed by Blaser and Cook, confirmed that the contract between CEC and Linjen had been terminated, but denied the allegations in the letter from Linjen and declined to comment further “due to potential pending litigation.”

The letter, sent by Linjen’s attorney, Harry Teichman, asks Patton to provide Linjen with CEC’s “formative documents” that might offer evidence that Patton had the authority to execute a contract in the first place. The letter also makes three specific allegations that the breaches include, but are not limited to:

  1. Independently soliciting and obtaining of Linjen’s managers and independent contractors that were disclosed to CEC in the course of executing the contract
  2. Using such personnel to compete with Linjen in obtaining signatures for the petition
  3. Hiring other companies to compete with Linjen with respect to the contract

The breach of contract allegations are only the latest wrinkle in what has proven to be a tumultuous attempt to gather signatures supporting a ballot initiative that would radically alter Florida’s existing energy utility infrastructure.

CEC’s petition language was approved in October 2018, but they have struggled to gather the signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot — collecting less than half of what is needed in nine months. And last month, Governor Ron Desantis signed HB5, which places new restrictions on the signature gathering process which could slow collections even further. At the same time, a phalanx of bipartisan groups have filed briefs at Florida’s supreme court in opposition to the effort, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has called the effort “misleading.”

Now, for the second time in as many weeks, CEC finds itself suffering an embarrassing public relations setback with a potential campaign partner.  Earlier this month, CEC wound up in a public squabble with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) when the two sides failed to reach an agreement to work together on the proposed ballot initiative. It was that failure which first drew Pedicini’s ire.

Pedicini told Politico that SACE’s offer to support CEC’s ballot measure was contingent on independent research conducted by SACE to determine if CEC’s proposed ballot measure “would promote clean energy as supporters claimed.” According to Politico:

SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith said his group ultimately chose not to support the ballot initiative because its research showed that the proposal could hurt clean energy in Florida.

“People should not be fooled and, if they signed a petition, they should know they put at risk our cheap utility prices, our booming economy and our ability to recover after a hurricane for one company’s get rich quick scheme,” Pedicini said.


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