Political connections, contributions helped utility consultants keep lucrative contracts for decades, former council members say By Michael Isaac Stein
Originally published in The Lens, by Michael Isaac Stein
March 28, 2019
Click here to view original article
On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explains how dangerous astroturfing is, citing Entergy New Orleans' paid actors (11:07) scandal.
"Organizations can hire fake advocates who create the illusion of real support for their message. It’s a shady practice called astroturfing that can warp the public perception of anything...even astroturfing."
By Tim Morris, Columnist; firstname.lastname@example.org,
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
City Council members have called Entergy New Orleans' use of paid actors to pack meetings in support of the utility's planned $210 million power plant "morally reprehensible" and "a perversion of our public process."
Entergy New Orleans CEO Charles Rice, at left in grey suit, listens March 8 as protesters noisily oppose the $210 million gas-fired power plant that Entergy has proposed for New Orleans East. The council approved the plant after an hours-long hearing in March. (Photo by Kevin Litten, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
By Michael Isaac Stein, Contributing writer
thelensnola.org | The Lens
Corralling a group of supporters at public hearings was a vital part of Entergy New Orleans’ campaign to gain approval for its new power plant — so vital that its executives monitored exactly how many supporters would come, what they would say, and how early they would get there. They even helped design the T-shirts supporters would wear.
Entergy New Orleans has said it had no knowledge that individuals were paid to attend City Council meetings to support a proposed power plant in New Orleans East, but records show the company was given a price list to recruit supporters and speakers -- and approved the expenditure.
In October, a reporter for The Lens observed a group of about 50 people walk into a public hearing wearing orange shirts supporting a new power plant in New Orleans. Some of them were actors, according to interviews and messages reviewed by The Lens. Entergy has now acknowledged that people were paid to attend two public meetings. The company said it hired a PR firm to bring supporters, but it didn’t know people were paid to do so.
Entergy New Orleans CEO Charles Rice, at left in grey suit, listens as protesters noisily oppose the $210 million gas-fired power plant that Entergy has proposed for New Orleans East. The council approved the plant with a 6-1 vote after an hours-long hearing in March (Kevin Litten, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune).(Kevin Litten)
“It was very shady, very secretive, especially when we got paid. They literally paid us under the table.”
—One of the actors who was paid to speak at the October meeting
By Edward Klump, E&E News reporter
Despite withering criticism and lingering questions, Entergy New Orleans is in position to secure city support for a natural-gas-fueled generation project as soon as next month.