Santee Cooper Still Purchasing Constituencies With Ratepayer Money

The tone-deafness continues …

If we have written it once, we have written it a dozen times: The new bosses are the same as the old bosses. Just more expensive. Even though its new leadership is touting so-called “reforms,” the truth is South Carolina’s failed, government-run utility Santee Cooper hasn’t changed a bit in the aftermath of a catastrophically mismanaged command economic intervention in the nuclear power business.

You would think the multi-billion dollar losses it incurred as a result of NukeGate – the spectacularly collapsed construction and abandonment of a pair of nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C. – would have prompted the utility to rethink its profligacy with ratepayer money.

Apparently not …

At a time when its long-term prospects are growing dimmer by the day, Santee Cooper continues to engage in shameless constituency buying …

In addition to blowing millions of dollars on speculative “economic development” projects at the county and municipal level, the state-owned power provider is also doling out big checks to other government-run entities that do not perform core functions of government.

The latest example? Another $100,000 check (the third in a series of ten such installments, totaling $1 million) presented to Coastal Carolina University to subsidize an online information technology degree program and a “scholars program” bearing the failed utility’s name.

“Santee Cooper has been a generous supporter of Coastal Carolina University for more than thirty years,” Coastal president David A. DeCenzo said in a statement. “The University is extremely thankful for Santee Cooper’s latest investment. This collaborative effort will help ensure that Coastal Carolina students gain the knowledge necessary to enter and successfully navigate the rapidly evolving information security and data analytics sector.”

We have no doubt DeCenzo is “extremely thankful.” And we have no doubt this money will eventually provide some benefit … to someone.

Still, none of that changes the fact that the subsidization of online information technology degrees is not a core function of government. Especially not when the money to pay for the degrees is coming out of the pockets of overcharged utility ratepayers.

(Click to view)

(Via: Coastal Carolina)

“Supporting education speaks to our mission of improving the quality of lives for South Carolinians,” Santee Cooper president and chief executive officer Mark Bonsall (above, left) said in the statement.

Hold up … “improving the quality of life for South Carolinians?”

Pardon our incredulity, but with comments like that Bonsall – who is making a whopping $1.2 million a year – is solidifying his reputation with us as nothing more than a glorified con man.

“Improving the quality of life for South Carolinians?”

Is he serious?

Santee Cooper is currently under criminal investigation after blowing billions of dollars on a pair of uncompleted nuclear reactors (and lying about the project even as it raised bills on ratepayers to pay for it). It is pushing so-called “rate freezes” intended to lock in punitively high energy prices even as it continues making payments on golden parachutes and paying the criminal defense bills for the leaders who landed it in its current mess.

Among other legal bills …

Oh, and it is actively attempting to sabotage a long-overdue effort by lawmakers to unload this debt-addled dinosaur – which was recently slapped with a pair of credit downgrades (here and here) owing to its massive debt burden.

Bottom line? Santee Cooper has no business handing out checks like this under any circumstances … but such costly public relations efforts are absolutely inexcusable given its current financial state.



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