Former Mo. speaker helps oppose nuclear plant bill

> (The Associated Press) - Apr 8 - By CHRIS BLANK Associated Press
> Writer
> Electric consumers across Missouri are receiving phone calls and
> fliers suggesting they should be wary of legislation designed to help
> AmerenUE build a second nuclear power plant.
> They're coming from former Republican House Speaker Rod Jetton,
> who left office just three months ago but now is a political
> consultant helping coordinate the opposition to one of biggest
> legislative issues of the year.
> Jetton's firm has formed Missourians Against Higher Utility Rates
> to help New Madrid-based Noranda Aluminum Inc. fight legislation
> desired by St.
> Louis-based AmerenUE.
> A bill pending in the Senate would let utilities charge customers
> for the financing costs of new renewable-energy and reduced-emission
> power plants while the facilities are under construction. A 1976
> voter- approved law currently requires utilities to wait until the
> plants start producing electricity before billing customers.
> Jetton's involvement was the impetus for two senators to accuse
> each other of acting in line with political consultants during a more
> than 10-hour debate that ended early Wednesday morning without a vote.
> Freshman Sen. Kurt Schaefer wrote many of the provisions in the
> bill.
> He said one of the measure's most vocal critics, Sen. Jason Crowell,
> objected to the legislation on orders from Jetton, who is also a
> political consultant for Crowell.
> Schaefer, in a heated exchange with Crowell, said that "robo-
> calls" in his district about the bill were coming from Crowell's
> campaign office.
> Schaefer, R-Columbia, later insinuated that Crowell was being
> insincere in his assertions that the bill would cause consumer
> electric rates to climb.
> "Don't act like this is affecting your rates and that's why
> you're concerned," Schaefer said.
> Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, denied any knowledge of robo-calls.
> Crowell
> then accused Schaefer of doing the bidding of political consultants
> Jeff Roe and David Barklage, who Crowell said "hate Rod Jetton."
> Barklage, who also is listed as a lobbyist for AmerenUE, did not
> immediately return a call left at his Cape Girardeau-based company.
> Roe, a Republican political consultant who worked for U.S. Rep.
> Sam
> Graves before starting Axiom Strategies, declined to state whether any
> of his clients are involved in the utility legislation. Roe said
> Wednesday that senators would be better served to focus on the details
> of the bill.
> "I don't think any political consultants have anything to do with
> the very serious legislation before the Senate," Roe said.
> Jetton denied pulling strings to get Crowell to oppose the bill.
> Jetton said the opposition is related not to the need for a second
> nuclear plant but how consumers would be billed for it. He said the
> opposition is organized like a political campaign, trying to increase
> public awareness.
> "We think it's bad; we think it should be changed," Jetton said.
> "In no way am I trying to cause any elected official trouble or put
> anyone in a bad light."
> Missourians Against Higher Utility Rates has mailed items and set
> up "tele-town halls" in which people are called and asked to remain on
> the line for an expert on the bill's provisions. After the
> presentation, participants can dial-in to ask questions.
> "We're not trying to deceive anyone, we're trying to be upfront
> and honest about it," Jetton said.
> Jetton said the new committee's name is included in any phone
> calls, along with a telephone number registered to the political
> consulting firm.
> A direct mailing piece slotted for a residence in Schaefer's
> senatorial district features various quotes from media accounts, the
> names of groups opposing the utility legislation, the phone number for
> Schaefer's Capitol office and a disclosure that Missourians Against
> Higher Utility Rates paid for piece.