In the beginning, the only organized opposition to Alcoa’s relicensing was the Stanly County Commissioners. At that time, their goal was a Stanly County takeover of Alcoa’s Yadkin Project. FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on April 18, 2008. The FEIS rejected virtually all of Stanly County’s material arguments.
Ten days later, the first mention of the N. C. Water Rights Committee emerged when MMI Public Relations, who also does PR for Stanly County and the Yadkin Riverkeeper, announced that it had been named the PR firm of record for the Water Rights Committee.
On May 15th the NC Water Rights Committee filed its Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State’s office, and began operation of a website (www.ncwaterrights.org) managed by MMI. The Articles of Incorporation were filed by R. Bruce Thomson, the organization’s initial registered agent and registered lobbyist for Stanly County.
To the outside observer, the NC Water Rights Committee appeared to be a continuation or morphing of essentially the same people and opinions of the Stanly County Commission. But exactly who they were remained a mystery. The initial President of the organization was Keith Crisco, who resigned when he was named Governor Perdue’s Commerce Secretary in January 2009, but who has continued to provide leadership for the takeover movement.
On June 1st, 2009, the Carolina Journal wrote an article Mystery Group Behind Dam Takeover Bid. Raleigh City Council member Nancy McFarlane was then the President of the organization, and had refused several interviews. “Exactly when the committee was formed, who formed it, who its members are, and how the body is governed are not clear. While donations are solicited, no donors are named. No phone number or physical address is listed.”
On June 17th, Charlotte Observer Associate Editor Jack Betts came to the organization’s rescue with an article Parsing the N.C. Water Rights Committee. Betts tracked down “member” Roger Dick and treasurer Chris Bramlett. While some details about membership remained vague, Roger Dick revealed that “he and his companies have provided 75 percent or more of the roughly $75,000 the N.C. Water Rights Committee has spent to communicate with the public over the last couple of years.” (The organization was a little more than a year old.) Dick and Bramlett stated “that Stanly County, which has also opposed Alcoa Power Generating Inc.'s pursuit of another FERC license, is not a contributor to N.C. Water Rights Committee.”
I have to admit that seemed to make sense, and sure fooled me.
Then last week came new revelations of documents on the Yadkin Facts website. Stanly County attorney Mike Taylor wrote in a June 9, 2010 email "... what concerns me is that if the NC Water Rights Committee were found to be a creation of the County...." Most shockingly, a July 2008 poll conducted by Hamilton Campaigns was paid for by Stanly County ($12,900), but announced in a MMI press release as having been commissioned by the N.C. Water Rights Committee. So, clearly, Stanly County paid for at least one of the Water Rights Committee’s claimed undertakings.
With all the commonalities between the takeover participants, coupled with less than complete disclosure, it’s impossible to know who paid for what, or where one stops and another begins. Who paid Bruce Thompson to file the Water Rights Articles of Incorporation? Who paid MMI? Who paid Richard Morgan and Carter Wrenn, the political consultants who allegedly worked for the Water Rights Committee? Morgan and Wrenn at one time had the thetruthaboutalcoa.com website, took out newspaper ads and produced at least one video. Who paid for all that? Who paid the $3,000 that was given to UNC-TV researcher Martin Sansone?
I’d like to get the bunch of them on a stand under oath.