Fixed Fights Volume III — The good ole boy system

Expanded from the 3-3-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Everybody knows the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
Everybody knows the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
Everybody knows the fight was fixed.
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
That's how it goes. Everybody knows.

-- Leonard Cohen

Last week came word that Sierra Pacific Powerful's southern Nevada hydra, Nevada Power, has hired the juice law firm named Jones Vargas to pimp its $1 billion rate increase. The JV team includes Ubersenator Bill Raggio, R-Reno, Assemblyman Greg Brower, R-Reno, and former Democratic Gov. Bob Miller.

Snidely Whiplash himself, Gov. Dudley Do-Right's former chief of staff Peter Ernaut, is a "non-lawyer" (that means political fixer) member of the firm. Ernaut is managing the re-election campaign of Gov. Guinn, who just happens to be former CEO of Southwest Gas.

Ernaut said he'll have nothing to with what's happening upstairs. He's just the piano player in the cat house. Or words to that effect.

Jones Vargas also represents Reliant Energy, one of the Enron clubbers which artificially baited up power prices and got consumers into the current rate spiral.

Want another connection? Miller is part of Nevada Ventures, LP, a Reno-based consulting firm with Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who calls the shots at the ledge where utility issues are concerned. Former consumer firebrand Townsend these days never utters a harsh word about the power pluggers.

STACKED CYBERDECK. In my many years of meanderings against Sierra Pacific Powerful, I've had to visit the Nevada Public Utilities Commission website quite often. Your ratepayer dollars are paying for links to the three main websites of the state's utilities, all in the name of conservation. But the conservation pages all lead to utility propaganda.

The PUC does not even provide a link to the consumer advocate's office, not that it would do much good. The attorney general's website does little more than give the office's phone number.

In a recent letter to the PUC, I noted that there is at least one consumer-oriented website of which I am aware, the one I have voluntarily and without compensation developed, the Energy Crisis War Room at It carries news, commentary from leaders of the Nevada Utility Reform Alliance and a complete list of locations for the petition currently being circulated by a northern Nevada ad hoc organization.

"I do need to take this up with another individual because the website is managed by the Commission, not the Regulatory Operations Staff - I am on the Staff," a PUC employee responded.

"But I'll try to get an answer as soon as I can - it's an interesting question and I would agree 'fairness' is the relevant perspective. Even before checking, though, I suspect the folks who do run the website will be very cautious about linking to 'unknown' websites. We have absolutely no interest in censoring or restricting access to any website, but neither does the Commission (I suspect) want to link its site to a site that does not truly help consumers interested in finding that balance you are seeking."

I won't comment. Just go to my site and then check out the utility sites and judge for yourself where the best consumer information abides.

THE NEXT PICTURE SHOW. I've got the telecast times of the next edition of Deciding Factors a little early this month. You'll have four opportunities to see it. It opens on KRXI FOX-11 at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 24, followed by a repeat on KAME UPN-21 (Charter Cable 7) at 12 noon the same day. KRXI airs it again at 12:30 a.m. the following morning, followed by KAME at 1:30 a.m. Watch this space for subsequent broadcasts elsewhere.

I've had several suggestions for program topics from viewers and readers. Jerry Watson wants a look at corporate welfare. The Sparks resident recently lost his job with the closure of the Michelin Tire plant at Stead. I hate to lose Jerry. He's the kind of guy who makes this community a better place, but he says "in a couple of months, I'm outta here...170 $20-an-hour jobs have been vaporized.

"The tax credits that Washoe County and the City of Reno gave to Michelin must have run out after five years. I've been out here since 1988, and I've had it with this backward, anti-labor environment in this right-to-work-for-less (state). Cory Farley, Jon Ralston, Andy Barbano and State Sen. Joe Neal have been the only refreshing and balanced viewpoints I've heard or read out here."

A reader named Gary wants me to look into the ethics and legality of forced tip pooling for casino dealers. He's been sending tons of legal research.

Robert from Sparks writes "how can any business leader relocate his company to this area, when it has such a low educational ranking as does Nevada? The gambling industry's control of this state and the low tax that they pay, compared to other states with gaming, is the root problem."

Leslie Sexton of Dayton wrote "how about a program to raise consciousness on the benefits of abolishing the right-to-work law in Nevada?" (Extensive references at Use the search engine.)

"Or a report from the legislative committee exploring the abolishment of the death penalty in Nevada?" she continued. (See Sen. Joe Neal's website, which I edit, at

"Or the Fuji Park controversy in Carson City?" (Got lots on that at the Wal-Mart War Room.)

All great ideas. Keep 'em coming. So far, nothing tops Sierra Pacific Power as a candidate for round two. Consumer Advocate Tim Hay was sensational last month.

I'll be contacting SPR's top dogs once again. If not, I may again go ahead without them and bring on some consumers. Hay says SPR bought electricity like a drunken sailor last year and their profligacy should not be underwritten by ratepayers. SPR CEO Walter Higgins publicly called Hay a liar and refused to appear with Hay.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors


© 2002 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 33-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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