David Horowitz, the former television reporter who took over $136,000 from California utility companies to defend electricity deregulation in 1998 as the "way to cut our electric bills," is back on television. This time, he’s backing a $20 billion consumer and taxpayer bailout of the utilities’ deregulation disaster that has forced electricity prices to skyrocket.
If you’re old enough, you may remember Horowitz from the television news years ago. He called himself a "consumer reporter" and his show was called "Fight Back."
Now Horowitz is a paid political hack, using his former credentials as a journalist to win lucrative contracts with utility companies and other big businesses to promote their point of view on public policy issues.
Horowitz Fights to Rip-Off Consumers on Electricity Disaster
In a statewide television ad campaign launched in January, 2001, Horowitz urges the public to call their state legislators in support of legislation to make sure the utility companies don’t go bankrupt. Legislation backed by the utility companies would order ratepayers to pay the utilities’ losses under deregulation. If the legislation passes, it will cost Californians an additional $21 billion.
Only at the very end of the commercial does the ad reveal — in tiny letters — that it is paid for by EEI, the Edison Electric Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based utility lobby group funded in part by Southern California Edison.
One thing the ad does not say is how much the utilities are paying Horowitz to shill for them once again.
Horowitz himself won’t say, either. Indeed, in a recent Los Angeles Times expose, Horowitz tried to portray himself as more than a mouthpiece for the utilities, saying that he wrote the ad himself. But that assertion was contradicted by Edison Electric Institute itself, which said its staff and a D.C. advertising firm wrote the script.
This is merely the latest is a continuing series of false and deceptive campaigns involving Horowitz.
Horowitz Fights for $20 Billion Utility Bailout in 1998
Horowitz was paid by the utility industry to oppose Prop. 9 on the November, 1998, ballot, which would have lowered residential ratepayers electricity bills more than 20% by prohibiting the forced $20 billion bailout of the utility companies mandated by the 1996 deregulation law. Prop. 9 was backed by FTCR and other citizen groups and would have benefited California consumers and small businesses.
Horowitz appeared in television commercials and a 30-minute "infomercial" paid for by the state’s three major utilities, urging Californians to vote NO. Here’s the text of Horowitz’s commercial:
David Horowitz: "Proposition 9 is filled with false promises. Proposition 9 would repeal competition in our electric system, a backwards step for California. It would repeal the rate cap just added to the state law and result in higher electric rates. Prop. 9 would force the closure of power plants that provide one-fifth of our state’s electricity, and that means higher prices. No is the bottom line on Prop. 9."
Horowitz claimed his position on Prop.9 was based on his research on the topic. He refused requests to provide any materials or documentaries he made on the subject. Nor would he provide details of his contractual arrangements with the utility companies.
But state campaign disclosure reports later revealed that Horowitz was paid at least $136,000 by Edison, PG&E and SDG&E to oppose Proposition 9; his TV commercials — designed to fool voters into thinking Prop.9 was anti-consumer — were the centerpiece of the utilities’ $40 million campaign against the initiative. View the "No On 9" Coalition campaign contributions — page 2 — page 3.
Horowitz was strongly criticized by other reporters for his blatant disregard for journalistic ethics. Read LA Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg’s column about David Horowitz.
Horowitz defended deregulation in 1998. Now that deregulation’s failed catastrophically, he’s fighting to force ratepayers to bail out the utility companies.
Horowitz has refused invitations by at least one Los Angeles area TV station to debate FTCR President Harvey Rosenfield.
The Corporate Horowitz
Horowitz has made a practice — and apparently a lot of money — of merchandising his thin credentials to special interests. A list of donors published in a 1996 tax return from Horowitz’s "Fight Back Foundation" reads like a who’s-who of corporate America. The tax return reveals the foundation was funded by big credit card companies, banks, insurance companies, phone companies, utilities and other business interests. View the "Fight Back Foundation" Tax Return.
Another example: in June of 2000, Horowitz was featured in a massive advertising and mailing campaign, funded by AT&T, to block access to high-speed cable internet lines. Once again, Horowitz claimed he got involved because he believed in the cause. But the Los Angeles Times revealed that Horowitz had solicited both sides of the issue about becoming a spokesperson, but the talks with AT&T‘s competitors "fell apart over pay." Horowitz refused to say how much he was being paid.
Even Horowitz’s own web site initially stated it was paid for by MCI. (After we pointed this out, his site no longer discloses who funds it).
David Horowitz is a journalist who claims to provide non-partisan, unbiased and objective information to consumers soliciting money from the very corporations which are often accused of consumer abuses!
Fight Back Against Consumer Fraud: Unplug Horowitz
This self-proclaimed "consumer advocate" is a fraud. He is using his name recognition and title to shill for big business interests, and he’s working hard at it. That’s because he no doubt realizes that once the public becomes aware of the truth, no one will pay attention to him anymore. And that means the big corporate interests won’t have any more use for him.
It’s time for the public to fight back against this fraud financed by the utility companies and other big corporations. The next time you see or hear this corporate pitchman on the tube or radio, unplug him!
Interesting note: Despite Horowitz’s "for sale" status, a number of radio stations around the country apparently still broadcast his "Fight Back" reports. It would be interesting to know whether these stations consider Horowitz’s business-sponsored "extra-curricular" activities a conflict of interest. A list of the stations used to appear on his web site, but the list was removed after FTCR urged the public to call the stations and ask them that question.