The Alabama Media Group (AL.com) confronted Alabama Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Company, about their relationship with the Hawthorn Group, the outfit that hired actors to participate in public forums in New Orleans to support Entergy’s Natural Gas Power Plant.
AL.com asked Alabama Power a series of detailed questions about the company’s relationship with Hawthorn, including what work Hawthorn had performed for the company, how much Alabama Power paid Hawthorn and whether Alabama Power would still hire the firm in light of the incidents in New Orleans. Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman issued a written statement in response.
The non-response to direct questions was a hypocritical paragraph of bull as we wrote yesterday.
Worse was Hawthorn Group’s weasel-worded declarations to AL.com:
Hawthorn chairman and co-founder John Ashford said that the company has never recruited crowds to attend public meetings for Alabama Power. “We can confirm that The Hawthorn Group has never done any work to recruit meetings attendees for Alabama Power Company,” Ashford said in an email. “Further, we can confirm that at no time has The Hawthorn Group ever engaged Crowds on Demand, nor any similar firm, on behalf of Alabama Power Company,” Ashford wrote.
The declarations raise more questions than answering them:
- Were actors ever hired for any other purpose besides attending meetings on behalf of Alabama Power?
- Has any other “third-party” vendor of Alabama Power ever engaged in conduct to create AstroTurf campaigns and bogus testimonials?
And the Hawthorn matter demonstrates the tale of opposites in the utility industry:
Entergy swiftly investigated the matter, apologized to the public, fired the culprits, and modified their code of conduct.
Alabama Power appears to have swiftly ignored the matter, offered a non-response response to the public, defended the culprits, and ignored their own compliance policies.
Is this shocking? No.
Look at the North Birmingham matter where Southern Company’s Chief Compliance Officer would not even acknowledge that African-Americans were impacted by the alleged criminal conduct by Balch & Bingham, calling the claim a “proposition.”
Tell that to the residents of the area that is 92.5% African-American. And no, they aren’t actors.