Pick for public utility advocate has wireless industry ties
The governor’s pick for the public’s chief advocate for utility customers has a history of ties with the wireless and telecommunications industry, from thousands of dollars in political contributions, to a stint lobbying for AT&T.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage says that Barry Hobbins, a Democrat, will serve the interests of public utility customers, and not special interests, before the Maine Public Utilities Commission, federal regulators and state Legislature. The governor has said it was the “worst, worst decision” to pick current Public Advocate Tim Schneider, who worked on a solar bill that LePage vetoed last year.
“That’s what the public advocate job is: to represent the ratepayer, not to represent a special interest,” LePage told reporters at a recent press conference. LePage’s office said there are no issues with Hobbins’s nomination, which they vetted with the state ethics commission.
Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director, said in an email to LePage’s office that he didn’t see “any problems” in terms of ethics laws. He said Hobbins would be able to lobby legislative officials and the executive branch as public advocate despite having served as a representative in a term ending last year.
Hobbins says his ties to the telecommunications industry never influenced his legislative work and won’t if he becomes public advocate. He plans to divest investments like wind company stock.