Nice work if you can get it

The Center for Public Integrity has released a new report scrutinizing the accountability and effectiveness of public utility commissions across the country. These bodies, varying in make-up and duties from state to state, regulate companies that provide basic necessities such as telephone, electricity, and water services. The posts pay quite well, an average of $92,561 nationwide.

The study found that these bodies are rife with cronyism and lack any substantial participation from consumer advocates. For instance, the report determined that 45 of the 199 commissioners nationwide were former state legislators, while an additional 49 had either been employed as legislative staffers or gubernatorial appointees in the past.

By contrast CPI located just eight commissioners with backgrounds in consumer advocacy. And one of these, Martin Cohen of the Illinois Commerce Commission, is no longer in the post. He was rejected by the state senate because he was deemed too hostile towards local utility companies.

The report also ranks each state commission in terms of accountability and transparency. Minnesota is among 26 states that receives a failing grade, earning just 53 points out of 100. The state is faulted for not requiring complete financial disclosure from commissioners, nor from their spouses. Minnesota's five commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, are paid $88,448 annually for their work.

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