RALEIGH – The administration of Gov. Roy Cooper thought they were being sly when they dumped nearly 20,000 pages of documents related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) deal right before Christmas. They were hoping that the documents would get lost among the holiday fervor, and talk of corruption and cronyism would fade along with 2018. Except, the media that are actually interested in getting to the bottom of what could be a damning corruption scandal didn’t play along. WBTV has uncovered scores of texts and documents that raise even more questions about how the Cooper administration used the power of their positions to benefit cronies and hold energy companies hostage to their demands.
When it was revealed that the state government approval of the ACP came with a near $58 million slush fund attached to it – a slush fund controlled by Gov. Roy Cooper – it was widely suspected, on both the Left and the Right, that a pay-to-play scheme had taken place. The implication of corruption was pretty straightforward; Cooper held the permit approval, the energy companies backing the proposed pipeline agreed to fund a a big pot of extra money for Cooper to use as he saw fit, and then, wallah, the permit was approved.
The new documents do not dispel that narrative. Instead they add another layer of possible corruption to it.
“Documents released by the Cooper Administration last month show senior staff delayed signing off on a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until Duke Energy, one of the pipeline’s major investors, reached a separate deal with solar companies that would, essentially, result in the utility giant purchasing more solar power.
The decision by Cooper and senior staff to use the pipeline permit as leverage to force Duke into cutting a deal with the state’s solar industry is documented in text messages, emails and memos included in a 19,216-page document dump released by the administration days before Christmas. [… ]”
We know that the Democrats, and Big Government Republicans, love their crony alternative energy mandates. For years North Carolina offered subsidies and property tax rebates such that the Old North State became the second largest solar state in the nation. That doesn’t happen unless the government is coercing taxpayers and utilities into supporting a green industry that cannot stand on its own.
So it’s no surprise that Cooper would force the issue by leveraging his power as governor. It’s also not surprising that his administration is scrambling to cover their tracks and rationalize what appears to be an abuse of government power.
“Cooper and his senior staff have said repeatedly that the decision to sign the pipeline MOU had nothing to do with the negotiations between Duke Energy and the solar industry.
Cooper reiterated as much when asked last week by a WBTV reporter about the relationship between the pipeline MOU and the solar negotiations with Duke.
“All completely separate issues,” Cooper said. “This issue regarding the disagreement with the renewable industry and the utilities is one that was going on before that issue with the permit and is still going on today.”
But text messages and documents released by the Governor’s Office in December show otherwise.
Cooper’s Press Secretary, Ford Porter, disputed the notion that the Governor’s Office delayed signing the MOU until an agreement was reached between Duke and the solar companies.
When a WBTV reporter referenced the text between Eudy and McKinney that contemplates delaying signing the MOU until an solar agreement is reached, Porter said that was about message.
“It’s about signing the MOU until the other thing is done,” Porter said “Ultimately, that was unable to occur.”
Porter continued to insist to a reporter that the timing of the pipeline MOU was, ultimately, not linked to a deal being reached between Duke and the solar companies because, he said, the two were announced in different days; a position he maintained when a reporter pointed out the MOU was announced on a Thursday and the Duke solar agreement was announced the following Monday. […]”
We’ve mentioned Ken Eudy before as the brain of the operations on Blount Street. These texts reveal what many suspected, that Eudy was in the middle of a lot of hostage taking and deal making related to the ACP negotiations. He’s the one that edited the MOU to ensure that the $58 million slush fund could only be used by Cooper. The legislature eventually took care of that party, passing legislation that made sure that money came through the State, and not merely the governor’s office, and directing it toward schools in the counties the pipeline would transit through.
By most accounts, Eudy is clever and very influential when it comes to Gov. Cooper. We’ve heard some lobbyists go so far as to refer to him as “Governor Eudy.” He’s going to have to reach deep to finagle Cooper out of this mess, though, as long as honest reporters keep asking simple questions about all of the red meat in this document dump.
Cooper should be asked about this every day. The legislature is right to be investigating the whole matter, regardless of whether or not Cooper cooperates. To learn more about the damning evidence of cronyism, read WBTV’s extensive report here.