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CL's Voter Guide - Public Service Commission protest vote

There's a simple reason that Libertarians — who are all about cutting the knots of regulation and letting the market work its magic — consistently prop up a candidate for an elected position whose job is about regulating industries.

Georgia's quirky ballot access law guarantees all of a party's statewide candidates a spot on the next election's ballot only if one candidate in the current election gets at least 2 percent of the vote. And, because they're usually not big budget affairs, the Public Service Commission races turns out to be the easiest contests for a third-party candidate to reach that threshold.

That, and the fact that Democrats failed even to field a candidate, are the only reasons Libertarian John Monds is your sole alternative to incumbent utility yes-man Doug Everett in the race for Public Service Commission's Southern District. (PSC members must live in specific districts but they run statewide.)

Everett is finishing his first term on the state agency that determines how much you pay for your power. Although Monds is unlikely to win the seat, why vote for the status quo when you can pull the lever in protest?

What's to protest? For starters, Everett — a former state legislator who boasted primary endorsements this year from the Republican establishment (Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker Glenn Richardson, et al) — won office in 2002 while saying he wouldn't accept contributions from lawyers and lobbyists for the utilities he'd regulate. How quickly things change. During the Republican primary, Rick Collum, Everett's challenger, scolded him for accepting those funds.

Everett's response was that "the only people who care about what the PSC does are those who work within the utilities." And according to his most recent campaign contribution disclosure, the he's taken greenbacks from big-business law firms, including Georgia Power's go-to barristers.

Those contributions are a fitting reward for one of two commissioners who consistently favor Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light and other regulated companies over consumers.

Earlier this year, Everett and fellow Commissioner Stan Wise affirmed the obvious when the AJC reported the two received hockey tickets from SCANA, a natural-gas company. Although not illegal, the incident was obviously a conflict of interest (During a debate this year, Everett claimed the paper's reporter was mistaken.)

An interesting angle at play in the race: Monds — who, according to his website, is a full-time father and home-school teacher with a background in finance — recently challenged Everett's residency. Although such disputes are supposed to be filed within two weeks of the qualification deadline, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel can investigate if she chooses. Big "if," right there.

We'd direct you to Everett's website, but it appears it's down. Here's Monds'. The Libertarian frequently points to the wireless telephone industry as an example of the efficacy of letting the market decide rates. He says utilities should be allowed to take a similar route.

With only a minor party opponent, Everett has to be confident he'll return to office, and it's most likely he will. We'd relish giving him a scare on Nov. 4 by voting for Monds.

To read about the more competitive Public Service Commission involving Democrat Jim Powell, click here.



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