My take on the Touch America and Northwestern Energy Debacles
First of all, I want to make it perfectly clear that all I know comes from rumors, innuendo and the Great Falls Tribune. The source of this rant
is the front page headline on July 17, 2003 – “Lower-level Touch America managers got bonuses”. The rest of the information is just hazy recollection on my part. I don’t like to have to bother with sources, because I don’t want to have to attribute them any more than Stephen Ambrose did. I want to remain completely unattributable.
Anyhow, to make a long story short, “Touch America paid $1.5 million in bonuses to seven employees in February, four months before filing for bankrupcy internal documents obtained by The (Butte) Montana Standard show….The company’s four top executives received a total of $5.4 million in payouts in July, 2002 including $2.2 million to Chairman and CEO Bob Gannon….The company recently filed bankruptcy because it ran out of money [You think?]….The newspaper reported Tuesday that $1.5 million was paid to seven other employees in February….The newspaper also reported that Gannon earned as much as $247 an hour, enough to take home $9,903 a week….The paper said W-2 wage reports show that Gannon’s five-year pay average was $722,790.00 per year….”
Well, I guess it just goes to show that you get what you pay for. The entire article quoted above is mind-boggling and entertaining reading. Bob Gannon may have thought he got his fifteen minutes of fame when he tried to slink away from Mike Wallace, or whoever that old goof was who accosted him in Butte for “60 Minutes” a while back. Why, heck, our little backwater debacle has brought us yokels another batch of free publicity, if’n yew no wuteye meen.
I keep getting off track – so let me focus, please….
Okay, so here’s the rest of the story, with no apologies whatsoever to Paul Harvey, or whoever that old goof is. Caveat: This is what I recollect without reference to any annoying outside sources that need to be verified. To quote Black Oak Arkansas, “Now it might have been hallucination; but I think it was real….”
Now, back in the good old daze, The Montana Power Company was a farce to be reckoned with. It produced and controlled a good part of the ‘lectricity in these parts, most of the natural gas; and at most times owned the state government and just about everything else around here. When the corporation was formed in Delware, it’s directors got in bed with ol’ J. P. Morgan; and sometimes we should be judged by the company we keep. You’ve all seen those old black and white photos of J. P. –ewwwwwwwwww….or was that ol’ John D. that was so deliciously cadaverous – eww – eww- ewwwwwwwwwwww….
I could be wrong; but I don’t think that I dreamed this. It seems to me that there is some old-timey connection between MPC and the Anaconda Company. We all know who how The Anaconda had it’s coils wrapped so firmly around all or necks for so many years. Even to this day, we have been unable to escape its odious presence; since after all these years, it’s carcass has yet to fully decompose.
Yessir, ol’ MPC built some or all of them pretty dams on downstream from Great Falls of the Missouri. The scenery is spectacular. I bet it was even more spectacular before they turned that stretch of river into a slow moving ditch – if I remember right, they have water backed up over at least one of the Falls. But once again, I digress….
All in all, though, ol’MPC became like a member of the family. Kindduh like that strange bachelor uncle that Daddy warned the County Sheriff about. Admitedly, it wouldn’t turn your power off in the winter; so long as you paid your bill in full, on time. And if the gas went off for two days when it was 45 below (that’s F, by the way); that was an act of the Almighty himself, not the almighty power company.
Over the years, the company profits grew just as fast as the ratepayer’s purses were being drained. Times were so good that at one point, the company invited ratepayers to invest in the concern themselves. As it turned out it was an investment of great concern.
Then in the mid-nineties or thereabouts, the company and it’s Gucchi-togged lobby started pushing the concept of deregulation. Prior to that time, Montana’s power and electricity rates were regulated by the Public Service Commission. I don’t understand all of the ins and outs of the PSC and it’s past and current relationship with MPC and I don’t want to know.
Well, in its infinite wisdom, the then Republican-controlled legislature bought the power industry’s line of bull and swallowed it hook, line and sinker. They were all gaffed so hard that they still haven’t been able to spit those barbs out and probably never will. Why even if they knew they were wrong they would never admit it. And even if any of the Dumbocrats did admit that there was currently a problem; it must have somehow been caused by the Gimmecrats. If I remember right, we were “de-regulated in 1997.
We all know who these people are; and we need to be reminded again and again until they can all be purged from the legislative system via the ballot box. I doubt that even Donny Rumsfeld could come up enough self-righteous and convulted reasoning to justify any of what our lawmakers hath wrought. In case you’re wondering why I have not dragged Governor Martz into this; I don’t intend to. She speaks more than eloquently for herself. She has to be real careful about what she says, however, especially around Hubby. No, I’m not repeating gossip here; she has said it herself. I mean, she is a self-described lap dog for business….
Well, anyhow to wrap things up, Montana Power sold off a bunch of it’s assets, including but not limited to mining interests and those coal-fired plants over at Coalstrip. Then it sold off its dams on The Mighty Mo to PPL, which is raking big bucks selling the power generated here out of state for a lot more than we could ever afford to pay.
Then it sold off itsnatural gas fields and distribution system to somebody or another. It also sold off its distribution systems for electricity and natural gas to NorthWestern Energy. NorthWestern has already punched through a series of backbreaking rate increases for both gas and electricity and there seems to be no end to its quest for the Golden Fleeced.
So now, there’s a good chance (bet what’s left of the ranch) that NorthWestern is going to go belly up in Bankruptcy Court. It wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t file before the same Philadelphia lawyer who is the judge in Touch America’s case.
Have I been rambling? You bet I have. The fact of the matter is that MPC gutted itself as a utility giant to morph into Touch America, a telecomunications midget. Touch America is broke, or so they say. Over the objections of the Bankruptcy Trustee, the judge approved what at face value, appears to be a sweetheart deal for TouchyFeely to sell its remaining assets to hombres from up North in the Provinces. If this doesn’t qualify as a conflict of interest, I don’t know what does.
And the rest of the stockholders left holding Touch America’s empty bag will probably get nothing. In fact the forthcoming edict from the judge will probably said, “It is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed that stockholders will get nothing; and like it.”
Get this, Bob Gannon and his folks paid the outlanders half a million bucks TO BID on the assets. If anyone else wants to gamble with what little is left of their life savings, it will cost them a cool million just to put in a bid of their own.
From the Copper Kings we have come full circle to the Yellow Bay Buccaneers. Is that irony, or what? I don’t know. What’s irony? – Touche’ – America!!!
©2003/duke larance, dba rao